DJI Phantom 3 Standard: The Best Value in Advanced Drones
DJI Phantom 3 StandardStarting around $470
Ease of Flying/Stability9/10
- ▪ Best value for professional/photo drones
- ▪ Limited range - consider Phantom 3 Advanced or Phantom 4
- Range: 1200m
- Flight Time: 20-25
- Weight: 2.8 lbs (register)
- Size: Full Size
- Camera: 2,7k HD, 12 MP
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard might be the best overall value in fully-featured drones, especially for new pilots. It is a great drone to take breathtaking video or high-quality aerial photos without breaking the bank. DJI makes some high-quality drones – they can be more expensive than some of the other drones we have reviewed, and for good reason.
The Phantom 3 Standard has some fantastic video modes including follow me, waypoints, course lock, point of interest, return home, and more. These features allow you to take great shots and automate some of they flying. These features are becoming standard on high-end drones but not yet on drones under $500, like the P3 Standard.
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard will record high-quality 2.7K video of its flights. With a wide horizontal field of view of 76° (measured in The Half Chrome Lab), you can easily fly the drone with first person view (FPV) free of any noticeable lag. The video will transmit via WiFi to your phone resting in the holder attached to the remote. Check out our very first attempt at FPV flight with the Phantom 3 Standard as we play with horses Chico and Montana, scroll to the bottom of the article to see the video.
Like all Phantom 3 models, the P3 Standard will return to the home (where it took off) with the push of a button or automatically if the drone goes out of range. You can enjoy about 20-25 minutes of flight time with your Phantom.
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard might not have the range or the 4K camera that the other models do, but it is the best bang for your buck. Not only do we love it, but it is one of the highest rated drones on Amazon. The range on the Standard model is quite good, especially if you are maintaining visual line of sight (FAA requirement). In our opinion 4K video is overrated, 1080p is crisp full HD video and takes up a lot less space on your hard drive than 4K. In fact, the Phantom 3 Standard will shoot 2.7K video which is higher resolution than the 1080p video that we’d recommend for many use cases.
Check out the comparison chart on some of the different Phantom 3 models. The table doesn’t include minor points or items that are identical between Phantom models. Prices range from about $500 for the Phantom 3 Standard to $1,200 for the Phantom 4.
DJI Phantom Models
We tested the Phantom 3 in a challenging but very realistic situation. We hovered our Phantom at about 15 feet (3 m) above the ground and took off in a golf cart across a 5-acre property. We made it to the other side of a two story house, and then we kept on going. The reception was fine even when we were up against the opposite side of a house. We finally lost reception at about 560 feet (0.1 miles, 0.2 km) or about a sixth of the DJI stated range. Now keep in mind we had serious obstructions and we were flying close to the ground. Our takeaway is that you can use the DJI standard safely over a reasonable distance. It can be used as an entry-level drone for real estate photography, for example. There is a lot you can do with the Standard but if you need more range or a more reliable connection then we recommend you upgrade to the Phantom 3 Advanced.
Breakdown of the Phantom 3 Models
Keep in mind that some of the values in the table above and discussed below are the DJI specs. Like all drone manufacturers, specs like range are always overstated. The 3-mile range might be possible in a vacuum, but a more realistic range would be half of that, and that would be on a good day. We generally trust most of the other specifications.
Phantom 3 Standard – This Half Chrome Top Pick has 2.7k video quality and 1000 meter range, for under $500. The Standard uses a WiFi connection for FPV video. The main limitation of the Phantom 3 is its range. This quadcopter is a great value for anyone interested in taking great pictures and video without breaking the bank. Scroll up to check out our full review. Click HERE to check the Amazon price.
Phantom 3 4K – This next step up will cost you another $100 as compared to the entry level model and will get you a little better stability as well as the ability to record 4K video. We wouldn’t recommend this version of the Phantom 3, unless you have a specific need for 4K video. If you do then this is a solid choice. Click HERE to check the Amazon price.
Phantom 3 Advanced – This Top Pick has 2.7K video quality and 3-mile range for under $800. This drone uses the Lightbridge technology to communicate with your FPV monitor, which is superior to the WiFi connection in the first two drones. The Phantom 3 Advanced is the drone is the choice of many professional photographers. It is a great combination of quality and value. CAVU, America’s largest aerial photography company stocks its fleet mostly with this drone. If you’d like to read more about CAVU or why they chose this drone, click HERE. If you want to check the price of the Phantom 3 Advanced click HERE.
Phantom 3 Professional – An extra $100 more than the Advanced and you can again upgrade to 4K video quality. All the other specs are the same as the Phantom 3 Advanced. It is the cheapest 4K Phantom with a long range, so it may meet your needs. We would recommend you save your money and go straight for the Phantom 4 which is more of an upgrade. Click HERE to check the Amazon price of the Phantom 3 Professional.
If you are considering the Phantom 3 Standard but you are worried that you may not be getting the best camera, we think you can rest assured that the Phantom 3 Standard camera is top notch. DJI says the Phantom 4 has a new camera and our testing indicates it has only slightly improved image quality. Maybe the biggest difference between cameras is in processing the images. The higher-end models add features like 4K video and 60 or 120 frames-per-second recording. Let’s take a look at the Phantom 3 Standard image quality and see how it stacks up in a few different ways.
Image Quality Compared to an iPhone 6s
First up is a comparison to the iPhone 6s. Love it or hate it, more people in the world own this high-end cell phone camera than any other, so it makes a good reference point. You can see in the image below that the Phantom 3 Standard holds up well compared to the iPhone in the center of the picture but the sharpness of the image degrades slightly as you move off center.
Another thing to note is that the Phantom 3 appears to have very little image distortion. How can this be for such a wide angle lens? We measure the horizontal field of view (HFOV) of the Phantom 3 to be 76° as compared to the iPhone at 59°. Well, it appears as though DJI has implemented some image distortion correction. You can see some artifacts of this correction as the corners of the image seem to suck in a little bit (barrel distortion) just before the stretch out at the very end (pincushion distortion). The distortion correction will contribute to degradation in the image quality, particularly in the corners where DJI is likely cropping out some of the image and stretching to fit into the corners. That said, we are happy with this correction. Most action cameras, like the GoPro Hero 4, have significant image distortion. The distortion of the GoPro is very evident, particularly when GoPro is near any structures with straight lines. The GoPro is what we have mounted on our Phantom 2. We like the idea that with the Phantom 3 you don’t need to correct distortion using software in post processing and we are willing to accept a small loss in image quality. Take a look at the comparison below, we prefer the Phantom 3 to the distortion and vignetting (dark corners) of the GoPro.
Image Quality in Flight
Most image testing is done on a tripod in order to give all cameras and equal playing field. But how does the Phantom 3 do in flight? When the drone is flying is it possible that vibrations from the propellers or movement of the drone could degrade image quality. To counteract these image-degrading forces DJI has implemented two very effective solutions. To isolate the camera from the high-frequency vibrations, DJI put the gimbals on very soft anti-vibration isolation mounts. For the drone motion problem, they have a truly excellent camera stability algorithm running the gimbals and keeping the camera stable while the drone moves about. As a result of these design features, we don’t see any significant difference between the in-flight imagery and the tripod photograph. Take a look for yourself and you can decide.
Now let’s take a look at the 4.1 megapixel (2.7K) video quality compared to the 12-megapixel photograph. Not a huge difference really. Some may actually prefer the smoother appearance of the video! Who needs those extra pixels anyway?
Camera Quality Wrap-up
In summary, the Phantom 3 has a really nice camera that is more than adequate for HD and 2.7K video capture. Drones work best with wide angle lenses and the 76° HFOV on the Phantom 3 is great for FPV flight. If you are looking for professional quality video then we are confident you will be happy with any of the Phantom 3 or Phantom 4 models. You will sometimes see the propellers, motors, or legs in aggressive maneuvers or high winds but if you fly in good conditions and accelerate slowly you won’t be disappointed. If you want to eliminate the chances of seeing any parts of the drone then you will need to fork over the big bucks for a truly camera-first drone like the DJI Inspire that has legs that retract away so the camera can spin around 360°.
We came across this crashed Phantom 3 Advanced and took the opportunity to document what was inside. Well, the folks at DJI really stuck to the principle of KISS (keep it simple stupid). Basically its two pieces of plastic shell and a circuit board. The mechanical complexity only comes in with the camera gimbals. The rest of DJI’s secret sauce is all in the software.
Watch us give you a quick review and unboxing of the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.
Watch paint horses Chico and Montana get a workout and judge for yourself the video capabilities of the Phantom 3. Don’t judge the pilot’s ability please.
Looking to add some accessories to your Phantom 3…
You have you new prize Phantom 3 and you want to fly it longer and farther. You want to be able to take it places safely. We’ve got you covered. Whether it is spare batteries, range extenders, or traveling cases we’ve got it all figured out for you. There are a lot of little things that can help make your awesome drone even awesomer. Check out our post dedicated to Phantom 3 accessories.
What is the best drone for you???
Half Chrome Drones can help you decide. Maybe you want an aerial photography drone, or maybe you want a fun toy. Want FPV? We’ve developed an advanced system to match you to the right drone. We call it our Half Chrome Drone Cipher™, go check it out. We also are constantly updating our Best Drones Now page to help you stay current.
Maybe you want us to do the work for you???
We’ve flown, crashed and taken pictures with a ton of drones. Do you want to know which one we think is best? Sure. Are you on a budget? Of course. We have three great articles breaking down the best drones in your budget. Check them out.
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