Drones with 4K cameras are getting into an affordable price range. DJI just announced two new models in its “Phantom” series, the Phantom 3 Advanced and the Phantom 3 Professional.

Both drones can take 4K video capture with an attached and non-removable camera.

Start in May

From May 15th, the drones will retail for 1.259USD – DJI Phantom 3 Professional, and 999 USD – DJI Phantom 3 Advanced. With these prices, they can be considered to be part of the medium price segment, but have better than average price to value ratio.

Looking at the new quadcopters, not much has changed in their design. These are very recognizable Phantom drones, and the two models do not differ in anything but the color of the stripes on the arms.

When you break down the differences between the Professional and Advanced model, it all boils down to the camera.

The camera is the largest difference between the Phantom 3 Professional and the Phantom 3 Advanced. The Phantom 3 Professional is capable of shooting dramatic 4K video at up to 30 frames per second, and the Phantom 3 Advanced is effective at shooting at resolutions up to 1080p60. Both versions shoot at 12 megapixel photographs.

The other difference of note is the Intelligent Flight Battery charger.

The Phantom 3 Advanced comes with a 57-watt charging unit, and the Phantom 3 Professional comes with a 100-watt charger, which allows for shorter charging times.

The drones feel as well built as before. A drop from 200ft or above will probably result in a dead Phantom, while the odd bump into a wall or small crashes won’t faze it. The rotor blades are easily replaceable if you do snap a few – as you will.

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The Camera in Depth

As stated in the introduciton, the camera had a bunch of significant upgrades. The sensor has been changed from the previous models, helping to improve dynamic range in the footage. This results in more balanced pictures when facing bright skies, which was something of an issue before. Although DJI initially boasted a larger sensor, both models have 1/2.3-inch sensors — the same size seen on DJI’s pricier Inspire 1 and the previous generation Phantom 2 Vision+.

The professional model is of course its ability to shoot video in Ultra HD 4K resolution. It can do this at frame rates of 23, 24 or 30 frames per second too, so you’ll still get smooth shots. The benefit of 4K footage isn’t just to look crisp on a 4K monitor, it also gives you a lot of room to crop into the frame, while still maintaining full HD quality or better.

The lens on the camera has a 90-degree field of view, which is narrower than the previous version. That may seem a step down, but it’s actually for a very good reason. The extreme wide angles previously used caused distortion of the image, particularly at the corners, meaning a lot of digital correction had to be used, if the footage was for a professional purpose. The smaller field of view will help keep distortion down and require less, if any, post processing.

The camera is mounted on a three-axis stabilising gimbal which automatically corrects for any slight movements of the drone, and smoothes out vibrations from the rotors. End result is considerably smoother footage, without the unpleasant jerks and bumps seen from drones that don’t use a gimbal for stabilisation – including DJI’s very own Phantom 2.

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Other features

While the camera is the outstanding feature of the new Phantom 3, there are some other nice features packed into this drone.

Integrated FPV (First Person View)

FPV integrates their very own “Lightbridge” System. With this Video-Downlink system, imagery up to 720p resolution can be streamed to a smartphone or tablet. According to DJI, with no noticeable lack up to 1.6 kilometers. Buying additional FPV components is a thing of the past.

Vision Positioning System

Vision-Positioning-SystemLocated right behind the camera, pointing downwards are two sensors to recognize ground patterns. These allow the drone to stabilize in-air and make flying indoors, as well as precise positioning a breeze.

Youtube Livestreaming and Social Media

Movie can be streamed directly via the Pilot App and published in real-time. Opening a great opportunity for live streaming of events for journalists.

Pictures can be sent to social networks such as facebook, instagram, or skypixel.

The app

dji-pilot-appThe DJI Pilot App is available for iOS and Android. You can use a tablet or phone to output realtime video and information from the drone.

 

You also have the choice to use the HDMI port on the controler to attach an HD screen or other device.

The available information in the app is:

  • Current height
  • Distance to the controller
  • Remaining battery capacity
  • Calculated time to return home

The new function DHP – for “Dynamic Home Point” – allows the drone to return to the pilot, even if the pilot is moving away from the starting point. A GPS sensor in the controller allows for this to work.

There is also a map view as well as a “flight simulator” which allows you to train your piloting skills prior to using your actual, pricey drone.

The app also allows control of the camera in-flight.

Our Verdict

The phantom 3 is a package that brings the best DJI and any other drone manufacturer have to offer at an affordable price.

The ease of use of their previous models has been kept and improved.

The addition of a 4K mode on the pro, the improved indoor flying capabilities as well as the better image sensors make this a very good package for drone filmmakers, journalists and quadscopter enthusiasts alike.

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