The Phantom 2 and the Phantom 3 are comparable in body and general functionality, but that’s where the similarities end. The Phantom 3 is the upgraded version of the Phantom 2, and as you can expect, the parts that the Phantom 3 is composed of reflect that. Just because the Phantom 3 is newer, doesn’t mean it’s the best model for you however.
You may find that the Phantom 2 fits your style of flying better and is more versatile in your quadcopter collection, or you may also like the distance and professional appeal of the higher Phantom 3 models.
Outlined below are the most basic facts of these models, as well as links to other information that you may like to know before making the decision of which one to go with.
While the Phantom 2 is “last year’s model,” it is not, by any means, inferior. It is still an excellent model for hobby enthusiasts, and those looking to get an introduction model into aerial photography.
The Phantom 2 has excellent battery life, and offers many different options for customization, while still working perfectly straight out the box. In its cheapest form, the Phantom 2 does not hold a camera or have abilities for aerial photography. Don’t fear though, because it supports gimbal mounting and DJI also makes a camera that can be directly mounted for filming.
Phantom 2 (without camera)
The Phantom 2 base model doesn’t come with an attached camera, but for the average flier who wants something to use out of the box that is a great learner with the ability to expand into photography flying, this is the perfect model.
The stock battery is a 3S 5200mAH 11.1V SMART lithium polymer battery, which gives fliers approximately a 25-minute flight time. Don’t worry about flying to long though, the build in smart technology that communicates with the transmitter reminds you when the battery is low, and makes sure you don’t run into a situation where you’re flying and it shuts off.
These smart batteries fit perfectly inside of the body, so there are no wires or connectors to worry about either.
There are switches on the transmitter to take advantage of the Phantom’s GPS capabilities, like RTH (Return-To-Home) and flight modes that use GPS to hold position and assist to provide smooth flight and self-leveling assistance.
Phantom 2 (gimbal support)
When you decide that you are ready to start filming and want to expand your interests, the Phantom 2 has the ability to have a gimbal mounted to the bottom to hold a camera to let any pilot film or take pictures from the air.
DJI recommends that you install the H3-3D gimbal, which is directly manufactured to fit a GoPro 3+ and use the plug and play functionality to let you record in the top quality that the GoPro allows.
The added weight of the gimbal and camera does lower the flight time slightly, but you still can expect a respectable 17+ minute flight time if you aren’t aggressive and doing true photography flying.
Also, adding a camera doesn’t take away from the top speed of the Phantom either. With full-forward flying, although not recommended, you can expect speeds around 15 m/s. Ascent and descent are internally controlled to be 6 m/s and 2 m/s respectably.
These speeds are controlled and maintained whether you have the gimbal attached or not. If you find you need to adjust the gimbal, there is a knob on the transmitter radio that lets you change it.
You can adjust it from pointing the camera 35-degrees above horizontal to straight down below the quadcopter. You can make these adjustments while flying, because the dial is on the top corner of the radio, leaving you the ability to still have your hands on the control sticks and maintain flight while adjusting the tilt.
The Phantom 3 comes in a few different options, but each is an improvement on the last with quality and performance, but also price. With the introduction of the Phantom 3, DJI upgraded the battery system to a 4S battery instead of the previous 3S of the Phantom 2.
Because of the extra cell, the MAH of the battery is lower due to needing to fit within the same general space, but the overall available watt-hours is larger. Things can run more efficiently and have higher quality components that run on this higher voltage.
The Phantom 3 introduces new proximity sensors, and smart technologies that weren’t available on the Phantom 2, and gives users greater flight distances and capabilities.
Phantom 3 Standard
The Phantom 3 Standard most resembles the Phantom 2, but has its own improvements. The most notable difference is that even this base model of the Phantom 3 series, comes with an installed camera and gimbal straight out of the box.
For about the same cost as the Phantom 2, you can get a Phantom 3, which already includes a camera that has similar video recording capabilities of a GoPro. The Phantom 3 standard also, like the Phantom 2, has about 25-minutes of flight time, but unlike the Phantom 2, this is with a camera installed and filming all the aerial video you need to record.
Phantom 3 Advanced/Professional
While the Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional are different models, they can be lumped into one category because they only have minor differences.
When you upgrade from the Phantom 3 Standard, you get a few extra features that improve the performance of the drone when compared to others on the market. Not only does the camera get an upgrade, allowing you to record in 2.7K video and take 12.4M Photos, but you also get the ability to travel up to 5 kilometers without losing video or radio signal.
Traveling this far may be excessive, but with this powerful signal, you will not run into as much interference when you get in an area that ordinarily would cut out a video signal.
Not only do you get these upgraded cameras, but you also receive a proximity sensor mounted on the underside of the Phantom that uses a set of sensors to register patterns on the ground below.
These sensors allow you to fly it in areas where GPS lock is not available and still have it hover in one spot. Ordinarily, you would use GPS to have it hold position if you are capturing something from a hover.
If you are inside of a building or under an overhang where GPS cannot be acquired, you have the ability to still capture professional video.
With the professional version, you also get a more powerful battery charger, which lets you charge your batteries faster and get back into the air quicker.
Phantom 3 4K
The Phantom 3 4K is a step above the Phantom 3 Advanced, because it comes straight out of the box with the ability to record 4K-video. With the same 68WH battery, flight time is the same at about 25 minutes.
This upgraded camera gives you the ability to remove and place new lens filters to capture the perfect video in high quality for whatever projects you are working on. With the DJI Wi-Fi video downlink, you have the ability to see exactly what the camera is pointed at, and control the angle with the slider that is on the radio transmitter.
The Phantom 3 4K has the same camera as the Phantom Professional, but for a significantly less amount of money. The difference is the lightbridge, which translates into flight distance (because that's how far it can transmit).
The Phantom 3 4K is designed to be flown within proximity, while the Phantom 3 Professional has the ability to go up to 5 kilometers.
Phantom 2 vs Phantom 3 Comparison
Here's a great video to show you a quick comparison:
The Phantom 2 and the Phantom 3 are very close in shape and production models, but advances in available parts and recording capabilities may prove that one of the models is better than the others.
Comparing the two for their battery life, performance, and the support and parts available for them, you can draw conclusions on which one fits better into your collection.
As outlined earlier, the batteries between the Phantom 2 and the Phantom 3 did not change much in terms of physical size between models, but that’s about all that stayed the same.
DJI changed the core system inside of their batteries between models, and the results had a positive impact on flight time and overall performance of the drone.
The DJI Phantom battery life, as a series sits right around 23 minutes when averaged over all the models, and there is no real advantage of one over the other when you compare Phantom 3 vs. Phantom 2 battery life.
Just as a reminder, the Phantom 2 had a 3-cell 11.1V 5200mAH battery, while the Phantom 3 has a 4S 15.2V 4480mAH battery. Most RC enthusiasts will tell you that the Phantom 2 has an advantage because it has more amps in its capacity to give, which lets it power the drone longer.
This is only partially true. Amp capacity is not the only thing that matters, but also voltage, because motors draw power in watts, not amps.
Total watt-hours is what should be looked at when determining the overall capacity of a battery. If you were to take two batteries, a 4S and a 3S battery, both 5000mAH, the 4S will last considerably longer than the 3S, because it has more watts in its capacity.
Watt-hours are calculated by multiplying the voltage by the amperage. This gives the Phantom 2 battery a total of 57.72 watt-hours to give, while the Phantom 3 has 68 watt-hours to provide to the drone.
The Phantom 3 uses this extra power to let pilots fly longer and farther with their photography system and have everything powered by one battery.
On other photography systems, like the phantom 2 for example, that run off of separate systems, when the camera battery dies, you lose visual of what the drone is looking at, and possibly your ability to get it back if its out of your visual line of sight.
The Phantom 3 uses the main battery to power the camera, which of course provides a more reliable system, but also drains the battery faster. The Phantom 2 camera will have its own camera, which doesn’t drain the main battery, but still uses power to have a downlink to the pilot to allow you to see what you’re looking at.
When comparing performance, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. While the Phantom 2 and 3 were both intended for photography, the Phantom 2 could be purchased without a gimbal, making it a casual flier.
The Phantom 3 is meant to be an aerial photography drone, so the performance of it doesn’t matter as much, so long as it’s responsive and smooth to control. Both the Phantom 3 and Phantom 2 are managed by DJI’s software to provide smooth control and easy learning for those who haven’t flown one before.
The different flight modes let it go from practically autopilot to full manual control by the pilot. Manual control is not recommended for those who are inexperienced and have never done it, but it does support all different flying styles.
When looking at all the facts, it’s a pretty even comparison between the Phantom 3 and the Phantom 2, but one thing is for sure, DJI Phantom battery life is quite good when you compare it to other drones that have the same specifications and purposes.
The Phantom 3 vs. Phantom 2 battery life comparison is pretty much identical in terms of flight time, but the Phantom 3 gets the edge in battery performance because of its larger wattage, and the ability to run the camera off of the battery, preventing the camera from dying.
Performance is about equal for both models, but this is because they can be used for different things, and when they are used for the same thing, they have the same strengths and limitations.
The Phantom series is an excellent edition to anyone’s drone collection, and will provide a perfect entry model into aerial video and photography.