Drift Innovations HD170 Review

Cameras Pro Reviews

The HD170 records in three resolutions all at 30fps, High Definition at 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) and 720p (1280×720 pixels), and Wide Video Graphics Array at 480p (848×480 pixels). It does not include the other usual HD resolutions of 960p mode (fullframe), and 720p at 60 fps, which allows slow motion playback. I sort of missed having the 960p mode, and I consider that a real loss in otherwise a nice resolution package.

When recording in rougher mountain biking terrain, all the POV outdoor video cameras have an issue with what I call the “jump or shake” syndrome. It can be seen in the recorded media as in abrupt jump or blur in the field of view, almost like one is in an earthquake, or as jellovision. Attaching the camera using a more stable mount so that it literally becomes part of the attachment point helps this issue, but it’s not alleviated.

A great deal of the issue is due to the motion artifacts produced by the inexpensive CMOS sensors used in these types of cameras, and the HD exacerbates the issue, since anomalies are more perceptible. The HD170, like most CMOS video cameras use a Rolling Shutter, which makes videos seem a bit shaky and scattered (think sea sickness) and jellovisioned, due to motion artifacts (skew and wobble). A Rolling Shutter exposes different portions of the frame at a different point in time, hence “rolling” through the frame, while a Global shutter (CCD cameras use this) exposes the entire imager simultaneously. Neither does this in the physical sense. The degree that each camera exhibits the motion artifacts issue depends on a lot of factors. The final output can also display spatio-temporal aliasing, which has a rippled or watered appearance. The HD170 was less suspectable to some of these issues, but they were still very discernible.

Like any of the sports cameras, I found the 1080p gave rise to extraneous jellovision from the bumpy conditions of mountain biking, although the HD170 was much better than its competition. It did quite well when alternating between sunshine and shade, something that is tough to deal with, especially in high mountain bright light conditions. Pixelation was good, with mild amounts of aliasing, and edge artifacts.

Drift HD170 Camera Helmet Mount

Drift HD170 Camera Helmet Mount

I really liked the Drift Innovations HD170 camera, as it was robust, rugged, weather proof, had a LCD screen, and was easy to use. The menu system was intuitive, and it was simple to change settings as desired, and review or delete photos and video footage. Although I accidentally hit the Back/Menu button instead of the Select often, and ended up having to backtrack. The LCD was small, being only 1.5 inches, but it was useful and bright enough for what was needed to be accomplished in the field. After positioning the camera on its mount, leveling the camera was greatly benefited by the LCD screen, both for prerecording orientation check (using a tree, log or your finger), and post check using the recorded footage to verify the results. The camera beeps to inform you of stop and start recording mode changes, and it was decently loud, although I wish it had another notch of adjustment (to 11!). I would have liked a speaker or perhaps a LED light on the remote, especially when using the helmet mount, since it wasn’t always obvious what mode it was in. The remote was really nice to use, especially when using a helmet mount, since it was hard to locate the Select button when reaching up onto the camera. The remote allowed quick video sequences to be performed, even on moderately difficult terrain, and it was easy to stab at its buttons, even with gloves and fat fingering them.

The video footage was excellent, with warm and very vibrant colors (a real standout), good contrast, and sharp images. I preferred the 720p mode, since 1080p gave rise to jellovision in mountain biking conditions.

Note: Refer to Lee Lau’s article, for video footage and mounting setups.

Their mount system worked really well, and was the most stable of the sports cameras on the market. It was easy to slide their universal clip into its mate, but the lack of good non vented helmet strap is a real bummer, as the best method is using the stick on Velcro, so you end up with a semi-permanent attachment. Again, once properly attached there is very little movement from the system. The 1/4 universal camera adapter on the bottom of the camera, was a nice feature, though I didn’t use it much, it allows a connection to a tripod, or on some of the RAM mounts. The ability to alter the exposure settings on the menu was really a handy feature, and it came in useful for adjusting things for local conditions (weather, location, time of the day), and the results could be viewed, and then changed, making for an instant A/B comparison.

You had to be somewhat careful of the camera’s bulbous lens, which sort of sticks out, and it was easy to bump into objects, as I would be worried about its longevity and getting scratches? Even though the camera is pretty rugged, the body seemed to scratch easily, though it didn’t damage anything other than the surface, so call it a cosmetic nuisance. The camera is weather proof, so its not made to take out for aggressive whitewater kayaking or any sort of intensive water sports, but it works fine for a mountain bike environment, as it made it through quite a few ugly hail and rainstorms and worked just fine.

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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