» » JI SPARK REVIEW: A LITTLE BIT OF MAGIC IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
Category

Vote

Please, rate the engine
Results   All polls
Tags
Archives
JI SPARK REVIEW: A LITTLE BIT OF MAGIC IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
 
 
in the first 30 years of mobile phone development, tech companies worked to make them smaller. Then, with the advent of the smartphone, we hit an inflection point where the size of the screen outweighed the portability of the device, and the race to miniaturize our smartphones came to an end. When it comes to the evolution of consumer camera drones, we’re in the early stages of experimenting with how small these gadgets can be while still delivering worthwhile results.

DJI’s Phantom 4 came out in March 2016. Six months later it released the Mavic Pro, which was about half the weight and, with its folding design, less than half the size. Eights months after that, and DJI’s latest drone, the $499 Spark, halves the size and weight of the already slim Mavic. If things keep up at this rate, DJI will be able to cram a full payload of its advanced sensors, stabilizers, and camera into a drone the size of a matchbox by Christmas of this year.

 
To deliver this form factor, however, DJI had to do something it’s never done before: compromise on performance. While the Mavic was much smaller than the Phantom 4, it actually packed more range and advanced flight features, while nearly matching the camera stabilization and speed. The Spark is the first DJI drone that clearly offers less range and lower image quality than units that came before, a trade-off that keeps its size and price to a minimum.

GETTING THE SPARK IN THE AIR TO TAKE PHOTOS AND VIDEO IS EASIER THAN WITH ANY OTHER DRONE
The big question is: does the Spark deliver a great experience? Having spent a week and half with the unit, I can say the answer is a definite yes. It makes getting in the air and capturing photos and video drop-dead simple in a way no drone, DJI or otherwise, has managed to do before. Pulling it out of your pocket, powering it on, and launching it from your palm takes about 10 seconds total. There’s no need to bother pairing it with a remote or a mobile app — just raise your hand up, and it will go into gesture control mode. From there you can send it flying about 20 feet away and start snapping aerial photographs. That is incredibly liberating and fun. Do it in front of someone and they will inevitably ask, "Can I try that?”

 GRID VIEW

 
1 of 8
  
Is the Spark for everybody? Probably not. If you make your living taking photos and video, the Spark probably won’t deliver the quality you’re looking for. And if you already own a nice camera drone, especially something small like the DJI Mavic, the Spark doesn’t add much to your arsenal. But for anyone who has been thinking of getting a drone but was put off by price or complexity, this is the unit to buy.

Like all DJI drones, the Spark’s basic performance was excellent. The battery delivered between 12–15 minutes of flight time in my testing, depending on wind conditions and how aggressively I was flying. More importantly, the amount of power never dropped off suddenly, and the battery stayed firmly in the drone. The battery takes about 40–50 minutes to go from dead to full with the dedicated wall charger. If you don’t want to lug that along on your next vacation, you can also charge it with a standard Micro USB cable, but be warned: charging is much slower that way.

There’s a vision sensor on the belly of the aircraft, and in my testing, the Spark could definitely hold its position indoors. But, you need to be aware that buildings, especially big metal ones, wreak havoc on the internal compass of your drone, so plan to calibrate your compass in a more amenable spot beforehand.

THE SPARK’S SMALL SIZE MEANS WIND CAN PUSH IT AROUND EASILY
Now, while the Spark is great at hovering in one place indoors, due to its small size, the Spark has to work overtime to stay in one place against even moderate wind. Flying outdoors on a windy day is going to cut down on your battery life and, since it’s a two-axis gimbal, some of that sideways movement will show up in your footage in a way that wouldn’t happen with a Phantom or Mavic.

The simplest way to fly the drone is with gesture control. Double tap on the power button and it will scan for your face, then take off. This worked really well and made it easy to fly in areas that might otherwise have been tricky to launch from. If you extend your palm in front of your face a few feet from the Spark, it will recognize your posture and enter gesture control. You can sweep your hand up, down, left, and right to control its movement. This worked very well in my testing. You can also walk forward or backward and the drone will keep its distance by moving with you.