DJI Spark: Our In-House First Look at DJI’s $499 Drone

Posted by
Korey Smith
|
May 24, 2017
|
DJI Spark
|

Today, I’m going to show you a product that is truly exceptional. It’s something that the world has needed for a long time. A small, cheap, durable, and reliable drone with enough intelligence to fly itself, but enough features and options to let you grow as a new drone owner. In other words, It’s the cheapest drone that doesn’t well… suck. This is the soon-to-be most popular drone of 2017 and beyond.

Our website MyFirstDrone has been around for many years and we’ve been through all of the trends, fads, and evolutions in the drone industry. The DJI Spark isn’t just another drone from DJI. You could call it the Tesla Model 3 of drones. It’s an affordable, hi-quality, mass-market mainstream drone that almost everyone is going to want.

With that said, before getting into what this drone can do, let me tell you what it can’t do. It is not a replacement for the DJI Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 Pro. It doesn’t Shoot 4K, fly faster than the speed of light or avoid obstacles from every direction like some of DJI’s other drones. It’s a Spark, not a fire, but if you don’t own a drone yet, this is where it all starts.

As Cheap As It Gets

The Spark has a base Price of $499, which if you didn’t know, is the lowest launch price for any drone DJI has ever made. It’s only $50 more than the DJI Goggles, the headset from DJI that’s currently on back-order. It’s so inexpensive that if you’ve been holding out for a good cheap drone, you might want to order one before reading the rest of this. They’re going to sell fast, and the shipping date is going to move farther and farther as the days go on.

Here’s How it Looks

When you first see the Spark, you’ll be surprised at how small it is. It doesn’t look anything like the Mavic Pro, although it is made from the same high-quality materials. Even though the Spark itself isn’t foldable, the durable design and foldable propellers allow you to carry the Spark on the outside of a backpack or in a bag without worrying about it. It also comes in a strong little black case that holds two extra batteries.

The optional controller that you get is great, especially for the price that you’re paying. It doesn’t have an LCD screen like the controller on the Mavic Pro, but instead, they’ve added a function button and moved the Sport mode switch to the center of the controller. There are a few other small changes, but I don’t know what they are since we didn’t get the new controller yet.

Here’s How You Fly It

There are a few ways of flying the DJI Spark. The most traditional way is to use the included controller that get’s over 1 mile of range. The Spark controller uses a technology DJI is calling “HD Wi-Fi” which isn’t what the Mavic Pro uses, but it still provides a clear, smooth, and reliable 720p video feed. This is something we’ve come to expect from DJI over the years.

Just like most drones in the beginner price range, you can also control the Spark using your smartphone or tablet over a standard Wi-Fi connection, but what if you’re using your smartphone for something else, or you don’t have time to connect it to the drone before losing that special moment?

Gesture Control

This is where Gesture Control comes in. As you can see, getting ready for a flight is as simple as holding your arm out and pointing the camera at your face. To achieve this, the Spark uses its onboard sensors along with deep learning algorithms to intelligently recognize your face and hand movements.

Wave your hands, and the Spark will start tracking you, make a frame with your hands and the Spark will take a picture. These are actually similar features to what we saw in the Mavic Pro, but there’s more. Hold your palm out and the Spark will follow your hand movements. Point up and it goes up. Point left and it goes left. You get the idea. When you’re ready to land, simply grab the Spark out of the air and the motors will automatically shut off.

QuickShot

To use QuickShot, you will need to use the controller or your mobile device. QuickShot allows you to get shots that would otherwise seem too complicated or impossible for a first-time drone owner.

There are 4 different shots to choose from; Rocket, Dronie, Circle, and Helix. Rocket is simple but fun. In this mode, the Spark will ascend fast with the camera pointing down. The second mode is called Dronie, and I’m sure you’ve seen it before. The Spark flies up and backward while locked onto a subject, creating a dramatic zoom-out shot. Circle mode simply flies a circle around a subject, which sounds easy, but flying manual circles around something can be harder than it looks. Helix is my favorite mode. It flies in an upward spiral motion. Here’s a demo.

TapFly Updated

This feature isn’t new, but it’s slightly different from the original TapFly. There are now two separate control modes; Coordinate and Direction. Direction will fly the Spark in whatever direction you tap while avoiding obstacles. Coordinate will fly exactly to the coordinate that you tapped and then stop.

Is The Camera Good Enough?

The short answer is a big yes, but it does have its limitations, which are more than fine for a drone in this price range. It shoots 1080 video, which means you aren’t getting 4K video recording, but do you really need 4K? It’s great to have 4K, but more pixels don’t mean anything. Take the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera for example. It only shoots 1080p and look what you can do with that! What’s more important is the Sensor size which is actually larger than what you would find on an iPhone 7.

The Spark is also the first small drone in its price range that features mechanical image stabilization. There are some drones similar to the Spark that shoot 4K, but they produce shaky images and only stabilize the footage “digitally” in 1080p.

New Shallow Focus And Pano Modes

The Spark might not have 4K video, but it does have some cool new photo features. The first one is ShallowFocus. This mode is like the portrait feature on the iPhone 7 Plus. It works by slowly flying up while taking a series of images, then it creates a depth map and applies it to the final photo.

The Panoramic mode can shoot vertical and horizontal panoramic images. Additionally, when shooting in the horizontal mode, the Spark will shoot horizontal and vertical images to create a picture with a larger field-of-view

You aren’t Losing Out On Older Features

The DJI Spark has a lot of new features that make flying easier, but it still has all of the older features like Active Track, Tripod mode, Sport mode and everything else that make DJI drones worth what you’re paying for them.

Unless you want to shoot videos professionally (and have a much bigger budget), the Spark is a no brainer. Like I said earlier, this drone is going to sell like crazy. If you want more specific info about the Spark, you can find more detailed specs here.

Korey Smith

Korey Smith, independent film maker, RC model enthusiast and co-owner of MyFirstDrone

DJI

Spark

Flight time
16
Minutes
Video resolution
1920 x 1080
Control range
2
km
Camera resolution
3968 x 2976
Retail Price
$
This is some text inside of a div block.
MFD Rating
7.8
Spark
Rating
9.0
·
Product quality
9.5
·
Ease of use
6.0
·
Flight Time
6.5
·
Speed
See More Ratings

DJI

Spark

Flight time
16
Minutes
Video resolution
1920 x 1080
Control range
2
km
Camera resolution
3968 x 2976
Retail Price
$
This is some text inside of a div block.
MFD Rating
7.8
Spark
Rating
9.0
·
Product quality
9.5
·
Ease of use
6.0
·
Flight Time
6.5
·
Speed
See More Ratings

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