The consumer drone industry has come so far in such a short amount of time.
As governments try to grapple with the fast growing number of non-military UAVs, the competition between consumer drone manufacturers is intensifying. Venture capital is pouring into new drone startups by the billions.
As different brands and models try their best to outdo each other, one particular model has emerged as an industry leader: the DJI Phantom 3 Professional.
The Phantom 3 Professional (more detailed review + photos here) is in many ways a statement on where the future of drones is going.
The drone, which comes equipped with a greatly improved camera, satisfies many needs of hobbyist fliers, photographers and videographers.
Whether you are an amateur or an experienced aerial film maker, you are sure to like and enjoy the Phantom 3 Professional as much as I do.
If you have used DJI’s previous models such as the Phantom 2, you will find this one to be a big step up.
Let’s face it, without the camera, drone flying quickly loses its allure.
On the Phantom 3 Professional, DJI has gone out of their way to create something truly amazing.
The camera on the drone’s underbelly shoots crystal-clear 4K video (there is also a cheaper Phantom 3 Advanced with 1080p video recording).
This ensures great quality of pictures and videos even up to the demanding standards of professional photographers and videographers.
You can shoot 4K video in 23, 24 or 30 FPS (frames per second). This is the same level as that of a GoPro.
Another great feature is the absence of a fisheye effect on the lens system, which creates better quality images and videos requiring less editing.
The camera lens is designed specifically for long distance and aerial shooting. If you try to take up close pictures, the results won’t be so great.
For panoramic shots however, no other camera drone does it better.
Other great new features include a better camera stabilizer (gimbal), new shooting modes such as burst and time-lapse and various manual exposure settings that can be controlled from the app.
The design of the Phantom Drones has remained largely the same.
On the exterior, it is mostly white with gold stripes near the rotors. Though the color design could use some improvement, DJI made many hidden and important hardware tweaks.
There is a new motor tilt to provided added stability, something that customers have been raving about. This means easier flying even in windy conditions. The drone has also been made more intelligent in terms of smarter braking and control.
The landing gear is extra wide than in previous version. The advantage of this is that it does not get into pictures or videos.
The battery is new and different from that on the preceding Phantom 2 model. This is unfortunate for previous Phantom 2 owners who have extra batteries lying around. If you need an extra battery, you will have to buy a new one at a pricey figure of $149.
Another central piece of hardware to take note of is the hand held controller. The smaller controller fit easily in my hands with my fingers resting easily on the controller buttons. It comes with more buttons and most notably, an internal rechargeable battery. There is also a USB connection which you can use to connect your phone and stream 720p video live from the drone.
Perhaps the thing I liked best about the Phantom 3 Professional is DJI’s Lightbridge technology.
Lightbridge enables direct streaming of 720p video from the drone camera to the controller and to your Smartphone or tablet (via the USB connection) without requiring any Wi-Fi.
For example, you can stream gorgeous footage like this:
Rhyolite ghost town – Phantom 3 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.
Using DJI’s Pilot App, you can even share the live stream online, an important feature for budding journalists (one day).
In the meantime, the camera records full resolution video on a mounted SD card.
• Camera providing 4K videos and 12MP images.
• Lightbridge technology to allow live 720p video streaming.
• Rechargeable remote controller.
• Inbuilt database of no-fly zones.
• Auto-lock to prevent flying within a 15-miles radius of the White House.
• Auto take off and landing possible.
• Weighs 9.2 pounds.
Customer Ratings (on Amazon)
Not surprisingly, DJI Phantom 3 Professional is a number 1 bestseller in the Camera and Photo category on Amazon.com. It has an overall rating of 4.7/5 from 53 customer reviews.
The Phantom 3 is so good it almost has no cons. But I found two.
One thing you should note is the lack of advanced autopilot features that some rivals like 3DR offer.
Also, you can’t swap-out the camera, which is something you could do on the old Phantom 2. This might trouble professional filmmakers.
Overall, DJI’s Phantom 3 Professional is a greatly refined camera drone, the camera of course being its biggest selling point.
Whether you are an extreme sports fan, a professional photographer or a hobbyist, this is the best first-time camera drone for sale today.