You're searching for an alternative to the DJI Phantom 3, the staple by which newer drones are compared these days.
My favorite 2 alternative drones end 2016!
The perfect Phantom 3 alternative, in my oppinion is the Autel X-Star drone.
Coming with a very good 4k camera, amazing Gimbal stabilization and all the Phantom 3 features inside at a pretty good price.
The very new and AMAZING 2016 DJI MAVIC PRO
There's no doubt that this is the best drone ever made. Coming with all the Features of the PHantom 4 and a very tiny frame, it's perfect for pretty much anyone.
And the official price is pretty much comparable with the Phantom 3!
You want to play it safe and see all the options first, and I completely agree, as I've also been in your situation and I've come up with the best few drones on the market who can be called rivals for the infamous and fairly priced DJI products.
If you're not looking for cheaper alternatives, but only for something better, let me give you a heads up on the fact that the Phantom 4 has just been released.Here's a review on the P4 made by me, if you're interested.
What Phantom 3 model are we comparing to?
As you might know, there are three Phantom 3 models currently available.(actually 4 if we count the newer 4k version).So first hand you must know what you desire from your aerial video platform to begin with.
If you already know the Phantom 3 well, scroll down to see the actual drones that can work as alternatives
Let me present you the differences between the P3 models:
Phantom 3 Standard
Is the cheapest of them all, coming at a starting price of about $500 with some additional accessories included.That's a really hard to beat price, especially considering the capability of this fella.
- It comes with a very great(actually the greatest of the 3) flight time, somewhere at about 25 min
- The gimbal is super stable and smooth which is hugely important for a drone whose main purpose is video quality. Trust me, nobody wants any jiggle in their video.
- Comes with a built in camera that captures 2.7k video and 12 mp photos. The camera is amazing in and by itself, and coupled with the great stabilization, you can get some pretty professional looking shots right there.
- 2.4G downlink Wifi that reaches up to 1km in range
Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional
I put these two together because they're very similar. The only difference is that in the Pro version you get a maximum video quality of 4k and for the Advanced you get a maximum of 2.7k at 30 fps. The Pro version also charges batteries way faster, which can be helpful, but not always worth the price for everyone.
Current approximated amazon Prices:
Here are the bonuses compared to the Standard version:
- the Pro version has a higher 4k resolution for the camera
- Both advanced and Pro come with improved controllers that also have a technology called LightBridge. Which enables you to fly it and see live feed on the controller for up to 5 km (probably the biggest on the market)
- they both have improved camera quality thanks to the Sony Exmor sensors. This thing is big because the image quality is visibly improved and makes it very hard to beat for the competitors.
- faster charging for the P3 Professional
What are the top alternatives for the Phantom 3 currently on the market?
As mentioned above, the perfect competitor for this drone has to be equal or in the range of the Phantom models as much as performance goes and also keep the price low enough to make it relevant as a comparison.
Here's the main things we're looking for when searching for the perfect replacement:
I've seen many so called competitors for the phantom 3 failing miserably when it came to the camera being unstable and jittery. A good 3 axis motorized brushless gimbal is a must.
The actual camera quality itself is very important, as that's the main purpose of an aerial video platform. I'll present down below drones that come with an included camera but also some to which a GoPro can be attached.
Price and Features
The price/features rapport has to obviously be as good as possible for it to pass the test and be a viable replacement for the DJI products.
Let's start with a surprise guest: Autel Robotics X-Star Drone
This quadcopter hasn't even been released yet at the time this article is written, yet it has the incredible potential to be a Phantom Killer!
It can be bought from Amazon right now!
Here are some of it's features:
- Low price of $699
- 4k Ultra HD camera with 12mp on a 3 axis gimbal that looks very solid and well built
- range of streaming 720p video of up to 1 km (as if you'd need more)
- Dual GPS/GLONASS satelite system just like the Phantom 3 PRO and ADVANCED!!
- a declared similar flight time to the phantom of about 25 min
Overall, this is the most promising thing I've seen that should make the Phantom tremble.
There are more coming below, but first let's watch...
...this cool footage from the Autel Robotics X-Star Drone
Yuneec q500 4k - the current go-to alternative
I would say that at the time being, the yuneec typhoon q500 drones are really the best alternatives to the DJI Phantom 3 series.
The Yuneec drones I'm reffering to are the q500+ and the newer 4k version, which compares best to the Phantom 3 Pro.
The main differences between the q500+ and the 4k version are the camera resolutions and sensor quality. The 4k version can also fly further, reaching up to 800 m in range.
Current approximated amazon Prices:
I'll be mainly focusing on the difference between the q500 4k and the Phantom 3 Pro, but note that the q500+ is a very capable quad that rivals with the lower end of the P3 models.
Here are some details for the Yuneec q500 4k:
- CGO3 4k 12 mp detachable camera included
- handheld device for attaching the camera and using it as a ground stabilizer (comes in the package)
- very good GPS
- carrying case comes included in the package
- transmitter with integrated lcd display and stable android system
I have also made a good comparison between the two in my drones for sale guide article(opens in a new tab), so check it out there too if you want some more details.
Things the Phantom 3 and the yuneec q500 4k have in common:
- Both have very high quality cameras (with only slight differences)
- the gimbals are equally stable and do their jobs great
- they both have useful features like return to home, follow me, and circle around point
- good GPS on both
Now let's go more into what the are different one from another and see their pluses and minuses:
DJI Phantom 3 Pro
- Way longer range of flight of up to 5 km(might not be that useful for most people though)
- more portability
- the camera is arguably better (the sony Exmor sensor is doing a slightly better job here)
- it's faster than the q500(in GPS mode)
- it has a visual positioning system(great for indoors)
- the package it comes with is pretty incomplete (only one battery, and it's pretty expensive to buy new ones compared to the yuneec)
- being white and so small it's harder to detect when up in the sky
- you need to have a smartphone or tablet to use the transmitter
- has a slightly steeper learning curve compared to the yuneec (and certain updates might result in flyaways)
Yuneec typhoon Q500 4k
- a way more complete package for about the same price
- is a complete ground and aerial imaging solution (with the handheld stabilizer on which you can attach the camera)
- can be seen from afar easily
- no need to carry or own a mobile device to control it (also less things to charge)
- the preparation time for flight is shorter
- it's more beginner friendly
- the flight distance is about 500 m more or less ( not that you can legally use more)
- the video quality is slightly inferior to the Phantom 3 Pro (which can mean a lot for someone interested in using it for professional films)
To finally convince you that this is a great choice as video platform here's some really great footage from the Yuneec q500 4k:
Blade chroma 4k - a twin for Yuneec and an enemy for the Phantom
A twin indeed, as there's a lot in common with the previously mentioned Yuneec q500 4k, including the exact same camera!
Inside it's pretty much the same as the Yuneec, but it comes in a smaller and lighter package which makes it perfect to disassemble and carry it in a more compact way, which can be of much use at times.
It also comes with follow me and tracking options that work pretty great.
Here's a cool video from the guys at flite test showing off the tracking mode in the coolest way possible.
As a side point, it can be used with the Yuneec ultra-compact wizard controller wand that will enable for some really magical experience (had to go for the obvious pun).
How does the Blade Chroma compare to the DJI Phantom 3 pro?
Just as the Yuneec 4k, it faces very well agains the DJI staple.I've included it on this list as a viable alternative option because it's closer to the P3 Pro in size and even looks.
The link below will open in a new tab. You can click it and then get back to this one.
This pretty much eliminates one of the most obvious downside of the yuneec drone, that of being too big to easily carry around.
The controller, just like on the Typhoon, has an included LCD 5.5 inch monitor that runs on android.This compact solution makes it very useful for people who don't have smartphones and tablets or just want to charge only one thing at a time.
You should consider some difficulties for the white and small Chroma. Just like the Phantoms, it is not always a good thing, as it can be hard to keep track of when flying it up in the sky in a sunny day.
Xiro Zero Explorer - Is this the perfect cheaper Phantom 3 alternative?
I researched lots of cheaper brushless drones, from the Cheerson cx-20 to the walkera 350 and blade 350qx, but to say frankly they weren't up to par with the Phantom in the gimbal category (which is very important).
The gimbals were poor on non-existent and the cameras either lacked or they could barely lift a GOPro.
Luckily there's a badass looking quadcopter released relatively recently that has not only a good price tag, but also some features that make it a worthy competitor.
I have also made a complete review of the Xiro drone(opens in a new tab) some time ago where I also compared it with a Phantom 3 and pointed out the main differences.
The guys at Xiro made the Explorer drone in two variants: one for GoPro camera(camera bought separately) and the other with a camera included.
Current aproximated amazon Prices:
Let's dive first into the latter, called Xiro Zero explorer V that also comes with an included camera and gimbal.
- Shoots full HD video at 1080p/30fps and 720p/30fps
- 5,200-mAh battery for up to 25 minutes in the air
- Modular design(things can be easily assembled)
- stills of 14 megapixels
- "Follow Me" and "Circle Around Me" functions
The fact that it only shoots full HD video is disappointing when compared to a Phantom 3 Standard for example, but many people don't even need higher resolutions as most computer screens are pretty limited anyway.
If you're in that category and don't care for 4k resolution, here's some video footage of the Explorer V camera:
As you can see from that video, the gimbal is doing an incredible job in stabilization and the overall quality is astonishing, even for a camera that shoots just full HD.
Now let's see if the GoPro version is worth it
The Xiro Explorer G versions is pretty much the same thing but just comes with a better price and with a gimbal made for a GoPro4 camera that's just as smooth as the previous one.
You can preview it in real time by attaching a smartphone to the remote controller and the only negative I can think about compared to the previous version is the fact that you have to turn the go pro on and off each flight.
The biggest plus compared to the Explorer V is that the GoPro has higher quality image coming at up to 4k resolution, which will make for better videos overall.
This feature alone makes it able to compete and even maybe beat the Phantom 3 series.But let's not rush into conclusions and let me straighten out the facts.
Here is a comparison between the Xiro Explorer and the Phantom 3:
DJI Phantom 3 Pro
- The flight distance is bigger (especially for the Advanced and Pro models that come with lightbridge)
- The cameras are better ( that the V model) and with higher resolutions of up to 4k
- the advanced models come with a visual positioning system that can be useful for drone stability in closed spaces or low altitude.
- The prices are higher, especially if you want additional things like backpacks and batteries
- The white color makes it harder to see in the sky and by lacking a modular design, the P3 is a little less compact and customizable.
Xiro Explorer V and G versions
- the Explorer V camera has a wider angle of 140 degrees(compared to the Phantom 3 having 90 degrees) - this will enable to capture wider footage from the same perspective.
- comes with a modular design where every piece can be removed and easily replaced(very useful for light transporting).
- The GO pro version is cheaper and will enable you to use the camera for other activities (plus, it films in very high quality)
- the V camera is only Full Hd resolution
- the controller can mostly hold a 6 inches smartphone, not bigger (also, doens't work with a tablet)
Does the Explorer drone really have a price advantage vs the P3?
First, let's compare the Xiro V to the P3 Standard:
The price for the Xiro drone is higher(at least in the States) and the features are approximately the same, and even more so in the favor of the P3 this time. So I have to conclude that this might not be the best bet at the current time.
Now, let's see the price difference between the Xiro G and the P3 Pro:
Xiro G price: $389 + Go pro4: $290 = total of $679 (if you don't already have the GoPro4)
This makes it a much better bundle, especially considering the GoPro4 can be used in other situations too.Also, if you already have the camera, it's a no-brainer to pick the Xiro quadcopter in this case.
Now, let's see a video footage for the GoPro version of the Explorer G:
The go pro in this case comes up as the better camera when it comes to specs with a higher FPS rate at HD quality, enabling for more effective slow motion shots.
The disadvantage is that you can't really change the GoPro camera settings while in flight, compared to the P3 where you can change everything, from resolution to white balance and so forth.
3DR Solo Drone - Is it even better than the Phantom 3?
These two drones are very popular combatants on the internet, both competing for the best camera consumer drones and both excellent at what they do, but with slight differences between them.
Now, let's see if the Solo Quadcopter is in fact better for your custom needs.
When it comes to size, they're both pretty comparable, but the main distinction here is that the Solo is heavier than the Phantom 3 Pro and quite considerably going for 1.28 kg for the phantom and 1.8kg for the Solo.
This means the following:
- the phantom 3 has a harder time facing the wind, compared to a heavier drone that can balance better
- the Solo drone takes more juice out of the battery to stay in the air, and so the overall flight time is reduced.
When it comes to flight time, the Phantom 3 stands at well over 20 min while the solo is somewhere between 17 and 20.
But the flight time is also relative to how much time you need in the air to complete the shot, and here is where the Solo excels.
Camera options and quality
As you may know, the Solo can be purchased with a very high quality gimbal that can be used with the GoPro Hero4 which makes for some great footage quality.
The main differences between the gopro and the onboard Phantom3 Pro camera are:
- the GO pro Hero 4 shoots in higer FPS in HD and Full HD, which is perfect for getting slow motion shots
- The GoPro has a wider viewing angle compared with the phantom and a fish eye effect that can be a drawback for some people.
How do they compare as flying video platforms?
As I mentioned before, even if the Solo has a lower flight time, it makes it easier to take the specific shots you need.
Thanks to the autoflight features, you can program it to a certain flight path and then you take control of the camera and can completely focus just on taking the shots.This automatic feature alone makes it an incredible tool for videographers.
The Phantom 3 comes with point of interest feature and waypoint pre determination but there's not way to change the camera view while that is happening.
Here's some great GoPro Hero4 footage from the 3DR Solo
Let's compare the pro's and cons of these two:
DJI Phantom 3 Pro
- DJi Lightbridge system (which greately increases flight range up to a few kilometers)
- integrated gimbal and camera (you're buying the whole package and not paying additionally for a gimbal)
- no fish eye effect on the camera
- it's faster than the q500(in GPS mode)
- it has a visual positioning system(great for indoors)
- the customer support is rummored to be not that great
- harder to see in the sky
- can't focus really well on controlling the camera shot and the flying at the same time
- has a smart waypoint navigation system that enables you to take full control of the gimbal and take the perfect shots(perfect for videographers)
- has a modular design, which means in the future can be upgraded when new cameras come up.
- the landing gear is wider, which could mean safer landings without tipping over
- the gimbal must be aquired separately(which makes the price quite high
- if you don't have a GOPro camera and you're buying it just for this drone, it's probably not worth the investment.
Price comparison between the two
The 3DR Solo comes at $978 (in a package with the gimbal) and when you include a GOPRO Hero 4 price of about $300 you get up to $1300 for the complete package.
Compared to the Phantom 3 Pro that comes at $940 and also has an additional battery included this sounds like an easy thing to decide.
But things are not that simple. If, let's say you have the Hero 4 already, or plan to buy it for another reason too, this might be the better choice, as the price drops to be about the same.
The big advantage, in my opinion, is that the Solo is more automatic than the Phantom, which at proper times can leave the flight factor from the equation and let you focus on filming alone.
I'd recommend the Solo for anyone who's seriously interested in aerial photography and wants to use a GOPRO video platform.
If I were to compare these two, I'd say that the P3 is like an apple product while the Solo is Android. The P3 is a good all in one, stable platform, but with lack of upgrade-ability and no modular design, while the Solo can improve in the future when new and better cameras surface.
I hope you found this article informative and that the Alternatives for the DJI Phantom 3 I presented were satisfactory enough to share this with your friends and see if they agree with your pick.