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Hands-on Gear Review
DJI Phantom 3 Professional Review
Price: $1,408 List | $714.95 at Amazon
Pros: Good video quality, great flight performance
Cons: Can be expensive if not on sale
Bottom line: A solid filming machine, but most filmmakers would probably prefer spending a bit more to get better video quality
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional offers an upgraded 4K camera in comparison to the 2.7K rigs on the other Phantom 3 models. Otherwise it performs very similarly to its Phantom 3 brethren. This bump up in resolution probably won't be worth the corresponding bump up in price for most users, and if you're looking for better video quality you can get the high end performance of the Phantom 4 by spending just a little bit more. Though it is a good copter, this places the Phantom 3 Professional in an odd spot where most users would be better off saving some money or spending a bit more.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The graph below compares the Phantom 3 Professional's performance during our testing (shown in blue) to that of the other models we tested.
Here we dive deeper into the Phantom 3 Professional's performance in each of our individual metrics.
The Phantom 3 Professional Scored a 7 out of 10 in our video quality testing. This put it in the mid range of gimbal models, which had scores ranging from 6 to 10, and well ahead of the non-gimbal models, which both scored 3. The 4K camera did give it a slight advantage in sharpness over the other Phantom 3 models, but in terms of color performance it was virtually the same. Gimbal performance was likewise identical to the other Phantom 3 models, with good stability in straight line shots but some shakiness induced when turning and flying more aggressively. Like all DJI Phantom models, it does have some issues with propellers intruding on the camera's view when flying aggressively, a problem that becomes worse when the camera is pointing at the sun. However, this only really occurs when flying in a manner that is generally not required nor conducive for getting good aerial footage, thus will most likely be a non-issue for most users.
Ease of Use
The Phantom 3 Professional offers a very similar user experience as the other DJI Phantom models. Accordingly, it was one of the numerous models that tied for the score of 8 in this metric, which saw scores as low as 3 and as high as 9. Out of the box the 3 Professional is fairly straightforward. Rotors install easily. The controller easily pairs to a smartphone and to the drone, and the DJI GO app runs you through initial calibration. The Controller is near identical to those of the Other DJI Phantoms. It features some of the nicest, most usable joysticks we tested and a solid clamp to mount your smartphone or tablet.
First flight with the Phantom 3 Professional feels fairly intuitive and easy. Using the onscreen menu you can activate an automatic takeoff function, which lifts the copter off the ground and puts it into a hover. It may take a few moments to get used to the responsiveness of the controls, but moving the joysticks quickly becomes second nature. A large record button on the onscreen menu lets you easily start capturing footage. After piloting the copter home, on onscreen button activated an automatic landing function, which gently touches the Phantom 3 Professional down back onto the ground.
The Phantom 3 Professional was among the better fliers in our test, scoring an 8 out of 10 in our flight performance testing. This was towards the front of the pack of gimbal models, which scored 7 to 9, and much better than the non-gimbal models, which scored 5s. The 3 Professional performed solid, stable takeoffs and landings in our testing, though just slightly less so than the top scorer. It felt locked in when hovering and barely swayed or bobbed at all, though again it still couldn't quite match the rock solidness of the top scoring Phantom 4 Using the cable cam autonomous flight function produced a smooth, predictable flight and very stable footage. The orbit point of interest function was also superb. We had no issues when testing its automatic return to home feature but, as usual, we'd like to be your friendly reminder that return to home function should only be used if some problem necessitates it, and not as a way to end every flight.
The Phantom 3 Professional had one of the better video downlinks that we tested. It scored an 8 out of 10 in a metric where the gimbal models scored from 7 to 10 and the non-gimbal models scored 4s. The downlink streamed at a very consistent quality during our 3000 foot flight test, and the actual quality of the video feed was crisp and had good color saturation. However, it just wasn't quite as vivid as the top scoring Phantom 4's downlink. On the other hand, it is a completely useful tool in framing your shots and provides a fun and immersive flying experience.
DJI customer's service is one of the company's weak points. It earned the lowest score of 3 in this metric, well off the top score of 9. Generally we found it frustrating that the phone line was often bogged down with callers. Because of this we ended up submitting some requests via email, but never got a response in a timely manner, and when we finally did get a response they often pointed us towards long forms to fill out before receiving any actual assistance. We would suggest buying from a reputable retailer if you choose to go with a DJI model.
The Phantom 3 Professional lists for $1408. This is clearly an inflated list price, as even on the DJI site it is sold for much less. Even at its lower price, however, the 3 Professional is not much cheaper than the far superior Phantom 4. For any user looking for top notch video footage, the Phantom 4 would be a much better value. If you don't mind making some sacrifices in performance, there are also a number of models that are near as good as the 3 Professional for much cheaper. All in all, this model does not represent a great value.
Like all of DJI's Phantom line, the Phantom 3 Professional is a good and capable drone. However, most users would be better off spending a bit more to get top shelf quality, or saving quite a bit of money on some other similar models.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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