DJI Spark: Tiny wonder
Ever watched a drone video on YouTube that was so visually captivating, that it immediately inspired you to pursue aerial videography as a new hobby? You probably have, but only to end up having your dreams crushed the moment you realized that a drone like, say, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro would cost you a tiny fortune (a quick check shows that the Phantom 4 Pro retails for a whopping RM6,780).
But even if you did have the additional cash to spend, you’re probably also worried about unintentionally sending your brand new drone plummeting into the ground the moment it takes off, which is a perfectly understandable concern if you’re a first-time drone pilot.
So, instead of throwing yourself into the deep end right at the get-go, why not gradually ease yourself into the highly rewarding world of aerial videography (and maybe even photography) by getting a drone that’s more physically and financially manageable, like the DJI Spark?
Design and features
If you couldn't already tell from the pictures above, the Spark is a remarkably small drone. We wouldn't go so far as to call it a pocketable drone – unless you’re wearing a trenchcoat – but it’s certainly small enough to comfortably take off from the palm of your hand, without having to worry about its propellers whirring uncomfortably close to your face.
DJI says the Spark has a maximum flight time of 16 minutes, taking into consideration that it doesn't have to constantly put in the extra effort to stabilize itself during windy weather conditions. Frankly speaking, you can count your lucky stars if you manage to keep the Spark up in the air for longer than 10 consecutive minutes.
But before you let the Spark loose, you will need to read its accompanying manual to familiarize yourself with its many features – there are no two ways about it. Because should you decide not to, you will definitely end up struggling to make sense of things like, say, its Aircraft Status Indicators, which are essentially the two LEDs located beneath its two rear propellers.
They flash in three different colors – red, yellow, and green – but in a number of different combinations. For example, if the status indicators flash slowly in red, it means that the Spark’s battery is running low. If they flash rapidly in yellow, it means that it has lost connection with its remote controller. If they flash rapidly in in red and yellow, it would mean that a compass calibration is required.
If you’re planning to pilot the Spark using the DJI GO 4 app on your smartphone, expect to find yourself referring to its manual rather often to make sense of the different buttons and icons that are scattered around its flight interface. It would’ve definitely been nice if DJI included a brief tutorial to help first-time flyers settle in, though.
The Spark has a maximum transmission distance of 100 meters when it’s paired to your smartphone, but your mileage may vary depending on where you’re flying it. We discovered that our Wi-Fi connection to the drone was relatively unstable while it was being flown around the neighborhood playground, possibly due to interference from nearby Wi-Fi networks and connections.
Things were slightly better when we were out in a vast open field, however, as we had no trouble maintaining a consistently strong and reliable connection with the Spark. But even so, it only has a maximum flight altitude of 50 meters, which means you can forget about using the Spark to capture a top-down view of the KL Twin Towers.
You can get the Spark to travel at extended distances of up to two kilometers if you decide to purchase its optional remote controller, which comes highly recommended for those of you who prefer having granular control over its movement.
Apart from doing typical drone things, the Spark is able to recognize and respond to your hand gestures. Stretching your hand out with your palm facing outwards and fingers pointing up – as though you were telling someone to stop – and slowly moving your hand up and down would cause the Spark to follow accordingly. Good for impressing your friends and family, but not so much for actually controlling the drone, since the Spark often had trouble recognizing our gestures.
The Spark also has a bunch of Intelligent Flight Modes that you can play around with, including QuickShot, ActiveTrack, and TapFly. That last one, for example, allows you to automatically fly the Spark to a particular location by simply tapping the spot on your smartphone. It goes without saying that it will take some time for you to master each of the intelligent flight modes, but you can rest assured that it would be worth your while.
Mounted on the front of the Spark is a camera with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor that’s attached to a two-axis stabilization gimbal. It’s capable of capturing 12MP stills and Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) videos at 30 fps.
We have to admit, we were very impressed by the photo and video quality of the Spark. The photos that it took were clean and detailed with pleasant colors, while videos were incredibly sharp and virtually shake-free – pretty impressive for a drone of its size.
The DJI Spark is definitely a great starting point for anyone looking to venture into aerial photography and videography. It has a ton of rewarding features, it isn’t terribly complicated to pilot, and it captures stellar photos and videos.
You can purchase the Spark on its own for RM2,280. But if budget permits, we would strongly recommend you to get the Spark Fly More Combo for RM3,300, which comes with the optional remote controller we talked about earlier, as well as propeller guards, additional propellers, an additional battery, a battery charging hub, and a shoulder bag.