DJI’s popular Phantom 4 drone is getting an upgrade with an advanced camera and more fine-tuned flight controls. On Thursday, the China-based consumer drone giant announced the Phantom 4 Advanced, which will replace the previous version without the “Advanced” in the name after sales are discontinued at the end of this month.
The onboard camera is primarily responsible for the “advanced” in the name, moving from a 12.4-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch sensor to a larger 20-megapixel, 1-inch sensor. Larger sensors mean better low light capability, higher resolution, and enhanced performance — and for the Phantom 4 Advanced, a significant step up for video.
The Phantom 4 Advanced is capable of shooting 4K video at 60FPS, double the predecessors frame rate. With dual coding, video can be saved in the H.264 or H.265 formats, allowing the user to choose the compression and file size of that final video. Along with shooting in that quick 60FPS 4K, the Phantom 4 Advanced can also shoot at the old 30FPS 4K, and both settings still record at a high 100Mbps bit rate.
Besides the enhanced sensor, the camera onboard DJI’s updated Phantom also uses a new shutter design. While the predecessor used an electronic shutter where electric signals tell the camera when to start and stop recording, the Advanced adapts a mechanical shutter, which is a physical moving part instead of an electric signal. Mechanical shutters tend to create less noise at high ISOs, but the big reason for the move is to eliminate rolling shutter distortion.
When shooting fast moving subjects, electronic shutters distort the movement, turning straight lines into diagonals. The move to a physical shutter corrects that problem, which is a particularly nice enhancement for a drone since flying the camera fast — instead of just recording a fast moving subject with a stationary camera — can also create the same distortion.
While the Phantom 4 Advanced includes a number of the highlights from the previous version including DJI’s popular obstacle-avoidance technology and automatic flight modes, the Advanced can communicate with the controller from a much farther distance. The drone operates as far as 4.3 miles from the controller with a built-in screen, up from 3.1 miles on the predecessor.
The DJI Phantom 4 Advanced also boasts the ability to hoover in precise locations even when GPS in unavailable, along with a maximum 30-minute flight time and more storage with a 128GB MicroSD card.
With the announcement, DJI also says the earlier Phantom 4 will only be on sale until April 30, 2017, before being phased out by the more advanced version. The Advanced will list for $1,649, which is $300 more than the original Phantom 4.
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