The mini drone "DJI Spark" in the test and in comparison to the Mavic Pro

DJI Spark in the test - advantages, disadvantages and the comparison with the Mavic Pro

The DJI Spark is the smallest model that DJI currently has on the market. My copy just arrived a good three weeks ago and has been in use many times since then. This enabled me to gain some experience and would like to pass it on to you in the form of a test report.

Update 01.02.2018/XNUMX/XNUMX: Meanwhile, the DJI Mavic Air published. The drone is hardly bigger than the Spark, but it is much higher quality in terms of video and photo properties. If you are looking for a small, powerful travel drone, you should take a look at the Mavic Air have a look at the DJI Shop.

DJI Spark Combo - Mini drone with max.speed of 50 km / h, up to 2 km ...
  • ULTRAMOBILE AND POWERFUL: It offers the ideal combination of performance and mobility with maximum ...
  • JACK-FREE VIDEOS WITHOUT COMPROMISES: With its mechanical suspension and UltraSmooth technology, the Spark makes ...
  • FLY WITHOUT WORRY: The Spark hovers precisely and automatically lands near its take-off position. You can...
52,00 EUR
DJI Mavic Air Fly More Combo - drone with 4K full HD video camera including remote control I 32 megapixel ...
  • SPHERICAL PANORAMIC IMAGES WITH 32 MEGAPIXELS EXPAND YOUR HORIZON: The DJI Mavic Air takes 25 photos in 8 seconds and ...
  • CAMERA WITH 3-AXIS GIMBAL: The integrated camera of the Mavic Air has a 1 / 2.3 "CMOS sensor with 12 megapixels and ...
  • 4K SLOW MOTION VIDEO WITH 100 MBIT / S: Make fascinating 4K videos (30 fps), recorded at 100 Mbit / s, to capture every second in ...

In my “drone arsenal”, in addition to the DJI Spark for around 600 euros, there is also a DJI Mavic Pro, which costs around 1.200 euros, a Phantom 4 and an octocopter from Asctec that sold for over 10.000 euros a few years ago without accessories has cost. So I can fall back on a bit of experience with some models and a few years of practical use when I try to classify the performance of the DJI Spark in comparison with the Mavic Pro. We leave out the comparison with the AscTec Falcon 8, because the price difference is too big and the applications are too different. But let's just start. ;-)

My current fleet of drones: DJI Spark, DJI Mavic Pro and AscTec Falcon 8 - the Phantom 4 has just been loaned out (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

My current fleet of drones: DJI Spark, DJI Mavic Pro and AscTec Falcon 8 - the Phantom 4 has just been loaned out (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Optics and workmanship

I think the Spark looks very good. The different colors that you can choose from make things a little more interesting. My model is sky blue, but there are also white, red, green and yellow. In order to be able to take a picture of the DJI drone, I have put together a few pictures here, all of which were made with my iPhone 7 Plus.

I also find the workmanship very good. Although the Spark is mostly made of plastic, it feels very valuable. The material also seems to be relatively sturdy, so that occasional knocks will at most cause a few scratches, but not cause major damage. I have been using my Spark relatively often for a few weeks, during which the device was not treated very carefully - it did not become ugly from my point of view and there are no cracks or chippings to be found.

Technical data in brief

I don't want to go into all the details of the "specs" because we already have them in the first post about the DJI Spark . summarized. For those who have not read this article or who do not want to read it now, I can summarize the most important things again:

Weight:

The Spark weighs just under 300 grams and is therefore a flyweight compared to the other models from DJI. At around 750 grams, the DJI Mavic Pro weighs more than twice the Spark and, despite the folding mechanism on the arms, somehow looks significantly larger than the weight difference would suggest.

Flight time / battery capacity

The batteries of the DJI Spark have 1.480 mAh and allow a flight time of 16 minutes, whereby in practice this levels off at around 12-13 minutes, since you have to think about the flight home from a remaining running time of around 3 to 4 minutes. From around three minutes remaining, the Spark wants to initiate “Return to Home”. If you interrupt this and continue flying, you have to be prepared for the fact that if you have one minute left, it will simply land on the spot - without you being able to intervene. This can be very uncomfortable when you are flying over water or over the forest.

Screenshot from the video linked below: Return to Home is a great emergency mode - but not if the home point is somehow set over bodies of water. ;)

Screenshot from the video linked below: Return to Home is a great emergency mode - but not if the home point is somehow set over water and the battery is running low. ;)

You can find great videos on this topic on YouTube (Source) showing people walking into the water in full clothing to save their drone. This "return-to-home" emergency program not only makes the DJI Spark but also the Phantom or Mavic. For this reason, I always fly in such a way that I am on the way home from 4 minutes left.

Camera sensor and / resolution for video and photo

The camera's sensor is supposedly the same one that DJI installed in the Mavic Pro. However, the optics in front of it are significantly smaller, which also has an impact on the image quality. But more on that later. In terms of resolution, the Spark "only" offers 1080p at 30 frames per second for videos and 12 megapixels (3.968 x 2.976 pixels) for photos.

When comparing the cameras, it is noticeable that the Spark's camera is significantly smaller than that of the Mavic Pro.

When comparing the cameras, it is noticeable that the Spark's camera is significantly smaller than that of the Mavic Pro. Nevertheless, a similarly sized (if not the same) sensor is active in the background to capture the films and photos.

Why only 1080p and not 4K?

The obvious question about the low video resolution is "Why doesn't the camera record at 4K when it's the same sensor that can handle 4K on the Mavic Pro?" Quite simply: because the Spark's gimbal only has 2-axis stabilization and the wobbles that inevitably have to be digitally stabilized. To do this, a smaller part of the complete video is cut out so that you still have video material in all directions for the stabilization process. This all takes place internally and only the fully stabilized material ends up on the SD card - in 1080p, as it had to be cut to size. For this reason, the Spark ultimately only delivers 1080p, while internally recording and processing more pixels.

2-axis stabilization

As already mentioned: Another important difference to the Mavic is the camera gimbal, which is equipped with 3 axes on the Mavic and in this way records buttery smooth videos, even if the drone wobbles left and right. With the DJI Spark, the yaw axis (Y axis) was not stabilized, which is not a problem at all with photos, but when rotated it means that they are sometimes a bit jerky.

In practice, the difference is particularly noticeable if, for example, the quickshot “Helix” is selected, in which the drone moves away from the pilot in an ever-increasing circular motion, but still keeps it in focus. A constant (automatic) turning of the drone is the basis for this maneuver so that the pilot remains in focus. Unfortunately, you can clearly see that the Spark is constantly making corrections, so that the recording does not come across as very "smooth" from my point of view.

In comparison: the gimbals of the DJI Spark and the Mavic Pro - the construction of the 3-axis gimbal is significantly more complex and therefore less robust than the camera mount of the Spark.

In comparison: the gimbals of the DJI Spark and the Mavic Pro - the construction of the 3-axis gimbal is significantly more complex and therefore less robust than the camera mount of the Spark.

This quickshot does not (yet) exist with the Mavic Pro, but the recordings with manual rotary movements work very smoothly on the DJI Magic Pro if you have a little practice. With the Spark, even with practice, there is often not much that can be saved, as even medium-small gusts of wind can cause lateral wobbling.

Unpack and set up

Unpacking at DJI is a bit like Apple. The packaging is at a "high level" and it is accordingly easy to get all things out. When setting it up myself, however, based on my own stupidity, I found it a little difficult.

The DJI Spark Fly More Combo - definitely the right choice to have the most important accessories with you at low cost.

The DJI Spark Fly More Combo - definitely the right choice to get the most important accessories at a reasonable price.

I got them right away DJI Spark Fly More Combo I ordered because, on the one hand, I really wanted to have the controller with me and, on the other hand, I didn't want to miss an additional battery and the charging station. The bag was less important to me as there is usually not enough space in it for all the things I want to take with me. Nevertheless, the purchase of the Fly More Combo is also worthwhile for the other accessories.

After unpacking, charging the batteries and the controller is the first compulsory event. With the Fly More Combo charging station, approx. 40 minutes of charging time (charging up to three batteries in parallel) is still bearable as a time frame if you have waited weeks for the delivery beforehand.

Wifi password to connect iPhone and DJI Spark is always wrong? That could be because of the "RC" in the WLAN name. ;)

Wifi password to connect iPhone and DJI Spark is always wrong? That could be because of the "RC" in the WLAN name. ;)

During the loading process, I thought, I could do the mandatory firmware updates right away. To do this, you first have to pair the Spark with the iPhone so that the firmware can be imported. Actually a relatively simple and self-running process once the connection is established. But in that case I didn't even know how to pair the Spark with the iPhone, because there is no included cable that would establish the connection between the controller and the iPhone.

Instead, you have to establish a connection via WiFi. And here my first gray hairs came up: I could see a DJI device in the WLAN menu, but where is the password for the device ?! So I started Google and read it (I don't know why I don't read the instructions!). It said that you can find the password on the plastic packaging in which the DJI Spark is transported - or alternatively in the battery compartment of the Spark itself.

Wrong wifi password: RC is the controller and not the spark!

Unfortunately, I always got the message that the password was wrong, which seriously puzzled me. After a while, however, it came to light: I only saw the remote controller in the WLAN while I was entering the password for the Spark's WLAN. The password for the remote controller can be found on the back of the controller. * forehead clap *

Fly More Combo is already paired!

The reason for this misunderstanding with the different wifi and passwords (which has happened to others too!) Is due to the fact that the Fly More Combos are delivered from the factory in such a way that the remote controller is coupled with the Spark. If this happens, the user will no longer see the Spark's WLAN, only that of the controller.

In order to "see" the WLAN of the Spark, you first have to cancel the coupling between Spark and controller (switch on DJI Spark, if switched on, press the power button for about 6 seconds until it beeps twice (first it beeps once)).

Said and done. So after I had decoupled both, I was able to establish a connection to the Spark and the controller via WiFi with the correct (!) Access data and import the corresponding updates via the DJI Go 4 app.

The first flight - without taking off

After the batteries were full, the Spark was paired and the weather was fine, I went to an open area in the garden and wanted to try out gesture control without an iPhone and without a remote controller. Here I failed miserably for the second time, while the spark in my hand only flashed accusingly red at me.

With the gesture control, the front LED rings of the Spark tell you whether a command has been received (steady green light) or whether there is a problem (flashing red).

With the gesture control, the front LED rings of the Spark tell you whether a command has been received (steady green light) or whether there is a problem (flashing red). A steady red light is not a warning, but only serves to identify the alignment of the drone at a greater distance.

To get to the bottom of the matter, I had to open the DJI Go app on the iPhone. They then immediately announced to me that I first had to activate the Spark with my account at DJI. The whole thing went within a few seconds because I already had an account with the manufacturer for the other drones. You can see how it works in detail here in this support video from DJI.

By the way: Without activation, the Mavics, Phantoms and Sparks only work in "emergency mode" and what feels like 90% of the functions are severely restricted. So it is more or less a "duty" to click on a DJI account and activate the devices with it.

The activation of the DJI drone can be done within a few minutes via the DJI GO app on the smartphone.

The activation of the DJI drone can be done within a few minutes via the DJI GO app on the smartphone.

First "real" flight and gesture control test

Well, when I had done the activation, I could finally start using the gesture control: switch on DJI Spark, wait until it has "booted up", then hold it on the outstretched arm in front of the face (where drones are generally very reluctant!) And twice briefly press the power button. As in the many demonstration videos, the LED rings on the front arms of the Spark turned green and the quadrocopter took off. The first sense of achievement!

Now the control via the palm of the hand in Jedi mode was on the to-do list. So the Spark hold your hand in front of the camera and slowly move it to the side. The drone follows the hand with a slight delay, but maintains a distance of about one meter from the palm of the hand. If you approach the Spark, it shrinks back. If you back away yourself, it follows your hand and keeps you at a distance. An interesting experience.

Basically, the controls already work in this way, but it has too long a delay for my taste and unfortunately only works half the time. Maybe it's because of the palm of my hand, but I could also see in videos of other people that they often had to start with an arm wave to the side several times before the Spark followed them.

A tip: Sometimes it works better if you use a fist instead of the palm for control. Maybe that makes a more impression on gesture recognition. ;)

Gesture control is a feature that DJI used to advertise Spark massively. Unfortunately, in practice it doesn't work as reliably as promised. For me, however, it is rather unimportant (Photo: DJI).

Gesture control is a feature that DJI used to advertise Spark massively. Unfortunately, this type of control does not work as reliably as promised in practice. For me, however, it is rather unimportant (Photo: DJI).

What works relatively safely is the command “fly away”, which is initiated by waving. The Spark then flies approx. 4-5 meters backwards and approx. 2-3 meters upwards. Now you form a box with your thumb and forefinger of both hands and the Spark reacts by flashing the red LEDs in front. If it no longer flashes, the photo has been taken. That worked out quite well!

My favorite move: You form a Y with your arms and the Spark slowly comes flying towards the pilot and hovers in the air in front of you to receive new orders. If you hold the palm under it (distance approx. 30 cm), then it slowly descends and lands on the palm. Perfect! That's something I miss with the Mavic Pro when you're out in rough terrain with tall grass: hand-held take off and landing.

My conclusion on gesture control

Gesture control is definitely still in its infancy. In my opinion, the response time is too slow and the reliability of the recognition of the commands is still too low. If I swing my arm to the side three times and the Spark only recognizes it the third time, then over time it becomes annoying. DJI will certainly improve this, but gesture control is a feature that I don't need anyway. For the reason: It doesn't matter if it doesn't work 100%. I don't give the Spark any deductions in the overall ranking for this.

No foldable propeller arms - not necessarily a disadvantage

When introducing the Spark, many people criticized the fact that it doesn't have foldable arms like those used in the Mavic Pro, for example. Sure, you could have optimized the size again with this, but the foldable booms are definitely at the expense of durability.

When drones crash, it is usually on one of the booms. These then usually break at the weakest point and that is the joint of the folding mechanism on the Mavic Pro. The DJI Spark was designed by the manufacturer to be very robust. You can already see this on the camera, which does not require any extra gimbal protection or lens cover. The construction of the booms is also chosen so that they are wider at the approach to the “body” of the drone and can therefore withstand high forces.

In the endurance test video, the Spark really has to go through a lot. The crash test with a banana is still something of the harmless variety.

In the endurance test video, the Spark really has to go through a lot. The crash test with a banana is still something of the harmless variety.

You can see that this construction is a concept that works in this video, in which a Youtuber subjects the Spark to a "durability test". He flies into trees, drops them on the ground, hurls them away with a rope, shaves off bushes and flies in the pouring rain. And what can I say: The Spark holds out everything. Not even a propeller broke.

With the Mavic Pro, this would have been over faster, because falls from a small height can lead to the Mavic's boom breaking.

Solid construction: The outriggers of the Spark can withstand a lot - a good decision by DJI to do without the folding mechanism.

Solid construction: The outriggers of the Spark can withstand a lot - a good decision by DJI to do without the folding mechanism.

For me, the choice of the fixed motor arms is understandable and correct. You want to throw the Spark in your backpack and take it with you wherever you go and have it ready for use quickly. You definitely don't want to put them in cotton wool and drag them through world history in a huge transport case.

Apart from that, DJI itself probably sees a certain potential for normal users to rustle into one or the other tree or bush in the Quickshot modes. It is certainly a relief for the in-house repair department when the plane can do a little something. ;)

Photo quality: 12 megapixels with impressive results

There are various reports on the Internet that compare the photo quality of the DJI Spark with that of the DJI Mavic Pro. Right - after all, both have a 12 MP sensor. In practice, the comparison is also entirely justified in good, sunny weather. However, you can quickly tell the difference when you take photos in situations that are less well lit or have a high contrast between dark and light areas. You can see an example of this below in the comparison of the video quality, because there the same differences between the cameras emerge.

If you add the fact that the Mavic Pro can record photos in RAW format (DNG), while the DJI Spark currently only delivers JPGs, then the Mavic Pro has a double advantage over the Spark.

Nevertheless, I would certify the DJI Spark to have good photo quality, because in most situations the photos are absolutely sufficient. You can even use the DJI Spark if you want to photograph company buildings or houses for a website.

Quick improvement of photos with Photolemur

With good post-processing, you can get more out of the photos of both drones than most people think anyway. So that you can see what I mean, I've just left two photos unprocessed (in the left image area) and post-processed (right image side; fully automatic improved by Photolemur) set. Both photos were taken with the DJI Spark and were scaled down to a suitable size for the web.

On the left you can see a small section of the original. After the vertical line you can see the result of the 1-click photo optimization. On the left you can see a small section of the original. After the vertical line you can see the result of the 1-click photo optimization with Photolemur: more sharpness, better colors, more depth effect and overall a clearer picture. G with Photolemur.

On the left you can see a small section of the original. After the vertical line you can see the result of the 1-click photo optimization with Photolemur to the right of it: more sharpness, better colors, more depth effect and overall a clearer picture.

 

Even in low light - here you can see the moon in the sky - the Spark can take passable photos. Optimizing with Photolemur gives the photo even more color and mood.

Even in low light - here you can see the moon in the sky - the Spark can take passable photos. Optimizing with Photolemur gives the photo even more color and mood. On the left the original from the SD card and on the right the optimized version.

The software Photolemur I would like to mention a tip at this point, because users of Spark in particular should fall into the appropriate target group. Hardly anyone who travels with this snap-snap-ratchet drone wants 5 minutes per photo in Lightroom or Affinity Photo mess around. With Photolemur you can improve an entire folder of photos in one go - that's what the average consumer likes. ;)

Here are a few more photos that I took quickly with the Spark. These photos have only been reduced, but not edited.

Here is a photo of the town of Schönstein (Gilserberg) - as you can see, there is a lot of forest here. ;-)

Here is a photo of the town of Schönstein (Gilserberg) - as you can see, there is a lot of forest here. ;-)

 

This place is called Dodenhausen and belongs to the municipality of Haina. The Spark can also take a good picture of them.

This place is called Dodenhausen and belongs to the municipality of Haina. The little Spark can take a good picture of these as well.

 

The Spark also masters close-ups - even better than some other drones, because it can focus on objects up to 0,5 meters away.

The Spark also masters close-ups - even better than some other drones, because it can focus on objects up to 0,5 meters away.

 

The photo quality of the camera is definitely sufficient for home use. If you then factor in its easy portability, the Spark is a great flying camera for athletes, outdoor freaks and hikers for whom the Mavic Pro might be too unwieldy and cumbersome.

Bokeh photo mode - almost like a DSLR

The effect is already known from the iPhone 7 Plus. Here, too, a depth effect is digitally reproduced in the photo that is otherwise only possible with DSLR cameras: While the foreground is sharp, the background of the photo is blurred. The DJI Spark has a special photo mode for this, which DJI calls "Bokeh".

The bokeh photo mode is a nice gimmick, which sometimes delivers quite convincing results.

The bokeh photo mode is a nice gimmick, which sometimes delivers quite convincing results. The setting of the focus level is done later in the DJI GO app.

You can set the bokeh effect later in the DJI GO app. You tap on the object that should be sharp and slide the slider up or down to set the strength.

You can set the bokeh effect later in the DJI GO app. You tap on the object that should be sharp and slide the slider up or down to set the strength of the effect.

 

Compared to the iPhone 7 Plus, this effect can be set subsequently in the DJI Go app. There you click on the edit button and then you have the option of selecting the object in the photo that should be sharp. The strength of the effect can be set with a small slider next to the aperture symbol. If you are satisfied with the result, you can save the photo in the camera roll of the smartphone.

Technical implementation and resolution of the bokeh photos

Technically, the bokeh effect is realized by the Spark taking a good 1 photos from different heights within 2-20 seconds (total height difference is perhaps 30 cm). From these photos, the DJI Go app then later calculates a depth profile of the scene, with the help of which it calculates the shallow depth of field in the photo.

A bokeh test: Here the trunk was focused, the rest is drawn soft and later I did some post-processing in Photoshop. A realistic looking depth effect, right?

A bokeh test: Here the trunk was focused, the rest is drawn soft and later I did a color correction in Photoshop. A realistic looking depth effect, right?

The photo resolution of the bokeh photos is significantly smaller than the normal photos of the Spark at 1440 x 1080 pixels. So are they mainly suitable for use on the web for social media platforms or other websites.

In most cases the result is quite good. However, if you focus on an object in the background, the foreground becomes out of focus, which looks very strange when you have individual objects that protrude in the foreground - you can see this in the example photo with the unsharp tree trunk (photo below center). The blurring in the outline of the trunk is simply missing here. For that reason it looks very unnatural ...

Video quality and stability of the recordings

In terms of video quality, from my point of view you have to see the size of the camera and the drone in relation to one another. In a comparison with the Mavic Pro, the Spark definitely does poorly, because the 4K recordings of the Mavic Pro are more detailed, better in difficult lighting conditions, and the 3-axis stabilization is significantly softer when rotating.

Still, the video quality of the DJI Spark is impressively good. Of course, 1080p is not 4K, but for many Youtubers and amateur filmmakers this resolution is sufficient. If you look at other drones in this price range, such as the Beebop 2 from Parrot or other models, you quickly realize that DJI has set the bar very high for other manufacturers. Personally, I don't know of any drone in this price range that could compete with the Spark in terms of photo and video quality.

Due to the combination of the 2-axis stabilization of the gimbal and the internal, digital stabilization, the video material is extremely stable. If you make slow flights without turning the drone around the yaw axis, then the video recordings are completely free of jerks. The difference to the 3-axis gimbal of the Mavic Pro can only be seen when turning the drone.

Video quality comparison between DJI Spark and Mavic Pro

A common question asked is how to compare the video quality between these two drones. The technical differences can be seen here in the table:

 DJI SparkDJI Mavic Pro
sensor size1 / 2,3 inch CMOS1 / 2,3 inch CMOS
Resolution12 MP12,35 MP
field of view81,9 degree78,8 degree
coverƒ = 2,6ƒ = 2,2
video recordingonly 1080p 30fps @ 24Mbpsup to 4K 30fps @ 60Mbps
ISO range photos100-1.600100-1.600
ISO range videos100-3.200100-3.200

The sensor of the Mavic Pro is marginally larger and the resolution is of course many times better with 4K, but one difference that cannot be read in numbers is the dynamic range. With a good camera, this can be seen in the fact that it can handle high contrasts and, for example, can still display structures in dark areas of objects, while at the same time a bright sky is also correctly exposed and free of frayed, white clouds (overexposed areas). And this is exactly where the Mavic Pro's camera has fewer weaknesses than that of the Spark. You can recognize it from the sample screenshots that I have included in the article (video comparison) below. Nevertheless: The DJI Spark delivers a very good video result for its size and price range, which I don't want to say badly.

The video settings on the Spark are currently quite manageable or not available. After all, a manual white balance can be set in the general camera settings (hidden behind the gearwheel), which is important for many videographers.

The video settings on the Spark are currently quite manageable or not available. After all, a manual white balance can be set in the general camera settings (hidden behind the gearwheel), which is important for many videographers.

Everything on "Auto": No video settings are currently available

The DJI Spark is clearly not aimed at filmmakers. While with the DJI Mavic Pro you can make a lot of settings for the video recordings (different resolutions and frame rates, D-Cinelike, D-LOG and similar things), with the Spark there is only 1080p at 30fps and everything is set to "Auto". The only output format is MP4 format (MPEG-4 AVC / H.264). For example, those who like to record at 25fps, 60fps or in DLOG mode will not be happy with the Spark.

Fair weather camera

As indicated above, the camera difference between the Mavic Pro and Spark is not that easy to see in good weather. Of course, you can see with a 4K television that the Spark's image can reproduce fewer details, but if you look at the whole thing on a full HD television, the difference in video resolution is put into perspective again.

A video that compares in good weather is this one:

However, the actual differences are more likely to be seen in low light conditions and not in sunshine. For this reason I recommend this video to you, in which you can see more clearly where the limits of Spark are:

From this video here from AuthenTech (Ben Schmanke) I would like to show you a few screenshots that clearly reveal the differences between the two cameras.

Left Spark, right Mavic Pro: You can clearly see from the stones that the lower video resolution of the Spark blurs the structures here.

Left Spark, right Mavic Pro: You can clearly see from the stones that the lower video resolution of the Spark blurs the structures here (source for all screenshots: AuthenTech / BenSchmanke).

 

Video comparison in sunset: in the left areas (by the meadow) and by the houses in the background, you can clearly see that the Mavic Pro can handle the contrast situation better.

Video comparison in sunset: in the left areas (by the meadow) and by the houses in the background, you can clearly see that the Mavic Pro can handle the contrast situation better.

This screenshot of the video comparison shows the Spark's weaknesses on the tree trunk in the foreground. While the Spark only shows a black trunk, there are still structures to be seen on the Mavic Pro. If you were to record with the Mavic in D-Cinelike mode, you could get even more out of the raw material.

This screenshot of the video comparison shows the Spark's weaknesses (left picture) on the tree trunk in the foreground. While the Spark only shows a black trunk, there are still structures to be seen on the Mavic Pro (right picture). If you were to shoot with the Mavic in D-Cinelike mode, you could get even more details out of the shadow areas of the raw material.

In the image of the Spark (left), the mountains in the background are largely without details and structure, while the Mavic Pro (right) still provides image information that extends beyond an even surface.

In the image of the Spark (left), the mountains in the background are largely without details and structures, while the Mavic Pro (right) still provides image information that extends beyond an even surface.

I think these screenshots make it clear that the Spark does not make bad videos compared to the Mavic Pro, but does reveal weaknesses in border areas. Whether this ultimately becomes so clear in the moving image depends of course on the film and the corresponding post-processing.

Update 30.09.2017/XNUMX/XNUMX: DJI Spark test video at dusk and thunderstorms

Since the Spark is so small and cheap, you naturally dare to do a little more. For example, a few months ago I flew with her at dusk and when a thunderstorm was approaching. It was raining a bit, there were gusts of wind and the result was the following video, which was only edited but published without post-processing. Certainly not a cinematic masterpiece, but it shows what the Spark can still do in poor light and adverse conditions.

With color grading and further post-processing, the video would be much nicer, but also less meaningful, that's why I left it that way.

iPhone control or better remote controller?

I have already had various drones that could be controlled using virtual sticks on the iPhone. I admit: so far nobody has done it as well as DJI at Spark. The control has little latency despite WiFi transmission and feels very "direct". Despite everything, of course you don't have any feedback, as you are used to from real control sticks.

This may still work to position the Spark for a photo recording within a radius of 30-40 meters, but to fly cleanly in one direction at a constant speed for 10 to 20 seconds for a video recording, the smartphone control is useless. However, it is precisely the soft pans and slow flights that make video recordings from drones something special. And you take this option when you fly without the real remote controller.

Technically, DJI has implemented the smartphone control of the drone perfectly, but unfortunately for my taste it is still significantly more spongy and inaccurate than the control via the real controller, which is unfortunately only sold with the Fly More Combo or as an extra accessory.

Technically, DJI has implemented the smartphone control of the drone perfectly, but unfortunately for my taste it is still much more spongy and inaccurate than the control via the real controller, which is unfortunately only sold with the Fly More Combo or as an extra accessory.

An additional disadvantage when flying with the iPhone is the fact that you can cover a large part of the live image from the drone with two thumbs on the smartphone display. This makes it much more difficult to see what the current image section looks like and where you are currently flying.

Another plus point for the "correct" remote control is the range. While I was able to reliably fly with the iPhone Wifi control at just 70-80 meters, the live image of the Spark with the controller only broke off after roughly 300-350 meters. According to the DJI specifications, the range is technically 2 km, but the DJI drones recognize in which country they are “traveling” and adjust the transmission power accordingly. Unfortunately, here in Germany you only get smaller values ​​that are well below the manufacturer's specifications.

No question about it: you definitely want to have the controller for the Spark. The limitations that you would otherwise have when controlling via smartphone are too great. And the great sport mode cannot be used without a controller either.

No question about it: you definitely want to have the controller for the Spark. The limitations that you would otherwise have when controlling via smartphone are too great. And the great sport mode cannot be used without a controller either.

My conclusion on the controller question: I think it is definitely a "must-have" if you want to make sensible recordings with the drone. You can use it to control the Spark much more precisely and therefore faster than is the case with a smartphone. The limitation of the range without a controller is also so enormous that you cannot really accept this permanently.

Apart from that, you cannot activate the Spark's sport mode without the controller and that is really a fun factor that should not be missed. A Youtuber said in his video: "If you activate the sport mode, the Spark behaves like a Tasmanian devil!" ... a nice description. : D

Fly More Combo - also a must buy

If you decide on the controller, you should buy the Fly More Combo directly, because if you buy the DJI Spark and the controller individually, you are almost at the combo price and with this Fly More combination you still get an additional battery and a lot more "on top". Overall, the Fly More Combo has a value of over 1000 euros, but costs only 799 euros.

Important links put together for you:

Obstacle Avoidance Test: How Well Does Obstacle Detection Work In Practice?

Granted, I've tested the feature a couple of times by flying in front of a tree or other obstacle. That worked so far and even bushes with protruding branches and small leaves were reliably recognized before the Spark would have rushed in.

In the test with Active Track by "The EverydayDad", the Spark reliably stops in front of obstacles, but it does not fly around them, as shown in the DJI promotional video (screenshot from the video).

In the test with Active Track by "The EverydayDad", the Spark reliably stops in front of obstacles, but it does not fly around them, as shown in the DJI promotional video (screenshot from the video).

But obstacle detection also includes flying around it so that the recording can continue. A typical area of ​​application: You activate the active track mode, in which the Spark follows an object and is supposed to actively avoid obstacles. The Youtuber "The Everyday Dad" tried this out on his mountain bike. You can find the matching video ..

His test produced three interesting results:

  1. The Spark can actually take a lot. During his recordings, the Spark took three heavy blows and it still flew.
  2. Gesture control only works for him in half of the cases.
  3. The obstacle detection works to the extent that the DJI Spark stops before it flies into an obstacle, but it only flies around the obstacle in a few cases.

Ready for use extremely quickly

What I see as an absolute plus point with the DJI Spark compared to the Mavic Pro is the quick readiness for use. I always have them in one when I go hiking Wrap protective cover (from Ideal Solutions) beaten, the controller and smartphone in another and she is in the air within a very short time. We are talking about times of about one minute.

Packing and unpacking with the Ideal Solution WRAP protective cover takes seconds. The Spark is up in the air within a minute!

Packing and unpacking with the Ideal Solution WRAP protective cover goes in seconds. The Spark is up in the air within a minute!

The transport bag from DJI was also included in the Fly More Combo and I use it when transporting in the car on longer distances, but the bag is too small and cumbersome for my accessories (4 additional batteries) if you want to fly off quickly.

The Spark makes a quick take-off extremely easy, because in contrast to the Mavic Pro, you don't have to fold out your arms, remove any gimbal protection or look for a suitable surface to take off, because take-off and landing are easy to do by hand.

The stealth drone - Spark is classified more as a toy

I don't know about you, but whenever I was on a mission with a drone in an inhabited area, it took less than 5 minutes until the first resident stood in front of me and - in the best case - asked critical questions. Often we were also insulted - despite having an ascent permit and notifying the police and public order office - which is really not conducive to attention when flying.

With the Mavic Pro, the number of complainers has already decreased, because it is simply very small and significantly quieter than my octocopter, which already makes a lot of wind with 8 propellers. The DJI Spark is again an improvement in this regard, because it is even quieter than the Mavic. If you then stand there with the small remote control and the smartphone, it looks more like a toy than “professional surveillance”. You can still hear the Spark when you are flying 100 meters above you on the quiet land, but when a car drives by, it drowns out the noise of the Spark in flight without any problems.

I like to call the DJI Spark “stealth drone” because it is hardly noticeable and you can simply fly more undisturbed. For me this is an argument to pack the Spark on hikes rather than the Mavic Pro, which other hikers notice much faster.

Often criticized: the battery life

It is true that the Spark, with about 13 minutes of realistic flight time, is well below the 22 minutes of the Mavic Pro. But I think that's whining on a high level. My octocopter has a flight time of almost 7 minutes and that was a figure 1-2 years ago that was quite realistic. DJI has set the bar so high with the Phantom series that you don't want to go backwards any more. So it looks like the 16 minutes DJI uses to advertise the Spark's flight time is a bad value - although in my opinion it is not.

"DJI Spark Intelligent Flight Battery" - this is what the manufacturer calls the batteries for the small quadrocopter. My recommendation: you better get 3-5 of them, because they flew empty quickly.

"DJI Spark Intelligent Flight Battery" - this is what the manufacturer calls the batteries for the small quadrocopter. My recommendation: you better get 3-5 of them, because they flew empty quickly. You can get them here in the DJI shop.

In practice, the flight time with the battery is not too short: If you - like we in Germany - have to fly "on sight" anyway, you might be 100 to 150 meters away. Whereby one can no longer seriously claim that one can recognize the orientation of the drone, which is actually the default for "flying by sight".

It may take a minute to fly to the scene of the action, then one for the return flight and so you still have a good 10 minutes before the DJI Spark's first battery warning kicks in. Personally, the flight time still seems more than sufficient. The only thing I can really recommend: Get more than two batteries. They flew empty really fast. I now have five of them and am well taken care of on long hikes.

My practical tip: Buy a DJI Spark battery - here in the DJI Store

The Spark threw the first battery warning at about 2 minutes 40. At about 1 minute 20, the Spark then initiated the "emergency landing" directly on site.

The Spark threw the battery warning with return-to-home initiation at approx. 2 minutes 40 remaining flight time. At about 1 minute 20, the Spark then initiated the "emergency landing" directly on site.

 

None (yet) Support in the Litchi app

Update 20.08.2018/XNUMX/XNUMX: Since mid-August, the Litchi app has also supported Orbit and Waypoint modes with the Spark. Seen in this way, this is no longer a significant disadvantage, as was the lack of support until recently. Update end.

The Litchi App is a third party app that can be used to plan flights for most DJI drones in advance. You can use it to carry out tracking shots over several minutes that you could never do by hand. Before I talk about the bush - here is a video that was made entirely with the Phantom 4 and the Litchi app. The pilot no longer controls anything, but watches the iPad or iPhone while steering. See for yourself what beautiful shots can come out of it.

Now the Litchi app has been updated to the DJI Mavic Pro, but the Spark is not yet supported. Since the Spark system is also open to control by third-party apps, compatibility with Litchi should only be a matter of time, but there is currently no support.

I just wrote to Litchi's support and asked how compatibility would be. The answer came straight away:

We hope to add support for Spark soon however waypoint / orbit modes will not be supported.

Unfortunately, this means that the most important flight modes will not be supported in the future either, as the DJI Spark cannot technically implement these flight modes via the API. Video recordings like the one from Corfu above will not be possible with the Spark. If I had to choose between the Mavic Pro and the Spark, the lack of Litchi support would be a reason to choose the Mavic.

Lower price, less fear of loss, more interesting flights

I noticed that with the Spark, I have significantly less worries about the drone when I fly close to objects. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that I think the Spark can withstand a fall from 4 to 5 meters into the meadow and, on the other hand, you don't move quite as much money around as with the Mavic Pro.

Whatever the reason - the inhibition threshold for riskier flights (not risky for people or animals!) Is lower and the recordings become more creative and exciting. This is a plus point that is often not included in the discussion about this drone, but which in my opinion should also play a role.

DJI Spark and a weathercock: Due to the obstacle detection and the small size, you dare to get up close and personal with the object with the Spark.

DJI Spark and a weathercock: Due to the obstacle detection and the small size of the drone, you dare to get up close and personal with the object with the Spark.

Buy a DJI Spark or DJI Mavic Pro?

I have both drones available and I have to say that I want both. Technically, the Mavic Pro is of course superior to the Spark. For this reason, it is also twice as expensive. The decisive question is rather: which drone is better suited for which purpose and what do you want to do with the drone?

The DJI Mavic Pro is the right choice for people who value demanding video recordings in the semi-professional sector. If space and weight are not an issue, I would even recommend the Phantom 4 Pro or the Inspire 2. But we're comparing two small, mobile drones here and only the Mavic Pro and the Spark come into question for me.

Filmmakers who like to get a lot out of the recordings through post-production are also better served with the Mavic Pro. This simply offers more setting options in order to be able to record the raw data as optimally as possible.

From my point of view, the DJI Spark is something for people who want to be super mobile and who value low weight and small pack size. If you still want to take photos and videos quickly without having to play around with the drone for a long time, then the Spark is the right drone.

Last but not least, you should also consider the price difference: While the Mavic Pro with accessories quickly costs 1.500 euros, the Spark in the Fly More Combo only costs 800 euros.

Update May 11.5.2019, XNUMX: What should you buy right now?

From the current point of view, I would probably get the DJI Mavic Air (Flymore Combo) if it is a small drone for the backpack. I have listed both drones (Spark and Mavic Air) in the Flymore combo from Amazon (with current prices!).

DJI Spark Combo - Mini drone with max.speed of 50 km / h, up to 2 km ...
  • ULTRAMOBILE AND POWERFUL: It offers the ideal combination of performance and mobility with maximum ...
  • JACK-FREE VIDEOS WITHOUT COMPROMISES: With its mechanical suspension and UltraSmooth technology, the Spark makes ...
  • FLY WITHOUT WORRY: The Spark hovers precisely and automatically lands near its take-off position. You can...
52,00 EUR
DJI Mavic Air Fly More Combo - drone with 4K full HD video camera including remote control I 32 megapixel ...
  • SPHERICAL PANORAMIC IMAGES WITH 32 MEGAPIXELS EXPAND YOUR HORIZON: The DJI Mavic Air takes 25 photos in 8 seconds and ...
  • CAMERA WITH 3-AXIS GIMBAL: The integrated camera of the Mavic Air has a 1 / 2.3 "CMOS sensor with 12 megapixels and ...
  • 4K SLOW MOTION VIDEO WITH 100 MBIT / S: Make fascinating 4K videos (30 fps), recorded at 100 Mbit / s, to capture every second in ...

If portability is not that important to you, I would recommend the current DJI Mavic 2 Pro (the version with the Hasselblad camera). There is also the set with the Smart Controller, which makes things even easier because you don't always have to fiddle around with your smartphone in the controller holder.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone + smart remote control - drone with Hasselblad L1D-20c camera, video 4K HDR 10 ...
  • MAVIC 2 PRO + SMART REMOTE CONTROL: Combination of a Mavic 2 Pro drone and a remote control with 5,5 ...
  • MAVIC 2 PRO: Mavic 2 Pro is equipped with the Hasselblad L1D-20c camera; the Natural Color Solution technology helps ...
  • IMPROVED DETAILS: With the 1 inch CMOS sensor, the Mavic 2 Pro, compared to its predecessor Mavic Pro, is a ...

 

The question of whether you should buy the Spark or the Mavic Pro can only be answered if you know what you want to do with the drone. I highly recommend both.

The question of whether you should buy the Spark or the Mavic Pro can only be answered if you know what you want to do with the drone. I highly recommend both.

If you can't decide, do it like me and just get both drones. If transport and volume are not a big issue for me, I have the Mavic with me. If I want to go with minimal luggage, I throw the Spark in my backpack. Because here - as with cameras - the following sentence applies:

The best drone is the one you have with you!

If the alternative is that you won't take one with you, then you prefer the Spark, despite small compromises in quality.

By the way: If size, weight and money don't play a big role, you can get them too Check out the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. This would be my recommendation if you rarely want to carry your drone around, but attach great importance to good shots. It scores with all-round obstacle detection, a really large sensor, long flight time and a mechanical shutter! And a few other features that I am suppressing here, since the article has really become long enough. ;-)

Advantages and disadvantages of the DJI Spark and Mavic Pro

Some people like a short summary of the pros and cons before deciding on a device. For this reason, I have made a small list here that may help you to find the right drone for your application.

 DJi SparkDJI Mavic Pro
Transportvery simple because of its low weight and robust constructionsimple, but including accessories, you quickly reach 1,5 kg and a larger volume
Use in hiking and trekkingvery suitable, as there is still space in every filled backpackrather less good, as it quickly blows up the space in small backpacks
Wedding filmmakers and photographersmaximum as a "goodie"very suitable because 4K and good image quality
Landscape photographywell suitedeven more suitable because it can handle contrasts better
FPV flyingFrom my point of view, too little range and disconnections occur too quicklyperfect because the video transmission is very stable
Use with DJI gogglesCompatible, but unsuitable because the connection breaks off extremely quickly (sometimes after 40-50 meters for me)very suitable; stable connection over several hundred meters with 720p resolution
Vacation videowell suited because you can always take the Spark with youif there is enough space, the best choice, as the 4K resolution and D-Cinelike color profile offer more possibilities for post-processing
Semi-professional videosunsuitable as there are too few setting options and short flight times (16 min)well suited because you can use different resolutions, frame rates and filters such as ND filters; more flight time is also a plus (25 min)
Vacation photosPhoto quality is "good" in good lighting conditionsvery good because it can also handle high contrasts
RAW photos (DNG)noyes, it is supported; offers many post-processing options
Youtube / Vimeoyes, as long as you can live with 1080p and 30fpsperfect as it also supports 4K and various refresh rates like 24fps, 25fps, 30fps and 60fps
Athleteyes, because it is very small and robustyes, but it takes up significantly more space in your luggage; Collisions end quickly with a broken Mavic Pro
Selfie dronevery suitable because it offers special quickshot modes for thisyes, good, as it also supports Active Track; Quick-shot modes such as Dronie or Helix are missing, however
Priceif you are looking for a cheap entry into the world of drones, the DJI Spark Fly More Combo is very good for you; high quality for an unrivaled priceif you have a little more on the high edge, the Mavic Pro offers more image quality for more money
Often out and about in rough terrainvery suitable because you can take off and land by handrequires one square meter of flat terrain for take-off and landing; Hand launch and landing not really recommended
Bokeh photo effectyes, theredoes not exist yet, but could be delivered with a software update
Support from the Litchi appyes (Update: since 08/2018 Orbit and Waypoint-Mode are also supported)yes, it is fully supported
To buy?Check out Spark in the DJI Shop

Check out Spark on Amazon
Check out Mavic Pro in the DJI Shop


Check out Mavic Pro on Amazon

If you still have question marks on your forehead, feel free to write me what you would like to use the drone for, and I will help you choose. The advice is of course free of charge as long as I don't get twenty emails a day. :)

 

 

 

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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

13 comments

  1. Andreas Heimann says:

    Hello, can you describe how to connect the remote control by cable? I have the right wiring but cannot make contact.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hi Andreas! With my Mavic Pro, you just plug it in and the controller recognizes the connection. With the DJI Spark, it seems to be still connected via WiFi (also for me!). That's a shame, because the disconnections would certainly be less if you connect it by cable. But it could be that DJI will deliver the function here with an update. There is often something that follows ...

  2. Stephan Rosenberger says:

    Sir Apfelot,

    Thank you for this very detailed and entertaining report. Since I am also the proud owner of a DJI Mavic and the luck of the draw also brought me a DJI Spark last week, I read your article with great interest.

    I still have one question about the controller: Is it possible to pair the Mavic's remote controller with the Spark? Or is that completely impossible? I would save myself the purchase of a second controller (for 179 EUR, which is not exactly cheap!). I will probably never fly both copters at the same time anyway and I would rather invest the money in additional batteries.

    Regards
    Stephan

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Stephan! Thanks for your praise. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you ... the controller for the Mavic just can't be used for the Spark. I have already read about this in various forums, all of which write the same thing: Doesn't work and is not intended by DJI ... probably because 179 EUR would then go to them. ;-) LG! Jens

  3. Magdalena Frey says:

    Thank you very much, very interesting! You're answering exactly the right things. Nothing remains unclear. LG, Magdalena

  4. Stefan says:

    Sir Apple Lot,
    I am a passionate bicycle cyclist and want to take a drone with me on trips.
    Of course, there are limits to the space requirements, and I don't want to threaten to build them up for a long time. On the other hand, the pictures and videos should be of top quality, and the drone should automatically track me while driving and (after saving if possible) automatically overtake and change the view.
    Which of the two would you prefer?
    I'm curious what thoughts you have ...
    Thank you in advance.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Stefan! Thank you for your question. By email you "postponed" that the decision was about DJI Spark or Phantom 4. My recommendation would be a different one, namely the DJI Mavic Pro. The Phantom 4 Pro has the advantage that it has very good video quality and also has a distance sensor to the rear. This means that it also recognizes obstacles if it flies backwards in front of you while cycling. The Spark and Mavic could have a collision if a branch or a street lamp is in the way.

      I wouldn't recommend the Spark if you want to make really good videos. On the one hand, the quality is not as good as with the Mavic or the Phantom 4 and, on the other hand, the (only) 2-axis gimbal cannot correct lateral rotary movements, which can happen very quickly on flights that are not absolutely straight Wobble leads.

      In terms of functions, the Phantom 4 Pro would actually be what I would recommend to you. But unfortunately it is not a "travel drone". The Mavic Pro really offers the best compromise. It is easy to transport and since you only have to unfold the outriggers, the assembly is also done quickly. She can do all the follow-me and focus quickshots too. So from my point of view the best choice for your application.

      And the best reason to get a Mavic Pro now is this DJI winter sale promotion. The DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo is currently available for 150 USD less than usual. And the Fly More Combo is definitely what you want. Buying the individual parts is not worthwhile in terms of price, even if you don't need the bag, for example.

      So I hope I could help you a bit with your decision. I definitely wish you a Merry Christmas!

  5. Mario says:

    Very interesting, thank you very much for this informative article! I found the information about Litchi interesting and looked further. I don't see any restrictions on the Spark on the Litchi side. And then I found this from the beginning of July: "Litchi beta now supports Waypoints and Orbit for Spark!" (Link: https://forum.dji.com/thread-155981-1-1.html). Is the support now implemented in the regular way? Greetings, Mario

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hi Mario! Thank you for the praise. I'm glad if you like it. And thanks for the question: Yes, meanwhile (since August!) The Litchi V2.5.1 also supports orbit and waypoints with the Spark: "Version 2.5 (August 13, 2018) - enabled waypoint and orbit mode for Spark". So it should work outside of the beta now. I'll add that in the article!

  6. Michael Stalitza says:

    Hello to all air space fighters. :)
    We also recently got a DJI Spark. We are going to Ireland for the second time at the end of May and have vowed to ourselves that we will never do this again without a drone. The beauty of this island simply cannot be grasped from the ground. If you like nature, we love Ireland! So we researched for weeks and in the end all roads kept coming back to the DJI Spark. We are total amateurs and we launched the drone for the first time today. Unfortunately it was very windy. Extensive tests are still pending. But I found out some details on the site that I wasn't aware of. And for that I wanted to say thank you: Thank you. :)

    It's just been a while since your test and the accessories are inexorably further developed. That's why I just wanted to recommend that, before you start wrapping the drone in such a "rag", you should buy a carrying bag. We took the full risk and chewed the all-round carefree package. Drone including remote control, 2 spare batteries, the thick power bank with which you can fully charge 3 batteries 3x at the same time plus the remote control and a bag from Smatree for around 30 € in which not only the drone, but also 3 extra batteries, cloths, remote control , Spare sheets, memory cards and charger. Hard case to hang around. Then there is still space in the backpack. :) Unfortunately, the power bank is a real bummer. Feels like 2kg. But whatever. Watt mutt, datt mutt!

    We are definitely happy about the purchase and hope we have invested the total of around 700 € well for everything together. Should we have fun with the thing and find more areas of application for the drone, then you can think about buying a Mavic Pro. All in good time.

    There is one thing I still have to research ... because I have not yet read anything about what is necessary to let the drone fly or what guidelines there are and whether you have to get written permission every time and everywhere. Legally, the whole thing is certainly new territory, I think. But we only want to use the drone for private purposes, I think.

    Everyone out there, have fun. And thanks to Sir Apfelot for the detailed report.

    gruß
    Micah

    • Michael Stalitza says:

      Spelling mistakes are randomly generated special effects on my keyboard! ^^

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hi Micha! Thank you for your extensive comment. That really sounds like an all-round carefree package. : D
      Because of your question about the permits: There is no uniform regulation for every area. There are some areas that are simply closed and you are not allowed to fly privately there. Nature reserves, properties owned by other people / companies, in built-up areas in villages and in cities, about people or animals (yes, not about cows in the field!) And of course away from airports, military zones etc. If you install the "AirMap" app, you can check relatively easily on the go whether there is a restriction on site or not. Unfortunately, you are often surprised where you are NOT allowed to fly everywhere ... :(

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