The DJI Spark is a tiny quadcopter, aimed at the consumer segment of the nascent drone camera market. Smaller and easier to fly smart quadcopters seem to be the way forward as larger drones are increasingly getting entangled into legal ramifications. They are harder to maneuver in small tight places, difficult to operate, make a lot of sounds and are a hazard when you fly them in populated areas.
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Smaller drones, on the other hand, pose a lesser threat to property and life and are the order of the day. They are easier to transport, easier to fly and do the job without drawing attention.
Even then, smaller drones have their disadvantages. The DJI Spark isn’t designed to be the best or the meanest. Rather, it is intended to reach out to consumers who always wanted to fly a drone but have shied away because of the price tag. More specifically, it is a selfie drone, one that you are likely to take with you for making the most insanely unique selfies, which are otherwise impossible to shoot using smartphones and even decent cameras.
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DJI Spark Dimensions
The DJI Spark is a small unit. It is almost the size of a smartphone, a goggle case or a small notebook. When I say small, it measures just 143mm x 143mm x 55mm. The diagonal measurement of the DJI Spark is just 170mm. No doubt it is the smallest not only from DJI but also one of the most minor in the business that we have seen in recent times (other than the Hover Passport which we feel is the best we have seen from size perspective and compactness).
The system weighs just about 95 grams. What it means is that you can safely tuck the camera into your jacket pocket and carry it around. No backpack required. However, the legs won’t fold completely. This is what would entangle the legs with your jacket pocket. Not it’s best features.
The camera on the DJI Spark is powered by a 1.2/3” CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 2 megapixels. This is the same sized sensor you would find on small compact point and shoot systems. The lens on the camera has a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 25mm. It comes into its own when shooting panoramic shots. The aperture is fixed at f/2.6. The lens can focus between 6.6’ all the way up to infinity.
ISO range is 100 to 3200 for video mode and up to 1600 for still shooting. The shutter speed can vary between 2 seconds to 1/8000 sec. The camera can record full HD videos at a smooth 30p. Sorry guys, no 4K. The maximum image resolution is 3968 x 2976.
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The Spark has a maximum ceiling of 13123 feet. I would be foolish though to fly it at its maximum capable altitude. With a 16 minute max flight time, you won’t like it when your $500 drone crashes when it runs out of juice. The maximum flight time can be squeezed in only when you fly the drone at a steady speed of 12.4 mph. The Spark can hover for a maximum time of 15 mins.
The highest speed at which the DJI Spark can ascend is 9.ft / sec. This is in the Sports mode and without wind. When landing in Auto mode, the Spark can land at the same speed and without wind. It can achieve a maximum speed of 31 mph (or 50 km per hour) in the Sports Mode without wind. The operating temperature of the Spark is 0 ˚ to 40 ˚.
The maximum possible distance you can control the Spark remotely is 2 km with a clear line of sight and without any interference. In real-world scenarios, however, it will depend on how strong the Wi-Fi signal is on your phone.
The DJI Spark has a clever obstacle Sensing mechanism. Thanks to DJI’s long line of products and intense research in developing a sophisticated system that can identify and avoid any obstacle in its path. But the Spark has something else too. It can sense gestures! I repeat, it can detect gestures. You would argue your dog does that too. But can your dog fly?
The DJI Spark now has a full navigation and collision detection control mechanism in place. The collision mechanism system is probably the best in its class if not the best. DJI names it the FlightAutonomy system, and it really does work.
The anti-collision system is built together with the primary camera and an optical mechanism that points downward. There is also a forward pointed 3D detection device. Positional guidance is obtained with the use of dual-band GPS. To top it off there is a GLONASS measurement which gives the camera much more accurate positioning of itself.
At the heart of the Spark’s gesture control and obstacle detection mechanism is the Movidius Myriad 2 vision processing unit. This mechanism is what makes the Spark’s collision detection mechanism and the gesture control mechanism so effective.
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So what it can do? It can read your face and take off on its own, land when you want it to just by holding your hand as if you are asking for alms.
Put the drone on standby readiness by making a stop sign, the kind done by traffic wardens, and make it go up or down by just raising or lowering your arms. And surely, your dog can’t take your picture when you make the camera gesture. The Spark can.
DJI’s PalmControl feature is one of the best that is there. It is quite a feature that you can show off. After all how many devices can you control to bring forward or go back, up and down just with a gesture of your palm? The only problem being the distance between your drone and your palm shouldn’t be more than 10 feet.
The Spark also has four new gesture control features that should make it easier for any drone photographer to control the device and make excellent stills and videos.
- The first one is the Dronie Mode. This mode is perfect for making selfies.
- Then there is the Helix Mode. This will make the drone go in a spiraling movement upwards.
- The third mode is Rocket. This is the mode that captures those rocket launch like videos while the camera is pointed straight down.
- The final mode is Circle. In this mode, the drone moves around the user in a circle.
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There is an awful lot of plastic used in the designing of the Spark. A bit too much for comfort. But that isn’t a bad thing especially as you need to keep it suspended in thin air and maneuver. The quality of the plastic is good, however. The final word is this drone will not take too much of abuse. It will work fine when handled well.
Beyond doubt, it is the enthusiasts that DJI targets this drone at. These are consumers who have been interested in drones ever since the first DJI lifted off the terra firma, but always grimaced at the price tag. With a sub-$500 price tag this drone makes it ever so easy to own a decent quality drone full of features.
We love many things about the Spark. We love the simplicity, the ease of use and the long line of features that it borrows from the likes of the Mavic and the Karma. But what we love the most is the price point. It is not the cheapest but it is certainly the best when it comes to features vs. price.
We love the gesture control features. It is true, if I could add the adjective, ‘freaky’. The ability to use hand gestures as a remote control means you have more control over the Spark. It also means more and more people will be interested in flying the drone because it does not require the need of an actual remote control (as long as they don’t have any issues with the limited range of the actual hand gesture control).
Another thing that would work for the Spark is the assortment of colors in which it comes in. It is not quite the Pentax K-50 in that sense, but it still comes in more colors than we have seen with other drones.
We don’t like the fact that there is no 4K video. This is one area where the Spark would not be attractive to professional drone photographers. DJI probably lost a trick here. Especially, when there are 4K / UHD enabled drones available in the market at a similar price point.
We don’t like the overuse of plastic either. And we don’t like the fact that the legs don’t fold in which would have made it discreet when carried inside a jacket pocket. This is where the Mavic Pro and GoPro Karma drones are much better regarding transporting the flying contraption. But if you ask us whether this is a good drone to buy, we would say yes. Especially, if you are a beginner or an enthusiast drone photographer, then the DJI Spark is for you.
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