DJI Innovations, based in Hong Kong, started shipping the newest addition to their Phantom line of quadcopter drones this month.
The new model is the most advanced yet. The Phantom 2 Vision+ (note the plus) builds on the Phantom 2 Vision from November 2013, adding a 3-axis gimbal to a lighter version of the FC200 camera.
The gimbal allows for smoother video footage and level stills in windy conditions. The gimbal also allows the camera to shoot straight down, allowing for more creative video perspectives than the Vision which was limited to a 60° tilt.
Published specifications also indicate that the range of the aircraft has been increased.
Being quite new, I haven’t come across a lot of information about the gimbal-mounted camera. While the physical characteristics are completely different (the Vision+ camera looks like a mini GoPro compared to the egg-shaped Vision camera), the specs seem similar. Looking closely at some photos shot with the Vision+ the EXIF metadata labels the camera as the DJI FC200, the same as the one mounted beneath the original Phantom Vision.
Vision+ retails for $1,300. The price of the Vision has dropped to $1,000.
I have updated the DJI Phantom comparison table to reflect that the DJI Phantom family now has five members.
Which Phantom should you get?
The first thing to note is that although there are five members in the DJI Phantom family, one of them is now an inferior choice. At just $100 more than the original pricing for the Phantom Vision, the Vision+ offers a lot more. Even at the present discount, the Phantom 2 Vision is not that attractive anymore. Expect the original vision to disappear from the line-up as soon as stock is depleted.
The top of the line model, the Phantom 2 Vision+ is the obvious choice for those who want to get their hands on an easy-to-fly drone that takes better than decent photos and video. The gimbal makes for smooth video and level stills. Everything you need is included in the package. The concept of using your smartphone or tablet as a monitor to compose shots and review flight telemetry is incredibly convenient.
There are two drawbacks to going with the Vision+ however. One is the lack of modularity. There is no upgrade path from the original Vision to the Vision+ and it is likely that the Vision+ too is a system that is not going to be expanded upon. What you buy is what you get, and that is the price of convenience. The other is that DJI stuck with 5.8 GHz as the control frequency for the aircraft instead of the longer range 2.4 GHz band.
For those prepared to hack and tinker, the Phantom 2 still represents a more powerful quadcopter platform. As camera and gimbal technology evolve, you can upgrade bits of the equipment and keep the quadcopter as the flight platform.