Selecting a drone can appear complicated at first. There are many makes and models. The first decision is to choose the company. The next decision is to choose the model that is right for you.

Selecting a drone can appear complicated at first. There are many makes and models. The first decision is to choose the company. The next decision is to choose the model that is right for you.DJI manufactures some of the most popular drones on the market. While they are more expensive than other drones, Phantom drones are among the easiest to fly and pack the most features into a small device.

The drones also became a lot more affordable in the New Year with DJI announcing significant price reductions on their Phantom 3 Standard and Advanced. The Phantom Standard is currently on sale for $499, while the promotional price for the Advanced model is $799.

Once you decide that DJI is the company, look at the models they offer—Phantom Standard, Phantom Advanced, or Phantom Professional. Each model differs greatly in features and cost. While a first time buyer might be inclined to go with the lowest cost or the highest cost model, look more carefully.

The Phantom Standard is targeted to the average consumer who wants to use a drone to take photos or videos. Its Panasonic Smart FSI 1/2.3 camera captures 2.7 K video and 12 megapixel photos. The drone also features a 2.4G WiFi Video Downlink with a 1km range. The four propellers and 3-axis gimbal give the drone excellent stability. It also comes equipped with DJI’s GO App, which allows the user view the drone’s video feed and control the camera settings from a smart phone or tablet. Even as a base model, the Phantom Standard surpasses many other drones on the market.

The Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional models are geared to high-level aerial photography and cinematography. The Phantom 3 Advanced packs a number of additional features that improve image quality and make the drone easier to operate, such as:

  • Upgraded Camera: The drone comes equipped with the Sony Exmor R BSI 1/2.3″, which captures 12.4M pixels.
  • DJI Lightbridge: The technology ensures constant contact between the user and the drone and provides a crisp live HD video stream from the camera, which can be invaluable where Wi-Fi is spotty. The filter ring is also removable to allow for ND Filters.
  • Enhanced GPS: The GPS system uses both USA and Russian (GPS and GLONASS) satellites for improved location fix.
  • Vision Positioning: The system relies on ultrasonic sensors to hold position without GPS. The feature is useful when operating indoors, low to the ground, and in areas without GPS.
  • Remote Control: The remote controls that come with the more expensive models include additional buttons, such as playback, shutter, and video recording buttons. The remote controls also feature two dedicated customizable buttons.

Of the three models, the Phantom 3 Advanced is the most popular choice among photographers and the one I recommend. It captures 12-megapixel photos and 1080P HD video with the added features of the DJI Lightbridge Video Downlink and dual-positioning module. While it does not do 4k video, this is not a deal breaker for most.

To further complicate the selection process, DJI introduced a new Phantom drone this month. The company touts Phantom 3 4K as the “most accessible 4K aerial camera to date.” It retails for $799 and shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames-per-second using a Sony EXMORE 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor. For still photographers, the latest model can also capture 12-megapixel images with its f/2.8 equivalent lens and 94-degree field of view. It also bests Phantom’s prior models by staying in the air for 25 minutes on a single charge. The full specs for the Phantom 3 4k are available here.

All of the models are available direct from DJI and on Amazon.com. Of course, once you order the Phantom drone that’s best for you, don’t forget to research the applicable safety regulations and register it with the Federal Aviation Administration. Phantom drones are not cheap, so you also want to make sure that you know what you’re doing before you send your investment airborne.

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