Review: Drift HD Ghost POV Camera

Cameras Pro Reviews

Smartphone Interface
The camera has built-in Wi-Fi to wirelessly converse with an iOS and Android based mobile devices, and through their Drift App, you can align the camera, change settings and modes, and download and view and delete recorded footage. To make use of the mobile app, you’ll need to install the Drift App on the iOS or Android (App still forthcoming) smartphone or mobile device, and then pair the camera and device via the Wi-Fi connection.

To check the horizontal alignment for proper video recording orientation, bring up the App on your smartphone or mobile device. Using the viewfinder on the mobile device, just point the camera at a stationary object that has a good horizontal or vertical orientation, like a tree, log or your finger held in front of the camera, and then watching the screen, and rotate the lens until the object matches up with the proper horizon. The Wi-Fi for viewfinder might lag, but it works fine for the aligning purpose. It has icons that emulate the buttons on the camera, so you can navigate through the same sort of menu system, and choose camera modes, mode settings, system-wide settings and do gallery functions, such as downloading, viewing and deleting of recorded footage. Downloaded content can then be shared through various social network platforms.

One of the most interesting features on the HD Ghost is the Tag/Loop functionality. When the Tag option is engaged in video mode, it flashes a continuous loop of footage into memory using a predefined time window (10, 30 seconds, 1, 2 or 5 minutes), and when the Tag button is initiated, it saves that time window backwards, and will record the next window forwards and an additional window after that. For example, if 10 seconds is chosen for the tagging interval, then it’s continually flashing 10 seconds of video to memory (not permanently saving it), and when the Tag button is pressed, it saves the previous 10 seconds, the next 10 seconds, and 10 seconds after that to the card, for a full 30-second video. It requires 4GB of free space on the card memory for the tagging to function properly.

I really liked the Drift Innovations HD Ghost camera, as it was robust, rugged, weatherproof or waterproof (depending on rear hatch), had a functional LCD screen and remote, stable mounts, and was easy to use. The squat size and low profile, 300 degrees rotatable lens, and alterable pitch mount, meant that it could be attached in a plethora of locations. What stands out to me when using this camera is its excellent usage and form factor, and great battery life.

The menu system was very intuitive to use, and it was simple to change settings as desired, and review or delete photos and video footage. Everything was accessed through the four camera buttons and initial icon’s screens. Further choices led to the tabular setting’s menus, where the system-wide, video, photo, timelapse, and photoburst parameters could be configured. The ability to alter the exposure settings from 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.

The smartphone interface was handy for configuration changes, and viewing and deleting footage, but unfortunately in video mode it would only allow the lowest frame rate of 30fps. I didn’t find the smartphone the most useful for starting and stopping recording, since it required that the camera was easily accessible, and in addition, the Wi-Fi used up battery resources of the camera and phone.

The LCD was small, being only 2 inches, but it was useful and bright enough for what was needed to be accomplished in the field. I did find that it was sometimes hard to read the small fonts and icons on the setting’s menu, and I had to carry my reading glasses to decipher what I was changing, but I can chock that up to my eyesight at 50+ years old. Once the camera was positioned on its mount, leveling the camera was greatly benefited by the LCD screen for initial orientation check (using a tree, log or your finger), and then post checking using the recorded footage to verify the results. I found that the smartphone interface was incredibly useful for performing the alignment activity, and then I would turn off the Wi-Fi and go back to normal usage.

The camera beeps to inform you of stopping and starting recording and mode changes, and they’re exceptionally loud, which I found an excellent reinforcement for the camera status. The superb remote was really nice to use, especially when using a helmet mount, since it was hard to locate the Action 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 large buttons, even with gloves and fat fingering them. The addition of indicator lights on the remote really added to its usefulness, since I could take a quick glance and see what mode the camera was in, and whether it was recording, making for a great visual status. The remote isn’t waterproof, only water resistant, but it worked fine in the many rain storms that I encountered.

The video footage was great, with realist colors (though on the dry side), good contrast, and sharp images. I preferred the 720p and 960p modes, since 1080p gave rise to jello-vision in mountain biking conditions. The Tag/Loop feature was pretty cool, and was especially nice on long rides where you might have just done an interesting section of trail and wanted to capture it, and it gave you the ability to record a time slice in the past and into the future. The camera did decently in full and low-light conditions, but had some difficulty in mixed light, with some occasional washouts when a blast of bright light was in its field of view.

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 vented helmet strap is a real bummer, as the best method is using the stick-on surface mounts, so you ended up with a semi-permanent attachment. I created my own customized vented mount by using another company’s strap, and I dremeled down the old connection system flat, so that I could attach a their flat surface mount. The ratcheted clip can be adjusted in 10 degree increments in relation to the camera, which was useful for pitch setup when the camera was mounted on the side of a helmet. 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.

You had to be somewhat careful of the camera’s bulbous lens, which sort of sticks out, and though I worried about it getting scratched, that never happened. The body has been pretty tough, and hasn’t gotten scratched or nicked up, and the LCD uses the exceptional tough Gorilla Glass, so nothing has happened with it, even after lots of abuse.

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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  • Vic says:

    How did you put the camera with the strap (on top of the helmet?

  • Aaron says:

    The real question is if you would pick this over a GoPro Hero 3

    -Aaron who recently watched leadville race

  • Patrick says:

    So you make a review for a camera and don’t include a video… The majority of the people are going to use this for video not pictures. The reviews on this site are mind bogglingly bad sometimes.

  • Bob says:

    Good info. Any plans for a review of Sony’s Action Cam HDR-AS10? Very interested to see how it compares to the models listed in this review.

  • Joe says:

    Hey Patches, maybe you should actually read the whole article before making mind bogglingly stupid comments. There’s a video on page 4…

  • Sadoldsamurai says:

    Yep, nice review..but like many others I have a go pro-which like it or not is the current ‘benchmark’..What would be useful is a simultaneous filming video. I’ve seen one comparing GoPro2 and a later GoPro3..its and ad and so I suspect the GoPro3 may have been slightly ‘enhanced’..
    cynical aren’t I :(

    • Brian Mullin says:

      GoPro does have a large editing staff of professional videographers, so there internal footage looks pretty good. We’ll have some comparison video out shortly, but it will only be all the new cameras against each other. GoPro HERO3, Contour+2, Drift HD Ghost, Replay XD1080, JVC, Sony. I personally try and only upload raw footage (no editing) from the camera, as it gives the best idea of what the camera outputs.

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