Drift HD Ghost action camera review: Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink action cam

Sarah Tew/CNET

Again, the battery, memory card slot, and ports are all at the back of the camera. There's a Mini-USB port for transfers and charging, it has a Micro-HDMI out, and there's a 3.5mm jack for connecting an external mic. The camera comes with two hatches to cover all of this up, one that's waterproof and one that's more splash-resistant with covered openings for the USB and mic jack.

Shooting options
Recording resolutions are plentiful on the HD Ghost. It can be set to record in MP4 and MOV formats in 1080p at 25 or 30 frames per second; 960p (4:3 aspect ratio) at 25, 30, or 50fps; 720p at 25, 30, 50, or 60fps; and WVGA at 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, or 120fps. Set to any of these resolutions at 25 or 30fps, the camcorder can simultaneously capture movies and photos.

The included wireless RF remote lets you quickly change shooting modes from up to 30 feet away. Sarah Tew/CNET

You can set the camera to record everything until you run out of space or use a Flashback Video Tag/Loop mode that shoots video in a continuous loop letting you save only events you tag, up to 5 minutes after they happen, creating instant clips for sharing.

The HD Ghost can also be used for burst-shooting 5-, 8-, or 11-megapixel photos at up to 10fps as well as time-lapse photos, snapping off shots at 0.5-, 1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, 10-, 30-, or 60-second intervals.

Video quality
Editors' note: We are currently in the process of testing and reviewing as many of the latest action cameras we can get our hands on. Because of this, the video quality analysis that follows is largely based on our experience with minicamcorders that use similar components to action cameras.

For the HD Ghost's $399 price, it's not unreasonable to expect great video quality. Keep in mind, though, that a lot of what you're paying for here is features. In general, its movies are very good and most users will be pleased with the results. Its 1080p shows nice detail without looking overprocessed. However, if you've got a scene with a lot of movement or a complex subject, you will see more artifacts and a loss of detail. These things are common to the category, though. (Basically, if you like what you see in the clips above, you should be happy with what this camera can do.)

Color, while maybe not as punchy as some competitors, are very good as is its white balance. Sudden exposure changes are handled well, too, but highlights blow out pretty easily.

There were also aliasing artifacts and there's a fair amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high-contrast areas. And if you're shooting in low light, you'll notice an increase in noise/artifacts. That's not unusual, though, and well-lit indoor video was still watchable.

Dropping the resolution definitely costs you some detail, but the 720p/60 video is still very good. In the end, the results are above average, especially considering the flexibility of the camera and all it can do.

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 there are three levels of sensitivity adjustment. And you can always plug in a better external mic, which you can't do with other cameras.

Click to see full size. Joshua Goldman/CNET

Like many camcorders, the HD Ghost takes better video than photos. Just because a photo is 11 megapixels doesn't mean you're going to get a lot of fine detail. They're good for sharing online or small prints, but don't expect to do a lot of enlarging and heavy cropping.

Conclusion
If you're looking for an action cam that you can take out of the box, pop a memory card into, and start shooting with, the Drift HD Ghost is certainly worth considering. Its video quality is very good, but it's the whole package that makes the HD Ghost a standout.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Width 2 in
  • Depth 4.1 in
  • Height 1.3 in
  • Weight 5.9 oz
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