DJI Phantom 2 Hands-On Field Test (With Vision+ and Go Pro)

  By Jordan Drake

This video has been a long time coming. It was over two years ago at the Banff Mountain Film Fest that I was able to use a Drone to shoot video. They were difficult to use, and I needed two operators to film. Me shooting my own footage was out of the question without a huge amount of training. I loved the look of the footage though, and it hurt that I would rarely have the budget to put aerial photography to good use in my own work.

Then, a couple months ago, Philip Bloom uploaded his test video of the (relatively) new Phantom 2 with a Go Pro Gimbal. You can see it here: http://vimeo.com/97455734 It inspired me to look at the DJI options, as they were quite affordable and every commentator has mentioned how easy they are to fly. That week, The Camera Store became a DJI dealer.

I practiced with the Phantom 2 Vision + for a couple quick tests. Since the battery life is quite short, I was only able to get about a half hour of practice in before shooting our review. The camera is incredibly easy to fly, but while doing some initial testing I noticed that my co-worker Mark Langridge was a much more natural pilot, so I implored him to come run the drone for me.

As far as a location, I wanted to shoot early in the evening or late for a couple reasons. The obvious one is that the light looks far nicer, but the other reason was that my ND filters for the Go Pro had not arrived. Shooting with minimal light meant we could get smooth, cinematic footage, since our shutter speeds would be lower. For daylight shooting in the future, I’ll be using the Lee Go Pro NDs. We went to the Highwood River, where we told to expect mist in the early morning. The only drawback? Sunrise was at 6AM, and the location was a ways out of town.

We brought two Phantom 2s, one with the Vision + camera and one with an H3D Gimbal and Go Pro Hero 3+. All of the stuff in the intro video was filmed with the Hero 3+ kit. We had such little time available to catch the beautiful morning light we stuck to one camera, and had our shots planned out ahead of time. I think the inclination when shooting aerials is to wait until you get to the location and see what might look cool, but I found it much more effective to know what shots I wanted, and get them quickly, while the light was good. Mark did a fantastic job, nailing the shots I wanted and capturing plenty of cool movements himself.

Everything went was going swimmingly (pun intended) until we lost contact with our Go Pro Phantom. The drone lifted itself up to reconnect to satellites, and then drifted gracefully down to earth. In the middle of the river. Chris was able to get to the Phantom seconds after it went under water, but only by completely immersing himself in the freezing river. The Phantom 2 and Go Pro, sadly, did not make it.

As for my kit, I used the trusty Sony FS700 with a Canon 24-70 F4 IS and Canon 7-200 F4 IS. The camera was supported by a Miller Air tripod, with the audio recorded with the Sony UWP-V130 wireless system. The Go Pro Hero 3+ Black was set to record 2.5K at 30fps, in Flat Protune mode. The Vision+ recorded highest quality at 30fps as well.Despite the tragic setback we suffered, I still plan to shoot with the Phantoms whenever I can. The ease with which I can get cinematic looking shots is truly incredible and the Go Pro surprised me again with the quality of footage it delivered. Just stay away from water.

Music Provided By BeatSuite.com

Shot by Jordan Drake and Mark Langridge
Edited By Jordan Drake
Mark Langridge droned on for hours.
Filmed on the Go-Pro Hero 3+ Black, DJI Vision+ and Sony FS700