Spark Sphere Mode Review: Take 360 Immersive Photos with the DJI Go 4 App
Hi. My Name is Jonny, and I'm a Spark Addict. You know, DJI's easy-to-use, fun-to-fly mini camera drone that lifts off from the palm of your hand? I got an Alpine White one. It was love at first sight. The first consumer drone that users can control with hand gestures alone.
When DJI announced the new Sphere Mode feature for Spark, I flipped. It enabled Spark to capture tiny planet shaped photos with a fisheye lens effect in the Panorama photo feature. This 'Sphere' could then be shared on social media. Sphere Mode was included in the latest version of the DJI GO 4 mobile app and all subsequent Spark firmware updates. DJI released this video to coincide with the release.
I had some questions. How easy would it be to shoot Spheres? Would the original spheres get saved to the SD card like other pano modes? Could I download them to my phone and share them straight to my social media channels?
I had to test it out in our office gym immediately.
Indoor Spherical Testing
Naturally, my first sphere was going to be a trial run. I had my Spark drone, two batteries, and my iPhone 7 plus. I didn't have a dedicated Spark remote controller, I connected my phone via Wi-Fi and entered Spark's camera view. Once in the air, I entered camera settings, and under Pano, there was the word '˜Sphere.' Wow!
I flew Spark up a little more about 15 feet in the same spot and pressed the Sphere icon on the right-hand side of the app. Immediately, Spark set to work stitching pictures to what would become my first ever Sphere.
There are 46 stitches in total, and you can monitor the progress in the app.
Once finished, a prompt will appear that says, '˜Pano successful.' This becomes my first ever Sphere. The actual Sphere process takes just under two minutes (1:53.49 to be exact), and including takeoff and landing, can be done in about 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Not the best, but it'™s a start!
My Favorite Place to Shoot in Hong Kong
Duly inspired, I made it my mission to get the best sphere possible the following weekend. I found a safe spot and flew right up to the maximum altitude of 50 m (164 ft.) and set Spark to work once again.
I live in Kennedy Town, an old neighborhood at the western end of Hong Kong Island. In 2014, a new MTR station arrived and along with it plenty of fresh, trendy looking restaurants and bars. K-Town still has some of the charm of its dreamy blue-collar past with garages and congee shops fighting for breath among the encroaching gentrification.
One thing that hasn't changed is the inimitable K-Town Pier. A favorite spot of mine, dense with cargo loading commerce during the day, but at night and on the weekends, an open playground with stunning views of the harbor. On clear nights you can see the looped fireworks popping off in the distance from Disneyland every 10 minutes or so.
My beloved K Town Pier, suitably Sphered.
Spheres require a lot of power and so merely dividing the time it takes to shoot one into the 16-minute battery life doesn't quite add up. A conservative estimate: you could probably shoot three or four spheres on a single charge comfortably.
Anyway, you can view Spheres in Playback. Just tap on the thumbnail with the sphere icon and the app will begin stitching the photos together. Once done, epic teardrops of visual heaven will appear on the screen. You can even change the perspective by interacting with them like this. Incredible.
It was sundown now, so I had to be quick. I took almost the same shot as the previous one but in lower light conditions. The results were astounding.
Looks great, doesn't it? Well done, Spark.
There's an option to download Spheres to your phone, but instead, you'll get a gorgeous panorama of the stitches but not the actual sphere globe, which is slightly disappointing. The other primary option after you take one is to share them straight to social media. DJI GO 4 can do this, but you have to share through SkyPixel for interactive ones. SkyPixel links are sent to other social media channels instead. I hope this changes soon. For my purposes, I screenshotted my spheres and posted them. They weren't interactive, but they looked great all the same.
I'm wondering though, with a remote controller, Spark's transmission distance extends to 1.2 mi (2 km) while increasing the height limit to 500 ft (152 m). Now think how epic those spheres would be!