We review the DJI Phantom 3!
Drones, or more specifically, quadrocopters, are fast becoming a favorite tool of photographers and videographers. It’s not hard to see why – they give users a whole new range of angles and vantage points to shoot from, and to be honest, there’s just something about flying something 200 feet up in the air that you can’t get anywhere else. DJI’s one of the household names when it comes to ridiculously easy to fly drones, and we’ve had the privilege of flying their latest one, the Phantom 3 Professional from their PH dealer Henry’s Professional. We’ve had the little drone for about a week, and we’ve loved every minute that we spent flying it around.
A sturdy frame that’ll take a few hard knocks
The DJI Phantom 3 is designed much in the same way as the previous Phantom drones – it has a short, stubby landing gear that protects the camera and the gimbal mechanism, four rotors and four LED lights that tell pilots at a glance where the it is relative to the orientation of the camera and the status of the GPS satellites.
It’s not a big drone and is relatively compact with the rotors removed. Henry’s Professional lent us the Phantom 3 Professional along with a big carrying bag that had space for extra batteries, charging cable and all the accouterments that a drone like the Phantom 3 needs.
The Phantom 3 is well built, and while we managed to avoid slamming it into hard objects, it felt like it would be durable enough to survive a crash (or two) provided that it happened at a low enough altitude. The rotors are plastic and are pretty tough, and the one shrub that we hit while flying the thing didn’t damage the Phantom 3 at all, though it did leave a few scuff marks on the rotor. Since they’re plastic, they’re also easily replaceable if you do manage to break one.
On the back of the Phantom 3 you’ll see the slot for the battery, along with an array of sensors that help it keep stable in flight. Outdoors, the Phantom 3 uses GPS satellites to keep itself steady when you let go of the controls. Indoors where GPS signals are non-existent, it uses DJI’s Vision Positioning technology, which is essentially an array of sensors located on the back of the Phantom 3 that uses cameras and ultrasonic sensors to keep itself stable.
The controller may look intimidating to some, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be flying with ease in no time.
The left stick controls the altitude and rotation of the aircraft, while the right stick controls the yaw and forward/backward motion. You can pan the camera via the roller on the right side, and the switches allow you to switch from automatic flight to fully manual (not recommended for newbie flyers). The roller on the right side allows you to change the exposure values for the camera as you shoot video.
The Phantom 3 uses large, 4480mAh batteries that give it a flight time of anywhere between 20-25 minutes. We found that the flight time varies depending on what you’re doing, though you’re not going to get more than 25 minutes on a single charge.
The easiest drone to fly that you can buy
Setting up the Phantom 3 to fly is pretty easy to the point that anyone can do it. First you’ll have to attach the rotors, which are color coded making the task easier. You’ll have to download the DJI Go app on your Android or iOS phone, plug in your phone to the controller and turn it on. Turn on the Phantom 3 Professional (it’ll calibrate the camera gimbal so it’s best to put it on a level surface) and then it’s ready to go. We did encounter a little bit of trouble with the DJI Go app on our Android phone though, and it refused to connect at first. Once we figured out that you have to turn on USB debugging through the developer options for it to work, then it connected and we flew without problems.
When flying drones, there’s always a risk of losing them when you’re using it. Thankfully DJI has included a couple of really innovative features in the Phantom 3 that make that difficult – firstly, it records the GPS location of wherever it first flew from. If it ever loses radio contact with the controller, it’ll fly straight back home and land in the rough location where it first flew from. You can also manually toggle this via the return to home button on the controller as well, though vets recommend that you land the Phantom 3 manually if possible as it’s not smart enough to avoid obstacles like power wires and branches.
We’ve had the Phantom 3 for a few days and we’ve grown confident each time we’ve taken to the skies. It’s a ridiculously easy drone to fly, and after a few sessions with it we were already using it to follow cars for our Mazda2 video. The range is pretty awesome too, as we were able to take it to around 2 kilometers away – far enough that we couldn’t see it ourselves – and we’re confident that it can go even further. It’s also ridiculously agile, and you really have to restrict your inputs on the stick to very, very subtle movements lest you accidentally jam the controller all the way up, down or left which would have disastrous results, depending on where you’re flying.
Amazing video quality, plus 4K!
As far video is concerned, the Phantom 3 produces amazing images, and you can shoot in 4K as well as 60 FPS full HD and HD video. The camera on the Phantom 3 Professional has a 1/2.3-inch sensor, f/2.8 aperture and a 94-degree FOV, which is roughly 22mm equivalent. The Phantom 3 transmits real-time video to your tablet or phone at HD resolution, and since all the controls for exposure is within your grasp.
To be honest for most amateurs and hobbyists 4K video is overkill, and you’d be better served by just shooting in 1080P 60FPS, but it’s nice that there still an option to shoot in 4K if the task requires. The Phantom 3 is very stable even when shooting in places that have strong winds (like beside a beach, for example).
Verdict: A drone that hobbyists and professionals will appreciate
DJI’s Phantom 3 is probably one of the easiest drones to fly that’s available to purchase today. Flying it is ridiculously easy, and only requires an afternoon in a flat, unobstructed area to learn the basics. It’s also a rock-solid aerial platform for both photos and video, and professionals will love the 4K capability of the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. If you’re an amateur and are just looking to record the occasional video for yourself or for some videos, you may probably be better served by the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced instead that drops the 4K capability but gives you a lower price.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional is sold by Henry’s Professional in the PH which is a dealer of DJI for Php 60,999.00. The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced is priced at Php 48,999.00.