How far we've come since the Phantom's humble beginnings as a flying GoPro mount. The latest member of the Phantom 3 series, the Phantom 3 4K, gives users yet another option to consider. Unsurprisingly, given its name, the new quadcopter features a gimbal-mounted 4K camera that shoots true DCI cinema 4K video at 24p or 25p, in addition to the more common UHD format 4K at up to 30p, as well as so last century HD at up to 60p. For the photographer it's no slouch either, snapping 12MP stills in JPEG or DNG RAW with burst and single-shot modes available. In these respects it compares to the Phantom 3 Professional.
The flight control system includes the latest, video-focused autonomous and semi-autonomous flight modes DJI's software provides. Follow Me—as you would expect—tracks a moving subject by locking onto the mobile device they are carrying. Course Lock keeps the quadcopter on a fixed heading while allowing all other parameters such as nose direction, altitude, and camera angle, to be adjusted freely. This is ideal for tracking shots, either to create sweeping pangrams or to stay alongside a moving subject. Home Lock is an orientation mode, similar to IOC mode on Naza-based multi-rotors that keeps directional movement relative to the pilot, even if the "nose" gets completely flipped around. Point of Interest is an "orbit mode" that locks the Phantom 3 4K into a circle around the "home point," i.e., the position from which it took off. Finally, waypoint flying is a fully autonomous flight mode based on point-to-point navigation between pushpins applied to a map.
For live HD monitoring, camera control, and access to many of the advanced features such as waypoint navigation, the Phantom 3 4K can be paired with the DJI Go app. Unlike Lightbridge-equipped platforms like the Phantom 3 Professional and Advanced, which have a controller USB port, the Phantom 3 4K uses Wi-Fi to communicate directly with your smartphone or tablet. A Wi-Fi range extender is handily built into the controller and works at a range of up to 3,937' with a clean line of sight.
Performance-wise, the Phantom 3 4K compares with the Phantom 3 Professional and Advanced, in most respects. This includes a top seed of 52 ft/s and a slightly longer battery life of up to 25 minutes. Also like the Phantom 3 Professional and Advanced, the Phantom 3 4K features a Vision Positioning module to aid in navigation when close to the ground and out of GPS range.
If you are looking for a high-quality aerial imaging system, but don't require the advanced monitoring capabilities of Lightbridge, the Phantom 3 4K should factor as a serious contender. And whatever you decide, don't forget to register!