[Abstract] DJI is leading the way in consumer drones, both in popularity and performance. The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter Drone Camera, the middle child in DJI’s current generation of entry-level aircraft, is just as capable as its big brother, the Phantom 3 Professional in almost every regard. The only real difference is that the Professional captures video at up to 4K quality, while the Advanced is limited to 2.7K. The Professional is our Editors’ Choice, but if you don’t need to shoot at 4K (or if you want to spend a bit less), the Advanced is a fine alternative. The Phantom 3 Advanced is as easy to recommend as it is to fly, the best quadcopter drone camera. This is to say it’s really easy. Here is one of the best reviews of this best drone camera. Let’s create colorful and funny technical life.
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The main features:
- up to 2.7K HD video recording with fully stabilized 3-axis gimbal
- Lightbridge digital streaming allows live viewing of 720p video (full resolution video is simultaneously recorded on the internal micro SD card)
- Vision Positioning system allows stable flight indoors
- Included flight battery and rechargeable remote controller means this system is ready to fly out of the box
- DJI Pilot app for iOS and Android allows live viewing and complete camera control.
The Phantom 3 Advanced is physically identical to the Phantom 3 Professional in almost every way. Only a small cosmetic change—the Advanced uses silver stickers on its propeller struts where the Professional has gold—separates the two.
In terms of features, the two drones are also twins. They’re both flown using the same remote control and smartphone app, which now supports some automated flight features, including waypoint flying and automated return-to-home.
For information on what you can do with the Phantom 3 Advanced, as well as how it handles in flight, the app interface, and automated flight features, head over to our Phantom 3 Professional review. In testing we found that the two aircraft performed identically—the only difference is the maximum video resolution.
TOP Video Quality
You can choose between MP4 and MOV file formats in the app, but there’s no quality difference between the two. Video quality tops out at 2.7K (1520p), with 24fps, 25fps, and 30fps available. Dropping down to 1080p expands the frame rate options, adding 48fps, 50fps, and 60fps capture, and those capture rates are also available at 720p. It should be noted that you may have to update your firmware to gain access to 2.7K recording—when the Phantom 3 Advanced originally shipped it was limited to 1080p capture.
You don’t hear a lot about 2.7K—4K gets all of the buzz, because that’s what the latest televisions display—but it’s a useful format. There’s a definite resolution advantage when compared with 1080p, so you can capture video that will appear crisper when viewed on an HDTV, or can be cropped down to 1080p using editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
As for the actual quality of the video, it is a step behind the Phantom 3 Professional. It’s not just because of the lower maximum resolution. The Professional encodes video at 60Mbps, while the Advanced is limited to 40Mbps. The end result is that you’ll see some evidence of video compression in scenes with a lot of complex detail, and when moving the gimbal up and down. It’s not a huge difference, and either aircraft is an absolutely huge upgrade from the 12Mbps footage captured by the older Phantom 2 Vision+.
The Advanced’s camera features a Sony-made 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor behind a new f2.8 20mm lens (35mm equivalent), which gives you a 94-degree field of view. That’s much narrower than the Vision+ camera’s 140-degree field of view resulting in far less distortion.
You’ll notice some horizontal lines running across the frame in some of test footage. This isn’t an effect that’s limited to the P3 Advanced—you’ll see it in other drones, including the Professional model, under the right conditions. It happens when the sun hits the lens (through the propeller motion) at the right angle. You can use a neutral density filter, like those available from PolarPro, to force a longer shutter speed and reduce the effect.
Still quality is identical to the Phantom 3 Professional—you can shoot solid Raw or JPG images at 12-megapixel resolution with a fixed 20mm (full-frame equivalent) field of view.
Stably and More Intelligent Flying
I noticed a bit of wobble in some of my shots, but wind was likely a factor there, as it wasn’t noticeable when flying under calmer conditions. Overall, the gimbal does a solid job stabilizing aerial footage. Video is smooth, without evidence of jitters, even when making turns or changing elevation. It’s like having access to a flying Steadicam. The three-axis gimbal on its belly stabilizes the camera in roll, pitch and yaw directions keeping the video looking smooth even with sudden stick movements or wind gusts. Plus, the camera can do a 90-degree tilt, letting you shoot straight down, straight ahead and anywhere in between. The camera is permanently attached to the gimbal, so if you irreparably damage one or the other, you’ll have to replace the entire gimbal-and-camera assembly. It also means you don’t have the option of using the camera for anything else, unlike models that use GoPro or other small cameras such as 3D Robotic’s Solo or EHang’s Ghost.
Sitting to the back of the gimbal is the new Vision Positioning System, a set of sensors to help the Phantom 3 hover while indoors when GPS isn’t available. There are many caveats for it to work properly, however, such as not flying over sound-absorbing materials, water or highly reflective surfaces. It’s also only effective up to about 10 feet (3 meters). If you’re thinking of getting the Advanced to fly above crowds in an arena or auditorium, you better up your piloting skills first.
When you’re outside, GPS is used to help the drone determine its position and yours and is what makes it possible for the drone to stop and hover in place when you release the controller’s sticks as well as delivering accurate location data for safety features like automatically returning to a home position. The more satellites it can lock onto, the better off you are, so DJI added the Russian navigational system, GLONASS, which lets it tap into more satellites than GPS alone.
Also, with the Vision+ there were times I would struggle to get a solid lock on six satellites (the minimum for GPS-assisted flight). The Advanced never had a problem grabbing onto 10 satellites or more in a matter of seconds and regularly had upward of 15 in my testing. This makes a huge difference when it comes to putting the drone in the exact position you want for photos and video.
The Phantom 3 Advanced (and Professional) have DJI’s Intelligent Flight features including waypoint navigation, point of interest (POI) flight planning or Follow Me function. Waypoint navigation lets you set up a multipoint path for the drone to follow while you control the camera, while POI flight planning allows you to autonomously fly a circle around a subject, keeping it centered. Follow Me sets the drone to track your movement based on your orientation. Support for SDK apps already created by third-party DJI developers is available as well, giving the Advanced more features and future potential.
Comments from the customer
“Welcome to the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced with improved range especially video, rectilinear lens and gimbal, added features over its predecessor at a price no one else can beat and it’s ready to fly right of the box. Let’s get into it.”
“OMG! My Husband loved this drone! Took some time to set up and the battery life is a little short, but bought a back up battery for prolonged flying.“
Need more powerful battery!
Conclusions: the Best Drone Camera
The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced is a very polished product. It’s easy to fly, includes nice safety features, and captures smooth aerial video at 2.7K resolution. At just under $1,000 it’s an attractive option, but budget shoppers may be drawn to the Phantom 3 Standard, though the pre-production unit we flew suffered from a limited control range when flying in a suburban environment—a concern for backyard drone fliers.
Even though it’s priced a few hundred dollars higher, the Phantom 3 Professional is still our Editors’ Choice for consumer drones. The ability to record at 4K quality is a big plus, as the format is becoming more mainstream than niche. But if you’re on a tighter budget, the Advanced is a fine second choice: it’s one of the best drones out there right now. Maybe for most popular people, DJI Phantom 3 is the best drone camera.
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