DJI SPARK REVIEW
We take a look at DJI’s newest offering for 2017 – Spark – Seize the moment
DJI Spark Review UK
DJI Spark Review Summary
The DJI Spark is a fantastic piece of kit that packs a big punch for such a small drone. The size of it is what really wins so many peoples hearts and it looks like this could do for drones what the iPhone did for the smartphone market - as it will appeal to the masses.
The price is comparable with that of a top end mobile phone and given that the drone is so easy to fly, control, take pictures/video and share them to social media this will be a big feather in DJI's cap.
The only negative is that the camera does not support 4K and that it sports a 2 gimbal axis rather than 3 - but these are minor flaws and we are won over by the portability, usability and price. The best drone on the market for sub £600 without a doubt.
DJI are not just becoming one of the best drone manufacturers in the world, they also know a thing or two about marketing. If you have never seen one of DJI’s promotional videos for one of their drones then you are in for a treat. Brand new for 2017 is the DJI Spark and this model leads the way for DJI when it comes to video marketing. We will show you a few examples shortly, but first let’s get on with the review.
At the time of writing DJI are limiting orders of the new Spark to just 2 per customer – but to be honest one is enough and we got our grubby little mitts on one to test out so we could give you our full Spark review. So here it is…
First Impressions of the DJI Spark
Like most new technology these days there is usually initial secrecy, followed by wild speculation which precedes a big launch announcement. Then ensues months of waiting for the newest piece of technological brilliance to hit the shelves before hoards of tech hungry consumers either head in stampedes to their nearest store of literally break the internet.
No we are not talking about the release of the iPhone 8, we are in fact talking about DJI’s latest drone offering – the rather drearily named ‘Spark’. The ‘Seize the Moment’ tagline is even less inspiring but that is where the disappointment ends and the excitement begins – and believe me, there was so much excitement around the office when our own Spark was hand delivered.
Perhaps more so than even the more premium drones we have tested because most of us can actually afford the Spark and to be honest it will fit the less serious drone loving lifestyle a little easier due to its compact nature.
The very first thing you notice when you open the box (and even though we are telling you this you will still say ‘wow’) is the size of the Spark. It is so small! In fact it is beautifully small.
Smaller than an iPhone, smaller than most android phones – even the small ones!
Finally, we have a high quality camera drone that is truly portable… hurrah!
DJI Spark Technical Specs
The DJI Spark packs a powerful punch when it comes to what’s under the hood for a sub £600 price point and given that this drone is really being marketed as a fun ‘take it anywhere’ UAV, it does have some serious hardware included – just as we have come to expect from DJI.
The craft weights in at just 300g which is simply incredible, it feels so light but also has a feel of quality. The Spark measures in at 143x143x55mm – measure that now and get a sense of how small that actually is!
The max speed is just over 30MPH which is pretty impressive for it’s size and it has a max ceiling level of 4000m which again is pretty hardcore. Under optimum conditions you can expect 16 minutes of flying time although under testing we didn’t manage anything better than 13 minutes.
One area where the Spark lacks a bit of (for want of a better word) spark is with the stabilisation. The gimbal has only 2 axis (pitch and roll) rather than 3 and this is noticeable when taking more advanced shots.
Like it’s premium range brother (the Phantom 4) it works on 2 different radio frequencies to cut through the noise and minimise interference in busier locations.
The on-board camera has a 1/2.3inch CMOS sensor and records full HD at 1920x1080 30FPS. The lack of 4K is a bit of a bummer but we can forgive it for the market it is aiming itself at. The Spark also has an intelligent flight battery and we will discuss that in more detail later.
The Spark can be used without a controller and this is where DJI have been quite clever. They have managed to keep the price down on the main unit by not including the controller as standard. We managed to get our hands on a controller and it of course allows your mobile phone to be added as a display (display is not included) and whilst it is well worth buying the Spark Fly More Combo (optional extra that also includes extra battery, propellers and more) this drone is actually ideal for use without a controller at all thanks to the pretty intuitive gesture technology of the Spark.
In fact, you can literally set your drone to fly and take pictures and video within seconds without the need for a controller and just using a few simple gestures. Check out Spark intro video here to see what we mean – this is seriously cool!
Ease of Use
We found the Spark incredibly easy to use and it looks like there has been a real focus from DJI to make this drone accessible for even the least advanced of drone pilots. The term pilot is hardly needed with the Spark to be honest and whilst you can have lots of fun with it from a control point of view, if you just want to take incredible photographs and video to add to your personal collection then the Spark is perfect for you.
We found the DJI Spark to be very responsive when using the mobile app and the controller alike and the dual frequency channels mean it doesn’t suffer with interference at all.
The one press take off and the way you can switch between camera modes is swift and easy. If you are going controllerless then you can even initiate takeoff with facial recognition – simply hold the Spark out in front of you and once it recognises you it will take off. If sharing photos and videos is your thing then the app makes this incredibly easy too with in built editing software and one touch sharing to your favourite social media channels.
The Spark is pretty safe and secure to fly and you shouldn’t have too many worries whilst using it in terms of crashing it. Due to it’s size, you will get it closer to your subject than you might be used to but when using the inbuilt flight protection sensors you are pretty much safe from a crash.
The lightweight nature of the Spark means that you are not going to do any serious damage to anyone even if there was a major issue but there is almost no chance of this being a problem.
We compared the camera quality of the Spark to the Mavic Pro and the results were pretty interesting given the price difference between the two drones and the fact that the Mavic records in 4K. We tried still images and moving images and there was not much difference in the still images until you really got in close. The moving images actually looked better in really light conditions on the Spark with the colours looking brighter, more vivid and more natural. There was a noticeable difference in sharpness between the Mavic Pro and the Spark when it came to lower light tracking shots but on the whole the Spark performed much better than we expected.
As we have come to expect with DJI, the Spark provides plenty of versatility when it comes to camera modes and the f/2.6 wide-angle lens is backed up by some very good onboard software. It includes everything we have seen in the Phantom 4 Pro as well as Panoramic horizontal and vertical shots as well as a shallow focus setting that creates some truly stunning photographs.
If you want to get even more from your Spark then check out our DJI Goggles review here.
The battery on the Spark is pretty decent given the overall size of the unit. Advertised as providing up to 16 minutes of flight time we found it gave us 12-13 minutes pretty consistently. The intelligent flight battery means that you will get increased battery performance over time as well as in-flight warnings when the battery is getting too low to be able to fly the drone back to the takeoff spot.
Overall, we were pretty pleased with the battery life but would highly recommend purchasing a spare.
At the time of writing the Spark is only available from DJI direct.