DJI Phantom three evaluate: an aerial images drone for the plenty

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

Virtually a yr in the past to the day, I wrote concerning the influence DJI’s Phantom 2 Imaginative and prescient+ may need on our skies. As much as that time, drones (or quadcoptors/multirotors, for the purists) had been slowly edging their means into mainstream consciousness. DJI’s prepared-to-fly Imaginative and prescient collection, with their constructed-in cameras and straightforward operation turbocharged that creep right into a march. The Phantom three Skilled is what would have been the brand new Imaginative and prescient (it is dropped that branding), and is the primary on this shopper lineage to shoot 4K video.

What’s modified within the final 12 months? In some regards, not a lot. Governments are nonetheless determining learn how to legislate quadcopters, whereas individuals hold shopping for them. As for DJI, it is obtained much more competitors, and better expectations for what a drone ought to do. I used to be desperate to spend time with the Phantom three, and get a really feel for a way the corporate has advanced, and extra importantly, the place it is going — and it seems like taking up our skies is just one a part of its plan.

Gallery | 28 Pictures
DJI Phantom three evaluate

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DJI

DJI Phantom three Skilled

Execs

  • Wonderful video high quality 
  • Straightforward to make use of
  • Good battery life for its class
  • Wonderful app with helpful options

Cons

  • Lacks superior flying modes
  • The design wants updating

Abstract

DJI has cornered the buyer drone market by making its merchandise accessible and straightforward to make use of. Regardless of the "Skilled" identify, the Phantom three is a 4K video drone that is good for the plenty. Hobbyist video makers and novice fliers have a simple selection within the Phantom three, however we might like to see it get a facelift and a few smarter options.

Hardware

DJI launched the Phantom three in two varieties: Skilled ($1,259) and Superior ($999). The primary distinction between them is that the previous shoots 4K; the latter, “solely” 1080p/Full HD. The craft themselves are in any other case the identical. DJI clearly thinks it is onto a winner with the Phantom’s design, because the Phantom three is almost equivalent to the Phantom 1. There are some variations, however by and enormous it is the identical bulbous, white quadcopter it is all the time been. It is inoffensive, however I do want it’d inherited a number of the Encourage 1‘s design language, or one thing aside from gold/silver stickers to make it stand out.

Much less seen enhancements have been added to make the Phantom three fly higher. These embrace a brand new motor tilt for higher stability, sensible breaking and an entire new flight controller (the brains). On the surface, there’s wider touchdown gear — which helps maintain it out of view from the digital camera — and an additional compartment to deal with a brand new downward sensor for indoor flying. The brand new touchdown gear is not so broad that it prevents it from becoming within the case I’ve for the Phantom 2, which is sweet. The battery is totally different, too. It appears close to similar, however for those who thought you may use your present spares from the Phantom 1/2 on the three, no cube. This can be a big bummer, as most of the lengthy-time Phantom house owners may have spares (you possibly can solely fly 15 to twenty minutes per cost). Any upgraders should re-purchase extras, and at $149 for the Phantom three, they ain’t low cost.

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

The controller, then again, is all change. It is smaller, has extra buttons and options an inner battery (no extra lugging spare AAs round like earlier than) with an LED energy degree indicator and a USB connection in your telephone. This final addition is essential, because it ties right into a hidden piece of hardware contained in the controller, which allows one of many Phantom three’s greatest options: stay HD streaming from the digital camera to your handset. The Phantom 2 Imaginative and prescient+ did one thing comparable, however relied on a WiFi connection between your telephone and the controller, which then relayed photographs again from the drone. It labored, however was another factor to cost, after which arrange pre-flight — and the connection was typically flaky.

The Phantom three swaps WiFi for DJI’s personal Lightbridge know-how (a $1,399 accent by itself), baked proper into the ‘copter and the controller. All it’s a must to do is join your telephone or pill (iOS and Android) to the USB port, and also you’re good to go. The Phantom three streams video direct to your system in 720p/HD from a distance of as much as 1.2 miles. An added bonus is that your telephone will cost whereas related to the controller. A small element, however the Phantom 2 Imaginative and prescient+ required you had sufficient energy on three issues (the controller, the WiFi extender and the cellular system) earlier than you even switched on the quadcopter. The entire expertise is far easier now.

An enormous enchancment with the brand new controller is the slew of buttons and digital camera controls DJI added. Now, you possibly can change the digital camera angle, begin/cease recording, take pictures and extra (two buttons are customizable) with out utilizing the app; that is a lot simpler to do with out wanting (i.e., when you’re holding your eyes on the quad). The extra complete controls additionally imply you do not have to attach a telephone or pill in any respect should you do not need to — you will nonetheless have entry to every thing you want. I might advocate you do use the app, although; it actually elevates the expertise.

Software program

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

So how about that app? Anybody who’s flown DJI’s prosumer Encourage 1 quadcopter will already be conversant in it as a result of it is the identical one. DJI Pilot has 4 sections: digital camera, director, retailer and consumer middle. From the digital camera part you possibly can entry every thing you’ll want to know to fly the Phantom three. Together with your telephone related to the controller, and your Phantom switched on, you will immediately get a reside feed from the digital camera. On prime of this feed, across the fringe of the show are an virtually overwhelming variety of dials, numbers and different widgets. As soon as you’ve got found out what every little thing means, it isn’t daunting, however you may need to take a couple of minutes to get your head spherical all of them in the event you’re new to flying.

For probably the most half, these controls inform you issues like your altitude, how distant the Phantom is, the place it’s on a map (in GPS mode) and so forth. On the left are buttons for auto takeoff or touchdown/return to residence. On the fitting, you will discover a massive pink shutter button to start out recording/take photographs and a shortcut to the digital camera settings. Alongside the highest, you will see how robust your connection is, what number of GPS satellites the drone sees (and thus whether or not the drone is protected to fly), plus entry to extra common settings. I choose to deal with takeoff and touchdown from the controller, and use the app simply to see what the digital camera sees. Then once more, it’s helpful to see how a lot battery life/flight time you might have left too.

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

The primary-individual view (FPV) from the digital camera is an enormous improve from the Phantom 2 Imaginative and prescient+. The standard of the feed is a lot higher, and the connection is fairly strong. This makes the flying expertise approach cooler, as you’ll be able to reliably use it to see precisely the place the quad is (depth notion is trickier than you assume). The actual win, although, is how a lot it improves your images. I’ve had so many photographs ruined as a result of the framing was even just a bit off, or the lean of the digital camera was fallacious. The Phantom three removes all these issues, supplying you with a reliable, clear view of your shot.

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

One different function of the app: streaming your drone’s digital camera footage straight to YouTube. This works pretty nicely (I had some artifacts, however usually okay), however there’s one huge prerequisite: that you simply’re flying someplace with respectable cell sign. Your stream might be in 720p (although viewers may have to decide on this), and audio is taken out of your telephone’s mic for commentary. Nevertheless, I did most of my check flights within the hills, away from the crowds and hustle of the town. And, it seems, the reaches of my cellular operator. Livestreaming is probably a little bit of a novelty for many fliers, nevertheless it does make the Phantom three helpful in a couple of area of interest conditions. The concept you would livestream video from the sky has apparent makes use of in journalism/reporting or different “stay occasion” conditions. Assuming you retain your Phantom close by and able to fly, that’s. Both method, it is a good addition to the Phantom function set.

Digital camera

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

After a few flights, one thing fascinating turns into obvious. Most individuals know DJI as a drone firm, however it’s additionally within the digital camera recreation (by way of stabilizers and different rigs, in addition to flying cameras). On the Imaginative and prescient collection, the shooters have been okay, however utilitarian, forgettable. The Encourage 1 was when DJI began upping its recreation, and this development carries over to the Phantom three with its 4K/12-megapixel providing (for these , the sensor is a half.three” Sony Exmor). The extra I flew, it began to turn into apparent that, if something, the drone is virtually secondary. Flying is pretty straightforward, and enjoyable in and of itself, however getting an amazing photograph or video is a lot extra rewarding.

Gallery | 18 Photographs
DJI Phantom three pattern photographs

It actually helps that, within the Phantom three’s digital camera, DJI has eradicated almost each ache level that plagued the Imaginative and prescient collection. I already talked about the touchdown gear has been widened to stop it from getting in shot. To additional assist with this, the digital camera now has a narrower area of view — ninety four levels, down from one hundred forty (with a 35mm-equal focal size of 20mm and infinite focus). One bugbear stays, although, which is that it is nonetheless straightforward to get the propellers in shot when flying ahead at velocity — however that is a more durable drawback to unravel. The Phantom three’s FOV additionally helps with one thing else: fisheye distortion. The Phantom three barely has any.

For the technical followers, DJI tells me it’s because “it’s a 9-component rectilinear lens which is designed particularly for aerial and lengthy distance capturing.” That is additionally why the shut up focus is not so good (see samples within the gallery), it was designed for aerial, and never basic objective. The colour stability additionally appears a lot improved from the Imaginative and prescient+, and the gimbal it hangs from retains it regular as a rock. If you think about a bunch of latest capturing modes (burst, time-lapse, and so on.) and guide publicity settings (by way of that app), you’ve got acquired a very complete images device.

Speak is one factor; the video ought to converse for itself. And it does. Watching again the 4K video clips on a fifty five-inch UHD TV is a delight. I had my technophobe, exhausting-to-impress mother and father-in-regulation slack jawed as I confirmed them their very own (metaphorical) yard as seen from the sky, and in pin-sharp decision. Under is a brief edit of some footage obtained over a weekend. The participant will not present it in 4K, however I’ve uploaded one of many unedited clips right here so you’ll be able to obtain it immediately and see for your self.

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DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

The query many individuals may need proper now’s whether or not to get the Phantom three, and the proprietary digital camera. Or, go for a Phantom 2, and use a GoPro as an alternative. That is an excellent query, as by far and away, proper now, most individuals fly with a GoPro. I actually anticipated to choose the GoPro over DJI’s personal digital camera, however truly I am torn. With the GoPro, you have got many extra video settings, so for those who want one thing unique like 960p at 120fps, then you definitely want a GoPro, you’ll be able to, in fact, additionally use that GoPro for different issues, too. If, nevertheless, you need sixteen:9 cinematic photographs in excessive decision it is a robust name. Whenever you issue within the different advantages of utilizing the DJI digital camera (first-individual view, native controls, no-fuss setup), the case for a GoPro does not appear so robust. For many customers, it’s going to come down as to if you need a extra versatile digital camera, or, the additional options, and ease of use that DJI’s offers. Under are two clips for comparability. One is shot on the Phantom three (prime), the opposite on a GoPro (backside), each initially at 4K.

In use

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

I have been flying Phantoms for some time now, nevertheless it’s nonetheless thrilling each time. Nothing modifications with the Phantom three. That features the annoying 4 “bleeps” whenever you change it on, which lets everybody know you are about to creep on them from the sky. The primary time I attempt it’s inside my house. This factor has sensors to assist it maintain place; I’ve to check them. I am nervous taking off, and my cat does not prefer it in any respect, however to my shock it really works properly. I handle a lap of my modest entrance room with out incident (sometimes a daily drone would have drifted right into a wall in seconds). It additionally does an unimaginable job at stirring up all of the mud/unfastened papers in your home!

I do not actually need to fly indoors, although, so I spend the remainder of the time outdoors, within the hills and shoreline. Ya know, issues value seeing. I am used to taking off manually, however I attempt the auto-takeoff out of curiosity. It really works nicely, however I do not actually really feel a lot profit. By the point I’ve pressed and held the button on the app, I might have taken off the standard approach with the sticks. As soon as up within the air, the very first thing that strikes me is the app, and the standard of the reside feed. So a lot better than earlier than, particularly on a big show like an iPad Mini. I might tried the app on a number of Android telephones first, however I could not get any to work very properly. DJI advised me you could shut all different apps, however that did not make a lot distinction for me.

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

The reside video feed is sweet sufficient which you can get a lot nearer to landmarks or objects within the distance than can be potential utilizing eyesight alone. That is not really helpful, although, as you would simply miss some energy cables, or different exhausting-to-see object. The actual pleasure of the video stream is simply figuring out I acquired the shot. One time, I used to be flying over a lake in a small canyon. On prime of 1 aspect is an previous, disused constructing. I flew, or thought I flew, to a place with it within the middle of the digital camera. Once I checked the video stream, although, I used to be fairly a method off. I additionally discovered it improved my basic depth notion (and, in flip, my flying). Afterward that very same day, I took the Phantom three up into the hills. There was an fascinating rock formation that I used to be capable of fly to instantly as a result of I had a greater notion of the place the drone was because of follow with the video stream.

DJI gave the Phantom three a brand new flight controller, tweaked the moto tilt and added sensible velocity management. These enhance the efficiency in comparison with earlier Phantoms significantly. The entire flight expertise feels tighter, extra responsive, and this all feeds into higher stability and battery life. A a lot improved beast.

One other advantage of an all-in-one setup just like the Phantom three is that all the things is designed to work collectively. The digital camera, the gimbal, the radio hyperlink for the video stream, et cetera. The results of which is longer battery life and flight time. With the Phantom 2, a gimbal, GoPro (taking its energy from the drone) and a video downlink, very important minutes are shaved off your air time. Beneath the identical circumstances with the Phantom three, I used to be getting 20 minutes within the air, whereas the Phantom 2 was nagging me to (urgently) land it after 15. When the Phantom three needs you to land, you’ll be able to in all probability stick with it for a couple of minutes extra; it simply performs issues protected.

The competitors

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

Drones, it appears, are huge enterprise. When you browse the devoted RC net shops, you will discover extra manufacturers and fashions than you’d know what to do with. For a newcomer, it may be fairly daunting. Then, in fact, you may construct your personal. It is analogous to purchasing, or constructing a PC. You will virtually all the time get extra in your cash when you do it your self. However, shock, some individuals don’t need that problem, and simply need to open a field and go. It is for these people who the DJI Phantom three exists. Nevertheless it’s not the one one.

Maybe the obvious rival on your consideration is 3DR’s Solo. It was introduced simply days after the Phantom, and gives much more when it comes to flight options (a comply with-you choice, unique digital camera angle modes and so forth). However, it additionally prices $one hundred forty extra (with a gimbal) and you have to have your personal GoPro (one other $four hundred-plus). This makes it a piece of change costlier, much more so if you don’t need/want 4K, and may get by with the Phantom three Superior. However, for people who already personal a GoPro, the choice might be rather a lot more durable, we’re reserving judgement till we have examined the Solo ourselves.

Should you actually need one thing easy that’ll do primary video, one thing like Parrot’s BeBop is even cheaper nonetheless. However, it lacks the vary, energy, high quality and management the Phantom three gives. If motion sports activities are extra your factor, then it might be value ready for AirDog, which is scheduled to launch in August, with a number of options particular to all-climate actions.

Wrap-up

DJI Phantom 3 review: an aerial photography drone for the masses

I used to be slightly underwhelmed when the Phantom three launched. I hoped for a extra radical redesign, and some killer autopilot options (DJI say’s these are within the works, simply they’re insistent on them being protected). As an alternative, DJI performed it slightly protected, opting as an alternative for sensible, practical enchancment all spherical. Now that I’ve flown one, I get it. The Phantom three is a refinement. An enormous one. That stated, its proprietary design makes it onerous to improve; it does not have a few of the extra clever options its rivals do; and the software program is designed for simplicity over anything. It is also pricier than various merchandise of comparable specification. However in trade, it is accessible, dependable and excells at its core duties of flying and video. Oh, and it is a heck of plenty of enjoyable.

It is the standard of the digital camera and the controls that makes the Phantom three value shopping for. If you need a problem-free quadcopter that may shoot excessive-high quality video, it’s extremely straightforward to advocate this craft. You might not have the ability to (simply) program its flight path, or win a drag race by way of the woods, however you will have a drone that grabs nice video, and is a pleasure to make use of each single time.

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