You must remember that the first three decades of mobile tech development had a crazy race of fitting everything in the smallest size possible.
Then with the advent of smartphones, we seem to have reached an inflection point. Today the size of our phones and tablets has outweighed their portability, and the size-diminishing contest seems to be over.
But for drones, I think we’re in the first three decades of experimenting how small the device can be and still deliver the best results.
And if there’s one model that goes well along that line, it is DJI’s latest drone, the Spark. It comfortably sits in your palm, and with just a gesture of your hand starts hovering in mid-air. No controller, no app, no nothing! Operating it is that easy!
However, compactness can’t be the sole factor in choosing a drone. Does the product fare well among its competitors?
Hi, this is Dhia. I’m a passionate travel blogger and drone-flyer, and today I’m going to talk about this charming and sweet mini-drone, DJI Spark.
15th April Update:
Check the current deal for DJI Spark Combo (includes Remote Controller + 1 Extra Battery + Propeller Guards + Other Gadgets)
1. The sturdiest drone in the market
Designed for the casual user, the DJI Spark doesn’t aim to be like its powerful siblings such as the Mavic Mini (review) , Air, or Pro. But one feature that makes the Spark stand out is its sturdiness. The design lacks legs, has shorter arms, and a smartly-positioned camera, making it very difficult to break in the event of a sudden crash.
The Spark could easily endure a fall from over twenty feet, although I wouldn’t trust the drone with a huge plummet on a rough surface. But if you’re working on grass and carpeting surfaces, this drone is the most trustworthy and cheapest option to go for.
The little feet at the base of the drone are lined with durable silicone that prevents intense damage to the body. It also gives the camera further clearance from dust during landing. Heavy ribbing, no visible seams, and a dense piece of plastic make one sleek, durable body.
Yet, I wouldn’t sign up for a drone that’s only hardy. So, let’s have a look at its other features.
2. Hardware features that I loved!
If there’s anything that DJI does best, it’s packing too many features into one product, making it one comprehensive whole. The DJI Spark is no exception.
Although just a bit more than the Mavic Mini, Spark weighs a mere 300 grams, hits a maximum speed of 31 mph, and easily fits in my palm. Yes, it’s that small. It’s also amazing to see so much technology stuffed within such a small area, which gives a feeling of lasting quality within a comfortable price range.
Returning to the hardware, the drone sports a 2-axis gimbal with a 12 MP camera that can shoot Full HD 1080p videos at 30 frames per second (FPS). If you’re skimming for the word 4k, here’s the spark: the camera can also capture great 4K still photos!
The impact prevention sensors at the front and bottom of the device add to its sturdiness. Furthermore, I can track the device with GPS and Glonass, and when the battery depletes, it has this superb auto-return facility to come back where it started from.
Another smart, little feature that’s hard to ignore is its color combination. Its belly is dark gray, making it visible from far away on both sunny and cloudy days. Also, the green and red LED lights that line the front and rear, are visible from a good 100 meters so that you know which direction it’s facing.
3. It beats others with its ease of use
For this model, convenience fuses with a high-quality camera to provide the ultimate user experience. The intuitive controls of the drone really impressed me, especially when it came to the FaceAware feature. What it does is pure genius. The inbuilt application recognizes my face once it’s switched on and starts hovering in the air. All of this happens without the touch of a button!
The coolest thing that I did with the Spark is controlling it with my hands, although mastering the correct gestures is difficult.
What’s more, the camera stares right at you while hovering, and with a simple gesture, it can also take a selfie! All these features combined can be put to great use in areas where it’s tricky to launch the drone.
Like the Mavic Air and Mini, the Spark features Quickshot movements that further enhance my videos and give them a cinematic look. Apart from the usual rocket, drone, circle, and helix movements, it has an active tracking facility. This feature locks the profile of an object and follows it from the front, rear, or even a fixed position.
4. A powerful camera with a not-so-powerful stabilizer
Frankly, compared to the Mavic Mini’s three-point stabilizer, DJI Spark may not prove worthy enough. But don’t let those numbers fool you! The 12 MP camera on the Spark is pretty rad with an HD quality video output and a maximum still-resolution of 4k. What it lacks is a comparably good stabilizer.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I understand it’s too much to ask from a drone that costs less than USD 500 (check our picks here), but certain features could’ve been there. For instance, 2-axis control makes it challenging to take complex shots steadily. Furthermore, the tilt range is limited to -85 degrees to 0 degrees, compared to the Mavic Air, whose range varies from -90 degrees to +30 degrees.
This prevents the drone from looking straight down or beyond the horizon. I took this drone during my trek to Machu Picchu, and I couldn’t record the footage of looking beyond the edge of a cliff due to this lack.
A more stable gimbal could have complemented the great detail, vibrant colors, and the unmatched contrast of the camera.
If you find me ranting in the following paragraphs, don’t judge me for it! I still don’t understand why DJI sells the remote controller separately. Yeah, you can indeed connect the drone to your Android device, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Why? Because first, it keeps crashing all the time. And second, it significantly reduces the performance quotient of the drone.
From the top speed of 31 mph, it drops to a teeny-tiny 7 mph, while the highest altitude and range are significantly reduced from 500 m and 2 km to 50 m and 80 m, respectively. On top of that, the app keeps crashing.
Having this drone without the controller is like eating half a fruit! But once you buy the controller, handling this little hummingbird (I prefer this name for its ridiculously small size) is a cakewalk! It provides you with more options and connecting the controller with your Android or Apple device makes way for a comfortable flying experience.
The controller made my life so very easy as I can conveniently pause the drone in mid-air, handle the gimbal, or just call it back with the dedicated return-to-home button. In the next few years, I hope they would introduce the controller within the package.
How do I feel about it?
After using this drone for about five months, I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that DJI Spark is so much more than being just a beginner’s first choice. Sure, it takes a bit of time to get used to all its features. But, once you get comfortable, handling the Spark is going to be a sheer pleasure!
And all these features packed within the price range of USD 500 does make it an easier pill to swallow. However, in terms of performance, I’d say I’m satisfied, although the drone has left me wanting for more.
What could have been better?
Flight time is too short!
With a fully charged battery, the flight time of the device is less than 16 minutes. Ouch! That’s a bit too short for me. Although some claim this is a perfect flight time for one to shoot and return, I beg to differ. First, it’s not a full 16 minutes flight time, but it gets reduced to 14 on an average. Second, it’s difficult to fly, get satisfactory shots, and return within a critical time-frame as short as 14 minutes.
This is why I prefer the Mavic Mini which has a substantial 30 minutes of flight time.
Stability could’ve been better
Other than this, the double-axis gimbal does a good job of keeping the drone suspended in mid-air steadily. But the video suffers quite a bit during windy conditions as strong winds sway the drone, requiring it to work a lot harder to retain its position. Therefore, the flight time gets further reduced by a couple of minutes under gusty conditions.
- Very lightweight
- Has a top speed of 31 mph
- Extremely durable
- Smooth and intuitive controls
- Easy to use
- Battery life
If you’ve always wanted a drone but never knew which one to start with, then this drone will serve you just right! It might seem difficult to handle it at first, but trust me, today, even my not-so-tech-savvy dad takes a selfie with it by making a picture frame with his fingers!
I sincerely wish DJI pays attention to all the pitfalls to give this drone an outstanding final upgrade.
Lastly, I hope I was able to answer all your queries today and may you never miss any of your picturesque memories this holiday season! Stay tuned for more.