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

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

The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter isn't the first remote-control quadcopter DJI has made; they've been in the game for years. I remember back when I needed to Macgeyver a GoPro underneath it to see what my neighbors were up to, Rear Window style, but those days ended last year when DJI brought the Phantom 2 Vision to the market with its very own camera system. I was a fan of it, don't get me wrong. However, it wasn't ready for prime time; just turning it made me sick enough to want to fly the Phantom into the nearest above ground swimming pool.

Those days are over! DJI has brought the Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter to the market. As the name implies, you not only get a camera included, but an awesome gimbal that includes electronic stabilization along all 3 axes. Does this make the Phantom 2 fun to fly again? Let's just say I'm back up to speed with what everyone's up to again up and down my street!

What Is It?

The Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter is basically a helicopter. A small helicopter that you get to control via radio, or remote control, and that's chock full of technology the Soviets would have tortured Iron Man to get ahold of. It includes a GPS (yes, really), Wi-Fi, and the most fun part? A 14MP camera capable of shooting 1080p/30 fps high-definition video with a lens as fast as F/2.8. In other words, it's James Bond-type stuff we're talking about here.

Why Do I Want It?

You want it because it's fun! Let's be honest; that's why I buy any of these things. You get a helicopter that you can zoom about over your neighbors and neighborhood at speeds of up to 35 mph and heights of up to 900 feet or more, all paired with a nifty camera that shoots video clearer than Princess Anna's skin in Frozen.

Did I mention Frozen? Yeah, I'm a dad, I love it, and you should really watch it if you haven't. But anyway, with the Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter, you can take some awesome shots, whether for photo or video work, that simply wouldn't be possible with any other piece of gear. I'm serious; I know folks in the movie industry (thank you, previous career) that use the Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter to get some of those crazy shots you're starting to see in the latest action movies. That's a story for another day, though. Let's get down to business...what's this thing about on the inside?

Structure, Design, and Guts

I opened mine up and barely managed to put it back together, so don't do what I did there. However, it's tempting to. On the outside, you could mistake it for a toy you'd buy for a kid. It's all plastic, all white, and reminds me of some kind of toilet torture device. When you look at it top down, it looks funky and geometric. It has two square legs that help it land and also keep the camera from being bumped during normal landings.

The camera itself looks all kinds of fancy. It hangs like a pendulum and includes vibration dampers to keep the video from shaking when the motors are whirring. The Phantom 2 Vision+ shows DJI learned from the Phantom 2, as they split the camera's functional bits into several parts. The pendulum bit is where the camera's computery parts, micro USB plug, micro SD card slot, and so on are located, but then they run a cable from there to the actual sensor and lens of the camera. Keeping things separated like this makes it easier to poke around in one part of the kit without disturbing everything else. I like it.

This split design makes even more sense when you think about the stabilization. Since the camera is split, the only parts of it that need stabilization are the sensor and lens, while the other non-essential bits can vibrate away. As a result, you've got your gimbal, or little mechanical robo-arm and the camera attached to the end of it. The gimbal is what leads to the 3-axis stabilization that's quite frankly, scary fast. I love it.

A 5200mah Li-Po battery gives the Phantom 2 Vision+ some serious get up and go, and you can swap it out for spares pretty easily. I recommend buying several of them. Your remote is white and curvy and has a pair of joysticks, a power switch, and a pair of 3-position switches. There is a phone clamp on the upper left corner and a range extender (Wi-Fi, of course) on the right. This means that you can literally setup a Wi-Fi network in your immediate area to work with your iOS or Android phone, and thanks to the rechargeable battery included inside the range extender, you can stay in contact with the Phantom from even 2,200 feet. That's nuts. If you use the app provided by DJI, you get all kinds of nifty features, including flight data such as your battery level, your speed, altitude, and distance from home base, a camera's eye view, shoot video, stop video, swivel the camera, and of course, take still video.

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 a joy to fly. It moves quickly, responsively, very high, and did I mention it's fast? It's fast! It might look like a toy with the toilet bowl white theme, but make sure you take it seriously, because it's easy to hurt someone with a drone like this if you don't know what you're doing. Fly well, and fly safe.

Keep in mind that you need to do a bit more than just hit the power switch and take to the skies. The instructions aren't very helpful either, although to be honest, I've never seen a drone with a good manual when it came to flying. But here are some of the things you'll need to do ahead of time: turn the Phantom 2 Vision+ on, turn on the remote, set up the Wi-Fi repeater, connect your phone to it (and wait the time necessary for the connection to work), and get the app going. From there, you keep turning the right switch until you get your yellow almost-there lights, and then start calibrating your compasses by lifting and rotating the Phantom 2 Vision+. If you're lucky and followed all of the steps correctly, you'll get your green lights, which will mean you've been cleared for takeoff. It's about as complicated as flying a real helicopter!

Got your joysticks? Good; you'll need them. Push them down and inside (as in, toward the center). Your left stick handles rotation and altitude, while your right handles your roll and pitch. In other words, left stick controls how high and where it's facing, while the right stick gets you there. It's best to just focus on taking off and moving away from you when you're starting off and not even bothering with controlling where it's facing. Why? Because the moment you rotate the Phantom 2 Vision+ toward yourself, you're flying mirror-style, and it's really easy to fly it into your loved ones or neighbors incidentally as you're figuring things out. Don't ask me how I know.

It does take practice to get the hang of it. It's easy to think, hey, I'm in the air, I've got this, and get all Tom Cruisey in Top Gun. But just like that guy in Independence Day (Jimmy?) who flew into an alien and got blown up way too early in the movie, you don't want to push too hard or too fast. 35 mph is serious speed, and y
ou can hurt yourself, other people, or the Phantom 2 Vision+ if you hit anything at that speed.

The neat thing about it, though, is that if you fly too high, Icarus style, and lose control, the Phantom 2 Vision+ helps you out a lot. Remember the built in GPS system? Well, if the Phantom 2 Vision+ senses that it's no longer under human control, it basically phones home and starts flying back toward the last point where it got a radio signal. From there, you can turn the top right switch down and up to recover control. I did this over and over again when showing off...I mean, demonstrating a flight emergency.

There's even a feature that just lets it go back home if it completely loses signal from the remote. This is a great feature if you experience sudden remote battery death. I tested it out from my roof by launching it, pointing it 50 yards east, and then cutting out the remote. The Phantom 2 Vision+ flew back in less than a minute, landed, and had the manners to turn itself off. It was awesome to see. However, I've got a friend who tried the same thing from a boat and never saw his Phantom 2 Vision+ again. Don't let that happen to you.

The camera features make sense, especially with the app. You basically just use arrows to steer the camera, use buttons to take pictures, or to control the video. Unfortunately, the video doesn't work quickly enough for me to trust it when I'm flying, which is a shame. However, it's definitely fast enough to give fluid video while flying. All of your pictures and video go to a teeny micro SD card, so I can also use it with my digital cameras. Score!

When flying, you get around 25 minutes, although it's best to limit flight time to a little less than that (see below). The shots you get are just unbelievable, and it's amazing to think that it wasn't possible to get photography like that as an amateur just a few years ago. The world is changing, folks.

Gimme the Pros

It's an adventure every time it takes off. I've flown drones, helicopters, and airplanes for decades now, and it's not often that I come across a drone that makes me stop and remember what got me into this hobby all over again, but this is one of those kinds of drones. Even my wife enjoys it! It's hard not to fly it without developing a big ol' grin somewhere along the way.

I love the GPS features included in it, and could easily see it saving someone's life someday, especially you rural folks who live far away from the kinds of nosy neighbors I have. I also love the Wi-Fi repeater and how you can even use your phone to tweak the camera. In short, all the technical stuff is great. But the real thrill in the drone is flying it, and it's a fast, high, amazingly quick drone. I need to learn how to upload videos so I can show off the kinds of things we've been able to do with it since buying it. If you're a sports or action sport junkie, or even just like spending time outdoors, this is a drone you can use to shoot some awesome videos. The battery life is decent, and I like that the remote tells me when I need to swap them out instead of making me play a guessing game.

It's put together really well, and it's worth the cost.

Any Cons?

My wife always tells me nothing's perfect, and even though she's usually talking about the way I mow the lawn with our reel mower, she's got a point when it comes to the Phantom 2 Vision+. The setup can be kind of confusing. Similarly, although the drone is designed to just stay hovering whenever you aren't holding the joysticks, this doesn't always happen, and the drone tends to wander off if you aren't careful. Similarly, the camera just isn't fast enough for me to feel comfortable flying it through the video link.

The biggest issue with it, at least from my perspective, is that the battery power isn't directly related to the performance of the drone. To put it another way, it tends to just fall when battery power dips below 10 percent or so. After almost crash-landing on my daughter a few times, my wife made me stop flying whenever the battery level approached 15 percent.

I also don't like how you need to charge the Wi-Fi extender separately from the battery of the drone, which also needs to be charged separately from the radio, which needs 4 AA batteries. We need some consistency here, DJI. And as usual with drone these days, the manuals make more sense in the original Chinese than they do in English.

Despite all that, it's still the best drone I've ever used.

Should I Buy It?

In short: I would, yes. It's an amazingly fun piece of gear, and easily the best drone I've ever bought or made, which is saying something considering how many I've got in the garage (don't tell my wife). It's easily the most straightforward way to take to the skies, get aerial photography and video, and have it with rock solid stability.

I completely recommend the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter. You can buy it from Amazon here. Also consider the same kit along with an extra battery, case, and SD setup 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.


  1. Oh, I'm jealous of you! These drones look amazing. Going to have to talk to the wife to see if we might be able to bring this home as an early birthday present...

  2. This shoots better video than the Sony videocamera I bought two years ago. That's kind of scary. But I just ordered one. You only live once!

  3. Hey Mike, I just wanted to let you know that I bought the Phantom after your review, and it is *awesome*!