Why I Bought The DJI Phantom 3 4K
In a world where technology is quickly advancing and products are constantly being upgraded, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which version of a device to get.
This applies to phones – for example, choosing the latest iPhone might be difficult. You might be unsure if you should wait for the next iPhone model to be released. But, what if the next model doesn’t have any additional features that make it better than the current iPhone, and you could have just upgraded to the current model without having to wait?
This situation plagues consumers. Just like in the smartphone industry, drone consumers deal with this struggle, too.
DJI, the leading drone manufacturer in the world, has revolutionized the drone market and introduced the latest drone technology year after year (and sometimes within the same year). DJI not only created the foundation for the drone industry, but the company is still dominating the market. With its success, DJI has seen competition emerge through the years – 3DR, Parrot, and Yuneec, to name a few.
As if the market wasn’t already cluttered with DJI’s lineup alone, adding in these brands have created even more of an overwhelming decision for consumers. Sure, with added brands and versions, professional drone pilots now have more options to choose from. But for the average person who simply wants a drone for recreational purposes, the surge in drones over the years has become daunting when it comes time to purchase a product.
Like many consumers, I struggled with deciding which drone I should get. I had always practiced with a toy Hubsan X4 drone, but I wanted to enter the big leagues. (By the way, cheap toy drones like the Hubsan X4 are excellent beginner drones. Most drone enthusiasts will encourage beginners to start on a cheap toy drone first for many reasons. First, they’re cheap. If you crash, you won’t be out thousands of dollars. Second, they don’t have GPS, so you’ll learn to fly much better in windy conditions. Speaking of wind, the size of my Hubsan X4 is tiny, which wind is no friend of. I had to master the controls of a small aircraft so I could become skilled and prepared for an expensive piece of technology that has GPS to combat wind, a screen so I can see what my drone is recording, and naturally a larger device to fly in the air.)
At the time of purchasing my drone, the latest DJI model was the Phantom 4. As of now, DJI has released the Phantom 4 Pro Plus.
Below the Phantom 4 series is the Phantom 3 series. In the Phantom 3 series, DJI released the Phantom 3 Standard, Advanced, and Professional. After the release of these models, DJI decided to release the Phantom 3 4K, a crossbreed between the Standard and the Professional. After conducting hours of research, I decided to purchase the DJI Phantom 3 4K. Here’s why:
The Phantom 3 4K’s camera produces the same quality as the Professional. What does this mean for aerial photographers? Video quality up to 4K @ 30fps. 1080p @ 60fps. Single picture shooting, three, five, or seven burst shots, Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), and a Time-lapse feature. Plus, photographers have the option to shoot in DNG, JPG, or both at the same time.
Personally, I am a videographer, so the video capabilities of a drone are what I care most about. For smooth and slow video, 1080p @ 60fps is the perfect video mode to be in. By recording at 60fps, pilots will be able to slow video down by 50%. I also like how the Phantom 3 4K can go beyond 1080p, and, as the name implies, reach 4K. I use my Phantom 3 at this setting when shooting subject I don’t necessarily care about slowing down when editing my footage.
The 4K has five Intelligent Flight Modes that make it your above average drone. Course lock, Home lock, point of interest, follow me, and waypoints all allow pilots’ the chance to do more than just fly a drone. Most notably, the waypoints feature allows users to set custom points while they control the camera. Pilots can save a set of points into their database and fly the same route over and over again.
4K vs. Standard
As all of the Phantom 3’s and 4’s can do, the 4K’s camera tilts -90 degrees and +30 degrees, giving users complete flexibility when framing and angling shots. Aside from the better camera quality, one of the main reasons I chose the 4K over the Standard was for the tilt feature on the remote controller. This feature enables pilots to control the camera’s position while simultaneously flying. Tilting the camera is easy, as the controller has a rotating dial on the upper left-hand side. This drastically improves visuals when recording, as shots with upward or downward camera movement give video a creative twist. Plus, the 4K’s controller, like the Advanced and Professional, has a record on/off button on the upper right side of the controller, meaning pilots don’t have to move their hands from default position in order to begin or end a video recording. Pilots can take pictures using a shutter button on the upper right side, too!
The Phantom 3 4K is most like the Standard in that they both have the same flying range – about ¾ mile. This is the downside of the 4K, as many pilots enjoy being able to fly farther than a “measly” .75 miles. For example, the Professional and Advanced can travel up to 3.1 miles. This is an extreme difference to .75 miles. For those who wish to travel over 1 mile with their drone, the Phantom 4K and Standard are not for you. For me, distance isn’t necessarily the primary reason I wanted a drone, so I sacrificed this feature and went with the 4K. I also chose the 4K over the Standard because it features a powerful Vision Positioning System (VPS), which allows users to fly indoors. The Standard does not have this feature.
Another downside to the 4K (which clearly didn’t dissuade me from purchasing it) is that the live video feed back to the DJI app broadcasts at 480p. Surprisingly, the Standard has a worse camera than the 4K, yet its live video feed comes through at 720p HD. Those who wish to have a better live video experience while flying, rather than higher-quality recorded video, the Standard is for you. 480p isn’t terrible, though. All images that are fed back through my app are crisp and clear. I’m sure most people care much more about the final video quality than the temporary live feed any day.
Final thoughts and price
While DJI no longer sells the Phantom 3 4K, websites and retailers such as Best Buy and B&H Photo Video sell the drone new, used, and refurbished. The Phantom 3 4K drone has drastically dropped in price to $595. It used to cost $200 more, at $795. Plus, the Standard costs $499, so for less than $100 more, I “upgraded” for better camera quality and a better remote controller. Those interested in the Advanced and the Professional, those now cost $698 and $799, respectively. All in all, the Phantom 3 4K is a great drone that encompasses video quality a professional pilot desires, with total distance like that of a beginner’s drone.