DJI Phantom 3 vs Phantom 4

DJI Phantom 3 vs Phantom 4

It was April of 2015when the Phantom 3 first caused a whirlwind in the market. Truthfully, no one had seen quite so much intelligence and flight capacity in a drone of its price. Then DJI wowed us again not a year later with the release of its successor, the Phantom 4. Then again with the Phantom 4 Pro.  Due to the release of the Pro, the Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 experienced quite a hefty price drop. If the Phantom 4 Pro is a bit out of your price range, then you’re probably considering the earlier models.  Since there’s a $600 difference between the Phantom 4 and the Phantom 3 Standard, the question is whether or not that price difference is worth it.  We’re here to compare the two and answer that question.

Aesthetics.  Not necessarily the most essential topic to debate, but just to touch on it, the Phantom 4 certainly has a classier, sexier look than the Phantom 3. At first glance they’ll seem similar, but when put side by side there’s a noticeable difference. The stripes are gone on the Phantom 4. The white has a smoother, sleeker finish. If you use your drone commercially, the Phantom 4 is easier to paint if you want to put a brand name on your machine. However, it’s still a quadcopter, the propellers are still on top of the machine, and it still maintains that ‘boxy’ chassis with smooth inner curves.

Performance. As a whole, the Phantom 4 definitely outperforms the Phantom 3. By how much? That depends on your intended use. First, the Phantom 4 can fly 10mph faster than the Phantom 3. With the newly implemented ‘sport’ mode the 4 can fly at speeds up to 45mph and is bit heavier than the Phantom 3. The increase in power also increases its payload and stability. It’ll certainly outperform the 3 in heavier weather conditions.

The 4 has a longer range, reaching distances of up to 3 miles (this is, of course, against FAA regulations – so it’s not so important in the US, but DJI claims that over-engineering the Phantom 4 means it’ll work better within the allowed distances). With the release of the Phantom 4, the DJI GO application has brought a couple of interesting features. First there’s Active Track, which is basically a tracking feature that simplifies the ‘active following’ mode. All you have to do is click on the target subject and the drone will autonomously lock on and track. The second is TapFly, so you can dictate certain maneuvers, such as return home with a tap on the screen.

In addition, obstacle avoidance is notable in the Phantom 4. The nature of the feature is pretty self-explanatory: the Phantom 4 is now equipped with sensors which detect nearby obstacles. When the mode is on, it will autonomously avoid collision, especially helpful for newbie pilots. However, in sports mode, obstacle avoidance disengages, so at 45 mph, you are on your own.

The battery life in the 4 is longer, a lot longer. The Phantom 3 clocks out around 15 minutes, where the Phantom 4 can fly up to nearly 30 minutes. Not only does the 4 have a better battery, but it also contains a more optimized and balanced support system. The 5350 mAh is quite a big step up from the 4480 mAh of the 3. Is 15 minutes to 30 minutes a big difference to you? Again, that boils down to intended use. Many photographers say the extra time is pivotal in honing in on that perfect shot, or reaching the distance necessary to get it.

On the whole, the Phantom 4 certainly outperforms the Phantom 3. It’s faster, easier to handle, can fly for longer, and is more intelligent.  That’s not to say the Phantom 3 can’t do the job.  But, there’s a pretty notable difference in flight optimization. Particularly with 45mph speeds, and obstacle avoidance.

Camera Match Up.  Again, the Phantom 4 takes the cake here. Not by a landslide, though, and that’s crucial to note when considering a purchase — if you’re not an avid photographer and you’re not a perfectionist about the type of footage you’re capturing, the Phantom 3 will do just fine.

The Phantom 4 camera has a more highly accurate white balance system and its presets are truer to their results than those of the Phantom 3. Dynamic range is better on the Phantom 4 too (this is due to an eight-element-lens and some added software that improves the inner sensor), although this feat is more present in shadows.  The Phantom 4 pro can record in HD at 124fps, while the Phantom 3 (even in its best form, the Pro) can only shoot at 60fps. The Phantom 4 gimbal now has a support link built directly into the drone, and the micro SD card is stored separately. For those of us who have tested the stability of the camera image, there’s certainly a notable difference; the 4 stabilizes more accurately. Also, upgrades in the software and a few tweaks in the hardware allow the Phantom 4 to transmit at longer ranges, with more quality and less interference. Between the 3 Standard and the 4, the 4k capabilities of the 4 represent a huge contrast, but the Phantom 3 Pro also shoots in 4k, (at 124fps and 1080p).

Onboard Tech. The Phantom 4 has upgraded software and hardware.  The improved Visual Positioning System males the drone more dynamic in the air and more stable in the landing. There’s a dual GPS system on the 4, so all of its control and autonomous features are more accurate (not to mention well-positioned).

To summarize the comparison between, the Phantom 4 is without a doubt the more impressive machine. The reality then becomes, what does better mean to you? Most would say the obstacle avoidance, higher flight times, faster speeds, more intelligent design, easily repairable chassis, optimized gimbal and camera, longer control range, newly integrated autonomous components, and dual GPS system is certainly worth the extra cash. However, some pilots argue that there’s not that big a difference between the two and the 3 Pro can essentially produce the same except at slower speeds, and with a lot more involvement and skill from the pilot. If the consumer doesn’t care much for 4k or obstacle avoidance, then the 3 Standard will probably have his vote. But when paired side to side, make no mistake; the Phantom 4 is the alpha.



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