If the 2000s were the decade of the smart phone, this is the decade of the drone. The creative drone behemoth DJI has revealed it’s latest advancement in video drones, the new DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter. DJI has ditched the GoPro and gone in-house with their own brand of cameras that are best-suited to aerial videography. The result is a pair of Phantom 3 drones that are built for enthusiasts and creative professionals that want to add an entirely new perspective to their creative palette.
Prior to the release of the DJI Phantom 3 drone, the Phantom-class drones were delivered as a base model with a series of optional upgrades. If you wanted an electronic gimbal stabilizer, for example, you needed to spend a few hundred more. This technology is vital to drone aerial videography, as shaky flight and panning cameras leads to a lot of shake and instability. A gimbal was a necessary upgrade, but it’s now standard in the DJI Phantom 3.
So is the camera. Instead of launching with support for a GoPro, the DJI Phantom 3 drone comes with a flight-optimized camera. It’s available in two trims — advanced and professional — the best of which provides 4K video recording at 30fps, tucked tighly into the arms of that 3-axis electronic gimbal. It also shoots stills at up to 12MP, and hopefully this is an area where DJI has improved on the GoPro drones of the past.
Part of the issue with GoPro cameras is the obvious lens distortion that is just the nature of the beast. Extreme wide angle lenses, a necessity for an action cam like a GoPro, are prone to barrel and pincushion distortion. Also, close up objects feel very large, where objects just a few meters away become unnaturally small. It’s my hope that DJI’s camera provides less distortion and less “wide angle effect” for flight. This will make a big difference in aerial video, and it’ll actually make it useful for serious landscape and architectural photographers who want a little lift to their perspectives.
The DJI Phantom 3 drone will start shipping at a cool $1,000 for the non-4K advanced version and $1,260 for the 4K-ready “professional” version. And both will do a lot more than we shared at face value. You’ll want to get to know the 3rd-person “follow me” system, point of interest focusing, independent camera control and live HD preview streams for goggle/monitor-friendly ground control. It’s everything you’d expect out of a Phantom, just 4K-capable. [Phantom 3 microsite]
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DJI Phantom 3 Introduction VideoView in gallery