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DJI is always coming out with new drones that make all other drones including their own look like trash in comparison. Let’s compare two of them—the Spark and the Mavic Pro. Why go with the Mavic Pro when you can get the Spark with all of its cool features and compact size? That’s what I’m going to try to answer today. We have both drones to compare for this article, so it will be a very thorough and accurate comparison.
Obviously, if you compare the base price between the Mavic Pro and the Spark, the Spark is going to be cheaper, but how much cheaper? Well, that all depends on what you’re going to use it for. If you just want to fly slow and take a few videos here and there, you can probably go with the base model of the Spark for $399 which includes the controller for free right now. Although, if you’re serious about learning to fly like a pro, and you want portability, more batteries, and the ability to charge on the go, then the Spark Fly More Combo for $549 is the better way to go because it comes with an extra battery, carrying case, charging hub, and propeller guards. With the price drop of the Spark, the Spark Fly More Combo is still cheaper than the Mavic Pro.
The Mavic Pro at $999 is definitely going to leave a bigger dent in your pocket, but with the Mavic Pro and the Spark, there’s more to consider than just the drone. Batteries, for example, are going to be much cheaper for the Spark at $49 vs $89, which drives the cost for the Mavic Pro up even more if you want to fly longer. When you buy a drone, one thing you should consider is that you will most likely be paying an additional 25% or more on accessories and DJI care (damage insurance) in the future, so the more expensive the drone is, the more expensive your accessories will be.
The size of the Spark is not very different from the Mavic Pro. When you fold the Mavic Pro up, it’s pretty small, but when you’re actually flying, that’s when you notice the real difference in size between the Mavic Pro and the Spark. The Mavic Pro is just way bigger, so it can be tricky to fly through tight spaces like doorways or hallways. Plus, the Spark is much quieter due to the weight reduction and smaller propellers. This makes it perfect for flying in places where you don’t want to bother/annoy anyone. The other advantage of it being quieter is that it attracts a lot less attention which in some cases can get you that more natural spontaneous shot.
I’m sure you thought the Mavic Pro camera was better than the Spark, right? Well, it isn’t, at least not for some types of photos. The Spark has features that no other DJI drone has. One of them is called ShallowFocus. Using the ShallowFocus mode, you can take pictures with a shallow depth of field (like portrait mode on the iPhone).
There’s also two new Pano modes for taking automatic panoramic images. The first mode is for taking vertical panoramas. The other mode takes horizontal panoramas, but there’s a catch. It takes pictures vertically and horizontally in a grid-like format to create a larger panoramic image with more details in the scene. For video, the Mavic Pro has some pretty advanced features the Spark doesn’t have, like Terrain Follow for example where the drone will fly at the same number of feet that you set even if the terrain happens to be going up and down.
When you buy the DJI Spark, you’re basically getting a drone that doesn’t require a controller of any kind. If you want it to fly, turn it on, double press the power button, point it at your face so it recognizes you, then it will start flying. If you want to move it, there’s a gesture for that. If you want it to come close to you, there’s a gesture for that too! If you want to take a picture, you guessed it, more gestures. It can even follow you! When you’re done, you can catch it with your hand and it will automatically turn off. Now that’s some future tech right there! The Mavic Pro has Gestures as well, but not as many as the Spark. Currently, it can recognize you if you put your arms out, then follow you, and it can snap a selfie when you make a box with your fingers.
If you want to connect your phone to the Spark, you’ll have even more control over the Spark that you don’t have using only gestures. When using a phone to control the Spark, you will always be in the flight mode called Position Mode which is the mode you need to be in if you want obstacle avoidance to be on, and you want to be able to access the intelligent flight modes. It does however, limit the speed at which you can fly.
Using the DJI Go 4 app, you have a series of intelligent flight modes. Under Quickshot mode, you can do dronies, circle, helix, and rocket. There’s also TapFly. This allows you to tap a position on the screen and the drone will automatically fly there, or you can tell it to fly in a particular direction. You can even change that position in real time.
The gimbal can be controlled easily by tilting your phone up and down which gives you a very natural intuitive sort of feeling. And of course, you can fly manually using the virtual joysticks on screen, although it is less precise and not as tactile as using the remote controller
If you want to fly in Sport Mode, then you need to use the controller. Now that the controller is included with the Spark, you can fly it just as you would any other DJI drone. Just be aware that if you are using the controller to fly in Sport Mode, it is for the more experienced pilot since obstacle avoidance is disabled in this mode.
Another big advantage to actually using the controller is the longer range since when you are using only your phone, you have to rely on your phone’s wi-fi. This may or may not present a problem depending on where you’re flying, and how far you want to go. Having the controller makes the whole flying experience a bit more enjoyable because now you have the whole screen on your phone to see where you’re flying instead of your fingers taking up space on the virtual joystick.
It’s easier to fly with real sticks, and you have more precise control. It’s also nice to have dedicated buttons on the controller instead of trying to find them within an app.
For $89, you can purchase the DJI Spark portable charging station. It’s an intelligent charger with 5000 mAh of total power. It can charge the battery on the Spark as well as two other batteries while out in the field. First, it charges the battery on the Spark itself, then it will charge the other two batteries starting with whichever one currently has the highest charge.
That way you’ll have a fully charged battery in the most efficient time frame. It takes about an hour and a half to charge the charging station itself, and then it will charge the Spark batteries in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Not only that, it has a USB port to charge your phone and other USB devices. In addition, it acts as a carrying case for the Spark and two extra batteries. You can also buy a carrying case for the charging station for an additional $19, but it is secure enough that it’s not mandatory. You can easily slip it into a backpack as is.
The Spark is small when you’re flying, but the Mavic Pro still has a better size for transporting due to how it folds up. When you pack them both into their carrying cases with batteries and controllers, they are almost the same size. But the Mavic Pro by itself will fit almost anywhere that a large camera lens will go. The Spark is still really small, but because it isn’t foldable, it isn’t as easy to shove in every place possible. One of the things you’re paying for with the Mavic Pro is the folding parts. The parts on the Mavic Pro are more complex, there’s more material, and it takes much longer to assemble than the Spark. That’s one of the things that makes the Spark less expensive. It has a more simple design.
I’ve always liked the Mavic Pro controller, and the controller for the Spark is very similar, but it doesn’t have all of the same features. The main thing that you get with the Mavic Pro remote is OcuSync, DJIs Premium wireless communication technology. OcuSync will give you a max control range of 4.3 miles vs only 1.2 miles with HD Wi-Fi on the Spark. Because of OcuSync, the Mavic Pro is also able to communicate wirelessly with the DJI Goggles, providing better range, lower latency, and additional options like 1080p streaming instead of 720p.
The Mavic Pro controller also has a bright LCD screen that shows you all of the most critical flight information. You can view things like speed, altitude, distance from home, battery life and more. Much of this is viewable on the DJI Go 4 app on your phone during flight, but it’s nice to have a dedicated screen for these important items.
The Spark uses a different kind of sensor for obstacle avoidance. It’s a custom infrared sensor which can detect obstacles in low resolution. The Mavic Pro uses two RGB cameras that can generate much higher resolution obstacle maps. This allows it to detect smaller obstacles at farther distances. Also, it should be noted that obstacle avoidance is disabled in Sport Mode on both drones.
Not everyone likes to fly fast, but I certainly do! One thing that makes the Mavic Pro faster is its size. With a speed of 40MPH, the Mavic Is 10MPH faster than the Spark in sport mode. There’s another area where the Mavic Pro is faster, and that’s when using the obstacle avoidance. The Spark can avoid obstacles while going up to 7MPH, but with the better sensors on the Mavic Pro, it can do the same thing at 22MPH.
Flight time isn’t the most important aspect of drones, but if it’s too low, it can feel like you don’t have enough time take all of the shots that you want. Advertised flight time on the Spark is 16 minutes and on the Mavic Pro is 27 minutes. I usually get about 21 minutes with the Mavic Pro and I tested 13 minutes with the Spark. Although you can buy extra batteries which will give you an overall increase in flight time, it still won’t be contiguous flight time. So this is something to consider carefully before choosing between the two drones.
I think for photos, the Spark might be a better drone, with all of its new photo features and gesture control, but video is where the Mavic Pro really shines. The most obvious benefit is 4K which gives you a sharper picture with more detail, but did you know that the Mavic Pro also has better stabilization? On the Spark, you only get two axis stabilization vs three-axis stabilization on the Mavic Pro. Why is that important? When flying in low wind conditions, the two-axis stabilization will work fine, but if there’s a big breeze, the drone will occasionally yaw back and forth which causes the video to wiggle left and right. With three-axis stabilization, this isn’t a problem because that’s what the third axis is there for.
On the Mavic Pro, you can also shoot in 1080p 96FPS for slow-motion videos. There’s even a 720p 120FPS mode, but to be honest, I don’t use it often because the quality is pretty low.
Out of all the features that the Mavic Pro has, compatibility with DJI Goggles is just icing on the cake! You can use DJI Goggles with the Spark too by plugging them into the USB port on the controller, but you have to deal with wires, and more importantly, the video transmission is not going to be as good. You’ll get 720p at 30fps where as the Mavic Pro can stream 720p at 60fps or 1080p at 30fps. With the Mavic Pro, you don’t even need to plug the DJI Goggles into the controller because they have OcuSync built right in. Using the goggles is an awesome experience. If you haven’t tried it yet, find someone you know that has them and try them out. You’ll be hooked.
We’ve had the Mavic Pro since before it was ever even announced and have been through a lot with it. I personally became attached to the Mavic Pro because of its small foldable design and great video quality. The Spark is a great little drone and there are things I love about both drones, but I think I’ll be flying the Spark more for when I need to operate in tight spaces that the Mavic Pro can’t get into. If you’re used to a more advanced drone both in video quality and hardware, it would be hard for me to recommend the Spark as your drone of choice for everything. But maybe you’re just getting into drones and you just want something small, easy, and feature-rich to start out. With the price drop on the Spark, and the fact that the remote control is even included for free now, it makes it even more tempting to purchase the Spark.
I can point out the differences between the Spark and the Mavic Pro, but ultimately, you will have to decide which one is right for you. Do you want 4K? Do you need longer flight time and range? Do you like to fly faster? Do you want full wireless support when using DJI Goggles? I think the Spark is a great little drone with very advanced features for the price, but if you’ve been in the drone world for awhile, you want and need the above-mentioned features, and you can afford the extra that it costs, then I’d definitely lean more towards purchasing the Mavic Pro. There is one more option. If budget is a concern, then the Mavic Air may be the best choice for you. For more on that, read our post called “DJI Mavic Air vs Spark: Is it Worth the Upgrade?”.
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