DJI Inspire 1 vs Phantom 3 Professional

The Inspire 1 has served me very well. It is extremely sturdy, powerful and reliable. It is the Lamborghini of prosumer-drones. After 2 months flying on the Inspire 1, I decided to get a Phantom 3 Professional (P3P) last week. I had a short encounter with the new P3P when I was in Singapore 2 weeks ago. My new drone buddy, Alvin took his P3P for a night flight around Marina Bay Sands. I was intrigued by its amazing video quality and lightweight.

Back in Hong Kong, I took my new P3P out for a test flight at the Hong Kong Peak Garden. Small, light and nimble, I was very surprised that it was able to tackle the strong high wind without much drifting problem. I did noticed some minor vibrations during landing and mid air turning but those were minor. I handed the control to Tracy who was new to drone flying. Within minutes, she was able to fly the drone for a good 15 minutes without any problem. Check out what Tracy captured in the video below.

I know many drone-shoppers are comparing the Inspire 1 and the new Phantom 3 Professional model. Even though the Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 Professional offer the same 4K camera, they are built differently. They both have their own pros and cons. That is why it is not realistic to compare Inspire 1 with the new DJI Phantom 3 series.

After handling and flying both drones, here are my verdicts:

1) MOBILITY, SIZE AND WEIGHT
I carried the Inspire 1 to Taiwan and Singapore. Twice, I was billed extra at the check-in counter for being overweight. Due to its size, it is impossible to hand-carry the Inspire 1 box on board. The original box is not strong enough to check in. I had one of those military-grade shock-proof trunks which was very costly (USD300), heavy and bulky. The trunk itself without the drone and batteries was already over 13kg! After putting in the drone, 4 batteries and 1 controller, it weighs over 20kg. This is simply not flight-friendly. I returned the box back to the shop.

I found a much cheaper and more efficient way to fly. I put the Inspire 1 box inside another larger luggage-trolley. After searching for many brands, I found the “Caterpillar” trunk (USD120) most useful and practical. (See photo below). Altogether, all the trolley, box, drone, 4 batteries, 2 chargers and 1 controller only weigh 12kg. (Tips: Number the batteries so you can use them evenly)

While I solved the airline-check-in problem, the Inspire 1 box is still a big one to carry around on foot. I bought 2 backpack options on the Chinese shopping site, Taobao. The first option was a strap (USD30) over the Inspire 1 original box. While the drone was well protected in its original box, this is a bad option as it is too heavy to carry the box around. Also, it takes a long time to unstrap the box.

I prefer the second option which is a canvas backpack (USD18). I am able to strap the drone on the bag and carry it around. There are compartment inside this bag for batteries, props and controller. The only con about this bag is it is not weather-proof. So, you should only take this out on a sunny clear day.

Phantom 3 Professional on the other hand, is so much smaller, lighter and travel-friendly. I will able to hand-carry the drone and batteries on board the plane. My drone buddy Alvin recommended me a very sturdy bag (USD68) on Taobao. I am able to store all the batteries, charger, props, ipad and drone into one bag. It is weather-proof and most important, travel-friendly.

WINNER: PHANTOM 3 PROFESSIONAL – So, if you are looking at mobility, Phantom 3 offers a big convenience for travellers. Nevertheless, do note that Phantom 3’s compact frame does compromise flight performance.

2) BUILD, POWER AND FLIGHT PERFORMANCE
Visually, both drones are built and weigh differently. The Inspire 1 (2935g) is much heavier than Phantom 3 (1280g). The Inspire 1 is partially made of carbon-fiber while the Phantom 3 is mainly made of plastic. Both are equipped with different-sized props. The props on the Inspire 1 are much longer than the Phantom’s. (Even the remote controller mimics the drone’s material, Phantom 3’s plastic and Inspire’s metallic.) Due to its unique body structure and wider wingspan, the Inspire 1 is a better drone to fly. It is certainly much stable and more powerful than the Phantom. The Inspire 1 flies much faster (22m/s) than the Phantom 3 (16m/s).

While in the air, it is much easier to identify the Inspire 1’s bearing at line-of-sight. The Phantom is almost symmetrical and it is difficult to tell its bearing by looking at it. Even though the Phantom promises longer flight time (23 mins) than the Inspire 1 (18 mins), I don’t find that overly true. Due to the Phantom’s lighter weight and smaller frame, it uses more juice to counter the strong current and this reduces its flight time eventually.

WINNER: INSPIRE 1 If you are looking for speed and powerful flight, the Inspire 1 edges Phantom 3 without any doubt. Inspire 1 is a much stable drone to pilot especially in windy condition. For some strange reasons, it is a much quieter drone too. (See the 2 videos below shot by Inspire 1)

3) AERIAL IMAGE CAPTURING AND QUALITY
Both the Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 carry similar 4K cameras but Inspire 1 offers an unblocked 180-degree view. Due to Inspire 1’s iconic transforming landing gears, the pilot is able to rotate the camera around. The Phantom 3 has the same limitation as its predecessors. While flying (tilting) forward, there are times when the Phantom’s front props appear in the footage.

Nothing much to compare about both drone’s image quality as both offer 12 megapixel, FOV 94° 20 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.8, focus at ∞. While it is good to shoot video at 4K, I would recommend pilots to shoot in mode of minimum 48f/s and above to avoid strobing or “judder-effect”. Aerial footages shot at 25f/s must pan or rotate slowly.

WINNER: INSPIRE 1 I would find the Inspire 1 camera a better option as it allows HD filters to be attached onto its camera. Also, the Inspire 1’s camera is removable so drone owner will be able to upgrade or replace the gimbal with other photographic options in the future. This option does come with its con, it takes 50% time longer to setup the Inspire 1. Drone owner has to set the drone on flight mode in order to attach the camera. For the Phantom 3, it is simply attach the props and it is ready to fly.


CONCLUSION

I like the Inspire 1’s imagery and flight performance. It is certainly a much powerful, stable, robust and reliable drone to fly. The camera allows ND filter and this helps in super bright sunny condition. The transforming landing gears allow me to take unblocked images and footages. It is much easier to spot its bearing in the air. Battery life is fantastic. I don’t use more than 3 batteries in one single location. Each battery allows me a good 18-20 minutes of flight. With its sturdy main frame and power propeller engines, USD2,899 is a fair deal.

The only con is its mobility. It is extremely difficult to travel with Inspire 1 on foot. I had a nasty tough time carrying it up the mountains when I was in Taiwan. Most of the box-options aren’t travel-friendly. I believe this problem can be overcome when someone comes up with a good backpack solution. Hopefully DJI can solve this.

On the other hand, I can understand why some Inspire 1 owners were crying foul in early April when DJI launched the new Phantom 3 Series. For almost a third of Inspire 1 price, the Phantom 3 Professional offers similar deal of superior flight and camera quality. It flies 500m high, 2km far and captures 4K video, I must admit it is a very good aerial camera at USD1,259. Best of all, it is so travel-friendly and I will be using this more for my local hiking trip and weekend travels.

Nevertheless, it has its own limitation. Forget about Phantom 3 lacking of HDMI output, “Follow-Me” or the second controller functions, I never think those 3 features are important for most prosumer-drone-pilots. The biggest limitation in Phantom 3 lies in its lesser aero-dynamical air frame and smaller plasticky wingspan. Drone owners have to take more precaution to avoid the front propellers appearing in their video and make more adjustment during flight to counter the strong drafts. 

It is a marketing and pricing strategy. DJI surely knows how to market its drones effectively by introducing a new segment for the semi-pro users. The Inspire sits in a well-placed price segment with a set of extra tangible features. It is unfair to compare the Inspire 1 with the Phantom 3 or even other similar drones in the market. In my opinion, the only thing comparable is the camera.

Both are excellent drones. If given a choice to choose one over another (with no monetary-constraint), I will still stick with the Inspire 1 for important trips/work and the Phantom 3 for my blog and weekend leisure. If this is your first drone, Phantom 3 Professional is the answer. 

Droning over Iconic Singapore

Just 2 weeks before Singapore’s unmanned aerial vehicle law becomes effective on 1st June, I brought my drone to Singapore to fly. Blessed with great sunny and clear weather, I was able to capture some of the most stunning aerial footages of Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and  Punggol Marina Club. Thanks to DJI Inspire 1‘s superior built and engine, the drone empowered me with absolute control, precision and freedom to explore Singapore from totally different angles and never-seen before perspectives. (Check out the photos and videos below!)

This is my 20th DJI Inspire flight since my first flight at Taiwan Alishan. I always take extra precaution whenever I fly the drone around the city. Everything is checked to ensure the flight is smooth and will not endanger anyone or property. Many of my friends in Singapore have warned me about the recent drone accidents in Singapore. Such negative incidents bother me as I know how these will impact many drone pilots like myself. Being a drone owner, it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of every flight. This is not a toy but a great aerial imaging machine.

“Great power comes with great responsibility.” More than just a cliche line from our friendly neighbourhood super hero, it serves as a constant reminder to all drone pilots to be diligent, ethical and to take the highest level of precaution when flying these drones. With more and more regulations tightening up against drone flying, it is important that drone pilots observe good drone flying etiquette. It only take a few black sheep in this community to destroy the freedom that we (drone pilots) enjoy. And as much as possible, we should also refrain ourselves from taking unnecessary risk that may cause any undesirable or life-threatening incident. Always stop and check the flying condition. It is a basic respect and a code of conduct that we drone pilots should observe, protect and serve. Freedom does come with a price. So to all new drone pilots, do cherish and don’t squander this new gift carelessly away.

Flying around Marina Bay Sands was a breeze. This was the same location where DJI launched their new Phantom 3 drone a month back. I took the drone out to Gardens by the Bay and around the Esplanade. Wind and weather condition was perfect. I flew for 20 minutes before directing the drone back to the hotel’s balcony.

I realised I wasn’t the only one flying the drone that day. My wife and boss spotted a similar drone hovering above them at the Infinity Pool one evening and both of them messaged me. They thought I was flying the drone. I told them that I will never pull off a stunt like that as it was stupidly risky to fly at such close proximity near to the public.

Later the evening after dinner, another client of mine joined me to fly his newly bought Phantom 3 by the Singapore River. This was our first night flying. We attracted a couple of people who were hobbyists and drone-enthusiasts like ourselves. Flying the drone at night was certainly more challenging as it was more difficult to maintain the line of sight. The 4K camera was fairly impressive (there were some noise in both the photos and videos). I managed to capture a few never-seen-before aerial images of Singapore skyline.

I also took the drone to Punggol Marina Club to fly. The aerial view isn’t that great as there are a lot of construction sites around the vicinity. Still, it was a great eye-opening experience for my little nephew and Elkan! We even took a few “aerofies” (aero-selfies) with our drone! I am so in love with my new aerial camera! Looking forward to bring it to our next family adventure next month!

Flyover – The World’s Tallest Bronze Goddess of Mercy (Tsz Shan Monastery, Hong Kong)

Newly opened 5 days ago on 15th April 2015, this is the world’s tallest bronze Goddess of Mercy (觀音). Located at Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺) at Universal Gate Road (普門路), Tai Po District, Hong Kong, this is a mega-project funded by Hong Kong’s very own tycoon, Li Ka-Shing.

Standing at 76m, the statue stands on a lush tranquil hillside at the foot of 純陽峰, overlooking Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣). The $193 million monastery took 5 years to complete. To maintain the peacefulness and tranquility of the attraction, daily visitorship is kept at 400. Admission is free but visitors must make reservation online (http://booking.tszshan.org/) one week to a month in advance to visit this monastery. Visitors must also be 18 and above and they are not allowed to bring joss sticks, meat and alcohol into the compound.

As we didn’t know that we have to make reservation beforehand, my dad, Uncle Bok and I travelled a long way to Tai Po this evening. Fortunately, I had my DJI Inspire 1 drone with me and we managed to take a quick 5-minute overhead cruise 100m around the attraction. Despite the low lighting condition (as the sun was setting), I managed to capture a beautiful aerial footage of the monastery and the reservoir. Thanks to the possibility of the drone, I was able to capture the view where the Goddess of Mercy was facing. It was simply mesmerising. Enjoy the video.

Droning over mountains, over clouds at Alishan (阿里山)

What an unusual and awesome Easter break! My usual travel mates, Harshad and Tracy went on their own separate travel without me. Tracy went on a 12-day European tour alone and Harshad flew to Japan for business. Since I had a couple of meetings lined up in Taiwan, I decided to plan a short trip to Alishan over the long Easter-Ching Ming weekend.

While doing my travel research on Alishan (阿里山), I was so intrigued by its scenic natural beauty. A day before my trip, I bought a semi-professional aerial camera (DJI Inspire 1) to capture Alishan’s beauty. (Just one week after I bought the DJI Inspire 1, DJI launched its new Phantom 3 at 1/3 the cost!) I admit it was a costly impulse purchase. Boy, I didn’t expect the quadcopter to be that heavy and bulky. I never like the idea to check in any photographic equipments but the quadcopter is too big to carry onboard with its original case. In the end, I was charged a couple of hundred extra for overweight luggage and I was also stopped by the Hong Kong custom officers for carrying so many odd-looking oversized batteries. Thankfully, I managed to clear custom without any problem. The quadcopter was well-protected in its case and arrived without any defect.

I took a 1.5-hour speed-train from Taipei to Chiayi (嘉義). Thanks to my friend Chen, he fetched me all the way to the mountain resort at Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區). It was an amazing 2-hour winding-mountainous drive. The resort is located high up in the mountain at 2,500m. Temperature fell drastically from 32°C to 14°C. At some point, we were driving through thick fog and light rain.

As it was still early, we made a short detour to the tallest mountain of Taiwan, the Yushan (玉山). There, Chen made a short stopover for me to fly the drone. While setting up the drone, a couple of mountain-campers walked over and gathered around me. They were avid photographers and were so curious about the device. They even posed with the drone. As it was my 2nd flight, I was nervous to crash the drone in front of them. That would be loss of face. Thankfully, inspire 1 lives up to its name and price tag. It is extremely easy to control, very powerful and sturdy. Despite the strong air current at the mountain top, taking off and landing was a breeze for me. I flew a few hundred meters over the valleys and levitate the device over the clouds. It was magnificent! I managed to capture one of the best sunsets ever!

Chen left after sunset and I checked in at Alishan House (阿里山賓館). It was an expensive hotel that was highly overrated and hyped (its buffet meals are really bad). Anyway, all I need was an accommodation for my next agenda – that was to shoot the famed Alishan sunrise at Jhushan (祝山). All tickets were sold out by the time I arrived at the hotel. The only way was to hike 4km up to the scenic point at wee hours before the sunrise.

It was my first wee-hour hike since army days. The hotel staff discouraged me to take the hike as he said I might be lost in the dark. With no orientation of the surrounding, I followed a couple of hikers at 3am up the mountain. It was an extremely tiring uphill hike as I had too many heavy gears on my back (drone, camera, drink). At mid-point, I was all alone in the dark and was thinking to give up. GPS was useless as I didn’t know how much further I need to walk. Still, I walked on.

Hiking alone in the dark was one valuable experience for me. I was too tired to think about any supernatural phenomena. I was more worried about being stranded and lost than anything else. While the hike was very chilly and foggy, all I wanted was to get out of the forest and find a safe spot to rest. It was this sense of urgency that propelled me forward.

Finally, I arrived at my destination way ahead of the other tourists (who arrived in buses and train). I found a nice spot for me to setup the drone and took off! For that few seconds, I became the key attention of that morning. Many photographers were snapping at me and the drone instead of the sunrise. I made small chat with at least 5 people. It was an awkward moment for me to attract all these attention. True enough, a policeman came shortly and disrupted my flight. He warned me not to fly over the military base (which I didn’t know earlier). I told him I was just shooting the sunrise and he monitored my flight from a distant. After I landed the drone, he approached me again. Surprisingly, he came to offer me some other good and “safer scenic spots” to fly my drone.

It was a fulfilling morning flight. The air was so fresh and good. It was only 6:15am. It seemed like a long long day of adventure. I hiked downhill back to Alishan National Scenic Area, took the famous (and once fatal) Alishan Forest Railway (阿里山森林鐵路) to Sacred Tree Station (神木) and visited a couple of scenic spots – Giant Trees Trail, Two Sisters Pond (姊妹潭), Shoujhen Temple (受鎮宮). I didn’t see any pretty 阿里山的姑娘 and I was a little late for cherry blossom. Fortunately, I was blessed with great sunny weather during my stay. The monsoon came right after I left the mountain resort.

I made my way back to Taipei and did a short trip up in the north at Jiufen and Shifen. I wanted to fly my drone there but it was pouring heavily. Back in the hotel, I downloaded all the footages and photos from the memory card. To see Alishan from so many different angles, heights and perspectives, it was truly stunning. It is after all, my best impulse purchase ever! Enjoy the video below (watch it in 1080p).

Ride the Glorious Rainbow – Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

It is a very gloomy day for Singapore today. Just like the rain, our hearts are heavy and sad.

Watching the live telecast on CNA from Hong Kong, the love and unity of our people touches me greatly. Young and old, braving the heavy downpour in red, black and white, line up along the streets, carrying state flag and umbrellas, bidding their last farewell to Lee Kuan Yew. It will be a very emotional day for all us and we will remember this historic moment.

If only Lee gets to witness all these. How the world leaders respect him and how his people adore him, standing in the heavy downpour, waving the national flag, chanting his name in unity. It is a very very touching sight.

I just want to remember this very moment and say thank you. It is an irony that many of us only get to read so much more about you after your passing. Like many Singaporeans aboard, I started to appreciate Singapore much more when I was overseas. The people I met overseas, from taxi drivers to businessmen spoke so highly of you. Even the young people who never know you were so curious about your life story.

Thank you for giving us a home, a great education, a priceless identity and a world-class reputation. Singapore has earned the mark of integrity, efficiency, transparency, consistency and resourcefulness. More than a stern Father, you are Singapore’s greatest ambassador. Your bravery, vision, wisdom and kindness pillared this strong nation of immigrants. I am truly proud of our identity and the Singapore brand.

Even after your death, you gave Singapore the best parting gift on the eve of our SG50 Celebration. A nation not in grief but in unity. A nation’s worth not measured in size but in its true greatness.

So goodbye our Great Lion, Chief Gardener, Founding Father and the world’s greatest Leader. You will be fondly missed eternally in history. There is no need to erect a statue or name a street to honour your greatness. We shall continue your legacy and be your greatest Monument. The sun will shine once more and we shall ride the glorious rainbow you showered and go forth bravely in the spirit of adventure, everlasting peace, purity, equality to be the brightest.

Magic with Jeff Teo (Magic at the Fringe, Hong Kong)

What an extraordinary magical night! Big thanks to Hong Kong’s Celebrity Magician, Jeff Teo who gave me an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime, money-cannot-buy experience!

“Magic at the Fringe” was sold as the only live magic cabaret in Hong Kong. Featuring some of the region’s top promising magicians, the 90-minute show delivered tons of humour, surprises and magical moments! Last night, Chowpo, Tracy and I attended its inaugural performance at Fringe Club, Lan Kwai Fong. It was full-house packed with 60 people. Some of the audience were well-known magicians themselves!

Thanks to the kindness of the Teo Family who invited us, we got the best seats in the hall. Hosted by a well-known international (and humble) magician, Harry Wong (aka Harry Gor Gor), the show exceeded all our expectations. Harry was a great host, he energised the crowd with tons of “suggestive” jokes! He was extremely funny, candid and very spontaneous! I thought I was attending a standup comedy show instead!

Harry did an excellent job to introduce and showcase 4 young and very promising magicians. They were Fung Ip, Harry Harrius, Jeff Teo and Armando Cheung. These magicians wooed the audience with their captivating performance.

I was invited by one of the magicians, Jeff Teo, to go onto the stage. I was reluctant to do so but he insisted on a “gentleman”. Once on the stage, I was told to perform a magic trick. I was very nervous as I have no idea what he wanted me to do. Just when I was getting really uncomfortable standing in the spotlight facing the crowd, magic happened! Within that short timeframe of 5 minutes, Jeff successfully transformed me into the world’s “2nd best magician”.

Thanks to Jeff’s act, my first 5-minute fame wasn’t that bad afterall. I guess I do have some good showmanship. My only regret was I should come in my pretty suit and pant! Enjoy the video clip below! I am looking forward to their next show next month!


CNY Reunion at Kukup

Wow, how time flies! It is March already! It has been exactly 2 months since I last blogged. The past 2 months were incredibly hectic for me. Thankfully, CNY arrived early this year and I spent 10 good days with my family back in Singapore.

This CNY, the family picked Kukup (a mangrove fishing town) as the family’s reunion destination (and the reunion grew from 16 to 20 – thanks to the new company of Uncle Peter and Lita’s family). Kukup is a short 1.5hr drive away from Singapore. Compared with our last CNY reunions at Desaru and Sentosa, I must say this is the most relaxing family retreat. We stayed at a brand new 3-bedroom chalet. Each bedroom houses up to 9 beds! We were its first occupants, everything inside the chalet was brand new!

Unlike our last dining nightmares at Desaru, food at Kukup were delicious! The chalet provided 4 meals a day! We had lots of steamed fish and prawns every day. Life at Kukup was slow, quiet and breezy. There was basically nothing much to do here except sleeping, eating and fishing. The fully air-conditioned chalet was equipped with its own karaoke system and mahjong tables. This was exactly what I needed – a long carefree, lazy afternoon nap. The space here was so big that there was ample space for everyone to sink in. The adults were playing mahjong and the children were running around the compound. My cousins and I were sharing the latest gadgets (I finally got to try on the Google Glass!). And I successfully managed to teach Felicia how to scoot!

On our 2nd day, we planned a small tour around the small town. There is a mangrove nature reserve opposite our chalet. We took a ferry out ($5/adult) to visit the mangrove nature reserve and a nearby kelong.

Sunset by the Malacca Straits was calm and beautiful. By nightfall, big fireworks and sky-lanterns lighted up the quiet skies. Suddenly, the sleepy mangrove town came alive. Felicia, Elkan and I flew our first sky-lantern. This was a short but relaxing reunion and I am looking forward to next year CNY already!

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