If you’re a photographer and/or a videographer and you don’t have a drone, I’m here to tell you – you’re missing out! If you’d like to find out which drone is the best starter drone in 2019 it’s the DJI Spark.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
Now before we begin I highly, highly, highly suggest you purchase a starter drone for 2 reasons:
- You will inevitably crash. It happens to the best of us and speak to any drone pilot and everyone will tell you they’ve crashed at least once. By getting a starter drone you won’t be as upset at crashing a $1,500 investment!
- After purchasing a drone you may feel flying a drone may not be for you. I highly doubt this, but let’s hypothetically say you don’t like flying a drone – you won’t be out of a lot of money.
When I purchased my Spark last year I bought the fly more combo. It cost me $550 and it came with a shoulder bag, propeller guards, the remote controller, extra propellers, 2 batteries and the charger.
Now $550 may sound like a lot – but in reality if you’re a photographer or videographer spending $550 on a camera is not a hard pill to swallow. Heck the battery for my video camera costs $207! Don’t ask what the charger costs!
I hesitate to call the Spark a “cheap” drone, but in the grand scheme of things it’s relatively inexpensive. But for the record I still find it nerve wracking putting $500+ in the sky. I can’t imagine what I’d feel like if I had one of the professional drones that cost upwards of $120,000!
When you first see the DJI Spark in person, you’ll be surprised at how small it is! Especially when you compare it to other drones in the market. If you’re like me and you travel with a lot of gear the Spark (even with the extra batteries) will fit I nicely in your camera bag. But you may have to sacrifice bringing a lens. Or if you’re traveling with your significant other, it won’t take too much space in their bag!
The red arrow is where my Spark, remote and 3 batteries live in my camera bag. It’s a tight fit but as you can see I can travel with my main camera, 4 lenses, and other accessories like my laptop, etc.
3. A QUALITY PRODUCT
Truth be told I hesitated to purchase a DJI drone. Mostly because I’ve bought other products from them and I’ve always had issues. For example I bought 2 DJI Osmos and 1 went dead after a few weeks. Then I purchased a video camera and the Ronin-M stabilizer came with the kit. I didn’t base my purchase on the stabilizer but it was nice that it came with it. But I never got it to work properly – or at all for that matter.
So to say the least – I was hesitant to give DJI my money. But for several years while on jobs, I’d get asked if I had a drone. And I regrettably had to say “no” – which meant I was losing out on business.
Last year (after having to turn away several gigs) I decided to purchase the Spark for my 10 year anniversary trip. I rationalized it by thinking I’ve never heard of DJI drones falling from the sky (like the GoPro Karma) or heard anyone complaining about their drones.
And I must say I haven’t regretted it one bit! When it comes to drones (I can’t vouch for their other products) DJI makes amazing drones – that work! They are the undisputed kings and no other manufacture even comes close. As a side note – hopefully a contender gives them competition – as competition is good.
If you’re curious as to how the footage looks take a look at the footage from my 10 year anniversary trip in Saint Lucia.
4. TRAVELING AND GETTING THROUGH CUSTOMS
While I’m on the subject of traveling, getting drones through customs can be challenging. If your drone looks too fancy it may raise some questions. Since the Spark is small and admittedly looks like a toy – odds are you won’t get hassled at customs.
While researching “drone laws Saint Lucia” it became abundantly clear that getting through customs was a challenge for some people. Some people reported having to prove that the drone was theirs and had to show a receipt to prove they weren’t going to sell it.
You see the issue is import tax. Some counties like Canada have a huge tax and the customs agents want to make sure your intention is not to sell the drone.
As silly as this sounds – I can’t tell you how many offers I received from locals! Simply saying “I just bought it” wasn’t enough. But I found that saying it was an anniversary gift made people stop pressing me.
All that bing said – the Spark doesn’t look too fancy or expensive. Plus it doesn’t look like you’re in another country to gather intel! LOL
5. FEATURES YOU’LL LOVE
The Spark is marketed as the “selfie drone” as there are cute things you can do with it. Sometimes it’s easier for you to see what I’m talking about instead of me writing about it – so check out this promo video…
As great as the DJI Spark is there are some drawbacks (as nothing is perfect in life). Warning – I’m about to get a bit nerdy:
- When it comes to shooting video you’re stuck at 1920 x 1080p at 30 fps (MP4 via H.264). I don’t mind not having 4k but the 30 fps is a bit disappointing. 24 fps or 60 fps would have been great. But again, the Spark I’d consider a starter drone so you’re not going to get everything you’d ever want (at least not at this price point).
- The Spark does not shoot in RAW. This isn’t a deal breaker – but I always shoot my images in RAW and it’d be nice to have the option in order to get the most out of the sensor.
- The Gesture Modes can be finicky. But honestly I never used them. I’d rather have full control. But the QuickShots and ActiveTrack do work and are great!
- It’d be great if the arms were foldable. This isn’t a deal breaker as the Spark is really compact. If the arms did fold in – it’d be even more portable.
- There are collision avoiding sensors only in the front and bottom. It’d be nice to have at least rear sensors. Just be aware of when you’re flying backwards and sideways as you may crash into a tree.
- The maximum flight time advertised is 16 minutes – but in reality you’re looking at 11. Even if the flight time was 30 minutes – flying is so much fun that even 30 minutes wouldn’t be enough time! That’s why I’d suggest getting several batteries.
PROS NOT MENTIONED EARLIER
Now let’s talk about some of my favorite features / benefits…
- People tell me that I’m a decent writer (not to toot my own horn). But I wish I had the words to convey to you how exhilarating flying drones are! When I bought the Spark I knew it was going to be a starter drone – but after only a few days I was ready to upgrade!
- If you’ve never flown a drown before – fret not! DJI drones are easy to fly. Even when it hits a certain low battery threshold (like 20%) the drone will “return to home” and fly autonomously. One can almost say it flies itself. Plus after a few outings you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
- As opposed to other DJI drones – it’s pretty quiet. Especially when you’re not trying to attract attention. At around 100+ feet you can barely hear it.
- As I mentioned earlier, there are limiting factors in terms of the frame rate and lack of RAW. But this can be a good thing as it’ll give you less to worry about. I remember during my first week flying in Saint Lucia, every time I went to fly, someone wanted to talk to me about the drone. This was super annoying as honestly I was just trying not to crash and I was a newbie. But sometimes having limits in life makes things easier.
One of several curious locals asking me questions.
- Growing up as a kid I always wanted to fly model planes and helicopters. Now that I’m a big kid I must say flying a drone is a very fun hobby! Even if you’re not into photography / video you’re going to have a lot of fun!
- The Spark was released in April 2017 and it hasn’t been updated. At the time of me writing this article (July 2019), rumor has it that DJI isn’t going to release the Spark 2 or any new drones this year. So don’t worry about buying this now only for a new version to come out – you’re good for now.
No review would be complete without sample images. Full disclosure – each image is a bit edited. I probably spent 3 seconds on each image in Lightroom tweaking them a bit. But rest assured the JPEG’s coming straight out the camera are pretty good!
With a drone you can get unique perspectives without the use of a ladder!
Or in this case a crane!
To my surprise the Spark can shoot at night! This is a one second exposure.
Is it just me or does this mountain looks like the Great Sphinx of Giza?
Here are what some images look like taken in overcast weather…
Be sure to point your gimbal straight down for a unique perspective!
I could have chosen to go dip in the waterfall – but drone is life!
WHAT ARE YOU WAITNG FOR?!
If you live in a climate where there’s autumn and a winter, now is the time to buy a drone. Once it gets cold and windy you’ll have less of an opportunity to get out and fly. And if you’re like me you’re going to be daydreaming all day of getting out to fly your drone! Don’t hesitate and purchase your drown now! I can assure you won’t regret it.
If you’ve found this article useful, and the Spark is something you need in your life please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below for my suggested bundles…
MY TOP DJI SPARK AMAZON BUNDLES ON AMAZON
I’ve scoured Amazon and I’m going to share the beast deals. The Spark comes in several colors but I’d suggest going with white as the darker colors will cause the drone to get hotter which means you may get less flight time (electronics don’t do very well in the heat). And if I were going to purchase the Spark again I’d go with option 3.
OPTION 1 “DJI Spark Portable Mini Drone Quadcopter (Alpine White) + DJI Spark Remote Controller Starter Bundle”
I like that it comes with the range extender, bag, gimbal cover, micro SD card and screen cover. The only thing missing are extra batteries and the landing pad.
OPTION 2 “DJI Spark Drone Quadcopter (Alpine White) with 3 Batteries, Camera Gimbal Bundle Kit with MUST HAVE Accessories”
The only “must have” accessories missing from this bungle is the multiple battery charger and although not 100% necessary the bag isn’t included. But it’s the best bang for your buck. If you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks I’d go with option 3.
OPTION 3 “DJI Spark Drone Quadcopter Fly More Combo (Alpine White) with 3 Batteries, Remote Controller, Charger, Charging Hub, Shoulder Bag, Camera Gimbal Bundle Kit with Must Have Accessories”
As it’s said: “if you’re going to do something, do it right”. Why not get everything you need in one shot? This is the bundle I’d definitely go with!
THAT’S IT FOR NOW
If you’ve found this tutorial helpful, please give it a thumbs up and share this with your friends and family. I’ll be writing a lot more about drones in the near future so stay tuned for more droney goodness!
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