2014 DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter Review: Is it Still Worth It?

DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter - What's The Big Deal?

Last year, DJI made me happier than a pig in a mudbath when they released the Phantom 2 after the original Phantom. I bought it, of course, and loved it. However, I wasn't a fan of how I continued to have to strap a GoPro to it in order to get good footage of the car chases on the bad side of town. Thankfully, DJI paid attention to my emails and rolled out the Phantom 2 Vision, which sent me back to my wife desperately trying to explain why I had to have one more drone. She eventually agreed, proving once again why I have the best wife in the world, and that allowed me to write the notes that led to this long-delayed review. I've got my Phantom 2 Vision in front of me (well, next to my computer) as I write this review, and I'm already itching to get out and take to the skies again with it.

What Is It and Why Do I Want It?

The Phantom 2 Vision is the successor to the Phantom 2, which itself is the successor to the Phantom FC40, which itself is the successor to the original Phantom that started it all. And all of these are four of the best thought out UAVs, drones, quadcopters, or whatever you'd like to call them currently available on the market.

You want it because it's fun! Let's be honest; that's why I buy any of these things. In particular, you want it because it fixes a lot of issues I and others had with the Phantom 2, Phantom FC40, and original Phantom, and does so marvelously. It's not as good as the Phantom 2 Vision+ when you push it to the limit, but it's also not as expensive, so let's break it apart and put it back together again for this review!

Structure, Design, and Guts

The Phantom 2 Vision is similar to the base Phantom in that it has the onboard GPS that lets you hover the drone in one spot in the air, as well as fly back home if the radio controller goes out of range or if the batteries in the radio controller die a premature death. However, that's not why you're going to spend more on the Phantom 2 Vision, is it? It's certainly not why I did!

The reason to spend more is because the Phantom 2 Vision includes a High-Definition video camera with a Wi-Fi connection. The original Phantom, of course, was created with the GoPro in mind, but you still needed to buy your own camera if you wanted any photo or video capabilities. That's changed with the Phantom 2 Vision.

If you've got a smart phone like an iPhone or anything Android, all you need to do is download DJI's free Vision app. It then syncs with the Vision so you can download live footage, video or photo, from your drone's camera while you're in the air, and even control the camera physically as well as electronically, in terms of moving the camera itself, starting and stopping it, taking pictures, and even obtaining a first person view as you're flying. You even get to check out various bits of nifty flight data, such as your location, altitude, speed, and battery life. Which reminds me...

DJI finally listened to me and added a larger battery to the Phantom 2 Vision. It's a 5200mAh battery, which is enough energy to power a pretty cool laptop for 4 hours. Unfortunately, it only powers the Phantom 2 Vision for 25 minutes, but you can squeeze a lot of fun into 25 minutes. The battery also has a slot that makes it easier to slide in and out, which is much nicer than the need to plug in wires and practically build the battery yourself, as is the case with the original Phantom that only gave you 10 or 15 minutes for all of your work and acid burns.

What's It Like to Use It?

This is my favorite part of any review, and let's be honest: it's why you've read this far. The Phantom 2 Vision is fun, fun, fun to fly. Using it still starts with the creepy calibration ritual that has you spinning around and looking silly with the drone in a circle. However, things start getting better from here. For example, the Morse Codish blinking LED light pattern has now been simplified from the way it was in the Phantom, and DJI even provides you with a pattern code card along with the radio controller, which makes all the difference in figuring out what the Phantom 2 Vision is trying to tell you when you're trying to figure out if you'll be able to take off in a minute or not.

One of the first things I noticed when flying the Phantom 2 Vision was that it was simply easier to fly than the Phantom. Contacting DJI, I learned that they'd definitely tweaked the Naza-M, which controls the Phantom 2 Vision. Works for me!

I enjoy the first-person-view immensely, which I had access to thanks to the app. I found it most useful when flying the Phantom 2 Vision far, far away over fields several acres in size. You quickly realize that the drone looks very small when you're hundreds of feet away from it, and once you can't figure out which way it's facing, you either have to start steering it left and right in order to tell which way it's facing, or you use your technology and look at the camera until you see where you want to go. However, I don't recommend leaning too hard on this method, as it's easy to lose your video signal, which is carried on the Wi-Fi and has a range under ideal conditions of 984 feet, or 300 meters. That range can and will decrease if you have objects in the way.

As I noted earlier, the app for the Phantom 2 Vision also lets you track flight data, which comes in handy when you want to figure out the direction of the drone and its distance from you. However, I tended to ignore that information as it was hard to make out in bright sunlight when flying. And keep in mind that you could already use the original Phantom to fly FPV, as long as your GoPro had Wi-Fi attached to it. It was just slower.

The camera is easily the most impressive part of the Phantom 2 Vision. I'd estimate it's as good as those in the newest GoPro systems. You get 140 degrees of coverage and can shoot video in up to 1080p, whether at 30fps or 60i. You can, of course, shoot video in lower resolutions to save space. The camera is also capable of shooting 14 MP images. There's definitely a fisheye effect with the camera, but it's great for getting coverage of a lot of things at once, so I'm a fan of it.

I love being able to steer the camera up and down; this is a feature that's not in the original Phantom, Phantom FC40, or Phantom 2. It really makes a difference in that "eye in the sky" feeling that's at the root of so many people's desires to fly personal drones these days. However, I'm not a fan of the Jell-O effect that comes with using the camera. There's an anti-vibration mount built into the system, but it doesn't work as well as it should in every situation, and I'm one of those guys who likes things to work well everywhere, every time, even though that's not the way the real world works. The Phantom 2 Vision+ takes care of this issue, but to be honest, you might not even see it as an issue.

Keep in mind that the gimbal in the Phantom 2 Vision is a single-axis gimbal, which is a fancy way of saying that you can simply move the camera up and down from the ground. If you want to be able to steer it in multiple axes, you'll need the Phantom 2 Vision+. Ditto if you want to be able to point the camera straight down to see what's directly under the drone.

Is It Still Worth It?

In short: I think so, yes. It's an amazingly fun piece of gear, and one of the best drones I've had the pleasure of using. The only way I could see it improved would be through the addition of a better method of stabilizing the video (i.e., a gimbal), which, interestingly, is precisely what DJI did with the Phantom 2 Vision+. However, you don't need to upgrade to the Vision+ if you're happy with the video you get from the Phantom 2 Vision; I'm just a gear junkie and had to see if the difference was worth it. To me, it was, but one of my drone buddies who has the Phantom 2 Vision thinks I'm crazy, and he stuck with his. We're both right, aren't we?

I completely recommend the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter. You can buy it from Amazon here. Extra batteries are here.


Hi! My name is Mike, and I'm the author of this personal drone blog. If you find the information on my flying drone review blog useful, you can shop through Amazon here.

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