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Phantom 3 Professional Review

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Product Review

The Phantom 3 Professional is incredibly easy to fly, captures stunning 4K video and features a direct live view link between the camera in the air and your mobile device.

Quadcopter and multirotor drones are very popular these days. That's because they are easy and fun to fly and they offer small high-definition cameras that produce amazing aerial photos.

The Phantom 3 professional is one of those popular consumer choices, thanks to its affordable price, small size, ease of use and stylish design.

The Phantom 3 professional is not just another incremental upgrade of previous models, but a whole new device that got a complete overhaul. In fact the 3 Professional model now has many advantages over the leading Inspire One drone, for less than half the price.

The Phantom 3 professional offers many advantages. No more the piddly low-res transmitter, but a superior Lightbridge unit that streams video back to your controller in 720p, enabling you to see exactly what you're doing. Flight range is up from about 500m (1,640 ft) to a whopping 2 km (1.2 mi) and beyond.

The drone's stability is much higher than before thanks to the upgraded GPS system, as well as an added GLONASS unit. The downfacing camera and ultrasound unit increase stability close to the ground and make it possible to fly indoors. Top speed remains about 60 km/h (37 mph), which is good enough to shoot a car or motorcycle in motion.

The remote control handset has gone through a more major overhaul. It has been reduced slightly in size and it features a built-in rechargeable battery rather than using AAs. On the front of the handset is a line of LEDs that indicate the unit's power level – one charge should last for a good ten or more flights. On the back you'll see a USB connection for your phone to enable Live View from the camera to the Pilot app.

Lightbridge enables iOS or Android devices to connect directly through USB to the Phantom 2.4Ghz handset, and transmits the footage from the camera to the mobile device. This live stream comes through at HD (720p) and has a workable range of up to 1.2 miles.

The camera of the Phantom 3 professional is probably the most significant upgrade compared to previous models. It's basically the same as the Inspire’s - a 4K ultra high-def Sony EXMOR sensor and processor that shoots DNG RAW stills. The lens have the same 20 mm f/2.8, which cuts down markedly on distortion.

This small camera is mounted under the body of the craft and is suspended from a motorized gimbal. Although known for its quadcopters, DJI is also in the camera market, and produces motorized gimbals for the broadcast and the film industry. This expertise is evident in this very small and impressive gimbal.

The job of the gimbal is to keep footage as level and steady as possible, and it does an impressive job. Panning footage is level, and looks like the camera is on runners rather than mounted on a flying craft. Launching the Phantom above the tree line shows the steadiness of the camera, capturing footage that would usually require a telescopic camera pole.

Like the Inspire, control of the camera is now through the DJI Pilot app, which is a vast improvement on the DJI Vision app. You’ve now got full manual control of the camera, and access to a stack of other flight settings that were previously only accessible by plugging the Phantom 2 into a laptop.

When it comes to shooting stills, the Phantom 3 pro is a true market leader. It beats the Phantom 2's GoPro because it shoots in RAW, and you can see what you’re doing as you compose and shoot. The RAW images process up well in Lightroom. We’ve got our best results exposing to save the highlights, then bringing up the shadows. You’ve got a fair bit of leeway to lighten up dark areas before things get too noisy.

The batteries have been also improved. The new LiPo cells charge significantly faster than the batteries on the Vision+, going from 20 percent to 100 percent in around an hour. Moreover, since LiPos don’t like staying charged for long periods of disuse, the intelligent batteries slowly discharge themselves back down to around 60 percent if you don’t use them for 10 days or so, in order to increase their service life.

The Phantom 3 Professional is an awesome piece of kit. It flies beautifully, it takes great footage and even better still shots, and a lot of thought and learning has gone into making it a solid tool for solo aerial shooters. It is the easiest drone to fly to date, and offers an all-new advanced flight control, high-quality 4K video and a set of GPS features that ensures the Phantom 3 delivers on more than just specs. Photographers and videographers will be impressed by both the video and stills, and by the iOS and Android integration that live streams video directly from the drone's camera to the ground. Great choice for amateurs and professionals.

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