DJI Spark Review – Is it Really Suitable For Professionals?

July 28th, 2017

As a professional filmmaker and DJI Mavic shooter, Tamás Kiss wanted to test the capabilities of the tiny new DJI Spark drone, so he took it to the challenging Icelandic climate to put it through its paces. Here’s his  DJI Spark Review, that confirms a lot of the observations I made during my hands-on session with the tiny new drone. – Introduction by Sebastian Wöber.

DJI Spark review featured image

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian Wöber

DJI Spark Review

It turned out that Iceland was the perfect test journey for the Spark. I had the opportunity to test it under heavy circumstances that really managed to put the little drone through its paces.

The DJI Spark is a very nice toy for hobby use. Family parties, barbecues or children’s birthdays can be creatively documented with it and that’s how DJI advertisers it. But can it work for professionals as well? Let’s find out!

Size

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian Wöber

This is clearly the main feature of the Spark. It’s incredibly compact, and it will fit in any rucksack. However, since its arms are non-folding, it’s actually not that much smaller than the DJI Mavic. Nevertheless, it is still unbelievably handy, light and very easy to transport.  

Steering

Because I didn’t have a dedicated Spark controller, I’m not able to submit a full-featured report in this DJI Spark Review. I just steered it with my mobile phone and with body gestures. It would have been easier if the Spark was compatible with the Mavic controller, but unfortunately I believe the spark uses a different transmission protocol. That said, steering with my mobile phone was very easy. You don’t need to be a drone expert to get the steering under control.

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian

Comment by Sebastian Wöber: In my own hands-on test I was able to use the DJI Spark controller. It makes steering the Spark easier and much more ergonomic. Also it enables sports mode, which lets you fly the Spark several times faster than in smartphone mode. Admittedly, when only used with a smartphone, the top speed of this drone is very limited, as you can see in Tamas’ review video.

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian

Just like the Mavic, the Spark has a number of safety systems, which makes it very easy to fly. However, if you want to steer the drone you have to connect your phone to it, which I must say proved to be quite challenging. The drone had quite a few problems connecting to my phone. The screen of the DJI app turned black and an error report kept telling me that I was using Wi-Fi abroad and that I should connect again. This happened every time I started the app, but after three or four tries it finally worked. This might be firmware related or a fault on my phone. In any case, I’m certain the dedicated remote would have been a more convenient option. As a professional, I think if you go for the Spark, the remote should definitely be part of the package.

Stability

Unfortunately, coming from a DJI Mavic, the flight behavior of the DJI Spark wasn’t satisfying. The Icelandic wind made it very hard to achieve stable shots with the Spark and its tiny propellers. Steering was difficult and sometimes downright impossible because the wind literally blew the drone away. Precisely because of that strong wind, the Spark had to fight a brave little fight, which meant its battery went flat after just 10 minutes. I wanted to try flying through small aisles because the Spark was the only drone that could fit through the tiny gates, but the wind made it very hard to manage this manoeuvre. After several tries, the Spark was finally able to record but very soon I realised that the material wasn’t usable because of the movements of the drone which had to fight against the wind. Also, apparently, the gimbal isn’t able to compensate the movement caused by strong winds as it only has 2-axis stabilization, unlike the DJI Mavic’s 3-axis gimbal, which can also counterbalance sideways movements.

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian

Camera

The picture is very nice for beginner use and even more so for HD resolution. It is comparable to a mobile phone camera. Because you’re not able to use ND-filters, however, it isn’t easy to get a cinematic look. To compensate for exposure, the drone raises the shutter speed beyond measure, which makes possibility of a smooth cinematic look difficult and has to be achieved in post-production as per Sebastian’s drone footage tutorial. This is another aspect that makes it unsuitable for professional use. However note, that I think the drone does deliver rich colors and a great focal length. 

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian

Which brings me back to “fun and games”. You are able to steer the DJI Spark without a controller or mobile phone, making it really fun to control the drone via facial recognition and hand gestures. Simply press the start button twice and place the drone on your palm towards your face. After a few seconds, the Spark takes off and locks onto your face. Unfortunately, during my test this also went wrong. Upon takeoff, the drone was unable to manage the wind so it proceeded to fall on my hand, causing the propellers to drill into my thumb. Ouch!

DJI spark review hands-on

DJI Spark photo by Sebastian

As soon as it made its way up into the air, however, all I had to do was place my palm towards the camera, which clearly caused the drone to recognise it. Steering the Spark with my hand went reasonably well and the system is simple – when you start to wave towards the camera it’s supposed to rise, move it back and it starts to follow you. This took several attempts and it seems the feature is not very reliable and needs some work. You can wave and wave before anything happens, a problem that supposedly lies on the uv recognition system, as strong sunshine interferes with it.

DJI Spark Review Conclusion

Although the beautiful pictures stood out, overall I must wrap up this DJI Spark Review by saying that, for me, the Spark failed the Iceland test. It seems that the DJI Spark is prone to wind and will not produce the kind of stable smooth shots the DJI Mavic can. It is much weaker and doesn’t offer the same set of professional features like log recording, 3-axis stabilisation, longer battery life and ND filters. 

So as a professional I wouldn’t take the Spark with me for another journey – for me it’s too vulnerable to wind and weather and even though on paper it seems to offer almost the same features as the Mavic, in reality, the DJI Mavic is a different beast alltogether. So my recommendation if you’re on a job and need a reliable, small drone, go for the Mavic.

DJI Spark – Pros and Cons

DJI Spark Drone

Pro’s

  • Small and easy to transport
  • Easy to handle
  • Easy to charge
  • Fun to use the body gesture features

Con’s

  • Connection to Wi-Fi is very unstable. The dedicated remote is recommended
  • No ND filters
  • Vulnerable to wind and weather
  • Very sensitive gimbal, 3rd axis is missing to make shoots really smooth.
  • Facial recognition and gesture features aren’t reliable and not intended for professional use
  • Battery runs empty quickly when wind gets stronger

We value your observations and opinion. Have you managed to successfully use the DJI Spark in a professional environment? Let us know your own experience in the comments below!

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 Matt Apperson
Member
December 13th, 2017

Dumb article for so many reasons!

1) Sport mode not only lets it fly faster, but also remain stable in high winds better.
2) They do have ND filters
3) “Battery runs empty quickly when wind gets stronger” Umm duh

Admin
December 13th, 2017
Reply to  Matt Apperson

Move on.

 Matt Apperson
Member
December 13th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Not trying to troll. but you can’t call it a review if you can’t be bothered to at least google “spark nd filters”. Its not even like they are from a 3rd party.
It seems to me, this article is written by someone who went in to this “review” with a preconception that the spark was not usable. Thus the article itself is trolling.

This is bad journalism plain and simple.

Member
July 31st, 2017

I for one found this to be a useful mini-review. Yes, the testing is not comprehensive, and yes, there are a few minor details that could’ve made it more conclusive (having ND filters, and the proper controller), but to be honest, this review showed me all I need to know:

– The image quality of the Spark is not really good enough for professional use. For me, the footage from my Mavic is *just* good enough in moderately challenging light conditions.

– The size of the Spark and power of it’s motors is, as one might expect, enough to make it unreliable/unusable in windy conditions. Again, as above, I find the Mavic is rock-solid in good weather, AND can handle pretty strong winds (like those seen above, in Iceland) with only occasional wobbles.

As another note, I would say that the challenge for the Spark in wind seems to relate more to the stability of the overall craft (leading to foreground/background wobble as the aircraft shifts up/down left/right in the air), rather than a underpowered gimbal, which would result in more classic wobbly/jerky footage.

Thanks for sharing!

jason

 Marko Ožvald
Member
July 30th, 2017

Check out my new video Dji Spark video test https://youtu.be/3MsA70Qrx4Q.

Admin
July 31st, 2017
Reply to  Marko Ožvald

Looking good Marko, thanks for sharing!

Johnnie

 Marko Ožvald
Member
July 31st, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Tnx

Oscar Stefan Majoros
Guest
July 29th, 2017

Unsubscribed ?

Jason Felmingham
Guest
July 29th, 2017

Ummm no.

Paul Christopher Greene
Guest
July 28th, 2017

No. Yet another ridiculous article from you guys. A couple more and I’m un following ya.

Admin
July 28th, 2017

Why? Nobody expected the Mavic to deliver the performance and quality that it does, despite its shortcomings it’s being used on pro productions all the time. Why not expect the same from the Spark too? Price difference is small, and the Mavic gimbal would have fitted on the Spark as well.

 Miguel Gomez-Pardo
Miguel Gomez-Pardo
Member
July 29th, 2017

I think you are a bit unfair. Nobody its saying the spark its a pro drone not even DJI. I think interesting that pros try non-pro material. I’m even sure that a good videographer under controled and not very unstable conditions could use some footage from the spark in a pro video.
Have in mind that those images are recorded under heavy wind with a non pro tiny barebones drone. Would the spark be my first choice for pro use – certainly not. But for the price and size i think its an interesting drone.
In conclusion i like pros testing non pro material. If nobodoy would have done that we never would have used the 5dm2 for pro video, just for photo work.

Steven Milo Ordorica
Guest
July 28th, 2017

It’s an expensive toy.

Joelle Mcneil
Guest
July 28th, 2017

This is a really silly article. A very small consumer selfie drone doesn’t fly well in high winds and isn’t meant for pros?

Ya don’t say!

Admin
July 28th, 2017
Reply to  Joelle Mcneil

Considering that the price difference between the Mavic Pro (version without controller) and the Spark is not that huge (we’re talking about $250), it’s a valid question whether the Spark can deliver similar images. Furthermore, the Spark isn’t any smaller than the Mavic when packed up, because it can’t fold its arms in. And if you look at the size of the camera and gimbal on the Mavic, you will see that it’s tiny and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the image was exactly the same. But it isn’t.

The high winds stuff – yes of course. But sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. Some people expect too much from their entry level gear.

 Erkki Juurus
Erkki Juurus
Member
July 29th, 2017
Reply to  Joelle Mcneil

Oh c’mon. You gain nothing by being rude, Mr. Mcobviousman. After all, this content is free and it’s not force-fed to you in any way. It’s quite easy to just ignore. Therefore your taking the time and energy to come and bash it is telling a lot about you, and very little about the drone article in question.

Perhaps the header would have worked a little better by adding a “Not” between the “Really” and the “Suitable,” for example, but who cares. The point of the article is in the details, the actual field-testing, not in stating the fairly obvious. Take it as a case of Q.E.D. If you’re not interested because you already know it all, someone else new to drones just might.
Surely it should be equally obvious that this article was one of the few Cinema5D articles that just wasn’t aimed for you in particular, but for a different niche of the audience.

I’d say thank you Tamás for confirming us what this dinky little drone actually can and cannot do out in the windy wild. Including the obvious like the vulnerability to wind, and especially what the camera is capable of. That is probably of some interest to a wider audience. Apart from the noisy bunch of Knowitalls of the Inter-Nyet, obviously.

 Yann Yann
Member
July 29th, 2017
Reply to  Erkki Juurus

If everything is in the details, this article is not.
How can we expect a real world review without any proper controller?
And when you say “no ND filters”, prefere using “I don’t have them”.
Two brands are already selling those filters. Exactly the same brand which sell those for the Mavic.
Definitely a hands-on, not a review.

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