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Just for reference, I will only be referring to the Phantom 3 Professional in this article, because if you’re considering buying an Inspire 1, you wouldn’t be thinking about buying the cheaper Phantom 3 Advanced model in the first place. Technically, the Phantom 4 has the same video capabilities as the Phantom 3 Professional, so you could also consider this as a Phantom 4 vs Inspire 1 post if you were also considering the Phantom 4.
When the Inspire 1 was first announced, it was a big step in innovation compared to anything else on the market at the time. The ability to stream live HD video right to your smartphone from a distance of over a mile away, while also recording in 4K was (and still is) something that no other company offers in a completely ready-to-fly option.
Now there’s new kids on the block – the DJI Phantom 3 and Phantom 4 quadcopters. With the ability to also stream HD video and record 4K, all while staying under $1400, this is what makes the new Phantom 3 and 4 an extremely compelling piece of engineering.
When looking at the price of the Phantom 3, it almost makes you wonder why anyone would want to spend over $3000 on a DJI Inspire 1. After all, you could buy two Phantoms for that price, so what makes the Inspire 1 worth the extra cash?
In this article, I’m going to go over some of the reasons why you’d want to get an Inspire 1 instead of the Phantom 3. I’ll start with the most fundamental points and then cover the less obvious. This is also not a specs comparison, so if you want to look at the specs, go right ahead, but I’m sure you’ve already seen them.
Even though the Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 both have the same camera sensor and lens, there is one very big difference between them. The inspire 1 camera is now upgradable.
Since the release of the Inspire 1 Pro and the Inspire 1 Raw, there are now three different camera options for the Inspire 1. You can go with the X3, the new X5, or maybe even the X5R if you have the money. In other words, you have the ability to go with a consumer level camera like what’s on the Phantom 3 (X3), a prosumer camera with video quality similar to the Panasonic GH4(X5), or a cinema camera that shoots 4K Raw for use in your top quality productions(X5R).
This gives the inspire 1 an incredible amount of flexibility to handle almost any shooting requirement you need while still being cheaper than something like an S1000 octocopter (which currently doesn’t support any 4K cameras that shoot Raw video).
Besides the fact that you can get better video quality with the Inspire 1 Pro, DJI is also making a mounting system to use the X5R as a stabilized 4K handheld camera that shoots Raw to use when you’re not in the air.
Being able to fly the Inspire 1 While having someone else work with the camera is in my opinion, one of the biggest differences between the Inspire 1 and the Phantom 3. Even with only 1 operator, it’s nice to be able to lock the camera in one position, knowing that it won’t move. It’s also great if you feel more comfortable flying forwards but you want the camera to point sideways or even backwards. Dual Pilot operation is also simply more fun than flying by yourself, but it can be a double edge sword at times.
One problem that you don’t have to worry about with the Phantom 3 is that you’re the only one in control of what the shots look like. With the Inspire 1, if you happen to be the type of person who doesn’t plan their shots, it can be very hard to tell the camera operator what you want to do while you’re trying to fly. This isn’t really a problem, but it’s something you should take some time to think about.
The New Phantom 3 flies great, in fact, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between the Inspire 1 and the Phantom 3 just by hovering. With the new motor design and optical flow stabilization, it’s going to be the easiest drone to fly, hands down.
The Inspire 1 is just as easy to fly, but it’s bigger and more dangerous. With much larger motors, propellers and a 6 cell lipo battery, the inspire 1 is extremely fast, agile, stable and can handle higher windspeeds without sacrificing video quality.
Think of the Inspire 1 as the Lamborghini of drones. A minivan could take you to all of the same places at a much lower cost, but that doesn’t mean that the Lamborghini is useless.
Did I mention the lights? The Phantom 3 is pretty easy to see at night, but in the day it can sometimes be really challenging to fly line-of-sight because of where the LEDs are. With the Inspire 1, it’s bigger and you can clearly tell the difference between the front and back. Plus, the LED lights are much brighter and they face outward instead of downwards like the Phantom 3. All of this makes the Inspire 1 a pleasure to fly, no matter what time of day it is.
You may think that the transforming design of the Inspire 1 is just so that you can rotate the gimbal around without seeing the arms, but it actually has another advantage when the camera is pointing forwards.
Props! Propellers are your worst enemy when it comes to aerial video, especially when using the GoPro. Have you ever wondered why some drone footage is cropped to a super wide aspect ratio? Usually, Phantom pilots (including me) will tend to either crop their videos, or fly mostly backwards. We do this because the propellers love to show up at the top of the screen and mess up your shots (especially when flying forwards).
Because of the transforming design, the Inspire 1 simply doesn’t have this problem in most situations. When hovering or going backwards, you can even look up without seeing the props at all. This really allows you to shoot in different ways that can make your videos stand out from everything else out there. Cropping those nasty props out of the video in post is easy, and sometimes makes your videos look more cinematic. However, when combining footage shot from the ground it can be really annoying having one video clip that’s in a completely different aspect ratio from the others in your timeline.
Sometimes, looking like you know what you’re doing is just as important as actually knowing what you’re doing in the world of cinematography. If you’re getting paid to fly (not that I recommend ignoring FAA drone regulations cough cough), then you’ll want to impress your clients.
I’ve actually covered this in another article before, but it really is something to consider. When I fly my Phantom, most people will ignore what I’m doing (for the most part). On the other hand, that is not the case with the Inspire 1. every time I take it out of the case and turn it on, people look and stare from a distance. Once you start flying, crowds will sometimes gather just to watch. It’s like you just pulled out a piece of alien technology.
As you can clearly see, the Phantom 3 has NO HDMI output. This means that you can’t record the live feed to a video capture device, you can’t use a glare-free monitor for those sunny days, you can’t hook it up to a TV, and lastly you can’t output the HDMI signal to a video switching device for live news broadcasts. However, you can now upgrade the Phantom 3 remote to support HDMI output for $100. The average person doesn’t really need HDMI out though, and at the end of the day the Phantom 3 was designed for the average consumer. I should also mention that the Phantom 3 and Inspire 1 will both have Youtube live streaming functionality.
The Phantom 3 is at an affordable price and it shoots great video, but if you’re looking for something to use as a professional video tool and you want un-compromised performance, the inspire 1 is the obvious choice.
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