Last year right around this time, DJI Innovations released its original Phantom quadcopter. The fact that the aircraft was designed to carry a GoPro camera made it quite popular. Then in November, the company started selling the Phantom 2 Vision model, which features its own built-in Wi-Fi-controlled HD camera. It's pretty awesome, but at US$1,199 it's priced $720 more than the base Phantom. Now, DJI has introduced two new models that occupy the middle ground between those two price points.

The onboard camera isn't the only thing that sets the Phantom 2 Vision apart from the Phantom. It also has an improved flight control system – meaning it's easier to control – plus its new battery allows for flight times of about 25 minutes as opposed to 10 to 15. Additionally, the quadcopter features self-tightening propellers, so you don't need to worry about one of the suckers popping off in mid-flight (as long as you initially mounted the right ones to the right motors).

Well, if you keep all of those other improvements but lose the built-in camera, you get ...

The Phantom 2

Not only are the new props on this version and the Vision self-tightening, but they're also larger, allowing the quadcopter to carry a heavier payload than the original model. This is an important consideration, as the Phantom 2 is optimized for use with DJI's Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal camera mount.

This particular model of the Zenmuse is designed for use with a user-supplied GoPro HERO3. It lets users remotely tilt the camera up and down, plus it automatically adjusts the orientation of the camera on two axes, in order to maintain a level shot. A dedicated lever (and a separate channel) on the Phantom 2's control unit lets users remotely-control the gimbal.

The base Phantom 2, which includes the Zenmuse control module but not the gimbal itself, sells for a suggested retail price of US$679. For $879, you'll get the gimbal as part of the package.

The Phantom FC40

To get a sense of this model, imagine the original Phantom – along with its 10 to 15-minute battery – then add a built-in 720p/30fps video camera. That may not be as snazzy as the Phantom 2 Vision's 1080p camera (or a GoPro), but it should still do nicely for videos that are just being posted on YouTube or viewed on the user's computer.

As is the case with the Vision, an app allows users to control the camera with their mobile device, and to view first-person footage in real time from the quadcopter. They can also record footage on an SD card, located in the camera. In the case of the FC40, however, the camera angle has to be set by hand before each flight – on the Vision, the camera can be tilted by remote control.

The Phantom FC40 is priced at $560. The original Phantom is still also available, for $479.

To see what can be done with the Phantom 2, check out the following video.

Product pages: Phantom 2, Phantom FC40

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