A Review of the DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter Drone with 4K UHD Video Camera
New - The New and Updated 2016 DJI Phantom 4 Review can be Found Here.
In the world of aerial drone photography, we’d have to argue that the DJI Phantom 3 is probably the single best little drone for the job and additionally state that its built-in 4K ultra HD video camera is probably one of the best choices on the current market, with the best overall quality of 4K video and still photos created.
The DJI Phantom 3 uses a DJI Pilot App for iOS and Android which can be downloaded and allows for live streaming HD video of whatever you’re filming while also enabling complete camera control. Furthermore the Phantom 3 Pro offers a 3-axis gimbal for nearly total control of that same footage you’re watching as it’s actually being filmed.
These are just a couple of the many awesome features packed into this particular drone and we’ll cover more as we move through this review. The bottom line here is that the Phantom 3 Pro package that’s currently available comes loaded with goodies and extras that will allow you to create some of the most impressive aerial Ultra HD footage you could get your hands on without spending thousands of dollars. To top it all off, DJI has even thrown in an extra battery and is selling the whole Phantom 3 Professional kit for a remarkably decent price considering what this drone can do.
For starters, the Phantom 3 Professional drone uses a Lightbridge digital streaming feed for live viewing of a 720p HD video signal that gets beamed down to your smartphone. This signal can be viewed via the drone’s DJI Pilot App for Android and iOS. Of course, the app isn’t also about passive viewing of the drone as it works its magic. It also lets you take high resolution still shots of whatever you happen to be looking at and allows you to control the movements of the onboard 4K camera and the flight of the drone in general.
Furthermore, the control mechanism for said camera is definitely a winner. The 3-axis gimbal allows for maximal movement flexibility and offers the Phantom 3 Pro’s camera a level of physical stability that’s impressive as heck to behold. In other words, despite the movements being made in the air by the Phantom 3 Pro or the prevailing wind conditions, you can be almost entirely sure that your still shots and video recordings –which get recorded in full 4K resolution to an onboard microSD card—will emerge as clear and sharp as possible with current drone technology in this price range.
Finally, the 4K camera itself is a very impressive piece of hardware in the Phantom 3 Pro. Other drones like the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 offer design and flight specs that are just about as impressive as those of the Phantom 3 but as far as we’ve seen, none of the competitors beat the sheer video and photo quality that this particular model can accomplish.
4.3 - 241 Reviews
The Phantom 3 Professional Drone also isn’t without its flaws, particularly when compared to the competing Yuneec Typhoon Q500.
First of all, the Phantom 3 doesn’t come with a carry case or a second battery with the purchase package it’s sold in. On both counts, the Yuneec does include these accessories. Given the very similar pricing of the two, DJI is soon likely going to have to catch up by including the same extras.
Secondly, the fact that the control screen doesn’t come built right into the Phantom 3 Pro’s controller and is instead based off an app download for you phone can be a bit annoying and clumsy. It works fine as far as it goes but again, here is where Yuneec offers an edge up by simply having built their HD touchscreen for live viewing and control right into a their controller. The latter setup is definitely superior and easier to manage.
We should also note that the Phantom 3, as a slightly “older” drone model could use a few more refinements that are now not only possible but actively being applied to newer drone models: first of all, the drone can be quite noisy and while we understand this as an inevitable result of the high powered electric motor and the four rotors it powers, the noise produced only really becomes inaudible if you fly the drone up to between 100 and 200 feet or more of height. At low altitudes, it’s a definite irritation. Furthermore, the Phantom 3 Pro could use a few more advanced flight modes such as an autonomous “follow you” mode that newer models like the SDR Solo offer.
Finally, the physical design of the Phantom 3 is a bit on the clumsy looking side. It works extraordinarily well at delivering very stable video and flying with wonderful steadiness even under rougher conditions but there is definitely a certain flexibility and elegance missing to the Phantom 3 Professional that newer, leaner drones to come with.
The Phantom 3 Professional quadracopter is a definite winner with very few flaws as far as 4K camera-capable drones go. It’s one of the very few drones for sale that offers a built-in gimbal-mounted 4K camera and the quality of that camera’s video and photo reproduction is almost beyond peer. The few flaws of the Phantom 3 don’t really take away from its overall quality.
Max Ascent/Descent speed: 16.4 feet per second/ 9.8 feet per second
Vertical/ Horizontal Hover accuracy: + or – 3.9 feet/ + or – 3.3 feet
Max altitude: 19, 685 feet
Flight time: 23 minutes but variable depending on conditions
Flight control: downloadable DJI Pilot app for smartphone with touchscreen camera controls and a physical GPS/GLONASS 50Hz controller with Lightbridge support
Transmitter Frequency: 2.400 to 2.483 GHz
Connectivity: 1 x USB type A female slot for mobile device interface, 1 x MicroUSB female for firmware updates, 1 x charge port
Camera: Gimbal mounted 12 megapixel video/photo camera with Sony EXMOR sensor
Camera Resolution: up to 4K ultra HD at 3840 x 2160 for video and up to 12 megapixels for photos
Recording Media: microSD/SDXC card up to 64 GB
Gimbal: 3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw)
Weight: 2.8 lbs (with battery and propellors)
Dimensions: 23.2 inches diagonal from prop tip to prop tip
The Phantom 3 Professional is a step up from the very similar but slightly less decked out Phantom 3 Advanced quadracopter. The main difference between the two is that the Pro shoots 4K video and the Advanced only manages Full HD footage. Both have otherwise equal designs.
And what is this design? Well, basically, DJI seems to love the bulbous look that it started with in its original Phantom 1 drone. Here we’re talking about a bulky looking mostly white quadracopter that’s rather bland looking but at the same time gives the impression of being fairly durable. Unlike the much spindlier and (we think) much cooler looking DJI Inspire 1, the Phantom isn’t big on extended rigid legs or a small central body.
On the other hand, some not so easily visible improvements have been added to the Phantom 3 for better flight and maneuverability. These include a new motor tilt for a more stable flight mechanism and a whole new type of flight controller with better brains. Furthermore, the Phantom 3 offers smart braking capability in its controls. Externally the Phantom 3 also offers wider landing gear and an extra compartment for an indoor sensor that enables much tighter indoor flight. Overall, the drone is designed better for staying out of sight while its camera is shooting.
The battery of the Phantom 3 is also better than that of the Phantom 1 or 2, and despite a nearly identical appearance, it offers more power and a slightly longer 23 to 25 minute flight time.
The biggest changes to the Phantom 3 lie in its controller. The new controller for the 3 is smaller, with more controls and more features such as an internal battery that can be charged. There is also an LED power level indicator and a USB connection port for the smartphone-based visual controls via the DJI Pilot app.
We should also note that the Phantom 3 offers a newer, superior DJI Lightbridge technology built right into its controller and drone for live streaming of an HD video from the drone as it flies, even at distances of 1.2 miles from where you yourself are standing. Furthermore, the phone that you need to attach to the controller for the visual feed to work will actually also get charged by the controllers own battery as it runs. Furthermore, new buttons on the Phantom 3’s controller also include controls for camera angle, start/stop recording, photo capture and a couple of customizable buttons whose functions you can set for yourself.
4.3 - 241 Reviews
Setup for flight on the Phantom 3 is pretty straightforward and a few of its more complicated aspects are easily resolved with the drones own instruction manual or the even easier to understand instructional videos that DJI has for the Phantom 3 (and their other drones) on the company website.
Essentially however, once the drone is out of the box, you can simply screw in the four propellers, plug in the rechargeable battery and make sure that you’ve downloaded the DJI Pilot app to your smartphone. After connecting your phone to the controller itself via the USB cable, and switched the remote on before switching the drone itself on, you’re good to go. Also press both power buttons to make sure everything is completely switched on.
DJI might as well go into the camera business as far as the quality of their actual shooter itself goes. It quickly becomes apparent during flight of the Phantom 3 that its 4k video camera with 12 megapixel photo shooting capacity and Sony ½.3 EXMOR sensor from Sony is almost more the main point of the Phantom 3 than the drone itself. This camera can really shoot some spectacular video and photo imagery Video is incredibly crisp and clear while the drone maintins such good stability that it almost looks as if footage is on pause during flight. As for photos, they are also wonderfully sharp and loaded with color. Furthermore, the camera has some decent zoom and ISP capacities that definitely make it a stand-alone beauty all by itself.
Of course, you can also go for a Phantom 2 drone (with no built-in 4K camera) and simply install a much more professional GoPro Hero 4 action camera to it for some more exotic video and photo features but again, this isn’t necessary at all. The Phantom 3’sown 4K camera is truly excellent. Some of its photo and video specs include the ability to shoot photos at a 12 megapixel resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels, a video ISO range of 100 to 3200 and a photo ISO of 100 to 1600. As for possible video resolutions, you can choose from any of the following:
• DCI 4K (4096 x 2160): 24p, 25p
• UHD 4K (3840 x 2160): 24p, 25p, 30p,
• 1080p (1920 x 1080): 24p, 25p, 30p, 48p, 50p, 60p
• 720p (1280 x 720): 24p, 25p, 30p, 48p, 50p, 60p
Furthermore, photo modes include Single shot, burst shooting of 3, 5 or 7 shots per second, Auto exposure bracketing at 3/5, and time-laps video shooting. The file formats of video consist of MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 in MOV wrapper (up to 60 Mbps) while photo formats are JPEG and DNG RAW.
The Phantom 3 is designed to fly as easily and stably as possible even in the hands of novice users. Thus, once you get the hang of using this drone, you should be able to have it smoothly responding to a wide range of commands. The drone is basically built to do just this and it never feels like it’s moving too quickly or moving out of easy, stable control.
Altitude during banking into turns is easy to maintain without the use of extra power and, again, the stability of the Phantom 3 is what’s really most impressive about it. Even at very high altitudes, the drone does its own corrections against wind currents and can keep very still under assorted conditions, enough so that video shot with the drone looks wonderfully immobile. Furthermore, there’s no need to worry about losing control of the drone if your controller falls out of your hands or your smartphone disconnects. When not being actively manipulated, the Phantom 3 immediately falls into a default stand-still mode where it just floats in one spot.
The drone can be flown and made to take off or land via the onscreen app or (more easily) flight can be done via the physical controller, with the left stick controlling drone rotation and the right stick controlling backward and forward movement. Pushing the left stick up or down causes changes in altitude and pushing both sticks down and inwards starts the motor itself.
Finally we get down to the specific price of the Phantom 3 Professional quadracopter from DJI. Currently, the essential Phantom 3 package retails for $1,259.00 on Amazon.com.
4.3 - 241 Reviews
• Almost unbeatably beautiful photo and video quality
• Superb built-in camera
• Easy to fly
• Long battery life
• Great downloadable app
• Good controller functionality
• Not the nicest looking of the small drones
• Needs more advanced in-flight features
• No second battery included
• No hard case included