DJI Phantom 2 Review
The DJI Phantom 2 was released on December 16, 2013, not even a year after the release of the wildly popular DJI Phantom quadcopter. The Phantom 2 is very similar to the original Phantom, though it has some key improvements that we’ll outline in this DJI Phantom 2 review. We are no longer recommending the original Phantom, as the new Phantom 2 quadcopter has an improved battery life, better GPS performance, and is generally just easier to use. Read on for our full DJI Phantom 2 review and be sure to also check out our best quadcopters page as well!
DJI Phantom 2 Design
If you are familiar with the original DJI Phantom, or really any of the Phantom quadcopters, then the look and feel of the DJI Phantom 2 is nearly identical. It is a very well constructed quadcopter with a strong white plastic frame surrounding all the electronics and the body of the drone, with white legs sticking down to enable safe landing (and protect any GoPro or other camera you have mounted). We won’t spend much time on the design as it is pretty solid and well-known by now, and why improve on a winning design! There are a series of LEDs on the arms of the quadcopter as well to aid in both direction, and to notify you if battery life is getting low.
Phantom 2 Video Camera Options
So the Phantom 2 DOES NOT come with a camera built in, like the DJI Phantom Vision models do. So without the camera, you’re essentially looking at a very expensive drone that can fly around, but won’t relay any information or pictures to you. Some folks may be OK with flying the Phantom without being able to ever see what it is seeing, but for most people the videos are the whole point of it!
The Phantom 2 is set up to carry small action sports video cameras though, such as the GoPro HERO4 Black and similar video camera models. It is possible to connect the GoPro straight to the quadcopter with a mount, but unless you are OK with shaky and choppy video, we don’t recommend this at all. Since the quadcopter is vibrating and moving quickly through the air (and experience turbulence), these small movements are amplified in the final video product and it really just takes away from the quality of your videos.
We highly recommend connecting a gimbal first – a device that stabilizes the camera and keeps it focused in one direction, despite the swaying or vibrations of the aircraft itself. There are several models out there, but the best right now for the GoPro is the DJI Zenmuse H3-3D, a 3-axis gimbal that has received excellent reviews from users. As you can see below, it has rubber grommets that help with the initial vibration dampening where it attaches to the quadcopter. Then, the motors that are attached to the gimbal cancel out any swaying or jerking of the aircraft due to aggressive flying or windy conditions. If you want to get a real-time video feed of what you’re filming, you’ll need to install an aftermarket setup, check out the ones by Fatshark. It can be a bit complicated (and costly!) so it may be worthwhile to splurge for the Phantom 2 Vision Plus model if you’re really craving the FPV setup.
Phantom 2 Flight Experience
The Phantom 2 quadcopter is relatively easy to fly and it mirrors the experience of flying any other quadcopter from the DJI Phantom line. It is quick to set up – all you need to do is attach the four propellers, charge the battery (which takes about an hour), put the 4 AA batteries in the remote controller, charge the range extender via micro-USB, and familiarize yourself with the user manual while you do it!
The actual flying of the quadcopter is easy if you are familiar with any R/C devices. The integrated GPS aids significantly as it will keep the Phantom from drifting due to wind, off balance propellers, and general poor handling. The quadcopter has LED lights situated on the underside of its four arms to aid in directing the aircraft and also relaying information back to you. The two red lights are situated at the front of the Phantom and thus help you figure out which way you’re flying, and the rear two lights can be red, yellow, or green – red means there is a power issue (low battery), yellow and red means there are GPS-lock or interference issues, and green means you’re good to go!
Once you’ve calibrated the GPS and have the green lights, you simply push up on the left control and you are flying! The Phantom 2 has plenty of power and is very responsive overall, and is a huge step up from smaller scale quadcopters. Its battery also runs for about 20-25 minutes of flight time, which is significantly better than previous models and a big improvement over the original Phantom line. It can reach altitudes of 1,000 feet, though you’ll hit the FAA ceiling of 400 feet way before the quadcopter runs out of power and range! Overall range is roughly 1/2 mile or 2,500 feet, though it will depend on the conditions that you’re operating under.
DJI has integrated a few new features into the Phantom 2, including a better compass with more stable hovering and more precise GPS. They also have included self-tightening propellers as standard now, which is nice.
DJI Phantom 2 Battery
One of the biggest improvements from the original Phantom to the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter is the increase in battery life. The old model got only 12-15 minutes, while the Phantom 2 can now fly for up to 25 minutes, nearly a 100% increase in flight time! DJI accomplished this by increasing the battery size up to 5,200mAh and also making the quadcopter more efficient with power usage. The battery has a built in charge level indicator, over-charge protection, and it even will notify you when you need to do battery maintenance. It is hot swappable, which makes it easy to stay up longer in the air!
DJI Phantom 2 Controller
The controller for the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter is very similar to the previous generation controller. It does have several improvements though, including:
- Gimbal controller
- Rechargeable battery
- Trainer port
- Battery level LED indicators
- Throttle lock
The controller is very well built and feels nice and solid in your hands. You can also set up a one button “Return to Home” setting so that you can rest assured while flying that you quadcopter is in your full control.
Bottom Line – DJI Phantom 2 Review
If you have your own GoPro already and you want to use it to take great aerial videos, then the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter is the best quadcopter for you right now. If you don’t have a GoPro and want a simply, easy setup, then the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ is your best bet if you can afford it! To make the Phantom 2 into a full FPV setup it will take almost as much money, and require more time and technical knowledge. However, for those who really want the best quality videos, the GoPro quality (especially the new GoPro HERO4 line ) is superior to the built in camera in the Phantom 2 Vision+.
The DJI Phantom 2 really doesn’t have any competitors right now. Some folks like to compare it to the Walkera QR X350 Pro or the Blade 350 QX2, but to be honest, neither of those quadcopter come anywhere close to the DJI Phantom series in terms of features, quality, support, or value. You can read a full in depth comparison of the Phantom to those quadcopters (and others) over at TheWireCutter.com.
Where to Buy?
The best place to buy the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter is definitely on Amazon.com:
Amazon offers the best prices, support, and quick shipping so that you can get flying quickly. Also, don’t forget an extra battery: DJI Phantom 2 Batteries. At $130 each, they certainly are not cheap and we’d definitely appreciate it if they could bring their prices down. But having a backup battery or two is essential for quadcopter flying.
Additional DJI Phantom 2 Reviews:
A full DJI Phantom 2 Review with Unboxing and Test Flights:
Tested goes hands on with its DJI Phantom 2 review:
Another great DJI Phantom 2 Review from HeliPal: