Saturday, June 29, 2013

Drift HD Ghost Camera Review: Why I chose this over GoPro?

Disclaimer
I have no affiliation with Drift Innovation or Motoworld. I am just an end-user who is trying to share my views on a wonderful product (in my opinion). :) I have also occasionally added some updates to give you a more accurate and honest review based on the past 1 year of usage under different circumstances.

One of the gadget that I regret not getting during the dirtbiking days was an action camera. Besides scars and injuries, I thought videos would be a good way to commemorate all those stupid falls. E.g. I hit a huge rock, swerved into some bushes, flatten them all. Bike and I had to be pulled out of the bush. My friend who was riding behind me was trying to contain his laughter because he just witness some comical stunt, probably of me flying. Watching that action would sure be entertaining.

I flattened the bushes and kind of broke that small tree behind me. I'd love to see how I did it on video.
Of all the action cameras in the market, GoPro is the best marketed brand. Very often we have seen videos of extreme sports star like Ken Block, Travis Pastrana in action, all filmed using GoPro. It is also the official sports camera for AMA Motocross Championship. Their brand is very established. No doubt when action camera comes to mind, GoPro comes to mind.

During the previous Harley Davidson ride, I was also introduced to other action cameras like the Drift Innovation HD Ghost and Contour. A little more research led me to the video below that compare 4 of the leading brands of action cameras in the market.


At first sight, I was very intrigued by the Drift HD Ghost because of the LCD screen. I think it is the only one in the market with built-in screen, other models' screen comes as an add-on. Although it is bigger, it is more streamlined when mounted on helmet so one does not end up looking like Teletubby.
Source: http://www.newschoolers.com/forum/thread/639129/Position-of-Helmet-GoPro-mount--

Image quality at 1080p among the 4 cameras are pretty comparable. I realised that the colours in GoPro Hero 3 is pretty warm. Contour did not fare too well in low light, Drift HD Ghost was pretty horrible in the sound aspect, too much wind noise. However, I have seen a video filmed using Drift Ghost and the sound was alright. Probably it is due to the microphone sensitivity setting and the position of the microphone. Alternatively, an external microphone can be attached to the helmet. If sound is really crucial, go for Sony Action Camera.

Want to film slow-mo? GoPro Hero 3 and Sony Action Cam can record at 720pixel, 120 frames per second whereas Drift HD Ghost and Contour do it at 720p, 60fps. (The new Drift HD Ghost S can record at 120fps at 720p) GoPro can even shoot in Professional 4K Cinema quality.)

I was contemplating between GoPro Hero 3 and Drift HD Ghost. Eventually, I decided on getting the

Drift HD Ghost

The reasons that bought me over are:

LCD Screen

It comes as a standard. You need to buy the touch screen as add-on for GoPro Hero 3. The option to preview makes it a lot easier to adjust the view when shooting photos and videos. Or if you need to delete unwanted footage to free up memory space, you can easily preview and delete without having to plug it into a computer.

Video Tagging Mode (My Favourite Feature!)

GoPro has a continuous looping video recording mode. From what I understand on its operation, you can set the loop duration. For example, 5 minutes, the camera records 5 minutes of footage until the memory is full, then progressively overwrite the old footage. The latest snips of 5 minutes footages will saved into the memory. Correct me if I am wrong about the looping feature.

HD Ghost has a similar feature but it is much more awesome. It is called the Video Tagging Mode. The camera is constantly recording and the older footage gets overwritten. The footage is only saved when you pressed the record button to tag. Not just that, it saves the footage before you pressed the button. So, you get a short footage with that Eureka moment captured. That saves you the hassle of having to browse through hours of footage for that Eureka moment and editing. Setting for tagging duration ranges from 10 seconds to 5 minutes.

Let's say I set it to 30 seconds. I was riding and saw an elephant. Oh no, the elephant ran away before I could even hit the record button. No worries, I pressed the record button on my remote or the camera. The camera will save the footage 30 seconds before I press the button, 30 seconds after I press the button plus another 30 seconds. So, a 90 secs continuous footage with the elephant in it is saved. And if the 90 secs is not enough, press record button again to extend another 30secs of footage before it stop.

This is a really neat feature that I wonder why other camera have not thought of. For the skateboarder who are trying to land some tricks, instead of having many footages of failed attempts, just use the Video Tagging Mode to record. Once you land the trick, press tag to save the footage of that triumphant feat.

I love this feature the most because I edit my videos. I do not get redundant boring footage at the expense of memory space. I capture and save only footage that I wanted! So far, I managed to capture random conversations with stranger on the road, animals that were close to becoming roadkills when they crossed my path, crazy road users etc etc etc. It makes editing a whole lot easier.

Using the Video Tagging Mode, I managed to capture footage of Elephant...... Footprints on the road! Try to view it on 1080p HD. At the 5 secs point, I think Wei Jie was trying to tell me about the elephant footprint that is why my head turned to look at the ground. I pressed the record button on my remote and managed to capture a 30 secs footage with Benji riding along side the footprints.



Update: Below is a video of my 3 weeks road trip on Vespa scooter in 3 minutes, mostly shot on Drift HD Ghost. It wouldn't be possible to capture interesting footage without using Video Tagging feature. My video clips are mostly 30 secs long containing interesting happenings, not just clips of the road, road and more road but also interaction with other road users and animal sightings.

Long Battery Life

The Drift HD Ghost claims to have the longest standard battery life in the market - 3 hours of recording time per battery charge as compared to GoPro of 1hr plus. (3.5hours for the new Drift HD Ghost S.) I tried it during my previous ride to Endau Rompin, the recording time is definitely more than 2 hours. Since it utilises USB cable, I could recharge it using Powerbank.

GoPro Hero 3 uses built-in Wi-Fi to connect with the remote which drains more battery while HD Ghost uses radio-frequency. That is a very good consideration to prolonging battery life when it comes to wireless connection. HD Ghost also uses Wi-Fi for connecting to iPhone and Android. You can control the camera using your phone and also download videos and photos to your phone via Wi-Fi.

Waterproof without any housing (As claimed by Drift Innovation but debatable based on my friend's and my experience and a little experiment.)

As claimed, it is waterproof up to 3 metres on the website, but there are limitations. In the manual and the information on waterproofing, it states for up to 30 minutes, no sudden impact of water and other conditions. So always read the manual before subjecting your camera to water abuse. By itself, the camera can withstand dirt, rain and mud which is good enough for biking. So you do not have to worry about fogging in the housing. If you need to use it for scuba driving, snorkelling or any underwater use, there is housing to waterproof the camera up to 60 metres.

Update on my experience: The camera works fine under rain. Look in the photo below how I cover the mic opening with Bluetac if I happen to use a external microphone. While I was on a row boat, I dunked my camera into the river to film fishes. Water got in!!! Lens and screen got foggy and camera froze! After drying with dessicant, camera is back working fine. It is still advisable to use a proper casing for underwater use.

My friend's experience: Place the Ghost S on tripod stand near the waterfall. The camera was not even submerged, mist from the waterfall somehow gotten into the camera and fogged the lens and screen.

I wrote to Drift Innovation about this issue and here is the correspondence with Drift Innovation about this issue.

"Hi Juvena,

Thanks for getting back in touch, I hope you're enjoying your camera. To help you out here, condensation can appear behind your LCD screen due to a few situations. The Ghost does feature anti-fog material, and if this becomes saturated condensation can occur. Or there could be a combination of events, moisture in the air in the camera, and a sudden temperature change between the air inside the camera, and the air on the other side of the LCD screen.

The usual solution is to remove your battery and battery hatch, and store the camera in a warm dry place overnight. This will allow the camera and anti-fog material to dry out properly. Providing the waterproof battery hatch is installed correctly and tightened securely, continued condensation should not be an issue nor affect the waterproof rating of your camera - page 3 -

http://driftinnovation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Ghost-S-Full-Manual-1.0.0.pdf

The same applies for your HD Ghost. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused here. Where and when was your HD Ghost purchased?

Kind Regards,

Kate 

Customer Support Representative"

I did use the universal clip to tighten the rear hatch as instructed, I am not sure about my friend's case. Then I explained that in my case, I doubt it is the anti-fog material being saturated because water was dripping out when I opened the rear hatch. I received a prompt reply.

"Hi Juvena,

Thanks for the response and update.

You should expect to experience any troubles with the correct rear standard battery hatch attached securely - your camera should then have a water tight seal resistant to 3m submission for up to 30 minutes. Double check the user manual here, as this doesn't cover water activities where the camera is subject to pressure (page 3)- 

http://driftinnovation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Ghost-S-Full-Manual-1.0.0.pdf

Please make sure you've attempted the suggested solution of drying the camera out, and making sure your rear hatch is securely fastened.

Then double check our full warranty terms here on waterproofing. Your retail store in Singapore will cover the warranty of your camera should you experience any manufacturing faults - www.driftinnovation.com/warranty 
Getting in touch with Hodaka Motoworld Pte whilst in Singapore, they'll be able to help you out. 

Your friend who is travelling and purchased their camera through our US store, are they still in America? We don't offer a global warranty but can offer worldwide support. Let me know and we can offer the best advice.

Kind Regards,

Kate 

Customer Support Representative"

As she had mentioned about pressure, I suspect water seeped into my camera due increased pressure from the river flow and movement of the row boat against the current.

So I decided to conduct a little experiment with the camera. I switched on my Drift HD Ghost and placed it in small tub of water for 20 mins.


During the test, I observed small bubbles around the button area and the rear hatch.

After 20 minutes, the camera still works. There is no fogging in the lens but slight fogging in the LCD screen.

No fogging observed in the lens

Slight fogging in the top right corner of the LCD screen.

Rotatable Lens

I tried mounting my camera on a friends' bike, and somehow I could only get a clear view if I mount the camera upside down, below the mount. All I had to do was to rotate the lens upside down. Even if situations permit you to only mount the camera at really weird orientations, you can simply rotate the lens such that the horizon is properly aligned.

Unboxing the Drift HD Ghost and demonstrating its feature.


Impressive Customer Service

I have written to Drift Innovation a few time about issues and have always received prompt reply and good suggestions. Example, I lost my external microphone clip and foam cover. I wrote to them asking if they supply those part which they unfortunately do not. However, the customer representative gave me a few eBay links where I can buy them at low cost.

I wrote in to complain about the broken LCD screen of my friend's Ghost S. They offered US$100 discount on the next camera purchased. Speaking of which, I have dropped my HD Ghost many times and had it knocking against my moving tires when it fell off the mount while riding. No issues. However, my friend's Ghost S screen broke when his helmet got blown off and had a good thrashing. If your sports activity is going to involve lots of crashing and hard knocking, I do not recommend getting any action camera with LCD screen.

What I think can be improved (Easily resolvable issues.)

With the universal clip, you can attach the camera to your helmet mount and then to your handlebar mount very easily. There is no need to fumble with screws. I find the universal clip a little filmsy, I already changed it twice! (First, the thread was unable to tighten, maybe the thread wore off. So don't overtighten! Second one of the arm broke. I have sent a feedback to them on this.) However, there is very little flexibility in the adjustment of the camera in some directions after mounting. The side mount of GoPro offers lots of leeway for adjustment but it is bulky. Actually this probably can be easily resolved if you preview your footage before sticking your mount. But it would be great if the Drift surface mounts have some pivot. However, this can be partially compensated by the rotatable lens.

After I pasted the Curved Surface Mount on top of my helmet, I realised that my camera was filming the ground a lot. There is no way I can adjust it unless I remove the Mount and shift it back bit. The Surface Mounts holds with a very strong 3M VHB tape. Once you stick it and let it cure for 24 hours, it is VERY VERY difficult to remove. I managed to remove it using WD40. (The mount can actually be reused, just need to get new VHB tapes for it.)

So learn from my lesson, preview the video filmed with the surface mount positioned in place before you actually stick the mount. My tips: Use a normal double-sided tape to temporary hold the camera for a quick test shot. If the position of the camera is ok, use a whiteboard marker to mark where the mount should be positioned. Then stick it. Allow it to cure for 24 hours before attaching the camera.

And the wind noise as heard in the above video is still pretty loud. Probably it can be resolved with some adjustment to the microphone sensitivity. I intend to get an external microphone so I can record myself cussing during Eureka and Oh Shit moments.

(Update on 10 July 2013: I found this product, Windcutter to reduce wind noise in Drift HD Ghost. Alternatively, you can DIY your own foam and cover the internal microphone.)

Regarding the innate waterproof ability of the camera, do understand that there are limitations but I personally find that it is fine for splashes, rain and quick gentle immersion. I always keep my Drift HD Ghost in my case with a dessicant after use in those conditions. If you are going to use it for water activities, get the waterproof housing.

External Mic Test


I use a Blue Tack to create a better seal around the microphone input so that water does not seep in during rain.

Conclusion

I must say GoPro Hero 3 has met a formidable match. If Drift HD Ghost is as well-marketed as GoPro, I wonder how the two brands will fare in sales. Overall, the Drift HD Ghost is a pretty balanced action camera. Drift Innovation managed to consider and capture what and how end-users want to record to come up with those subtle yet impactful, functional features.

GoPro or Drift HD Ghost? It really depends on your application.

In my case, I use it mainly for motorcycle road trips. The lasting battery life and the unique Video Tagging Feature are what won me over. What I yearn to capture with an action camera are the out-of-mundane moments during my rides. I cannot really plan my shots or easily access to power point for recharge. If my battery cannot last and if I have to capture these moments at the expense of memory space, I may miss out interesting footage. What is the point of even having high resolution videos if I fail to capture them? Then there is the option of fitting a external microphone so that I can do video commentary as well.

If quality of videos or compactness of camera is of utmost priority, go for the GoPro Hero 3. If you choose to go for functionality, versatility and long battery life, I feel that Drift HD Ghost fares way better.

The camera is available at MotoWorld Kaki Bukit. The retail price is S$549 (inclusive of GST) but I got the last piece at promotional price during the Great Singapore Sale. The next batch of cameras should be arriving in a few weeks time. (Update on 6 July 2013: the new batch of goods has already arrived) The GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition retails at S$599, the LCD add-on costs another S$134. Considering all the things that comes in as standards (remote, LCD screen), the Drift HD Ghost is a very good buy.

30 minutes video review on Drift HD Ghost

MotoWorld Head Office & Showroom
KB Industrial Building
10 Kaki Bukit Rd 1 #01-08
Singapore 416175
Operating Hours
Mon : 11:30am to 8:00pm
Tues - Sat : 10:00am to 8:00pm
Website: http://www.motoworld.com.sg/


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4 comments:

  1. Thanks for providing such a great article, it was excellent and very informative.
    as a first time visitor to your blog I am very impressed.
    thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment. I hope you find the review useful. I just returned from riding my Vespa to Thailand and recorded many video clips with the Drift HD Ghost. I will post up the edited video soon.

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  2. Juvena,

    I also just got the Ghost HD and was looking around for wind noise solutions others have tried. That windcutter sounds exactly like what I need but I bet something can be fabricated at 1/10th the price.

    My complaints essentially mirror yours. The lack of post-sticky adjustments and wind noise.

    Anyhow, I really enjoyed your review and the external mic footage really helps. If I can't get the sound right with a cover and mic settings I'll go that route.

    Wishing you best on the worldwide trip!

    Take care!

    P.S. Great to find another person who listens to Nightwish. I saw them in concert a few months ago right before Annette left the band.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi sandcrawler,

      Thank you for the blessings. I am glad you find the video useful.

      Whoa, you went to Nightwish concert. Would love to see Tarja in the line up again but I guess it will not happen again.

      Cheers!

      Delete