Saturday, June 29, 2013

Drift HD Ghost Camera Review

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.

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.

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 NOT based on my friend's and my experiences.)

As claimed, it is waterproof up to 3 metres but cannot be submerged for more than 30minutes. By itself, the camera can withstand dirt, rain and mud. 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 or snorkelling, there is housing to waterproof the camera up to 60 metres.

Update on my experience: The camera works fine under rain. Look in a photo below how I cover the mic opening with Bluetac if I happen to use a external microphone. 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.

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, tag to save the footage.

I love this feature the most. 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.

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.

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. 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.)

Lastly, Drift Innovation needs to improve on the Waterproof ability of the camera. If it is not, do not claim that it is.

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.


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.

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 will miss out capturing interesting footage, then what is the point of having high resolution videos if you fail to capture them? 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

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  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 :)

    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.

  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.

    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.