The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is in a strange position. The initial Phantom 3 launch, which included both a Professional and Advanced version of the drone, was a mere four months ago.
Admittedly, I was a bit confused when DJI announced and then released another Phantom 3 so quickly – especially because, on the surface, it didn’t look all that different than the existing editions. Four months is an extraordinarily short amount of time to release a new version of a complex piece of technology, so what could possibly be different?
As such, this review is going to focus on what makes the DJI Phantom 3 Standard different from the Professional and the Advanced editions rather than going through our usual beats.
The Phantom Budget
The first and most obvious point to make about the the DJI Phantom 3 Standard edition is price.
The Standard retails for $799 compared to $1,259 for the Professional and $999 for the Advanced version.
For comparison, the Phantom 2 Vision +, which is no longer sold directly by DJI is retailing for about $1,000 on Amazon.
So, right away the answer to “Why has DJI put out a new Phantom 3?” Can be explained as because they wanted to introduce a model with a so-called entry level price point.
What do you get for your $799?
For starters, you get the drone, the gimbal and gimbal guard, camera, controller, one standard battery, charging cables, 8 propellers, and an SD card. Pretty standard stuff.
But there are a few notable distinctions between the Standard hardware and the hardware included with the other Phantom 3s.
The most obvious distinction is the camera. The Standard includes a 2.7K camera that shoots video FHD 1920x1080p just as the same as the Advanced edition does. While the Advanced is capable of a few more fps, it is a pretty minimal difference…
Those few fps are only going to be of consequence to professional photographers who will probably opt for the Professional edition anyway because the Professional’s 4K camera is bar-none the best proprietary drone camera on the market.
For a full comparison of all the Phantom 3 editions and their specs, check out DJI’s comprehensive table right here.
The other noticeable difference in hardware is the controller. The Standard controller is sort of a cross between the the old Vision 2 + and original Phantom 3 controller. It has the same shape and features of the old Vision 2 + controller with the camera control wheel on the top left shoulder that is found on the newer Phantom 3 (and Inspire) controller.
The Standard controller does not include dedicated buttons for taking pictures and videos – a decision we found quite surprising.
Since other drone manufacturers have started putting dedicated buttons on their controllers, we noted this was sorely missing from DJI. It was a welcome addition to the initial Phantom 3 models and a surprising omission from the Standard.
Additionally, there is no dedicated button for return home, as there is on the newer controllers, but there is a switch that can be configured with return to home functionality.
Finally, the Standard uses the new DJI GO app to display the live feed from the camera on your iOS or Android device. The app is an extensive experience in and of itself and requires an independent review… which is forthcoming.
How does it fly?
For our very first flight, we decided to use the auto-takeoff button in the DJI GO app. The Phantom promptly tipped over backward and broke two props.
After replacing the broken props (thank goodness for the included extras) we went with a manual takeoff and everything went much smoother.
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard flies as smoothly and with as much precision as we have come to expect from DJI.
The one difference we noticed between the Standard and our Professional when flying was position hold. The downward facing vision and ultrasonic sensors on the Professional and Advanced editions really do give them the edge when it comes to flight stability close to the ground or indoors.
The Standard is still very stable when hovering close to the ground, so this isn’t exactly a deal breaker, but if you plan on doing a lot of flying inside, you’re better off going with one of the previous iterations of the Phantom 3.
Setting the Standard
Based on the price alone, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is an excellent choice for your first drone. Between the flight capability, camera, and companion app, you are simply not going to find a more feature-packed drone for under $1,000.
However, if you already have a Phantom and you are looking to upgrade or are a professional photographer looking to add to your arsenal, you are better off with the Professional edition
Besides the app, there isn’t much of a step up between the old Vision 2 + and the Standard and, if you are a professional and dropping $799 isn’t a huge deal, it’s worth spending the extra money to buy the top of the line camera and stability the Professional offers.
So, while the Standard does have a place in DJI’s Phantom 3 lineup, its existence negates the need for the Advanced edition.
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is a great drone for beginners but serious drone operators will want to opt for the higher end Phantom 3 Professional.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com