DJI Phantom 3 and 4K Drone Review

DJI’s Drones offer quality, precision and ease of use

It’s a drone eat drone world out there. This is an industry that has been soaring and has quickly risen to unbelievable heights (ok, that’s it for the puns).

But really, the drone technology has come of age in what seems like a matter of months, although it has been a few years.

I went to an RC hobby shop back in 2010 to try and find a quadcopter that could hold a small camera, but this was something that wasn’t being done yet and the man helping me thought I was joking around and wanted to know why I would do that.  Well, I was looking for an inexpensive and effective way to get quality aerial shots. Fast forward a few years and DJI introduces a quadcopter drone that can work with the GoPro and other companies were making drones capable of holding DSLR cameras (although the latter is very, very expensive).

Over the last few years, however, DJI has started refining their hold on the market. The release of the Phantom 3 series of drones has allowed the company to break away from their reliance on GoPro by introducing their own cameras attached to the drone.  The Phantom 3 Professional has a 4K camera while the Advanced and Standard have a high quality 2.7K camera.

This review was original written solely for the Phantom 3 Standard, but has since been updated to discuss the Phantom 3 series, especially the 4K and even touches on the Phantom 4 a bit.

And, the The Standard and Advanced are both in the sub $1,000 category making them affordable to more than just the professional media creators.

Sample footage with the  DJI Phantom 3 Standard Drone in action:
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First, let’s look at flight controls.  The Phantom 3 Standard is easy to fly, really easy.  Being somewhat of a newbie, I did my due diligence and read the directions (yes, I did, from start to finish), watched the DJI pilot videos, and went through the tutorials — all of this before evening powering the unit up.

Once started, it was easy. Everything about the Phantom 3 Standard is simple and easy from the calibration, to the flight controls, to the use of the camera, to the landing.  Sure, some of it takes common since and an understanding of electronics but overall, this is easier to fly than to drive a car.

Therein lies a problem — with ease of use and ease of access with price drops there arises potential problems from irresponsible users, but that is another discussion to be had elsewhere.

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While RC hobbyists and the “I want the latest tech right now” users will take up some of the market, the real value to this drone is for photographers, videographers and indie filmmakers. While the Phantom 3 Standard has a 2.7K camera, this is nothing to laugh at. The camera is high quality and can be used for professional use. And the reality is, at least as of now, delivery in 4K video is minimal — for most professionals, 1080 HD is still the delivery standard.

The camera on the Phantom 3 Standard has a 90-degree viewing angle and while still very wide, there is not the distortion of action cameras so this has a more purposeful role in everyday use for videographers and photographers. It also allows for indie filmmakers to do some amazing aerial shots that would otherwise be way out of their budget.

Furthermore, the distance on this drone is more than adequate. It flies effectively at a distance greater than a half mile from the operator (about 10 football fields) and claims to fly up to a mile in open locations without interference. All things considered, this is an immense amount of distance for most real world scenarios. I have to take it more than 300 yards out because I simply haven’t had the need, and yes, I have used this in multiple real world situations.

Sure, the 1-2 mile distance the Advanced and Professional can achieve have their application. There are lifeguards in Huntington Beach who use those to track the coming and goings of tagged great white sharks! But for most photographers, videographers, hobbyists and enthusiasts, the Phantom 3 Standard is more than enough.

What does this all mean? Will we suddenly see an abundance of drones flying through the air, invading privacy and causing problems — hopefully not. We will probably see some of this but I would like to think it will not be an abundance. Once the initial infatuation fades and the usage of Phantom 3  style drones for media production settles into place, drones will hopefully become a useful, and meaningful tool for professionals and enthusiasts.

Shortly after the release of the Phantom 3 series, DJI recleased the Phantom 3 4K which combines the best of both works between the Pro and the Standard. It has the 4K camera and is rated to go for nearly a mile.

Now, with the release of the Phantom 4 series what are you losing with staying with the Phantom 3 4K? Well, flight and the units themselves are very similar. The camera in the newer units is a noticeable upgrade but not significantly so. If you have either the Phantom 3 4K or Phantom 3 Pro because you need 4K video, you should really look at the specs before upgrading to decide if hte newer unit is really what you need.

Yes, with the larger 1-inch sensor and 4K at 60fps, the Phantom 4 is an all around better unit. But the 4K recording on the Phantom 3 units still hold their own.

By Brian Barsuglia