GoPro Hero HD Vs Drift Stealth FX
Until recently, if you wanted to make a movie of your mountain bike excursions you had to either advance to professional level where people paid you to put your skills on video, or shell out big bucks for a high end unit by the likes of Sony, Nikon or one of the other specialty camera brands. Not so anymore. Over the last few years, a few companies have put together camera packages that boast professional quality video at amateur prices.
In this article I am going to showcase the two leaders in this market: The GoPro Hero HD and the Drift Innovation HD170 Stealth.
GoPro Hero HD ($299)
The GoPro camera system is a highly versatile camera package with kits available for almost any type of extreme sport out there. They boast true 1080p video in a small lightweight package that almost any rider can afford. Their camera package for biking includes a small lightweight camera with 2 housings; a waterproof shell for really nasty environments and a skeleton housing that will protect your lens and give you decent audio but won’t protect your investment in wet environments.
Both housings come equipped with a removable and replaceable lens cover so when you pull a full-on yard sale and scratch up your gear, you’re only about 20 bucks away from a clear picture. Along with the camera and housings you get an assortment of mounting options like strap, helmet mount, and several different stick-on mounts. The user interface is pretty basic with 2-button operation; both of which are easily accessible even while wearing gloves.
As I said before, the Gopro HD shoots in true 1080p (with the option of getting additional video time by scaling down the resolution). Other shooting options include single shot still photo capture as well as 3-shot photo sequence and a timed single shot that will grab a photo ever few seconds (you are in charge of how many seconds between shots) until you either shut it down or it runs out of memory.
On The Trail
Using the GoPro for the first time can be a bit awkward. Out of the box, you load up a standard SD memory card (I recommend at least 8 GB) and stuff the included rechargeable battery pack into the unit before charging right off your computer (with the included USB cable).
After charging, the real fun starts. Pull out the instruction manual and you will instantly realize that setup is going to require a little bit of forethought and intuition to avoid capturing footage of the ground or sky. With only two buttons to work with, it takes a little bit of time to navigate the multiple menus to set the camera in the picture mode and recording resolution that you are looking to use. I strongly recommend keeping your manual with your camera at all times because you’re going to need it to make any changes in the future!
Luckily, the camera remembers its last used settings so unless you are looking to do something different, you won’t have to mess with it too much. After you’ve set up the camera you need to figure out where you are going to mount it. The model that I picked up comes with a strap mount, a helmet strap and some stick-ons. No matter where you mount the camera you’re going to have to try and think ahead. Without the luxury of a preview display, you can’t see where the camera is actually aimed. I would like to pretend there is a solid scientific approach to insuring that you will capture the best angle of the action, you really have to simply take a best guess at it. The plus side is that with it’s wide angle lens, if you’re pointed even remotely in the right direction, you’re going to catch the action (although possibly not at quite the angle you want).
I haven’t spent too much time fiddling with the included helmet strap because it doesn’t seem to really secure the camera to my helmet. Plus I’m not particularly keen on the idea of dropping my 200+ dollar camera out on the trail. I suspect the strap mount works best when used with a standard vented bike helmet (which I was not sporting). However I should report that the mount proved really effective for mounting the camera to the underside of my seat.
The best method for mounting the unit to a helmet I discovered was to apply the provided stick-on’s. These allow you to stick the camera wherever you want it without concerns of the camera turning into a trail treasure for somebody else to discover. Even using these mounts, the form factor and mounting system puts the camera in a fairly awkward position however and leaves it vulnerable to smacking tree branches along the way. Also worth noting, the pivot actions on the mounts tend to move no matter how hard you clamp down on them. Applying a bit of hair spray on these pivots helps hold them in place so that you don’t get home and find that got a great video of the underside of a bunch of tree-limbs.
Pros: Excellent video quality, multiple mounting options, replaceable lens cover, waterproof, wide angle lens with minimal distortion, battery life.
Cons: Awkward mounting positions, no display for preview, a bit difficult to setup.
Drift Innovation Stealth FX ($329)
The Drift Stealth is the other major offering in this class and shows a lot of forethought in its design; almost if their engineers looked at the competition and tried to capitalize on each of their shortcomings. The Drift Stealth, like the GoPro, boasts true 1080p recording capability as well as lower resolution settings to allow for longer recording times.
The Drift has multiple mounting options including helmet straps, stick-ons and surface straps. Unlike the GoPro the Drift sports an LCD display and a wireless on/off switch so you can turn it on for the cool sections of trail and turn it off at will to conserve your battery.
Also like the GoPro you get the option of capturing video, stills and multiple still shots. Unlike the GoPro, the Drift does not come with any housings, so you have to be a bit more careful when using it. Whatever you damage on the Drift in the event of a get-off (including the lens), you’re stuck with. There is no denying the peace of mind that comes with knowing the GoPro’s lens plate can be replaced for $20 should you manage to scratch it.
On The Trail
Like the GoPro, the Drift is pretty straightforward out of the box. Drop in a standard SD card, battery and plug the unit in to charge. The first difference I noticed is that along with an LCD display the Drift Stealth also sports multiple buttons that really help with the setup.
Sadly mounting the Drift is as equally awkward as the GoPro. While it boasts a longer form factor that doesn’t stick out nearly as bad as the Hero, once you’ve mounted it with the stick-on’s, you’re pretty much locked in with only a single axis of rotation at your disposal.
Unlike the GoPro you can rotate the lens to get your shot right side up without having to navigate menus but I’d still appreciate adjustment through two-axis. Also like the GoPro, the head strap and strap-on mounts are passable though I’m still not completely comfortable with trusting them. And forget about trying to mount the Drift under your seat facing backwards! It simply doesn’t work.
Once you’ve gotten your camera mounted up it’s a pretty straightforward process to set up the camera to get the kind of shots that you seek. With just a few button clicks, you can set up the remote control, which easily straps to your handlebars for easy on/off recording. I suppose the positive side to the lack of axis adjustability is that when you get the Drift mounted and pointed in the right direction, it’s locked in place/ not going anywhere. No need to mess with hairspray or other home remedies to simply keep it in the right direction. Couple this to its lower profile exterior design and there is little need to worry about smacking it on a low-hanging tree branch.
Pros: Excellent video, multiple mounting options, battery life, super wide angle lens with minimal distortion, remote control, low profile design, LCD screen, easy to set up.
Cons: Limited range of motion in mounting, decreased protection for lens or camera body.
Both of these cameras offer such excellent video quality that the only way I could tell the difference between the two was in judging the view based on the mounting locations I selected. Yes, it’s really that close! Both of them can do just about anything a mountain biker can ask of them on both still captures or video quality.
To our surprise, and in all honesty, neither one of these units really stands out head and shoulders above the other as we initially anticipated. Rather I found that I personally like/ dislike them equally but for different reasons.
Its awkward mounting easily offsets the GoPro’s awesome versatility & video quality. Additionally the fact that it is fully waterproof is counteracted a bit by a cumbersome user interface.
The Drift on the other hand boasts a much nicer form factor and is super easy to use right out of the box but it’s lack of a protective housing makes me question whether this camera was actually designed with extreme sports in mind.
All factors considering, unless you want to spend nearly a grand on a remote camera and recorder package, either of these units are pretty darn incredible for their price point. Sure there are a few shortcomings to take into consideration but both proved quite reliable and trouble-free during our testing.
Perhaps the biggest news to be excited about is that what nits I could pick during the shootout are all concerns that could be easily remedied in future model updates.
Countour+ Review: By Brian Mullin of GramsLightBikes.com
The Contour+ is a small, light and compact video camera, that is easy to use and includes the capability to do GPS Video Mapping. It has an excellent usage factor, combining a mechanical start/stop recording slider, loud and distinct indicator beeps for mode changes, a 270° rotatable lens and uses a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone or mobile device, as a viewfinder for horizontal alignment and to alter camera configurations. The camera records in a vast array of high-definition video resolutions up to 1080p, and has proven itself to take excellent footage with great clarity and realistic colors.
The Contour+ is a POV (point of view) high-definition sports CMOS camera with a 5MP sensor and 2.8″ aperture, that can record video footage in 1080p, 960p and 720p formats, along with GPS mapping information (speed, location and elevation). It records data onto a MicroSD card (2GB included) up to 32GB in size, and is powered with an internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery that gives around two and half hours of recording time. The cameras Connect View card uses Bluetooth V2.1 to wirelessly converse with iOS and Android based smartphones or mobile devices to align the camera and change settings. It has ports for a mini USB for computer connection and recharging, a mini HDMI for live streaming to a TV or other sources, and an external microphone for higher-quality audio recording. The 270° rotatable lens, is flush mounted, and uses a custom six element glass for additional clarity and decreased aberrations. The small and light camera is mostly made of plastic, and uses a fiberglass lower body, with a protective anodized aluminum barrel surrounding the lens and electronics, and its impact, shock, and water resistant. The camera attaches to an assortment of mounts, including a goggle, profile, flat surface, universal adapter (camera and RAM), flex strap, vented helmet, and handlebar, using their proprietary TRails system.
Contour+ Kit Contents
The kit comes with the Contour+ camera, a low profile and two rotating mounts, an instruction guide, a USB, HDMI and Mic cable, a rechargeable 3.7V 1050mAh Li-Ion battery, lens cap, leashes, and a Connect View and 2GB MicroSD card.
The Contour+ can shoot in High Definition, in three video resolutions. It can shoot in 1080p (widescreen) at 30fps (frames per second), 960p (full frame) at 30fps and 720p (widescreen) at either 30 fps or 60 fps. The 720p 60 fps allow for slow motion playback, which is pretty cool to watch, and in addition, it gives the normal footage a smoother and more fluid look. Each of the video resolutions is captured at different bit rates (which can be customized), which entails varying recording times and storage requirements, meaning greater resources are needed for the higher usage formats. The resolution settings are done within Contour Storyteller software on your local computer, or through the Bluetooth connection to a smartphone. There are two preset video resolutions for the camera, which can then be changed by using the 1/2 switch on the inside back of the unit. The camera records in two viewing angles, unique to its video resolution, so 1080p is 125°, while 920p and 720p are at 170°. It uses the H.264 video codec, AAC audio compression, and a .mov file type. Everything defaults to the NTSC standard, but it can optionally record PAL video in 25fps and 50fps increments.
The Contour+ can shoot still 5MP photos with a resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels and 135° field of view, in an automatic mode, which allows photos to be taken every X number of seconds, where X is 3, 5, 10, 30 or 60-second intervals.