Phantom series drones are probably DJI’s most widely recognized products. My first drone was a Phantom 3 Pro, and it couldn’t have served me any better while I had it. That being said, last year I picked up the latest model, the Phantom 4 Pro. There are some differences between these two models, but both drones are fabulous for any type of photography work. The question is, how do you decide which Phantom is right for you?
Photo Quality Comparison
When comparing the Phantom 3 vs. the Phantom 4, it makes sense to start with the cameras. The Phantom 3 Pro has a 12-megapixel camera, while the Phantom 4 Pro has a 20-megapixel camera with a slightly larger, 1” sensor. You will notice that the Phantom 4 Pro also produces sharper and brighter images than the Phantom 3 Pro. It also shoots at a higher ISO than the Phantom 3 Pro, while putting out less noise. These photos were shot in DNG (Learn what is DNG/RAW here), and I applied a slight correction to the color and distortion, but they are pretty close to the results straight out of the camera.
ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/400s
ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/800s
ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/1,600s
You can see that the Phantom 4 Pro takes sharper, brighter, and cleaner images overall. You also have a lot more control over the camera due to the fact it has a mechanical shutter that has an adjustable f-stop, ISO, and shutter speed. On the Phantom 3 Pro, you are stuck with a 2.8 aperture and can only change your ISO and shutter speed. I think the quality of both cameras is excellent, but when looking at the Phantom 3 vs. 4, the Phantom 4 Pro has a few advantages that benefit the quality of the image. See the difference for yourself in some of these photos!
Video Quality Comparison
This comparison is short, but it shows how Phantom 4’s larger sensor excels when it comes to shooting video. I tested both drones in 4K at 24 fps with a 100% and 400% crop. I also tested both models at 1080p at 60 fps then slowed it down to check the difference in frame rate. The video was exported in 1080p at 24 fps, so the 60 fps is slowed down 2.5 times. Again, the Phantom 4 Pro has a bigger sensor that allows more light to come in, and the image came out much sharper with more detail and less noise.
For a comparison of additional specifications between the Phantom 3 and Phantom 4, take a look at the following table.
|Phantom 3 Pro||Phantom 4 Pro|
|Camera||12.4 MP, 1/2.3-inch sensor; f/2.8 35mm lens||20 MP, 1-inch sensor; f/2.8 – f/11 24mm lens|
|Video resolution/ Max. bitrate||1280×720 (720p), 1920×1080 (1080p), 4096×2160 (4K); 60Mbps||1280×720 (720p), 1920×1080 (1080p), 4096×2160 (4K); 100Mbps|
|Photo resolution (pixels)||4000×3000||5472×3648|
|Supported video formats||MP4, MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)||MP4, MOV (AVC/H.264; HEVC/H.265)|
|Supported photo formats||JPEG, DNG (RAW)||JPEG, DNG (RAW), JPEG+DNG|
|Storage||microSD card||microSD card|
|Camera stabilizer||3-axis mechanical gimbal||3-axis mechanical gimbal|
|Obstacle sensing||No||Forward,backward, downward,left, right|
|Max. transmission distance w/controller||FCC: 3.1 mi (5 km)
CE: 2.2 mi (3.5 km)
|2.400 – 2.483 GHz
FCC: 4.3 mi (7 km)
CE: 2.2 mi (3.5 km)
|Speed||35.8 mph (ATTI mode)||45 mph (Sport mode)|
|Max. flight time||Approx. 23 minutes||Approx. 30 minutes|
|TapFly and ActiveTrack||No||Yes|
Depending on what you are looking for, either Phantom can suit your needs. At a lower price point, the Phantom 3 Pro is one of the best drones out there for anybody looking to get started with aerial photography. This was the first drone I learned to fly and use for commercial work. However, if you are a camera enthusiast or professional photographer without any prior drone experience, the Phantom 4 Pro may be a better option due to its similarities to a DSLR.
Update: DJI has just announced the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, the latest offering in the Phantom series. It retains the same iconic appearance of the original Phantom 4 Pro but features new ESCs, low-noise propellers, OcuSync, and a redesigned controller. The reduced noise and increased flight efficiency of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is a notable upgrade. The best part is that even with all of these upgrades, the price is still the same as the original price of the Phantom 4 Pro. If you’re debating the merits of the Phantom 3 vs. the Phantom 4, the new Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is definitely something to consider.
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