May 26, 2015 Leave a comment
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.
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.