DJI Spark

DJI Spark

12MP, 1/2.3" CMOS sensor | 2-axis gimbal | 1080/30p video

What we like:

  • Great for casual users
  • Gesture control
  • Small size

What we don't:

  • Works best with optional controller
  • No Raw photo or 4K video
  • Short flight time
The DJI Spark is a compact drone aimed mostly at beginners and casual users. If you can imagine a smartphone camera with gesture control and propellers, you'd have the Spark. It was the first DJI drone that offered up a variety of colors including red, yellow, sky blue, and meadow green, and is controllable using hand gestures. It is hardly larger than a can of soda, though unlike many compact models the arms don’t fold inward, making it less compact for travel.
The Spark has a maximum speed of 53 km/h (33 mph) and a short battery life of 16 minutes. It’s equipped with DJI’s FlightAutonomy system, which detects collisions, but the sensors are strictly contained on the main camera and forward-facing 3D Sensing System. The drone will stop if you fly it toward an object but won’t be able to detect any obstacles behind it. The Spark also features downward-facing cameras that track movement underneath, as well as the distance between the Spark and objects below. If you’re using the Spark for more than selfies, you’ll need extra batteries that cost $49 each.
If you can imagine a smartphone camera with gesture control and propellers, you'd have the Spark.
The camera uses a 12MP 1/2.3" sensor and has a 25mm equivalent F2.6 lens, providing an 82° field of view. It only has a 2-axis gimbal (roll and pitch), leaving the yaw-axis unsterilized. Obtaining smooth shots, which require yaw input, may require a bit more flying experience. There isn’t any Raw image support. Video on the Spark is limited to 1080p/30p with a 24Mbps codec, something to consider if video quality is of high importance.
The Spark can be controlled by a remote (sold separately), a smartphone, or by hand gestures. With gesture control, you hold the camera toward your face while tapping the power button twice. Flying the drone and landing using your hand is fun but challenging and somewhat limiting. It isn’t wise to attempt flying the Spark with hand gestures unless prop guards are also attached. A smartphone will give you slightly more control of the drone but transmission maxes out at 100 meters (about 330 ft.). With the remote controller, the range extends to 1.2 miles and you’ll have more flexibility with maneuvering the camera.
There are four automatic flight modes that can be accessed through a smartphone or remote. Dronie can be used for taking aerial selfies, while Helix plots an upward spiraling path. Rocket sends the drone straight up toward the sky with the camera facing down, and Circle has the camera orbit a designated subject.
The DJI Spark is a good choice for casual users who primarily intend to share photos and video online or those who want to impress friends/onlookers by controlling a drone with gestures. Although it can be used for more demanding applications, serious photographers or videographers will generally find it underwhelming. If image quality outranks portability, explore other options. But if fun and social sharing are your priority, it’s a good option.