How the DJI Spark with the official controller competes with the DJI Mavic Pro

Jul 11, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How the DJI Spark with the official controller competes with the DJI Mavic Pro

Jul 11, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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We’ve seen a couple of videos now comparing the DJI Spark, but only using a phone as the controller. This means it has pretty limited range, and the handling isn’t that great. Of course, there is a separate controller available for the Spark, but it’s been “coming soon” since release. So, nobody’s tried it. Until now.

Not surprisingly, Casey Neistat is one of the first to get his hands on the Spark controller. In this video he puts it head to head with his Mavic Pro. This is something he’s done before with a prototype unit. But now he has the retail release and it comes with the controller. Is it worth the extra cost? Or should you just save for a Mavic? Casey’s video should help to answer that question.

YouTube video

What is surprising about this video, considering the source, is that it’s a fairly in-depth comparison. Lasting around 11 minutes, the video covers everything from handling to range to portability and the quality of the footage itself. While the addition of the controller won’t improve the quality of the footage, it does provide a lot more versatility than a phone.

First, though, let’s look at the basic cost of each unit.

The first thing Casey notes is the size of the case each drone travels in. Although the Spark is much ligher and smaller (with the legs out) than the Mavic, the bags are pretty similar in size. You still need all the associated bits to go with it, so there’s not really any space saved by going with the smaller Spark.

Taking things out of the bag, it’s time to look at the Spark controller. It appears to be about the same size and shape as the Mavic controller, but without the LCD. Let’s face it, though, who uses that LCD? You can’t read it in bright conditions anyway, and all the same info is on your phone or tablet. He does mention that the Spark controller feels a little lighter and “cheaper”, though.

Casey then talks about the differences between using a controller and a phone. The two biggest points being the tactile feeling of using actual joysticks and the mobile WiFi signal. Mobile WiFi just doesn’t have the power to give you any kind of real reach. He says with a phone, he could never get the Spark more than 70-80ft (21-24m) away from him.

Although the controller doesn’t affect the quality of the footage, I have to say this is probably the cleanest Spark footage I’ve seen to date. The colours look great (I’m watching on a calibrated wide gamut IPS display) and there’s quite a lot of detail. As tiny 1080p cameras go, it seems to be a winner.

When you compare the two side-by-side, though, even on a 1080p display, there’s a rather noticeable difference in quality and sharpness between the two.

That being said, on its own the Spark’s footage is still quite impressive for what it is. A tiny 1080p flying camera. I was also quite impressed by the stability of the footage. Especially given that the gimbal is only a 2 axis vs the Mavic’s 3 axis gimbal. Presumably the sticks make it a lot easier to keep it going straight vs the touchscreen UI of a mobile phone.

The range, too, with the controller is much greater than that of mobile WiFi, as one would expect. It’s unlikely you’d be able to get this kind of height on the default Spark without losing signal on your phone.

Overall, it’s a very favourable review. Of course, Casey is a bit of a DJI fanboy, so that’s not too surprising. But even he looked rather impressed at some points during the video. You can’t really hide those expressions, and let’s face it, he’s not much of an actor (sorry, Casey).

So, is the controller worth an extra $200? Is it better to go the extra $300 to get the Mavic Pro instead?

Casey’s advice is that if you’re a novice, you’re new to drones, and you’re looking to pick up your first, then it’s probably a better investment. But, if you have any experience at all with a drone and have any type of aspirations of shooting quality footage, get the Mavic.

Ok, sure, so one is a “fly more” package and the other is the base model without the extras. But, the base model Mavic doesn’t need the extras. It already comes with the controller. And you don’t really need the extra battery, either, for the purposes of this comparison. The larger Mavic Pro battery lasts almost as long as two tiny Spark batteries (27 vs 32 minutes). So, it’s a fairly like-for-like comparison.

I’d pretty much made up my mind that my next drone will be the Mavic the instant the Spark announcement came. But, this does reinforce the decision I’d already made.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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9 responses to “How the DJI Spark with the official controller competes with the DJI Mavic Pro”

  1. Jasper Shadloo Avatar
    Jasper Shadloo

    Got it pre ordered, can’t understand why its taking so long, if I was in the US, I would of got it by now. The UK is so far behind when it comes to new tech.

    1. Chris 'Sharky' Wright Avatar
      Chris ‘Sharky’ Wright

      I ordered mine last week and received it Monday… Order direct from dji.

    2. Jasper Shadloo Avatar
      Jasper Shadloo

      Did you get the fly more combo ?

  2. Krzysztof Szyper Avatar
    Krzysztof Szyper

    Casey’s opinion is worthless, he’s no specialist in any field :)

    1. Lundeful Avatar
      Lundeful

      What do you mean by not a specialist? Casey Neistat has been a professional filmmaker before starting his YouTube channel. That’s partially why he’s done so well.

      For the moment he specializes in Vlogging, which you might undermine, but considering how much he earns from it I wouldn’t make jokes about it.

      Also the Spark is not even CLOSE to being a professional tool or high-end. It’s made for casual (or maybe enthusiast even because of it’s size and features) user mostly. What professional specialists think of it isn’t really relevant, is it?

  3. Corey Hutton Avatar
    Corey Hutton

    WHAT IS THAT THING? An Orc from Lord of the Rings took Human form.

    1. Lundeful Avatar
      Lundeful

      How about you be nice?

  4. Joseph Her Avatar
    Joseph Her

    Rvan Bveton

    1. Rvan Bveton Avatar
      Rvan Bveton

      Already seen it