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DJI FPV Review: A powerful drone for serious pilots

DJI FPV Review: A powerful drone for serious pilots
MSRP $1,299.00
“The DJI FPV is a speedy and agile drone for serious pilots.”
Pros
  • Incredible agility and speed
  • Responsive controls
  • Low-latency video transmission
Cons
  • Steep learning curve
  • Soft video quality under low light

When it comes to variety in the drone world, DJI offers perhaps the most extensive lineup, one that caters to enthusiasts and professionals alike. From its Mavic line for those who are just getting started, to its Inspire line for commercial work, DJI appears to have the entire gamut covered.

While you could argue that DJI dipped its toes into the FPV (first-person view) world with its FPV goggles not too long ago, the DJI FPV marks the company’s official entry into the exciting new world of FPV drones — those high-flying, speedy drones that are like souped-up street-racing cars in their performance. It opens up a totally new world for existing drone enthusiasts, but what do you really gain from choosing the DJI FPV?

Powerhouse beast

I’ve mentioned on several occasions to people how I’m intimidated by the DJI FPV. It’s a powerhouse on paper and in real life with its aggressive design language, which marks a stark departure from previous designs I’ve seen from DJI. For starters, its 0-to-62 mph acceleration time of two seconds is a reminder of its raw power — something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if it’s your first time flying an FPV drone. I managed to take the DJI FPV to the 60mph range during my testing, but that’s still a step back from its maximum speed of 87mph.

The power and responsiveness is incredible, something that’s needed for it to achieve some of its aerial acrobatics. Whereas other consumer drones I’ve piloted, like the DJI Mini 2 and Mavic Air 2, tend to favor smooth movements, the DJI FPV is all about tight movements and speedy coverage that make for a different kind of visual capture. For example, you can get that feeling like you’re drifting in the air with the DJI FPV because it’s able to make such tight turns.

The power and responsiveness is incredible.

Due to its incredible power, the DJI FPV isn’t something I’d recommend to someone who’s just getting started. Piloting it is similar to someone driving a manual race car for the first time, so it’s helpful if you have experience driving in the first place.

Steeper learning curve

Part of the reason why experience is necessary is because there’s a steeper learning curve in getting acquainted with the DJI FPV’s manual mode. On one hand, I do appreciate that normal mode makes it similar to piloting DJI’s other consumer drones, but flying it for the first time was an experience I haven’t felt since flying my first drone. I had some anxiety because it was by far the most powerful drone I’ve flown.

Beyond just piloting the drone, there’s also all the gear that makes up this entirely new system. While the drone is the centerpiece in all of this, there’s also the remote controller, FPV goggles, and batteries that complete it. Typically, I would just turn on a drone and connect my smartphone to the controller before it’s ready for flight. However, since there are more components involved here, the DJI FPV takes a bit more time to set up and get started.

The new OcuSync 3.0 technology in place here with the DJI FPV delivers a reliable video transmission at 810p/120 frames per second (fps), which helps give a real-time view of where I’m flying and a better sense of the tight controls that respond at a moment’s instance. This is important because control is everything. Some latency and lag could be the difference between the drone capturing the shot or not. Luckily, DJI’s FPV system works like a charm.

If you intend on capturing mostly photos, then don’t bother getting the DJI FPV.

Still, it’s hard to overlook the menu system. Going from using a smartphone to access controls, options, and different modes all by tapping on the appropriate controls in the DJI Fly app to just strictly relying on the FPV goggles’ joystick is tough. You can’t switch video resolution on the fly through the goggles as easily, and it requires going through some menus before getting to it. This simply adds to the steeper learning curve of the DJI FPV.

Lastly, I really want to stress that the DJI FPV isn’t something that you can pilot on your own. Due to wearing the DJI FPV Goggles 2, you’ll need someone else to be there with you to keep a visual line of sight with the drone. Therefore, it is a two-person operation by default.

Dynamic action footage

If you intend on capturing mostly photos, then don’t bother getting the DJI FPV — mainly because there are other options better equipped for that, like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro with its larger camera sensor. The DJI FPV is really for serious videographers who want to achieve those slick and smooth action shots that speedy FPV drones are known for capturing. Photos are just a complement to the experience.

Armed with a 12-megapixel camera with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, the DJI FPV records 4K 60 fps at a bit rate of 120 Mbps. Leveraging its impressive speeds and tight controls definitely allows this drone to achieve a style that DJI’s other consumer drones can’t match. I was able to fly right above the waters of the Atlantic Ocean at speeds over 50 mph, then rocket at an angled rate, and finally make a tight turn midflight. Considering this is all happening in real time, it’s the kind of footage I wouldn’t be able to achieve with drones like the DJI Mini 2.

You could emulate the look and style, but achieving the same pacing would require speeding up the footage in order to make it seem like you’re flying at the same incredible speeds. However, it’s just not the same, especially when you have subjects in the frame moving around — which are moving oddly because the footage is sped up. This isn’t a problem if the shot involves static elements.

When there’s ample lighting, the 4K 60-fps footage is crisp and saturated, but it becomes softer once the sun goes down. There’s noticeable artifacting in the shadows, so I have it more in line with the DJI Mini 2 in terms of quality under low light, although it’s nice that DJI offers its D-Cinelike color profile for better tweaking in post. The camera sits on a single-axis (tilt) gimbal, which unlike the 3-axis gimbals found in DJI’s other drones, results in a very peculiar look because panning left/right during flight results in the same tilted imagery pilots see in a real cockpit. Stabilization, thankfully, comes in the form of RockSteady EIS, which does a decent job in reducing shakes and jitters, but is not as good as having a camera sitting on a 3-axis gimbal.

John Velasco / Digital Trends

The DJI FPV’s video style is unbelievably unique — you won’t find anything else like it in DJI’s portfolio. That alone is its biggest incentive for drone pilots looking for slick action sequences. You won’t get any of the cool cinematic shooting modes DJI is known for like circle, rocket, and boomerang, so getting similar visuals requires expert control by the pilot.

Serious videographers only

The biggest question is who is the DJI FPV for? As I mentioned earlier, if you’re mainly looking to capture photographs, you have no business considering the DJI FPV. It’s also not for beginners, either. It’s for serious videographers who want to capture action sequences like following a high-speed biker through a course.

Our take

On paper, the $1,299 cost for the DJI FPV places it in close proximity to the DJI Mavic 2 line — so it’s on the higher end of the spectrum in DJI’s consumer drone portfolio. It’s not cheap, but the pricing is reasonable given that it’s a complete FPV system in one package, unlike other FPV drones that require a DIY approach to them.

I would recommend paying the extra $299 to snag the Fly More Kit, which packages in two additional batteries and a charging hub. It’s well worth the cost given the $159 cost for a single spare battery. And finally, the $199 DJI Motion Controller provides a new and unique way of controlling the DJI FPV by delivering controls that make it seem like you’re really piloting something right from the cockpit.

How long will it last?

It’s well-built, but I would be inclined to say that you should still purchase DJI’s Care Refresh extended warranty not only because of the pricey cost of the drone, but also due to the fact that piloting such a beast could result in an accident for those who aren’t as experienced. It covers accidental damage and starts at $199 for a one-year plan.

Is there a better alternative?

Not really in terms of its visual style of recording. Yes, you could buy an FPV drone, but the vast majority need to be put together by hand — whereas with the DJI FPV, you have a complete system out of the box.

Should you buy it?

Yes, only if you’re a serious drone videographer looking to add a new visual dimension to your recording portfolio.

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