This is an admirable GoPro killer kit. A high-end, modular and compact camcorder-like action camera that I’ve used around the world for a year.
“We are Drift. A small, passionate team dedicated to creating pioneering cameras accessible to everyone – not just the daredevils – so anyone can share what makes them great.” -Drift Innovation
The old generation of sports POV cameras offered a low resolution, clunky housings, and expensive price tags. As tech advanced over the last decade, so did POV camera technology. Today’s cameras feature high-resolution sensors, image stabilization, flash memory, and compact housings.
If you’re thinking about getting a POV camera, you’re looking at the GoPro Hero or Sessions range. These cameras are an excellent choice – but they come with a steep price tag. What if you could get all the functionality of a GoPro in another compact model?
The HD Ghost from Drift Innovation offers you an affordable GoPro alternative. If you’re into sports or extreme action photography, this model provides a high-resolution alternative with compact size and user-friendly operation.
My first “action camera” was the GoPro Hero from 2012. Around the time I started my nomadic life. It worked great until it didn’t, just 3 or so months later. Their customer service and tech support was one of the worst I can recall experiencing, ever.
I scrapped that piece of shit camera and shitty brand in a dumpster in an skank alleyway in Laos, literally.
A few months later in Korea, I discovered Hitcase. They made a waterproof case with a wide lens system for iPhones. For the next two iPhones, this was my action camera, and it worked great.
After some time and many photos later, I got myself one of Drift’s earlier models, the Ghost-S.
A couple of years of heavy use, it became the “GoPro” I always wanted. Imperfect but it held up (even to this day) and never encountered any serious problems with their support helpful and responsive.
Then Drift sent me their latest and best camera, the Ghost 4K. It’s essentially a highly upgraded version of the Ghost-S but in an awesomely compact package.
Features and Design of the HD Ghost
The Drift HD Ghost gives you high-definition video and JPEG images. You get 1080p, 960p, and 720p settings, with 1080p shooting at 30-frames per second. Running the Ghost on the 720p setting gives you recording options of 25, 30, 50, or 60-fps.
The Ghost records in MP4 video files for the best compression and easy sharing of files, or you have the option of recording in QuickTime MOV format. With images, the Ghost gives you the opportunity of snapping pictures in 11, 8, or 5-megapixel formats with all video or pictures available for viewing on the cameras 2-inch LCD screen.
The Ghost records all video files and images on the optional micro-SDHC card, with flash memory to support up to 32GB of storage.
This action camera stands out from the competition thanks to its 3-way field of view lens featuring a 7-element design.
The multi-directional lens has autofocus for 0.5-meters out, and you get three FOV settings, including a 90-degree angle, a standard wide 127-degree angle, and a super-wide 170-degree angle. Choose your preferred recording angle through the integrated 2-inch screen, and start shooting your next action sequence.
The Drift HD Ghost stands out from other models thanks to its manually-rotating lens, allowing turning up to 300-degrees for any image or video orientation. The integrated Wi-Fi functionality in this model allows for connection to iOS devices through the Drift app available for download to your Apple device.
We like the standard waterproofing of the camera, making it water-resistant to depths of up to 10-meters without needing a protective housing. If you want to go deeper, you’ll have to purchase the dive housing separately.
You get a built-in microphone included with the camera, capturing high-quality mono audio, with a jack available for connecting external mics. The removable back cover houses the replaceable battery, card slot, and charging ports.
The compact size of the Drift HD Ghost measures 4.1 x 2 x 1.3 inches, with an ergonomic design that feels comfortable in your hand. The lightweight design and construction of this camera weigh in at 5.9 ounces, allowing for secure connection to mounts on your equipment, without weighing you down.
The HD Ghost features four operational modes, allowing you to choose between Photo, Video, Photo Burst, and Time Lapse. Choose the icon on the menu and start filming. When selecting the video mode, you can choose the frame rate, resolution, exposure rate, and FOV settings.
The photo burst and time-lapse modes come with additional settings for enhanced creative control.
The Drift HD Ghost features a 2-way LED remote control – and industry first. Access all the controller unit features through the 4-embedded buttons found on the top of the HD Ghost. You get an operational menu button and four modes, including down/up, and select buttons to help you navigate the menu.
The remote for the HD Ghost fits your wrist like a smartwatch and features micro-USD charging. The remote features two large buttons to start and stop recording, with an action light glowing red to show that recording is in session.
If you have trouble straining your eyes to see the HD Ghost screen, link it to your iPhone using the app, and you’ll have wireless control over the camera through the ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection. The app gives you full control over the HD Ghost, including all camera and menu options within the app.
The only gripe we have with the smart-functionality of the HD Ghost is its lack of connectivity to wireless networks of laptops using the ad-hoc Wi-Fi tech. That’s somewhat disappointing, but not a deal-breaker.
Unboxing the Drift HD Ghost
The attractive white packaging on the HD Ghost gives the impression of a high-quality product, with the camera and all its accessories neatly stowed away in the box.
When unboxing your HD Ghost, you’ll find the following accessories included with your purchase.
- 2 helmet mounting plates
- A goggle mounting plate
- The 2-way remote control
- A wrist strap for your remote control
- 1 x High-capacity rechargeable battery
- USB cable
- Microphone extension cable
- Sealable connector ha
- Quick start guide
It’s important to note that while spare batteries are available for the camera, the HD Ghost doesn’t come with a separate battery charger, and you’ll have to recharge the cells while installed in the HD Ghost.
Drift HD Ghost Performance
The test the ease of use and versatility of the HD Ghost, I took the camera into a variety of action scenarios. In the first test, we used the helmet mount and sent a longboarder on a hi-speed hill run, POV style.
The results were good, but there’s no image stabilization, so we got a bit of a shaky response when going over rough tarmac. However, overall, the camera action and filming were smooth. The wrist-mounted remote-control was a nice touch, allowing the skater to adjust filming on the move, without any issues.
For this application, I used the 170-degree FOV with a 1080p recording mode for a high-quality video. The results were high-quality and what we expect from similar cameras like the GoPro Session. We think this camera would do best for action sports where there’s less vibration moving through your body.
Surfing, snowboarding, skydiving, diving, and swimming offer stable imagery and videos, with user-friendly operation through the 2-way remote control or the HD Ghost app.
After recording, I connected the HD Ghost to a 64-inch Samsung HDTV, using the optional mini HDMI-to-HDMI adapter, using it to directly playback our skating clips from within the HD Ghost menu. On the huge TV screen, it was like reliving the raw run in all its glory, with excellent visuals, clear pictures, and impressive sound production. This camera is a top choice for action sports enthusiasts looking to shoot YouTube videos for their channel.
The full 170 FOV from the HD Ghost captured more than we could see with our eyes on the downhill run, with the 1080p HD resolution capturing the sharpness in colors and images without blurring at high speed (the skater was moving at up to 60-mph on the downhill straight.
The internal microphone captured sound well, and we could hear the polyurethane wheels grinding on the tarmac as the rider slid into corners on his board. The video’s overall presentation was tremendous, and beyond what we expected from this compact action camera.
The battery barely lost any power for the entire 10-minute run recording in HD quality, and we feel it would last a day on the slopes without the need for a recharge. However, if you find yourself running low on charge, plug it into your power bank using the micro-USB cable, giving the battery a boost.
The only real gripe I have with the HD Ghost is the use of microSDHC memory cards. This format keeps the camera compact, but it’s somewhat tricky to insert and remove the card from the camera – as any smartphone owner will tell you.
The JPEG camera function on the HD Ghost works well, but there’s no option to zoom, and we feel like we get better pictures using the camera on our smartphone.
Here are some shots I captured with the Ghost
All of these photos were taken by hand without the help of another person, tripod or selfie stick. Something that’s difficult to impossible with standard cameras and some other action cameras.
That’s because of the rotatable 140 degree angle wide lens and the unique shape of the Ghost 4K.
So it’s not an awkward square like GoPro’s but a hand-ergonomic rectangular design that you can shoot like old-school camcorders (or holding a tactical torch).
GoPro’s and most other action cameras aren’t made to be filmed by hand, but by being mounted on an object or person. Which is fine and makes sense for it’s purpose, but it’s quite liberating to be able to use a camera like a damn camera with my damn hands.
However, the Ghost 4K does have as many and variable mounting possibilities as a GoPro. Of which I used considerably when recording my motorcycle journey across Vietnam. Video coming soon.
The automatic video stabilization worked wonders with sharp details and vibrant, accurate colors.
Despite the less than stellar reviews by other users, this is the most perfect camera for my needs as a nomad. Compact, modular, tough, weather resistant and reliable with top of the line captures.
Mostly, its ability to be used like a camcorder with advanced software and an intuitive user interface.
For a lack of a better word, it’s usable. Very usable. Filming just feels right, fluid and natural, unlike using a boxy GoPro or a slick monolithic smartphone.
Most of the photos on my Instagram was taken with the Ghost 4K, I think they came out pretty nicely. With close up shots and gear photos primarily taken with my Galaxy S8 and S9 smartphones.
There’s loads of carry and mounting options that come standard with the Drift Ghost 4K but I built my own. It can be worn on the wrist, clipped to my belt or backpack. It’s seriously fast and convenient.
Drift HD Ghost Camera Review – The Verdict
Overall, the Drift HD Ghost is an attractive alternative to the GoPro, offering full-HD recording, a wide FOV, and multiple shooting modes to suit your sport or activity. The JPEG camera function is somewhat of a mute feature, but it’s nice to know it’s there if you need it.
The recording quality is excellent, and sound production is fantastic. We like the Wi-Fi connection to the iPhone, providing remote access to the camera, and full control over all functions.
With a mounting kit included with this camera, we feel you’re getting excellent value for your money with the Drifter HD Ghost. If you’re an action or extreme sports enthusiast, the Drift HD Ghost is a top consideration for your next action camera.