DJI Spark

I went back and forth between the DJI Spark and the DJI Mavic Pro for a while. Ultimately I decided to save some money up front in order to get my FAA Part 107 licence (which I still don’t have 1 year later). The thought was that I could practice and get comfortable with the Spark before I drop Mavic money.

I really like the Spark. It’s surprisingly stable for the size and despite the 1080p at 30fps max resolution the footage is decent.

I’ll cover a few things in this post, mainly:

  • Build and portability
  • Connectivity
  • Video and photography quality

Build and Portability

As with all DJI products the DJI Spark looks great. Simple and clean design, nothing crazy here. It looks less aggressive than the Mavic with a less angular design that lends itself to the ‘family friendly’ idea that DJI is going for.

As you may have seen in videos or other reviews this thing is small. It’s main body is around the same length and width as a non-plus iPhone. All in all it’s footprint is slightly smaller than your average paper plate. It’s very portable, though having used a Mavic as well I would argue the Mavic is more portable. Between the gimbal cover and the completely foldable arms I’d feel more comfortable tossing the Mavic in a bag on the go. While the Spark is smaller and lighter the arms are rigid and the gimbal is unprotected. To me this seems a little more prone to damage from jostling in a bag. The construction is solid and I don’t feel it would break but it’s just less of that nice compact ‘brick’ feel of the Mavic.

Connectivity

Having used a DJI Mavic Pro before the DJI Spark I may be a little biased. That said there are still definitely some issues that probably shouldn’t be present at this price point.

The whole system is a bit strange in my opinion. Since the drone can be flown in 3 different ways it just kinda always feels like it’s not quite locked in. The three control schemes are:

  1. Gesture Control
  2. Wifi
  3. Radio Control (RC)

I bought the Fly More package (which includes the RC) so I haven’t needed to deal with the gesture control. After trying it a few times with limited to no success I’ll likely never use it. The one gesture I do use is the palm launch/land which is super useful. Out of the box the phone connects to the controller over a local wifi network (which I also never use) which was a strange decision seeing as the Mavic controller, which is nearly identical to that of the Spark, comes with OTG cables for common phone connectors and uses that connection strictly for communication with the phone. However you can still purchase a 3rd party OTG cable which greatly improves connectivity to the controller. I’ve had no issues after getting that, but the connection to the Spark can still be a little iffy. I’ve only critically lost connection once where it actually had to use the return to home feature, but it has lost video connection briefly way more often than I’d like, not great for an aerial photography platform.

Despite that I’ve still gotten some pretty decent footage, I think the areas that I had the most issue (Chicago and Flite Fest East ’17) had a lot of interference which may have been the root of the issue rather than a downfall of the actual device.

Video and Photography Quality

I am not a video/photography professional.

Now that that’s out of the way we can talk about the DJI Spark’s quality.

Below are 2 short clips I shot at FliteFest East 2017. The first is of some kites and the second is of some of the signs set up.

In the first clip everything is pretty smooth and since I’m far enough away from the subjects the movement is smooth and everything is fairly clear. The biggest issue with the video is my piloting which is a little jerky at times.

The second clip shows a few issues with the actual camera. Since the Spark only shoots a maximum of 30fps when I spin the drone in the yaw the video is very choppy. This isn’t helped by the close proximity of the subjects but I have to believe that a 60fps camera would have done a much better job. Despite that the footage of the flags before is very good and the plane that flies across the background is very clear, even though both subjects are fairly close.

These next 2 videos are a little smoother. The subject matter is much further away so the footage doesn’t suffer from the same stuttering as above.

Fun Fact: this last video is the farthest I’ve ever flown away from myself at about 1500ft. Sure it isn’t that far but it was freaking me out.

 

Here are a few images that I’ve shot. Two from a sand volleyball game and one from Bark at the Park in Akron at Lock 3. There’s really not much to talk about here. The images are good and the quality is on par with what you would expect from a lower high-end phone. Things look clear and the colors are good.

Once again, I am not a video or photography professional. I didn’t touch these images up at all, everything is just as it came off the SD card. For my uses, so far, the spark has been great, though I do intend to upgrade eventually.

Final Thoughts

I got the Fly More package, which I would definitely recommend to anyone considering the DJI Spark. It includes the controller and 2 batteries (total, not in addition which was misleading from the shop images) and also a charging dock and carrying bag for all of it. I bought an additional battery which certainly helps since each battery gets about 10-13 minutes and charging in the field is less than ideal. You can charge from a portable power bank but it charges slower and needs to charge through the drone which means you can’t fly it. As of this writing DJI has released a portable charger but I have no experience with that device.

All that said, I certainly don’t regret buying it. I do plan on getting a Mavic eventually though because it really is a much better platform, but that’s way down the road when I’m better at aerial photography and feel that the Spark is holding me back from producing better content which it currently is not.

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