Video review: The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ that fell from the sky

Guest post by D J Clark:

After playing with a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ in the park for the past month, I felt it was time to take it out on an assignment. 

The untreated footage, shot in standard auto mode with some adjustments while it was up in the sky, looks good on a mobile device but starts to show its limitations on a big screen. I sat down with to talk through my experience so far.

The Vision+ shoots 1080P at 25 or 30 FPS + 1080i & 720P at 50 or 60 FPS. It also has manual controls over ISO, white balance, exposure, sharpness & anti-flicker. All the above can be controlled during flight from the phone app.

In this demo I was shooting 1080P with sharpness set to standard. All the video is straight off the memory card unaltered.

The Vision+ allows you to shoot JPEG or DNG RAW (4384 x 3288 px) and has the same manual controls as you have with video, also controllable in flight.

In this demo I was shooting RAW and the images shown here and in the video have had basic edits in Adobe Lightroom.


Phantom 2 Vision+ versus the Phantom 2 with a GoPro on a gimbal:

As has been demonstrated in other tests online, the video from the GoPro Hero3+ outperforms the Vision+. However, bear in mind to get close to the same functionality as the Vision+ you will need to also buy and fit:

- a Zenmuse H3-3D 3-Axis Gimbal

- a wireless video link for FPV so you can send the video signal back to the controller

- 7″ FPV monitor with built-in receiver so you can see the video on a monitor attached to the controller

– iOSD superimposed flight data on video so you can use the monitor for helping you control the quadcopter
– plus a GoPro Hero 3+
– GoPro batteries

It almost doubles the price and is a lot less compact and easy to set up. You can almost start flying the Phantom 2 Vision+ out of the box and it syncs through an app to an iPhone or Android phone.

The fall from the Sky:
In the video above I describe how my Phantom 2 seemingly fell out of the sky for no reason. Since returning home I have been able to research the incident and found the following.

The crash was most probably caused by the Vortex Ring State – an issue with the stability of multirotors. The DJI Phantom is prone to it when descending too quickly, or in strong winds. My natural action to throttle up, probably made it worse. There are no warnings in the manual related to this issue.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 19.00.14

DJI issued a new firmware update in late April to counter this by restricting the descent speed. Although my unit was purchased in early May it appeared not to have the latest update. I would urge anyone with a Phantom 2 to check you are running the latest software.

I spoke to DJI support in the US and in China. Though sympathetic to my crash, both stated company policy is not to offer replacements to units damaged by this issue. Support in China did offer me 20% off a new unit.

As I state in the video, even with the crash I still have come out with a positive experience using the Phantom. The video from the Vision+ isn’t as good as a GoPro Hero3+ but is so unique that everyone I have showed it to has missed its flaws while marveling at the smooth movements. The still images, once edited, are amazing.

The crash was disappointing as I still had another five flights planned. It was also an important reminder of the potential dangers of flying – especially when above people.

As I say in the video the shots above with the Phantom were done at the end of a network TV shoot I was on. I won’t get to edit the TV package for another couple of weeks and only then will be able to decide whether I can sneak one or two shots from the Vision+ in. It may be a stretch. But for online only, and learning to fly and shoot, I would recommend the Vision+. I am hoping DJI come out with a better camera or a better way to integrate the GoPro soon.

D J Clark is DP for Assignment Asia, a new current affairs program due to launch very soon. He also freelances for The Economist and teaches on the University of Bolton MA in Multimedia Journalism that runs in Beijing, China.

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Posted on July 24th, 2014 by D J Clark | Category: Drones, Journalism, quadcopters |

5 responses to "Video review: The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ that fell from the sky"

  1. Neil_omgtv Says:
    July 24th, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I am of the opinion that however ‘cool’ the footage might look, these things should never be used by amateurs. And by amateurs, I mean the video production professionals who have gone doolally over the prospect of being ‘aerial cinematographers.’

    These ‘toys’ – and that is what they are give mixed results at best, and at worse, are actually really dangerous. Before too much longer, someone is going to use one of these drones irresponsibly and some poor sod going about their business is going to be seriously injured or killed when the thing drops out of the sky ‘for no reason’ and on to their head.

    There are companies who specialise in the operation of drones for aerial filming. They know what they’re doing and do it safely. If your project needs aerial footage, use one of them. Budget your project accordingly. Don’t think you can cheat your way to offering aerial filming services by spending £600 on something that shouldn’t be flown anywhere near other people.

  2. admin Says:
    July 24th, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Neil, Your view is certainly not an uncommon one. We’ll be hearing from one such aerial production company in a post later this week. It is certainly a debate worth having.


  3. D J Clark Says:
    July 25th, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Having used the quadcopter for a little while now and experienced the crash, I can understand your point of view. Using a specialised company would always be a better option both for safety and quality. However for rolling news production this is not always an option.

    From my tests the still images from the vision+ are fine for most news needs, and the video passable for online. For the safety aspect, I would advocate for a licence system such as the one described in Philip Bloom’s post which would allow news organisations to get one or two of their photographers/cameramen qualified to operate a small UAV like the phantom when the need arises and there is no budget and/or time to use an ariel production company.

  4. Mark Dobson Says:
    July 25th, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks for a really informative and honest post from D J Clark.

    Fabulous shots, what a beautiful country and the skill level that D J Clark acquired in a short period of time is really impressive.

    I understand the point Neil_omgtv makes about the potential danger of using what he refers to as ‘These Toys’ but I’m afraid that the cat is out of the bag.

    Loads of professional filmmakers like D J Clark are going to be using Phantoms to add a fresh perspective to their work.

    But here in the UK the only way to do that properly and professionally is to get the BNUC-S certification as refered to in the link that D J Clark posted in his latest response.

    And without the qualification it is not possible to get public liability insurance. I take my first exam early next month and in a few months time after the Flying Exam will be able to add aerial filming with a Phantom 2 + Zenmuse H3-3D + GoPro Black 3+ to the services I can provide to our clients. Out of interest I have discovered that it is not possible to get accreditation using the Phantom 2 Vision+ due to the radio frequency it works on.

    A qualified pilot is a qualified pilot regardless of whether they are flying a Phantom or a far more sophisticated system. The training is all about safe operation and fully approved by the CAA. It covers Aviation safety and law, flight performance and operational planning, navigation, meteorology, planning and risk management and not least, Flight Operations.

    Gaining BNUC-S certification is a serious commitment.

    As demonstrated by Phillip Blooms excellent short film, Koh Yao Noi The quality of the material acquired with a go pro 3+ is remarkably good if used in the right context. To get cinematic / broadcast quality would require a much more sophisticated rig that can support the higher quality cameras. And then you are looking at a fully crewed outfit with a pilot, camera operator and assistant.

  5. jonathan Says:
    August 13th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Don’t feel too bad! I saw similar behavior on a brand new DJI with upgraded firmware just a few weeks ago, where on descent it fell into it’s own wash, lost control, and literally fell out of the sky. It was a perfectly calm day we were flying in, so it really was strange to watch.

    This is exactly what it looked like:

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