An incredible amount of technology, features and software crammed into an easy to use 11MP video camera, with a superb remote control, a long lived battery and useful LCD screen.
The Drift Innovations HD Ghost is a rugged outdoor sports video camera, that is easy to use, has a long battery life, and includes a 11 megapixel sensor, built-in Wi-Fi, and two-way remote with indicator lights, and a unique video tag/loop recording function. It has an excellent usage and form factor, combining loud indicator beeps for mode changes, the remote, an intuitive menu system, a fully rotatable lens and a useful LCD screen. Interfacing to the camera can be done through the LCD's menu system or an app on a mobile device which communicates via Wi-Fi. It records in a vast array of high-definition video resolutions, frame rates, and viewing angles, making for an incredibly versatile camera, and has proven itself to take videos and photos with great clarity and realistic colors.
Drift Innovations HD Ghost
The HD Ghost is a POV (point of view) high-definition sports camera, which uses an 11MP CMOS sensor that can record video footage in 1080p, 960p, 720p and SD formats, and photos in several modes, including still, timelapse and photoburst. It uses a seven element lens design, with a 170º viewing angle and a 10x digital zoom. It records data onto a microSD card up to 32GB in size, and is powered with an internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery (swappable) that gives around three hours of recording time. The camera has a built-in Wi-Fi to wirelessly converse with iOS and Android based mobile devices, and using the Drift App you can align the camera viewpoint, change settings, and view and delete and download recorded footage. It has ports for a mini USB for computer connection and recharging, a mini HDMI for live streaming to a TV or other source, and an external microphone for higher-quality audio recording. The oblong camera is comprised of plastic and fiberglass materials, and has a 2-inch LCD viewing screen which utilizes tough Gorilla Glass for protection, and has four rubberized operational buttons, a fully rotatable lens, and is impact and shock resistance, and waterproof to 3 meters. It can be operated by its buttons, the two-way RF remote or the mobile App. The camera attaches to an assortment of mounts, including a goggle, flat and curved surface, and optional handlebar, using their proprietary universal clip system, which attaches to the camera via a quarter inch universal camera adapter. The letterbox shaped camera measures 4.1" x 2" x 1.3", weighs 5.9 ounces (167g) and the kit retails for $399.
The kit comes in a nice closeable plastic carrying case, and includes the HD Ghost camera with its universal clip, a waterproof and easy-access rear hatch, a two way remote with a wrist strap, flat surface and curved surface and goggle mounts, an instruction guide, a USB cable, a rechargeable 3.7V 1700mAh Li-Ion battery and 3.5mm microphone cable.
The HD Ghost can shoot in High Definition, in three video resolutions and multiple frame rates, which are all recorded at 11MP. It can shoot in widescreen 1080p at 30 or 25 fps (frames per second), full frame 960p at 50, 48, 30 or 25 fps, widescreen 720p at 60,50, 30 or 25 fps, and SD at 120, 100, 60, 50, 30 or 25 fps. The faster frame rates of the 960p, 720p and SD modes allow for slow motion playback, which is pretty interesting to watch, and in addition; it gives normal viewing a smoother and more fluid stream. Engaging the Tag/Loop feature in video mode captures a rolling window of video into memory, but only saves it to the card when tagged. Each of the video resolutions is captured at different bit rates, which entails varying recording times and storage requirements, meaning greater resources are needed for the higher usage formats. The resolution settings are done within the camera's menu system, which is managed by its four buttons or a mobile device. In fact, any of the programmable features and settings can be done through the menus, allowing for the field changes as required. The camera records in different viewing angles or FOV (field of view), including an ultra wide 170º, a wide 127º, and a narrow 90º FOV, and each of them is unique to specific video resolutions. The 1080p has three FOVs, 170º, 127º and 90º, while the 960p , 720p and SD only use 170º. It uses the H.264 video codec, AAC audio compression, and a .mp4 or .mov file type (selectable).
The HD Ghost can shoot 11, 8 and 5 megapixel still photos in either manual or automatic mode. In the manual mode, it can shoot a single photo, while in the automatic mode, it can do photoburst or timelapse. In photoburst, it can do a burst duration of 1, 2 or 3 seconds, with 5 or 10 shots per second during each burst. In timelapse, it takes a photo every X number of seconds, where X is .5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 30 or 60-second intervals.
On the top of the camera is the 2-inch LCD viewing screen, and on the bottom is the waterproof speaker. On the upper side are four rubberized buttons that perform various functions, such as menu engagement and on/off, along with the LED indicator. The four buttons, are comprised of an Action button (menu select, on/off and stop/start recording), a Left button (zoom out, menu left, menu up), and a Right button (zoom in, menu right, menu down) and a Menu button (enter menu, menu back). The speaker gives an indication of the camera turning on and off, and stopping and starting of recording, and other mode features, in addition to a subdued playback of previously recorded footage. There is a small LED next to the Action button that indicates the status mode: green when the camera is on video mode or done charging, blinking green during tag mode, blinking red when charging and recording, yellow in photo mode, purple in timelapse mode and cyan in photoburst mode. On the front of the camera is the 170º FOV lens, which is software configurable to 127º and 90º FOV for 1080p, and it can be rotated a full 300 degrees.
On the rear of the camera is a hatched door that houses the interface and device ports. It comes with two hatch covers, a waterproof and connection friendly version. In the inside of the door are the slots for the rechargeable battery and the microSD card, the port for the mini USB to the computer connector (or power charger), the HDMI connector, which can be used to hook up to a TV monitor, and a microphone input. The main built-in waterproof microphone resides on the lower side of the camera, opposite the LED indicator.
The wrist mounted two-way remote control unit, which has a 10 meter range, uses a Velcro closure strap, and has a large Start/Tag (i.e. Action) and Stop recording button, dual indicator lights and communicates wirelessly via RF (2.4 GHz UHF radio frequency). It uses an internal 3.7V 350mAH rechargeable Li-Ion battery for power, which gives 12 hours of use. The indicator lights emulate the cameras LED, so it blinks green in video mode, yellow in photo mode, purple in timelapse mode, cyan in photoburst mode and blue when communicating with the camera. The remote is not waterproof, just water resistant, though it worked fine in inclement outdoor weather.
The bottom of the camera has a 1/4" universal camera adapter, which can accept any normal camera mount, but is meant for their proprietary universal clip. The clip and the camera have a male and female notch system so the clip can be adjusted in 10 degree increments in relation to the camera.
Memory and Battery
The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery fits very snugly into the back of the camera, and there is a latch to hold it securely in the position. The 3.7 volt and 1700 milliampere-hour battery, gives anywhere from 2.5-3 hour of usage, and its limit varied on the video resolution used, and the number times it's cycled on/off and stop/start recording, and in addition, the ambient air temperature. The camera can use a maximum 32 GB microSD card, although a 16 GB card seems ideal for most mountain biking rides, giving around three hours of recorded footage, which blends well with the battery usage limit.
The built-in microphone features advanced DSP (digital signal processing) functions and wind noise reduction, for better and clearer audio. Within the system-wide menu, there are settings for multiple sensitivity parameters, and for advanced usage, you can connect an external microphone using the 3.5mm microphone port located in the rear of the camera.
To turn the camera on, just press and hold the Action button on the side of the camera, and the LCD screen comes on and the LED light turns either green, yellow, purple or cyan (mode dependent). The LCD screen will eventually go into the Live Preview Mode, displaying a live image of whatever the camera is pointing towards, and icons on the outer edge of the image, which indicate the recording mode (video, photo, timelapse, photoburst), current memory and battery levels, and various other information that is relevant to the chosen mode.
To level the camera, 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 LCD screen, rotate the lens until the object matches up with the proper horizon. It can be tough to get things exactly right, due to the small screen and 170º lens causing skewing at its outer circumference. To turn the camera off, press and hold the Action button for 3 seconds, and then it will shut down. The camera also has a zoom capability, which can be engaged by pressing and holding the Right button, with an indicator bar on the screen, and it can be reversed with the Left.
If using the two-way remote control, just press and hold the Action button to sync it up with the camera, and it will blink in the appropriate mode color (green, yellow, purple, cyan) when ready. To begin the video recording, just push the Action button on the camera or the Action button on the remote, and it beeps once, and the indicator LED turns from green (or the proper mode color) to blinking red. To stop recording, push the Action button again or the Stop button on the remote, and the camera acknowledges that with another beep. When taking photos, pressing the Action button takes a picture, and the camera beeps and the indicator turns red, and once the LED returns to its mode color another picture can be taken.
The menu system for the camera is highly intuitive, and uses both icons and tabular menus for configuring the camera modes and settings. Press the Menu button to get to the Main Menu screen, and you'll see four icons, Menu Selection, Playback, Mode Settings and Camera Settings. The icons are browsed using the Left and Right buttons, and once highlighted, using the Action button brings you to the chosen sub menu. Pressing the Menu button again, returns it up one level in the menu tree or back to the Live Preview screen.
The Mode Selection Menu displays four icons, video, photo, timelapse, or photoburst, and choosing one of those sets up the recording mode for the camera. The Mode Settings Menu also displays the four icons, video, photo, timelapse, or photoburst, and choosing one of those drops it down into a tabular based setting's menu for the respective mode. From the Main Menu, you can also go to the camera settings, which gives the tabular system-wide settings menu.
In each of the mode setting's menus (video, photo, timelapse, or photoburst), you can set resolution, frame rate (video only), field of view, exposure, and other mode specific parameters. The system-wide settings menu is very deep, with four pages of settings, and includes parameters such as Wi-Fi, remote control and pairing, and LCD setup.
From the Main Menu, you can go to the Playback Menu, which like the others, displays the four mode icons, video, photo, timelapse, and photoburst. If there is a number next to the icon, that is the number of recorded files that reside on the microSD card for those formats. Choosing any of the modes brings up a picture of the initial video, photo, timelapse, or photoburst, the current file being viewed vs. the total number of files, and the video length (in video view mode). You can browse through the recorded files using the Left and Right buttons, and then press the Action button, and you'll get three choices, view, delete and delete all. In the video view mode, you can use the Right button for fast forward, the Left for rewind and the Action for play, while in timelapse and photoburst, the Action button begins the sequences.
It can be hooked up to a TV monitor via the HDMI cable for a big-screen experience, and is controlled using the same button sequences.
Interfacing and Charging with the Computer
To download or view the videos or photos you recorded, connect the mini USB to the rear port on the camera's back, and then the other end of the connector to a computer USB port. The unit will appear as a Removable Disk, and just navigate down to the appropriate directory (example: F:\Removable Disk\DCIM\100DRIFT) and either download or view the video straight from the camera. For faster downloads, use a standalone card reader, and bypass the camera as the downloading interface.
To charge the camera, plug in the USB cable into the computer, an appropriate wall or vehicle charger and then the cameras USB port, and the LED will blink red for several hours depending on how much video was recorded, and will turn green when completed.
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.
How does it compare against the competition? The HERO3 still has the best video clarity, though it has overly warm colors, followed by the HD Ghost and then the Contour+2 and Replay XD. The HD Ghost has the best usage factor, followed closely by the Contour+2, then the Replay XD, with the HERO3 way behind in this category.
The Drift HD Ghost is an excellent 11MP high definition outdoor sports camera, that takes 1080p, 960p and 720p resolution videos with a slew of frame rate options. It has a plethora of useful and functional features, including a tough Gorilla Glass color LCD screen, built-in Wi-Fi, a two-way remote with indicator lights, a tough waterproof or water resistant body, a rotatable lens, and a stable mount system. The main menu system is intuitive and easy to use, and using the four camera buttons, any video and photo mode setting can be altered, and footage viewed or deleted. The nifty Tag/Loop feature captures a rolling window of video into flash memory, and saves it to permanency when tagged.
One of the highlights of the camera is the excellent form factor, which comes from the low profile body, stable mounting system, remote with large easy to use buttons and functional status indicator lights, loud indicator beeps for mode changes and the LCD screen. The 2-inch color LCD screen is used for leveling, camera settings, menu selection and recorded material viewing. Some of the icons and fonts for the settings are on the small size, and I found them hard to read for my older eyes. The mount system is one of the most stable on the market, but the lack of a vented helmet mount is annoying, since a semi-permanent surface mount is the only solution for attachment. Due to the camera body shape, a chest system isn't feasible, so you can only do handlebar, helmet or goggle mounting. The built-in Wi-Fi lets the camera wirelessly converse with mobile devices using the Drift App to align the camera, change settings and modes, and download and view and delete recorded footage. I found App extremely useful for alignment and mode configurations, and would use the remote for normal operations. For some odd reason, the App doesn't allow the video frame rate to be above 30fps. In bright and low light cameras metering worked fine, but in mixed light conditions, full light bursts could cause occasional washouts in the recorded video footage.
The camera took great footage with good clarity and realist colors. The excellent form and usage factor from the superb large remote with its useful indicator lights, LCD screen, menu system, stable mounts, loud mode beeps and rotatable lens all worked in synergistic harmony. Top it all off with the unique Tag/Loop feature, a long-lived battery life, built-in Wi-Fi and mobile interface, creates a great camera package.
- Excellent form and usage factor
- Superb remote control w/ indicator lights
- Loud mode change beeps
- LCD screen
- Stable mount system
- Menu system
- Tag/Loop functionality
- Built in Wi-Fi
- Mobile App
- 11MP sensor
- Lens may be prone to damage
- Menu setting's parameters font and icons are small and hard to read
- App interface doesn't allow a higher frame rate (only 30fps)
- Lack of a vented helmet mount
- Video clarity great not the best
- Washouts occasionally in mixed light conditions
Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Visit the Drift Innovations HD Ghost Website
- 1080p [1920x1080] - 25, 30 fps
- 960p [1280x960] - 25, 30, 48, 50 fps
- 720p [1280x720] - 25, 30, 50, 60 fps
- WVGA [848x480] - 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, 120
- File format: .Mp4 / .Mov (H.264 codec, selectable)
- Sensor type: CMOS
- Field of view: 170° (1080p, 960p, 720p, WVGA)
- Field of view: 127°, 90° (1080p)
- 11, 8, 5 megapixel Still Photos
- Lens focal range: 0.5m to infinity
- Lens rotation: 300°
- Zoom: x10 (digital)
- Exposure: Auto / Manual
- LCD Screen: 2.0″ TFT
- Waterproof: 3m (9.84ft)
- Microphone: Built-in, noise reducing microphone
- Built-in memory: 256MB
- Memory capacity: Micro SD memory cards up to 32GB
- Inputs: 3.5mm external microphone (extension included)
- Outputs: HDMI connector type C (cable not included)
- Connectivity: USB Plug and Play, mini-B USB connector
- Compatibility: Windows XP and up / Mac OS 10.2 and up
- Remote range: 10m (32.81ft)
- Radio frequency: 2.4G
- Camera dimensions: 105 (L) x 52 (W) x 33 (D) mm
- Camera Weight: 167g
- Camera Power: 1700mAH rechargeable lithium-ion battery (included) (DC 3.7V)
- Remote Control dimensions: 59 (L) x 48 (W) x 12 (D) mm
- Remote Control Weight: 22g
- Remote Control Power: 350mAH rechargeable lithium-ion battery (internal) (DC 3.7V)