Drift Ghost-S review: Excellent all-in-one action cam

The camera can burst shoot stills at 10fps at 12-megapixel resolution as well as simultaneously capture 8-megapixel photos while recording video. Unfortunately, they're in a 4:3 aspect ratio rather than 16:9, so you'll have to do some cropping if you want to use them in your HD videos and keep everything wide screen. The Ghost-S can do time-lapse photography as well, with settings for shots at intervals ranging from every 0.5 second all the way up to every 60 seconds.

Navigating the menu system and changing multiple settings on the camera can be a bit of a pain. Still, I'd rather have the Ghost-S menus and controls over the GoPro's or needing to run to a computer to change settings. And, should you put together a group of settings that you use regularly for a particular activity, you can save them to one of three setting profiles.

Screenshot by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Like the HD Ghost, the Ghost-S has built-in Wi-Fi. It can be used to connect to an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet to view and control the camera, change settings, or to play back your recordings on something larger than the camera's screen. In my testing, both apps worked fine on an iPhone 5S and a Galaxy S4.

In addition to using the camera with mobile devices, a new Clone mode lets you use the Wi-Fi to connect and sync as many as five Ghost-S cameras (should you have the need and the finances). One is designated as the master camera, so if you press its record button, the others will start recording, too. The same goes for any setting adjustments: change the resolution on the master camera and they'll all change.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Included in the package, along with goggle and flat- and curved-surface mounts, is a wearable RF remote for starting and stopping recordings and changing shooting modes. Colored LEDs give you visual feedback so you know what you're doing, and the remote can be used to control multiple cameras (again, should your demands and your budget permit).

Video quality is improved from the Drift HD Ghost, especially when it comes to detail. Everything looks more crisp, and I saw fewer artifacts when using the camera's high-bit-rate setting. Using that setting will eat into the battery life and the files use up more storage, but it's worth using if you plan to view the video at large sizes.

That's not to say you won't see any artifacts; quilting can be distracting, such as on the power lines in the clip above, and there's still some blockiness visible when viewed closely on a big screen. And if you're shooting in low light, you'll notice an increase in noise/artifacts, too. Much of this is common to action cams, though. (Note: A firmware update is available that improves extreme low-light video.)

Overall, I'd put the video quality a step below the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition, but definitely some of the best video I've seen for the category.

Audio quality is fine, but for action videos you're probably going to want to turn the mic off anyway, or you'll be capturing a lot of wind noise. For still subjects, the built-in mic did a decent job, and it offers three levels of sensitivity adjustment. And you can always directly plug in a better external mic, which you can't do with many other cameras.

I liked the HD Ghost, and the Ghost-S is basically that camera with improved battery life and performance, more shooting options, better Wi-Fi, and nicer-looking video. What's not to like about that?

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