Drones are an awesome technology that has revolutionized the way we do many things including photography, delivery of goods and even the way our children have fun. The key to the best drone experience is always getting a top of the line model. The DJI Phantom 3 drone is one such model. Being a best seller, there is nothing not to like about this piece of technology. In this review, we get to share with you first-hand what makes this ready-to-fly drone exemplary.
One of the most asked questions by our readers is whether the DJI Phantom 3 is still relevant especially now that there is the Phantom 4 and the Mavic Pro quadcopter out in the market. Does the DJI Phantom 3 still have juice to compete against these new boys in the block? The simple answer to this is a loud YES! The Phantom 3 still offers by far the best value for money.
|Range||1.2 miles / 2km||500m|
|Flight Time||25 minutes||12-20 minutes|
|Recording||4K with stabilization||Varies (720p typical)|
|Features||Return to home, GPS, flight paths, sensor stabilization + more||GPS|
You see, if you are the kind of person who is easy to judge a book by its cover then you may fail to see how different this particular drone is different from the others drones in its class; especially in the Phantom Series. As a matter of fact, it looks so similar to the other drones in the Phantom Series, you would be forgiven to think they are identical. This is where many people go wrong.
Actually, the Phantom 3 is ages ahead of the preceding versions of the Phantom Series ready to fly drones particularly the Phantom 2 Vision. Not only that, there isn’t a drone from any other drone manufactures that can match what this bad boy packs.
Why The Exceptional Performance From The Phantom 3?
The secret behind the unmatched performance from the DJI Phantom 3 is in the new powerful motors and the ultra-sensitive optical sensors on the drone. These two elements make the Phantom 3 the most powerful and stable bird in its price range. This means that flying also got a lot easier and fun packed. The improved stability also means that it is the best option for filming and photography.
New Drone Stabilizing Sensors
The innovative investment towards the DJI Phantom 3 has been coupled with flagship technology which was first used on the Inspire drone. The technology involves fitting sonar type sensors underneath the quad so that there is always positional data to allow precision hovering even in the absence of GPS. This makes indoor flying a possibility with this drone; something that drones in its class cannot achieve.
Indoor Flying With The Phantom 3
Most drones usually rely on GPS to provide positional data to enable the drone to hover over a specific spot. The advantage with the Phantom 3 is that in addition to having the GPS tracking to provide the hover position, the drone can automatically switch to the sonar type sensors whenever the GPS signal is failing. GPS usually fails whenever you are flying indoors or in places where there is heavy overhead cover like trees and tall buildings.
The sensors under the drone function more like the sensors at the bottom of an optical computer mouse. The sensors track what is underneath the drone to determine the drone’s position.
The drone uses this information to hold a given position with unmatched accuracy even in the face of external disturbances like cross winds. If you have tried flying a drone indoors or in tight places, you will have noticed that the turbulence from the drone propellers will bounce off walls and objects.
This turbulence affects the flight path of the drone; something that is supposed to be rectified by GPS sensors which apparently doesn’t work well indoors. The sensors in the Phantom 3 are a welcome addition when it comes to such challenges.
Improved Positioning Via GPS
When it comes to the drone’s GPS, the Phantom 3 has better technology that its predecessors. The reason is that the drone has access to more satellites than the previous drones in the Phantom Series. The manufacturer of the drone – DJI- got into a deal that gives them access to more satellites; this consequently gives the drone more precision in positioning.
The GPS systems in the previous models were quite okay but the improvement on this version enables you to accurately keep the drone just where you want it to be. DJI is also working on having dedicated flight paths and trajectories for their drones; the improved GPS plays well into that with the ultra-accurate positioning.
The quality of a drone rises and falls on the motors. The motor on the Phantom 3 have been upgraded to enable the drone do longer flights and higher altitudes. The new powerful motors give the Phantom 3 a whole 25 minutes of flight against the 20 minutes possible on the earlier versions. The 25% percent (5 minutes) increase in flight time is a huge difference.
Charger Tests And Batteries
With the powerful motors, the question of battery power cannot be ignored. If you are into keeping your drone airborne for a long time then you are going to need some powerful batteries if not an extra pack.
The charge time tests show that you can get the DJI Phantom 3 fully charged in just 30 minutes; 29 actually. This is possible with the pro smart charger and to get this, you need to buy the professional version of the Phantom 3 which has the super speedy charger.
The pro smart charger significantly reduces the charging time from several hours to just 30 minutes. This means that with an extra pair of battery, you can actually fly without downtime. The batteries may not come cheap if you buy them separately but they are quite affordable if you take advantage of the Phantom 3 bundle when purchasing. The Phantom 3 batteries are superior in quality so you can do well with just one pair of batteries if you don’t fly much.
The new technology on the Phantom 3 has it that the batteries from the previous version are not compatible with the new drone. If you had some of batteries from the old model then you aren’t so lucky here.
Phantom 3 Test Flight
When you first sample the Phantom 3, you will be forgiven to think that the only thing that is different from the earlier models is more stability. We got the same impression when we first flew the bird but just fly on.
Experiences with drones, as is with many other things, are usually quite personal but there are things that cut across board. The drone still has the same old super easy intuitive flying only that this time it comes with predictability and stability.
You will notice that you will get more comfortable and confident with the maneuvers, even the ones you previously thought were difficult to pull off. The drone smoothly turns at the right speeds.
Drone Speed And Filming
The designers of the drone put so much consideration on the speed that the drone requires; and they did give the drone its ideal speed.
The speed adjusts as promptly as you want it to; picking up fast and slowing down pretty well, which is awesome for some epic shots in filming. The drone can easily achieve a top speed of 35 mph which is fast enough to chase and get shots of a moving object; maybe a car, a boat or a horse. The trick with filming a moving object like a vehicle or a boat is to start at low altitude when the object starts to move and follow while increasing the drone’s altitude as the object moves away.
The fast adjusting speeds allow you to have the most panoramic view from above without having to slow down the clip during editing. The drone’s stability and speed control completely takes care of that.
You can be your own director and get to tell your story as you have never before thanks to the improved HD and Ultra HD camera designs. With the drone, you can take filming to the skies and capture professional quality videos and photos from a whole new perspective. The intuitive camera controls make the experience even easier and more enjoyable.
The new camera is one other outstanding feature in the DJI Phantom 3. The Advanced version of the drone packs a 1080p camera which is quite a cut above the rest. The Pro version of the drone even takes things to a whole new level with the cutting edge 4K camera. We trust that you are smart enough to get yourself the Pro version of the drone with the 4K camera so that you are always ahead of the game where it comes to photography and filming. No one wants to film the best scenery with anything other than the best resolution.
While the Phantom 3 has an awesome camera for both videography and photography, the designers seemed to have put more emphasis on the quality of the videos the drone camera can produce. You need an SD card to store the videos and photos. The camera can support an expandable memory of up to 64GB. A 32 GB SD card is also supported by the camera.
4K Camera Optics
The new 4K camera on the Pro version has some pretty amazing features. There are advanced optics that enable the camera to shoot in raw lens and not fish eye as is the case with other cameras. The raw lens does away with the need for a lot of post processing of the videos and photos; which means that you can publish your videos promptly or even post them live from the drone if you have the technology for it.
The camera has been improved to ensure that you don’t need third party cameras to deliver excellent footage of what it is that you are covering. The camera on the drone is good enough for commercial film production and event coverage of any kind.
With the advanced camera you are actually shooting 4K videos at 30 frames per second and also taking photos at 12 megapixels. It doesn’t get crispier than that for a drone.
If you are going to use a drone for filming, it is important that the camera is not at all shaky. You need rock solid stability. This is precisely what the DJI Phantom 3 drone cameras offer you. The camera on the new drone is much more stable. This is of course because of the stability of the drone itself thanks to GPS and Vision Positioning System working with the 3- axis gimbal construct of the camera and its setting.
You also get to rotate the drone to any angle while the camera remains unbelievably stable. This means you can focus on your target even as the drone keeps changing position while in flight.
During the test flights, we realized that the drone and consequently the camera is so stable in low wind that you can take very sharp pictures even in long exposure.
Advanced Camera Perspectives
The GPS and Sonar assisted flights ensure that your focus is on taking awesome shots. The camera has advanced perspective features courtesy of the Point of Interest, Follow Me and Way Point Modes. These advanced camera modes are subject to feature availability on the dedicated DJI Go App that is available both on App Store and Google Play Store.
The DJI Phantom 3 Flying Range
The official flying range of the Phantom 3 is 2km; which is about 1.2 miles. This is a relatively long range if what is in the market is anything to go by. That kind of flight range offers great possibilities. You have to consider that if the drone goes any further than that, you are going to need a pair of binoculars to keep it in sight. With this kind of flying range, the only thing you need to keep in mind is battery duration.
The range can diminish depending on the kind of interference around you as is usually the case with devices with remote controlled with a frequency of 2.4 GHz. This means that in a city setting, you may not achieve the official range but you still get a well respectable range sufficient enough for what you want to do.
Return To Home Safe Fly Limits
In the event you lose sight of your drone, you don’t need to worry. There is a feature that automatically directs the drone back to where you are in the event you lose contact with it. This ensures that you can never lose the drone even when it goes out of range.
Other than the range, the other feature on the safe fly limit is the maximum altitude of 400 ft. This ensures that you keep in line with the FAA regulations for drone flying. The limit is quite high so it doesn’t take away from the fun or application capabilities. You still will have awesome panoramic shots even with the 400 ft. ceiling cap.
There is another feature on the drone that ensures you don’t fly into restricted areas such as airports, The Whitehouse and military bases. Flying into restricted air space is a criminal offence with dire consequences. Not to worry though, the DJI Phantom 3 has got you covered.
You don’t have to worry at all about beginner skills in flying. There is a beginner mode setting on the drone to assist novice users to fly the drone in a safe limited area.
Note: It is illegal to fly this product within 15 miles of the radius of The White House.
DJI Pilot Software
The DJI pilot software makes the Phantom 3 flying fun while ensuring you are safe. With this superior software, you get a feeling akin to playing a video game. The DJI software is way above what is available in the market from other drone manufacturers.
With the software, you get access to maps and additional data like position, altitude and speed of the drone. In addition to that, you also get a real time feed from the drone’s camera in 720p. All you need to do is to sync your iOS or Android device into the radio control via DJI pilot software and the device will act as a screen and control panel for the quadcopter. Any newer version device will work well for this.
The software will allow you to handle recordings, take offs and landings with ease. It is very dynamic and convenient to have a control console on your smart device.
The Remote Control
The Phantom 3 remote controller looks more like what you have for the Inspire only without the metallic plate that is in front. There is talk of making the remote controllers of all the different DJI drones compatible.
In addition to that, the manufacturer will make it possible to have in-built technology to live stream videos right from the drone. Currently, that is something that is possible with a little tweaking. This will be very ideal for filming sporting events like skiing, mountain biking, surfing or live events for news.
As it is, the remote has a solid feel to its construct but very comfortable on the hands. The controls are quite ergonomic and enable you to make fast control maneuvers with your fingers. The dials are well positioned to be well within the comfortable reach of your fingers.
The remote console has dedicated buttons that give control for the camera. You can actually move the camera around to any angle right from the remote control without affecting the position or speed of the camera. You don’t need a secondary means to control the camera; it’s all there on the palm of your hands. This makes it quite easy to fly and film simultaneously.
The remote control console has an in-built mobile device holder where you can attach your smart phone or tablet. This way, you get to watch the video from the camera feed without taking your hands off the controller.
The remote controller is also rechargeable so it will never be out of power. You can fly the drone right out of the box.
As from the 3rd of August 2016 DJI provides product warranties only for products that have been purchased from authorized dealers. This means that products that are bought from unauthorized dealers are not subject to warranty. However, customers that had already purchased the product before the effective date will not be affected by the new rule. It is important to visit the DJI website to get information on the authorized dealer before you make your purchase.
Keep the sales invoice of the product because you might need it when applying for the warranty service. Without the sales invoice, you cannot enjoy the warrant service.
The Federal Aviation Administration demands that drones flown in the USA be registered whether they are used commercially or for recreational purposes. The drone has small parts that can present a choking hazard and therefore not ideal for children under 3 years of age.
All in all, the DJI Phantom 3 clearly stands out as a superior product and one of the best drones presently in the market. Trends indicate that the Phantom 3 will remain king of the air for a longer time. Taking off where the DJI Phantom Vision landed, the drone comes with improvements left right and center. There are refined features like software.
The battery life has been improved and upgraded to guarantee powerful reliable performance. The upgraded camera on the Advanced and Pro versions mean that you can produce TV ready videos right from the drone without the need for post processing. The stability of both the drone and the camera means that you get steady pictures and amazing photos even at low exposure. Drone technology doesn’t get any better than this.
There is a huge demand for these birds. It is clear why. You can find the drone in most online shopping establishments and supermarkets. However, to get your orders fulfilled faster and with certainty, we would advise you source your new DJI Phantom 3 drone from Amazon. They are always stocked and will always receive new stock from the manufacturers before all the other online stores.
DJI can barely satisfy the demand for these little copters but soon that will be an issue of the past. If you run a filming and photography company or you just want to take unique shots while you have fun, this is a drone you want to get your hands on.
Here are some additional review shots taken with the Phantom 3.