Top critical review
HONEST REVIEW: Not recommended as an Entry Drone or For Experts
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 20, 2017
This drone is hard to recommend as an entry drone because of its premium price tag or for professional use due to its lack of professional features. I realize that this will upset many DJI Spark fans, so please allow me to explain why I feel the Spark isn't good value. I'll try to keep it brief and just highlight the main pros and cons. As someone who got caught up in the hype and marketing surrounding its release, I hope to provide my honest review so that you can make a more informed purchase decision.
While it's targeted primarily for beginners and those looking for a small palm size drone which is easy and safe to use, it kind of misses the mark here. I understand that this isn't intended to be a more affordable Mavic, yet with all the features and limitations it faces, it makes it hard to recommend because of how expensive it is. If this drone was sold as it was with its limited features but at a much more fair and affordable price of say ($500 with the combo), then I would argue that this is a good entry drone with some very cool features. However, at $700 this drone is too limited to recommend. For an extra $300, the Mavic is a much more appealing drone which you won't feel is lacking in comparison. Allow me to explain the main cons of this Spark and also include pros at the end to be as unbiased as I can.
*As a quick preliminary thought - with the 2 main cons I discuss below, the lack of a 3rd Axis on the Gimbal and being locked to 1080p 30fps - it feels as though DJI has intentionally held back this Spark drone so that it is not seen as a direct competitor to the DJI Mavic. Yes you can argue it's to keep costs down, but again it goes back to fact that at $700 for a drone, these features should be present.*
-Price/Value: First off, this isn't that cheap. It's advertised as a $500 drone, but that doesn't include the much needed controller. The drone isn't really $500, nor should you simply buy the drone without the controller. It is locked done and misses out on many of its features without the controller. This includes limited range, harder controls, and slower flying speeds. On top of that, you lack many essential accessories including a must have extra battery (if you want to realistically fly longer than 12-14 minutes at a time). You're essentially shooting yourself in the foot by not buying the fly more package. In reality, this drone is $700, only $300 less than the much more capable and enjoyable DJI Mavic. You might think that's a big difference, but take into account that the Mavic can do just about everything (with the exception of gesture controls) better.
-2 Axis, not 3 Axis Gimbal: This was a big one for me. The lack of the Yaw (3rd Axis) on the Gimbal makes your panning shots (when you spin the drone in different directions) jittery and unsmooth. Even for non-professional use, this can ruin the quality of footage. I wish I noticed this in initial reviews online. You can argue that this won't bother you, however, it is noticeable and is a big letdown.
-Difficult Setup: With all DJI drones, the setup process can be a little confusing and the included manuals do little to help. This is especially problematic for less experienced consumers who simply want a drone that is good to fly out of the box. This makes it hard to recommend for new fliers who want ease and simplicity. Something as simple as pairing and connecting your controller and drone in sync with your phone takes time and isn't clearly explained. Many people will hate this.
-Poor Instructions: Tying in with the point above, this isn't very intuitive to use and setup. With some patience, reading, and online research, you can probably answer most of your questions. However, why isn't the included material and App enough to clarify everything on its own with ease?
-Only 1 Shooting Mode: This is locked to 1080p 30fps. Another huge con limiting your options on shooting. Even many beginners are familiar with different shooting settings and will see the limitation of being stuck with just 1080p 30fps. I would be willing to bet that DJI intentionally limited its functionality here so it doesn't rival the Mavic, or so that a future Spark generation is seen as appealing and people upgrade to it. Smartphones from 4 years ago could should 4k. I highly doubt the onboard processor is what's holding it back. Even if it was, why can't we shoot 24fps or 60fps? For settings in video, you're limited to changing the Shutter Speed, ISO, EV.
-Non-Foldable Arms: While a con as it means it effectively takes a larger footprint when stored compared to the larger DJI Mavic, it honestly does make it more durable if there were impacts to the arms. That said however, I again would think this is a future feature we'll see on the Spark 2. Because the arms don't fold however, it does make it harder to store than the Mavic. Not by a whole lot, but it is annoying.
-Storage: The DJI Carrying Bag was not well designed in my opinion. Yes it's very well made and beautiful, however, it's lack of appropriately sized accessory pockets make it a very tight fit to store your accessories. This is especially true for the Prop Guards. The front pocket is the only place you'd fit them with the drone and remote in the main compartment. I was hardly able to close its front zipper with the prop guards in.
-DJI Go App Sucks: Read the reviews online for the must-have accompanying app. It sucks. It’s full of bugs and every update seems to hinder it more. It frequently crashes and has random issues. This can take away from the flying experience and potentially cause for a dangerous experience. Granted this issue plagues all DJI products, but is still important when considering this purchase as well.
-It’s Unique Features are Causing Inexperienced Users to Crashe: This is controversial, and so I’ll argue it’s very minor but should still be noted. With those cool unique gestures and flight modes such as Dronie, Rocket, and Fly Away, many people have already crashed and destroyed their drones within their first few flights. This IS NOT DJI’s FAULT. It is user error as they used these modes in tight locations they should not have (Crashing into tress, walls, etc). This is still a con, however, because newer users, especially those excited to try these modes out, will ignore the DJI warnings and still try the modes, crash, and hate their purchase. The best part of this drone is also its weakness unfortunately.
-Small Size & Weight: Despite not having folding arms, it’s palm size and very light. It will take little room in your backpack when you carry it along.
-Good Accessory Combo: The accessory combo includes everything you’d realistically need to get up and flying and having fun. It was smart to include the prop guards standard.
-Well Made/ Durable: It would seem because of its fixed arms, that this is probably more durable than even the larger Mavic. The arms are less likely to be seriously damaged upon impact.
-Unique Gesture Modes: Perhaps the biggest selling feature of this drone is all the cool easy to use gestures and flying modes which allow you to capture great shots without much prior experience of drones or aerial photography.
-Palm Landing/Take Offs: Another very cool unique feature to the Spark is that you can easily take off and land in your palm with ease (for the most part).
All in all, this a great concept but with poor execution. DJI built up hype with some excellent marketing. Without a doubt, this a very cool drone that had potential. At its current price point, it lacks to many features which I easily feel could’ve been included. I’m all for an affordable entry drone that can do everything this can do. In fact this is an excellent entry level drone… but not with its premium pricing. Again, if it was say $500 with the fly more combo, I think that would be a fair price.
I hope this review has helped you better decide if the DJI Spark is for you.