The DJI Phantom 3 drone might look just like the previous model but it offers a vastly improved flying experience with the ability to capture even higher quality photographs and 4K video.
The Phantom is the go-to drone for anyone thinking about buying a flying camera but who wants to purchase more than just a flimsy toy.
Since the Phantom drones have become popular there have been a number of cheaper drones that have been released to capture some of the growing market.
But none of these can match the DJI Phantom’s flying range and ability to capture incredible videos and pictures.
Sphere – Australia’s largest drone retailer – supplied Tech Guide with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional for our review.
At first glance, the DJI Phantom 3 Professional looks almost identical to the DJI Phantom 2 with gold stickers and branding.
It has four rotors and landing gear that encloses the 4K 12-megapixel camera which is attached to a 3-axis gimbal that stabilises the lens to provide smooth video and sharp images.
It is on the base of the drone where you notice a difference. There is a new lump here that has a pair of visual and ultrasonic sensors.
This is the Vision Positioning system that pings the ground beneath the drone to better establish its position and distance from the ground.
It makes the Phantom 3 easier to fly indoors and close to the ground so it opens up the possibilities for your shooting options.
The remote control has had a complete revamp and offers a lot more functionality than the previous controller.
It takes over a lot of the commands that were previously only accessible on the DJI companion app to control flight and your photography.
The basics are the same – two joysticks that offer easy and intuitive control and an even larger mobile device holder that can now fit a 10-inch tablet.
We were easily able to fit our iPad Air 2 (which was inside a snap-on case) into the bracket.
The additional controls include dials along the top edge that control the camera settings and the camera gimbal.
There are also buttons to start/stop recording and a shutter buttons along with buttons on the rear side of the controller that are customisable through the DJI Pilot app.
Also onboard the controller is the DJI Lightbridge which makes it possible for the drone to stream live HD video (720p) from the limits of the drone’s range at up to 2km away.
This first person view not only helps the pilot fly the drone but also to frame your videos and pictures.
This time out your mobile device connects to the controller with a cable for a more reliable connection.
And one of our favourite controls is Return To Home so you can make the DJI Phantom 3 land from the point where it took off from at the press of a button.
DJI PILOT APP
One of the biggest improvements with the DJI Phantom 3 is the updated DJI Pilot app.
Available for iOS and Android devices, the DJI Pilot app puts so much more control and options at your fingertips.
On the screen you’ve got a live map and you can see information like your height and range at a glance.
And with the app running on our iPad Air 2 – it was easy to read and access all of that information as well as go in and easily change settings and accessing your images and videos.
Apart from seeing a live HD view from the drone, app also provides a way to edit your videos and images on the move.
There are a number of templates to work with and also a way to create smaller files to share on social media.
The app also stores all of your flight information for you to review later.
PERFORMANCE – FLYING
If you’ve flown the previous DJI Phantom – then you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off with the new DJI Phantom 3.
For those who are new to the DJI Phantom drone or anyone else who wants to start off slowly with this new model there is a handy Beginner Mode that lets you get the hang of the craft inside a certain height and distance.
This invisible geo-fence can prevent you flying the drone into unwanted areas or obstacles. This is a feature that is enabled in the app when you first connect the drone and it has to be deactivated to allow users to fly where they want.
The beauty of the DJI Phantom 3 is the fact that you can take your hands off the controller and it will stop and hover.
There’s also GPS onboard and the new drone locks onto satellites even faster. Pilots can also record their take off point so it can come right back to you if needed.
The drone can fly up to 500m high and has a flight time of about 23 minutes on a single battery charge.
But if you’re looking to have longer flying sessions you’ll need extra batteries.
And they’re not cheap at $205 each but still essential if you’re doing a longer shoot.
PERFORMANCE – PHOTOGRAPHY
The DJI Phantom 3 is fun to fly but that’s not the only reason you’re going to buy it. It’s because of the ability to take some incredible aerial images and videos.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional review unit from Sphere we received has a camera on board that’s capable of capturing 4K video (3840 x 2160) at 24,25 and 30 frames per second along with crisp 12-megapixel stills.
The Professional’s camera has an f/2.8 lens with a 94-degree field of view. It can also capture full high definition (1920 x 1080) at 24,25,30,48,50 and 60 frames per second and high definition (1280 x 720) at 24,25,30,48,50 and 60 frames per second.
And when the gimbal comes in to play, the result is incredibly smooth video.
Video quality was superb and still images were rich and warm.
The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced is virtually identical to the Professional model but it can only capture full HD video.
Another cool feature of the Phantom 3 is the ability to stream live video on YouTube through your smartphone or if the connected tablet has a built-in 4G SIM card or is tethered to your smartphone.
The DJI Phantom 3 is available now and can be purchased from Sphere 02 9318 0566.
The DJI Phantom 3 is a serious drone for serious users. This latest model has made it even easier to fly and is even more powerful as a photography tool.
Unlike the other cheaper “toy” drones on the market, the DJI Phantom 3 can be flown with confidence in various locations whether it’s a kilometre away on a mountain range, sweeping over ocean cliffs or even inside and close to the ground.
The DJI Phantom 3 is not cheap but you get what you pay for – a superior flying machine and an equally superior camera system.
If you don’t need the 4K video capability then the full HD model will suffice but if you want to future proof your purchase it’s worth paying the extra $400 to get the Professional model.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional (4K)
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced (FHD)