Action cameras come in all shapes and sizes, but all feature the same basic fixed wide-angle lens. That’s where the Drift Innovation HD Ghost ($399 direct) differentiates itself from the pack, with a unique rotating lens element that allows you to adjust the angle of your shot to compensate for unleveled mounting. The HD Ghost also has a built-in LCD that lets you frame and review shots without any added accessories like you need on competitors like the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition. While video quality is good, with crisp details and accurate exposure, the HD Ghost tops out at 1080p30—the Hero3 can shoot 1080p60 and even 4K at 15 frames per second. The HD Ghost is a fine action camera, but for the money, you get better video performance with the Hero3.
Design and Features
The HD Ghost shares a similar barrel-like design with the Sony Action Cam, but is much bulkier at 2.0 by 1.3 by 4.1 inches (HWD) and 5.9 ounces—more than double the weight of the 2-ounce Action Cam and 2.6-ounce Hero3. Along the top edge are Menu, Forward, Back, and Record buttons, which we found difficult to press. On the right side is a 2-inch color LCD, an upgrade from the monochrome LCDs used on the Action Cam and Hero3, which lets you change settings and frame shots right on the camera without any added accessories. To do this on the Action Cam you’d have to link the camera to a smartphone, and the Hero3 requires an additional LCD BacPac that costs $79.99. A door on the back houses the battery and microSD card slot, while the front features the rotating lens element. You can twist the lens a full 360 degrees in either direction, helping to level a shot once the camera is mounted—definitely a useful feature. Also on top is a multicolored LED, which indicates the recording state.
A wireless remote is also included with the HD Ghost, and can be worn around your wrist using the included strap. There are two buttons, Record and Stop, and multicolored LEDs that indicate recording state. It’s a nice inclusion, as you can confirm recording status without having to look at the camera itself.
The HD Ghost is waterproof to 9 feet without any additional housing. Drift includes curved and flat adhesive mounts, as well as a goggle mount, but you’ll have to buy an optional waterproof housing ($50 list) if you plan on going deeper than 9 feet. Like the Sony, Drift offers optional handlebar, helmet, and suction cup mounts, but still falls a bit short on mounting options when compared with GoPro.
Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to connect a smartphone or tablet to the HD Ghost using the free iOS or Android app. From there you can use your device as a viewfinder, trigger recording, or upload shots to the Web. Battery life was better than the GoPro with Wi-Fi enabled, but couldn’t match the Action Cam’s longevity.
Video Quality and Conclusions
The Drift HD Ghost can shoot video at 1080p30, 720p60, 720p30, and 480p120 resolutions and frame rates. It can’t, however, shoot 1080p60 like the Sony Action Cam or GoPro Hero3 Black Edition.
For testing, we sent the Hero3, Sony Action Cam, and Drift HD Ghost out with our photographer on his most recent ski trip. Although the HD Ghost tops out at 1080p30, it outperformed the Action Cam when it came to detail. The HD Ghost’s footage looked crisp, with a lot of fine details retained, like tree branches and snow texture, which appear smudged and waxy on the Action Cam. When it comes to action cameras, however, frame rates can be equally important as resolution and detail. Fast moving action isn’t quite as smooth as the 1080p60 footage on the Hero3 or Action Cam. Video detail overall couldn’t match the Hero3 either, though it came a good deal closer than the Action Cam.
A unique feature to the HD Ghost is what Drift calls Flashback Video mode. In this setting, the HD Ghost continually captures video, saving up to five minutes before starting the loop over again. It’s a neat feature that can help ensure you never miss a shot.
Still image quality is on par with the Hero3, which is to say good, but not great. The HD Ghost shoots images at 11-, 8-, or 5-megapixels. You’re still dealing with a good deal of distortion introduced by the wide angle lens, but images look sharp and colors really pop. I noticed the HD Ghost had the tendency to blow-out highlighted areas, but otherwise the images looked crisp and generally noise free.
There’s a lot to like from the Drift Innovation HD Ghost—it shoots great-looking video, has a built-in LCD and built-in Wi-Fi, includes a wireless remote, and is waterproof without an extra housing. Unfortunately, at this price point, it just can’t compete with the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition when it comes to pure video performance. The Hero3, and even the far less expensive Sony Action Cam, can shoot 1080p60 video, which is pretty important in the fast-paced world of action cameras. The HD Ghost is a nice option, but if you’re going to spend $400, I’d recommend the Hero3 Black Edition.
|Mic Input Jack||No|
|Interface Ports||micro USB, mini HDMI|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||9 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Video Recording Format||Secure Digital|
|Still Image Recording Format||Secure Digital|
|CCD Resolution||11 megapixels|
|Dimensions||2.04 x 1.29 x 4.13 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc