Buying your DJI Phantom
DJI Sales Outlets
DJI sells through various outlets – from online giants such as amazon.com to many local hobby shops. In between these two are many online shops – from one-person operations to more sophisticated outlets. In the USA, the vast majority of Phantoms are sold online through one of these outlets. DJI even offers their own online store – linked directly from most pages of their web site at dji.com.
The best advice we can give is to consider what the support will be after the sale. Ask some questions – such as:
What if the unit arrives and is defective?
What if I ordered the wrong model – can I return it while brand new?
If I crash it and break something – or if it needs warranty work, who do I call first and how do I obtain such service?
DJI has been in a state of rapid growth and their customer service has been improving as they get a handle on it and hire additional staff. They have been trying to address earlier concerns and recently started turning things around. Still, customers who are familiar with the generous customer service policies of Amazon, Walmart and other large modern companies are likely to be frustrated when contacting DJI support for questions, concerns and repairs. General questions and concerns are best answered by visiting the many online forums which have ongoing conversations about the Phantom. DJI also runs their own forums at dji.com.
Certain privately owned vendors may offer more responsive advice and repair and/or warranty service. DJI has recently posted an explanation of their warranty service at http://www.dji.com/service .
DJI and third parties also offer extra-cost “crash insurance”. DJI calls their offering DJI Care. Another popular option is a company called Neary Aerial which offers insurance on DJI and other popular drone models.
Which Model to Buy?
DJI produces four models of the Phantom 3 – the Standard, 4K, Advanced and Professional. The Phantom 4 is produced as a single model.
The Phantom 3 machines look identical at first glance except for the color of the decals and trim.
Note – the designation “Professional” does not make the Phantom a piece of truly professional-level equipment, which would cost 20 to 40x as much.
The Phantom 3 Standard was introduced a few months after the Advanced and Pro models. It was designed to appeal to the budget buyer and beginner. While it is a great value at the $499 price point, it is our opinion that most buyers would be better to step up to the 4K or Advanced model given the small price difference. The additional range and the more refined Remote are, by themselves, enough reason to consider the Advanced, Pro or Phantom 4. However, if money is tight you will be very pleased with what $499 buys you in the Standard model. The 4K model is currently approx. $599 and provides a better camera (4K), the upgraded remote and the downward facing sonar and positioning camera (VPS).
Phantom 3 Professional or Advanced – Which to Buy?
The main difference between the two is the 4K video option on the Professional. The Professional model also includes a more powerful battery charger for slightly quicker charging times.
But is the difference worth spending?
In our opinion most buyers would be fine choosing the Advanced model. Those who want or need 4K understand the technology so they don’t have to take buying advice from this book.
Please see the following chart to compare some of the features of the current Phantom Product line.
4K- Not ready for Prime Time?
4K video refers to video which is approx. 4,000 pixels (screen dots or elements) wide. This is twice the width and 4X the picture area of HD video. In many ways it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist – that is, HD video on our computers, tablets and phones is more than good enough. In fact, HD video looks great even on large TVs.
The vast majority of computers, tablets and phones cannot even play 4K video and won’t be able to do so for years. This is due to the following factors:
Screens – the screens on most computers and tablets (and even TV’s) are generally 2,000 pixels or less wide (HD or less). A study of the devices which accessed our (droneflyers.com) web site in the last month showed almost none that supported 4K video. It will take years for this to change substantially.
Computing Power – even if a user had a 4K screen, most computers are unable to process the video. This results in choppy playback and/or poor quality images.
Bandwidth (Internet or network connections) – 4K video cannot be sent easily over most internet connections.
Keep in mind that you need all three of the above in place to properly view 4K video.
The listed shortfalls apply to viewing of 4K video – but as a pilot and flying camera operator, you have to create and edit the video, which requires large amounts of storage and a very fast computer.
Some buyers claim they buy a 4K model to make certain their purchase is “future proof” when 4K becomes even more commonplace. This logic has very little merit for the following reasons:
The cycle of computer and tablet replacement takes years – an educated guess would be 3-4+ years before a large part of the market (your online video viewers) would have upgraded 4K capable machines.
The life of a Phantom quadcopter is limited. Your Phantom is not a long term investment and chances are you will be buying a Phantom 5 or 6 by the time 4K video is commonplace over the internet and easily able to be viewed and edited on most machines.
Lastly, all 4K video is not created equal. There is only so much quality which can be pulled out from a small and lightweight flying camera. This is due to technical reasons such as the small size of the sensor and lens.
There are valid reasons why a Phantom buyer may choose a 4K model. Advanced photographers and videographers may already own equipment capable of processing the 4K video streams and their knowledge and experience can pull a slightly higher finished product out of the 4K video. Here are the 4K advantages:
1. Better still photos from video screen frame grabs – 4K video takes very high resolution pictures at 30 frames (pictures) per second. Still photos can be made from certain of these frames – these photos will be more detailed than frame grabs from HD video (but not better than still photos from either the Pro or Advanced).
2. Better HD Video – Video professionals claim they may get a better quality HD video by starting with original 4K footage and then processing and compressing it down to HD for the final cut. This requires serious computing power as well as knowledge of all the advanced editing software and techniques.
The choice is fairly easy – if you are not a professional, consider purchasing the Advanced model if you want the most technology for the lowest investment. Even if you spring for a 4K model, chances are you will use it on a lower setting (1080/60) for most video due to the smaller file sizes and easier editing and uploading.
Note that the still picture capability is identical for all the models – 12 MP – or 4000 pixels wide by 3000 high. However, the P3S camera is slightly inferior (lens, processor, etc.) to the other Phantom 3 models – and the Phantom 4 camera is slightly better than even the better Phantom 3 models.
A Note about Battery Purchases
The DJI Smart batteries can usually be purchased for less when initially bought with the Phantom itself. Packages are available at dealers, on Amazon and on the DJI site. Some packages also included extras like a backpack or SD card.
The casual user can probably get by with a total of 2 batteries, especially on the Phantom 4 which has a longer flight time. If you are a more serious photographer you’ll want to have 3 or more.
DO NOT BUY THIRD PARTY BATTERIES – USE DJI BRANDED SMART BATTERIES ONLY.
<em>Link to Chapter 4</em>
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