We love our DJI Spark drone because there are lots to like about it. From stuff like its ultra-portable size, its flying prowess, image quality and even the stability of its mechanical gimbal, the Spark is a great entry-level drone.
However, if you think that DJI was able to produce something this small and affordable without at least some limitations, you’re kidding yourself. After spending some time with the Spark, here are five big things we learned that we think you should know about before you think of buying one for yourself.
1. Buying just the basic drone is not enough
Yes, one of the bigger selling points for the DJI Spark is that the drone isn’t super expensive. Starting at RM2,288, the drone is actually pretty affordable for the capabilities DJI quotes in their brochure. However, what some of you may not realise, is that a lot of what you can do with the drone is limited when you don’t have the accessories to go with it.
When you spend RM2,288 to buy a DJI Spark, all you’re getting is the drone in a styrofoam container. No controller, no extra battery, no propeller guards and no padded bags to carry your drone around in.
This means you will have to fly your drone with either your smartphone or through gestures. Don’t get me wrong, gesture controls are great and all, but when you want to do more serious aerial videography it’s not going to give you enough control over the drone. Flying with your smartphone also doesn’t really cut it because you get really limited range and your thumbs will be in the way of you framing your shot.
2. Consider buying basic accessories
If you’re serious about getting the DJI Spark, we definitely recommend shelling out extra for the Fly More Combo instead. It’s a great place to start if you plan to use your Spark for more than just the occasional aerial selfie/dronie.
For RM3,188, you’re getting a lot more kit and most of what you will need to use this tiny drone to get some epic shots. In addition to the drone, you’ll be getting a set of propeller guards (safe flying indoors), a power brick plus smart charging pad (can charge up to 3 batteries simultaneously), an extra battery, a bag, and — perhaps most importantly — the controller.
With the controller, you can get a lot more range with the drone. What’s more, the controller also gives you more granular controls when flying as well as access to Sport Mode which will let the drone hit its top speed of 50 km/h.
That said, even the Fly More combo doesn’t solve the biggest issue we have with the DJI Spark and that’s battery life. On average, we chew through a single battery in about 10 minutes, which is actually a really short amount of time. That means you’ll want to get more than two batteries if you want to get any serious kind of flying done.
For us, the ideal number of batteries is about four which gives us a little more than half an hour of flight time. It’s also easy to charge the batteries because you can slap three onto the smart charging plate and charge the fourth on the drone via micro USB.
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3. Use a tablet instead of a smartphone to frame your shots
Sometimes bigger is better and in this case, using a bigger screen will definitely result in a more satisfying flying experience. A smartphone’s great and all, but the tiny screen makes it a little challenging to keep an eye on all your HUD elements and frame your shot properly at the same time.
Yes, we know the controller for the Spark is only designed for smartphones that are up to 180mm in length and 8.5mm in thickness, but you can get a tablet mount for the controller too. This extends the grip’s capability and lets you mount tablets instead.
For us, we use an Apple iPad Pro 9.7″ because of its excellent Retina display and great outdoor visibility. It’s a nice size that it isn’t too big that it becomes unwieldy but still gives you a much larger display than your typical 5.5″ smartphone. What’s more, it also has a much longer battery life than your smartphone and using a tablet means you won’t have to drain your handset’s battery either.
Of course, we understand that buying an iPad Pro just to fly your DJI Spark is a little ridiculous, but honestly, any compatible tablet that you have will work about just as well. If the tablet doesn’t have great outdoor visibility, you can pick up a monitor hood to help with that.
4. Use a cable for a more stable connection
Nothing kills the mood more than a spotty connection. On the Spark, you’re pretty much encouraged to connect your smartphone to the controller via WiFi. Although that eliminates the need for cables, we found that a connection like that is far from reliable.
That’s why we hook up our phones/tablets to the remote with a cable. This gives us the most stable connection so far, with disconnections being limited to just the drone and the controller.
If you want to do this, you should know that you will need a micro USB OTG adapter/cable because the only port on the Spark’s controller is a microUSB one.
In our experience, the DJI Go 4 application is more stable and runs into fewer problems on iOS devices so if you have an iOS device, we’d recommend using that to fly your drone instead.
5. Frequent travellers might want to invest in a proper carrying case
With its diminutive size, the DJI Spark is a traveller’s dream aerial videography tool. However, we would still recommend getting a proper hard case to keep your drone (and all of its accessories) safe and out of harm’s way. Sure, the drone is small and designed to be pocketable, but when you leave it tumbling around in your backpack, it’s a lot more vulnerable to damage.
Most hard cases come with neat cutouts for your drone and all of its accessories so it’s a really easy way to keep things organised too. Having a pocket for each piece of gear makes it easy to keep track of everything and make sure you don’t forget anything when you travel.
Besides that, you can also take things a step further and pick up a transport clip which will help prevent your controller’s thumb sticks from getting damaged by holding it in place.
The bottom line
The Spark is a great drone for beginners because of its affordable price and easy controls. However, if you really want to make the most of your drone, you’re going to have to invest a little more. If you’re on a really tight budget, we recommend that, at least, you pick up the Spark with Fly More combo because the kit you get with it is worth the premium.