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

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The Good The waterproof Drift Ghost-S gives you a lot of action cam for your $399, with a built-in 2-inch LCD and Wi-Fi; a nice bundle of accessories including a wireless remote; and a long battery life. You also get a broad set of shooting options for normal and high-speed video.

The Bad The back hatch, covering the battery and microSD card slot among other things, is tough to remove. Also, the menu system, while easy to understand, can be a pain to navigate.

The Bottom Line Long battery life, solid video quality, and a great all-in-one design make the Drift Ghost-S tough to beat.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

Drift Innovation already had a good thing going with its Drift HD Ghost action cam. So perhaps it's best that its newest camera, the Ghost-S, concentrates on performance enhancements.

The Ghost-S uses the same design as the HD Ghost. The camera measures 1.3 inches wide by 2 inches high by 4.1 inches deep and weighs 5.9 ounces. Strapped to the side of a helmet or pair of goggles, you won't exactly forget it's there, but it's not overly big, either.

The bullet-shaped body is waterproof down to 9 feet (a waterproof housing is available so you can take it down to 196 feet) with a built-in Gorilla Glass-protected 2-inch LCD on the right side (or top depending on how it's mounted) and a flat, wide-angle lens with a 160-degree angle of view that can be rotated up to 300 degrees.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though Drift has a selection of mounts that use a quick-connect clip, the clip attaches to the camera via a standard 1/4-inch tripod mount. That means you have plenty of mounting options outside of what Drift offers, including GoPro mounts.

Unscrew the back hatch (which is easier said than done), and you'll find an external mic jack, a Micro-SDXC card slot supporting cards of capacities up to 64GB, Mini-USB and Mini-HDMI ports, and a battery big enough to supply up to 3.5 hours of recording time shooting at 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps)-- or even longer if you capture at reduced resolutions.

It's all of these things combined -- the long-life removable battery, rotating lens, tripod mount, built-in LCD, waterproofing -- that make the Ghost-S a top choice in the category.

However, much of this stuff isn't new with the Ghost-S. Inside, though, is a new Sony 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and a high-performance video processor that allows for, among other things, faster frame rates.

The Ghost-S can record MP4 files at 1080p at settings starting at 25fps, and going as high as 60fps; at 720p the options range from 25fps up to 120fps; and using WVGA your choices start at 25fps and go all the way to 240fps. You also adjust the amount of video compression with a choice of normal or high bit rates, with the latter recording at up to 35Mbps.

Drift has also added new scene modes: Normal, Vivid, or Low Light. Normal gives you more natural colors that are easier to work with if you want to adjust color to your liking when editing. Vivid pumps up colors so they pop, while Low Light seems to increase noise reduction, though not so much that subjects turn to mush.

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.

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