The DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone is a great pick for those looking to buy their first drone. It’s easy enough for entry-level drone pilots, but still has plenty of features that more experienced pilots will appreciate.
Phantom 3 Standard Drone – Pros and Cons
- It is very stable in the air.
- It’s easy to fly.
- Smooth 2.7K video capture
- Shooting excellent video
- 20mm wide-angle lens.
- Raw and JPG captures are still possible.
- Intelligent Flight Modes
- GPS built-in
- Function for returning to home
- Automated takeoffs and landings
- Propellers invade footage
- To recharge a battery takes more than an hour.
- Requires an Android or iOS device
Phantom 3 Standard Drone Review
The Phantom 3 Standard’s white plastic case gives it an Apple-like appearance with clean lines and a functional design. The central body houses the electronics and battery, while the motor is located at the ends of the four protruding shafts. Although the entire case is made from plain white plastic, you can attach colored stickers to make your Phantom 3 stand out in crowded skies.
The landing gear connects at the bottom of the case while the camera and gimbal are placed between the landing arms. Either side of the camera rig is landing gear that is tall enough to keep the camera from contacting the ground. The drone and camera were not damaged when I crashed into the ground twice.
The Phantom 3 measures 19 x 19 x 8. It weighs in at 2 pounds 11 ounces and is roughly the same size as the Parrot Bebop or the large Yuneec Q500. It is lighter and smaller than the 20x20x14-inch Q500, which makes it more portable. However, it is much larger and more difficult to carry than the Bebop, 14x 13.2×3.8-inch.
The drone’s body is connected to the gimbal by rubber joints. These joints stop vibrations from spreading from the body. The gimbal, which rotates, pans, tilts, and tilts the small HD camera, is located below the drone body. The top of the camera housing houses a microSD card, which stores the video. A nice feature is that the drone tilts when it’s off. This allows you to swap cards easily by pointing the microSD slot towards the front.
The 8GB microSD card comes with the Phantom 3. This microSD card is the best because it only captures approximately 45 minutes at the highest quality (2.7K). MicroSD cards with capacities up to 128GB are supported (between $50-$80) as long as they keep UHS-1 speed.
The battery is secured in place by sliding into the cavity at the back of your body. The battery slides into a cavity on the back of the body, locking in place. A series of LEDs give feedback about the charge level. One button lights these LEDs or turns on the drone when you hold it down for a few seconds.
The included battery can hold a large 4480mAh of power and is recharged using the main power charger. Additional batteries are available for $150. DJI also offers a $90 charging station that can charge four batteries at once.
The remote controller reminds me of a scaled-down version of the one that shipped with the Phantom 2 Vision+. It is compact so that there is no need to add a Wi-Fi extension module. Also, the internal rechargeable batteries replace the AA batteries. To recharge, a micro USB port is located at the bottom.
The charge level is indicated by four LED lights, while the power switch turns on the device. The clamp is mounted on a rail made of metal to hold your smartphone. It can hold an iPhone 6 Plus but not a tablet as the remote control for Phantom 3 can. It is not very stable. My phone wobbled a lot, while the clamp for Professional and Advanced models held it in place with perfect stability.
Ease to use
The software update required to set up the 3 Standard was downloaded and then transferred to the drone. Although it was a bit annoying, the process only took a few minutes.
The controller for the 3 Standard is the same design as the rest of the Phantom controllers. Although we enjoyed this controller, it felt slightly less intuitive than the Phantom controllers. This is why the 3 Standard scored a somewhat lower ease-of-use score than its Phantom brethren. Although the joysticks think a little more sticky, they are still well-textured and large.
The lockable phone cradle has been replaced by a spring-loaded clip, which is much harder to use. These are again minor drawbacks that can only be seen in side-by-side comparisons. However, we wish DJI had used the same controller as the Phantom 3 Standard.
The Phantom 3 Standard is a great drone. The drone can be lifted from the ground using the on-screen controls. Once it is hovering, you can take complete control. Although the joysticks might feel a bit sticky initially, any fear will melt away once you get used to it—the large button on the phone’s screen that records allows you to start or stop the camera quickly. The drone can be brought back by using the auto-land feature. This gently touches the drone down in a controlled way.
The controller is another noticeable difference in hardware. The Standard controller is a hybrid of the original Phantom 3 controller and the Vision 2 + controller. It has the same design and features as the older Vision 2 + controller, with the camera control wheel on the top left shoulder. This feature can also be found on the Inspire or Phantom 3 controllers.
We found it quite surprising that the Standard controller doesn’t have dedicated buttons for taking photos and videos.
We noticed that DJI was missing this feature, as other drone manufacturers now have dedicated buttons for their controllers. This was a welcomed addition to the original Phantom 3 models and an unexpected omission from Standard.
There is not a dedicated button for returning home like on the older controllers. However, there is a switch that can configure return to home functionality.
The Standard displays the live feed from your camera using the DJI GO app. This app is a complex experience and will need to be reviewed by an independent party.
Tap the map at the bottom right to switch between live view and map, allowing you to fly in map mode. This will show you a map, satellite, or hybrid view of your current location.
After you have disabled beginner mode in the settings menu, five flight modes will be available to put the Phantom 3 under computer command: Course lock (Home Lock), Waypoint, Waypoint, and Follow Me.
The quadcopter will fly straight in Course Lock mode. The quadcopter can still be rotated and spun, but it will fly in the same direction it was pointed in when it turned on the mode, at constant altitude. This lets you take smooth, clean videos of your subject flying by without worrying about the flight path. It will keep it straight and level to focus on panning the camera to keep the subject visible.
Home Lock is similar in design to Course Lock, but it’s three-dimensional. The quadcopter will fly straight at a specified upward angle toward or away from your home position. This creates a smooth and clean flight away from the subject.
Waypoint lets you select from a variety of GPS waypoints and then automatically navigate a route between them. Each waypoint must be reached first. You can’t simply put them on the map. You have the option of having the camera point in the direction the quadcopter will fly along the route when it is flying the calculated way. Constant With Record is the preferred method.
You can expect the Follow Me mode to do what you would expect. Select this, and the quadcopter will fly off to a predetermined distance. The GPS position of your device running the app will determine where the quadcopter is. It uses GPS information from the app. If the phone doesn’t have GPS support (for example, an iPhone that isn’t connected to the internet), the quadcopter won’t function properly.
The video that was captured by the Phantom 3 Standard was of excellent quality. It had lots of detail and smooth, precise movement.
The quadcopter will keep the camera in Point of Interest mode to focus on the point of interest. This can be the home position or another spot. Despite the manual control of the quadcopter, it will maintain the point of interest while you fly.
The majority of modes worked as expected and produced smooth flights, which, in turn, resulted in an adorable video. However, there were some quirks. In our tests, the Follow Me mode was somewhat jerky. I didn’t notice that my subject (me) had moved for a while and then struggled to catch up with me as I walked.
While it might follow an object that moves in a straight line at a fixed speed (such as a person on a bicycle or boat), I doubt it would replace a competent pilot who is watching the subject closely. Similar modes on the Yuneec Q500 performed better.
Sometimes, the Waypoint mode would angle the quadcopter in such a way that the camera could see the rotor blades or the arms supporting the rotors. This was when the quadcopter was turning or stopping, or starting. It could appear as either the arms and rotor blades visible in the video or as flickering effects in the screen’s upper right or lower corner.
It was distracting and affected the overall look and feel of the video. This can be reduced by slowing down the quadcopter, but it still appears occasionally.
Performance of flight
It is easy to fly the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, thanks to combining a traditional remote control and a touch screen control. The DJI Go app has an auto takeoff and landing feature that allows you to let the quadcopter do all the work, or you can manually control the quadcopter using the control stick. There is minimal delay between the stick being moved and the quadcopter responding. It flies and turns very slowly on the default settings. However, these settings can be adjusted to fly faster if needed in the DJI Go app.
DJI claims that it can reach up to 35 miles horizontally and 11 miles per hour vertically. I do not doubt this claim.
It isn’t a stunt quadcopter. Instead, it is designed to keep the camera platform stable and not do flips or somersaults. It does an excellent job at this: No matter how difficult we maneuvered our Phantom 3, the camera remained level.
The Phantom 3 can not automatically fly. It cannot fly a route by itself out of the box. Although the Waypoint mode is close, you will still need to manually fly the quadcopter at each waypoint at least once to record the route. You can save these routes and fly them later to the same route multiple times.
However, other options allow for complete autonomy. DJI also offers Ground Station for iOS and Windows. This program is focused more on creating routes using a map so that the Phantom can fly. Others offer similar systems but with advanced features. Pix4Dmapper is an example of a third-party system that transforms the Phantom 3 professional drone into a 3D mapping platform that can create 3D models using captured visual data.
Image and Video quality
The camera on the Phantom 3 Standard can capture 12 megapixel still images and has three video modes:
- HD (1280 x 720 pixels, at between 24 and 60 frames per second)
- FHD (1920 x 1080 pixels, at 24 or 30 fps)
- 2.7K (2704 x 1520 pixels, at 24 or 30 fps)
The camera assembly on the Phantom 3, and the entire Phantom line, is not as small as the Mavic Pro either, but still smaller than GoPro cameras and the gimbal required to carry it. What it really boils down to, as fun as it is to just fly a drone, aerial photography is the name of the game with the Phantom line.
The Advanced model adds the ability to capture 60 fps FHD video, while the Professional model can capture UHD (Ultra HD) video with a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels at 60 fps.
I shot my test footage at 30fps at 2.75K resolution to test the camera’s ability to capture detail. However, there are other resolutions available that can be used. For example, if you capture 1080p48 footage, you can slow it down and playback at 24fps. This gives footage a half-speed slow-motion effect that has the cinematic look of 24fps footage.
Overall, the 2.7K footage was good but not the best I have seen from a drone cam. Although it’s not as crisp as the 4K video from the Phantom 3 Professional, the 2.7K footage captures 4 Megapixels per frame. This is about half the amount of 4K footage. The 40Mbps bit rate did take a toll on my video.
The camera drone has the same 20mm equivalent lens featured on the other Phantom 3 series models. The sensor is quite capable and renders amazing video much like the other Phantom models. The still image capabilities are similar to the other models but come up a bit short in low light situations.
Some compression artifacts are visible in dense foliage covering the wetlands where I took my first test footage. I shot the Phantom 3 Professional video simultaneously but on a different day with less harsh sunlight. Although the quality was not as good, it was still better.
A video compression algorithm can be stressful when trying to capture dense greenery in the air. The Standard produced some excellent footage. The footage of houses, streets, and cars is crisp. While there are trees in my footage, these don’t overpower the frame and offer more detail than Vision+. While shooting straight into the sun can create a little halo flare around it, you won’t see any severe lens flare if you move your camera drone, so the sun hits it at an angle.
This lens has a wide-angle design and covers a 94-degree field of view. It is roughly equivalent to a 20mm lens on full-frame cameras. The lens’ aperture is set at f/2.8, and the focus is set so that everything beyond a few inches is sharp.
Although it doesn’t show the fish-eye distortion common to drones, it can slightly stretch objects around the frame’s edges, which can be apparent when the Phantom rotates about its axis. When moving forward at maximum speed, the propellers will be visible at the top of your frame. However, if you ease back a bit on the throttle, they are hidden.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional has a great feature that allows you to adjust exposure compensation using a remote control wheel. Quick turns can instantly change the brightness or darkness, which is excellent for video recording at sunset or sunrise. The Standard can adjust EV, but you don’t have a wheel on your remote. You will need to change it through the app.
The control that allows you to do this, a set of sliders marked in the bottom left corner with a “P,” must be activated before recording begins. This is not an issue if you know you will need to adjust the exposure before recording. However, if your clip is in automatic exposure mode, you will need to stop it, launch the control panel, and start recording again. This app does not show flight data. If you are manually controlling video, the app won’t display real-time altitude, distance, and airspeed status.
This menu also offers full manual control. To achieve the desired exposure, you can adjust ISO and shutter speed. The ability to alter the color output is another advantage of the Phantom 2 video cameras. A Log flat profile is available if you need to use the most space to color grade footage. Typical settings are for videographers who don’t want to do too much fine-tuning. You can also use Instagram-like filters like Vivid, B&W and Art, Film, Dream, Classic, or Nostalgia.
The Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional models have comparable image quality. The 1/2.3 inch sensor can capture 12-megapixel JPG and Raw DNG images with a 4/3 aspect ratio. The photo quality is similar to that of a point-and-shoot camera with Raw support. A raw capture is always an option that I welcome because it allows you to fine-tune exposure and color in Lightroom CC ($9.99/Month Adobe) or another Raw developer to your liking.
You can also use the DJI Go app to cut short videos if you are not serious about video editing. It has a simple interface that automatically adds music and sound effects to your silent footage. You will have to accept low-quality footage if you are using the Live View feed from your phone.
However, you can save footage from the Phantom’s card to the app and edit it in full quality. You can use desktop editing software, such as iMovie or Adobe Premiere Pro, to cut clips together, depending on how experienced you are.
On our tests, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard has a single, large 4480-mAh battery that provides about 21 minutes of flight. This is roughly the same flight time as the Yuneec Q500 drone, which comes with two batteries.
It takes about 50 minutes to charge the DJI Phantom 3 Standard battery using the provided charger. Extra batteries for the Phantom 3 Standard don’t come cheap. A spare battery from DJI will set you back $145. DJI also offers a $90 charging station.
As the world of drones continues to grow, there are more and more opportunities for people with different skill sets to get involved. Whether you’ve never flown a drone before or have years’ worth of experience in aerial photography, there is something here for everyone. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to find your own way to vary reading posts so that no matter what type of content we publish on Phantom 3 Standard Drone Review, it will be full of insight and practical tips applicable for all levels!