As previously announced, Hong-Kong based DJI expanded their Phantom series of quadcopter drones this month.
New to the line-up are the Phantom 2 and the Phantom FC40. The Phantom 2 Vision only started shipping in November so a lot is happening in DJI’s consumer offerings.
I thought it would be useful to compare the models and hint at what each model is useful for.
Which one to get if you are “quad-curious”?
The power pilot should get the Phantom 2, the best combination of power and extensibility. Add a gimbal, a GoPro (or other) camera, a video downlink and a monitor. The Phantom 2 improves on the original Phantom with more power in the battery cell and larger props. This shifts the curve for take-off weight and flight time in the right direction.
The cash rich / time poor should go for the Phantom 2 Vision. It comes with everything that is required to record video and stills out of the box, including first-person view for composing shots. Note that the Phantom 2 Vision operates at a different control frequency reducing the range of the device. The risk with the Phantom 2 Vision is hitting the limits of what the camera is capable of: The moment you want to change the camera you’d be better off with the Phantom 2 platform with the increased range.
The tinkerer can probably get a lot of use out of the original Phantom. There are lots of suggestions for mods in forums, and the $200 discount compared to the Phantom 2 can be put towards larger props and other equipment. The main gripe is going to be flight time, but it is cheaper to stack up on spare batteries due to the non-proprietary batteries. My guess is demand for the original Phantom will die out though and DJI will discontinue it in 2014.
And who should get the FC40? Probably somebody who just wants to fly and capture video and not worry about a great deal. The camera looks like it is ok for video but wouldn’t offer much in photo mode. The battery that ships with the FC40 sounds diminutive but larger capacity batteries from third parties will probably work and increase flight time greatly. (If DJI had introduced the FC40 earlier it would probably occupy a very specific market niche comprising well-off aunts or uncles who wanted to get a high tech toy for their nephews or nieces without spending too much time on research.)