DRIFT HD170 "Action Video Cam" - NOW featuring hands-on comparo review :thumb

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by trizzo, Sep 18, 2010.

  1. trizzo

    trizzo Been here awhile

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    Has anyone else picked up a Drift HD170 cam yet? I ordered one from Amazon last Wednesday and am testing it out today.... Somewhat unimpressed, its somewhat unrefined, like it was rushed to market.

    Things I like :
    - The 170 degree wide angle lens (in 720p only mode) is pretty nice, huge field of view
    - RF Remote Control, very cool
    - Fairly flexible mounting choices
    - Soon-to-be-released extended life battery
    - Ability to add an external mic
    - Battery saving features like disable external screen, etc
    - External screen to verify camera placement, etc
    - Time lapse camera

    Things that need to be improved :
    - Wide angle lens drops to 120 degrees or so in 1080p mode
    - Menu system is kinda shoddy
    - Microphone is CRAZY muffled. Even at its highest sensitivity, audio for my bikes engine is super faint(but not wind noise!!!!)
    - Ability to add external mic requires rear door to hang open. Should put a port on the outside, and preferably not use a proprietary connector.
    - 1080p recorded videos only show up on Youtube as 720p. Still trying to figure this out....
    - Records movies as .MOV. Would prefer MP4. A 2 minute 1080p movie using their codec is just over 400meg.
    - Would like the option to record at 60FPS at 720p. Cheaper handheld units have this feature...


    Anyone else evaluating this camera?

    -----------------------

    EDIT after working with the guys from Drift Innovations :

    just recorded the same test riding scene using the existing 1.3.4 firmware on my HD170, and the 2 new firmware revs Drift Innovation recommended. 1.3.9 and 1.5.0 firmware revs DEFINITELY improve audio and improve color saturation in the videos.

    Thx John and Tom from Drift for the pointers! Now if only that extended life battery were onsale!!! :evil
    #1
  2. HowlingMad

    HowlingMad drags knuckles

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    Funny, I had never heard of it until this weekend when I used it to shoot a charity bicycle ride (http://spokesride.org). I volunteered to be the motovideo nerd and equip several bicycles and my motorcycle to document the event. Four cameras were donated from a company called Camarush (http://camarush.com/ ). They were great to work with and overnighted the cameras to us before the event.

    The cameras were
    2 GoPro Hero (HD)
    1 Contour (HD)
    1 Drift HD170 (HD)
    1 VIO POV (Not HD)

    Since I just got back from the ride it will be a few days before I can process any video and tell you about that part, but I can tell you a little about the hardware side and compare some of the functionality and controls.

    The goal was to strap three cameras to three bikes and put one on my motorcycle in addition to my VIO (non-HD). The mounts supplied were a little limited perhaps do to a rush order that may have been the fault of the event and not the vendor. The cameras were mostly donated to the event, so it's difficult to complain that they were somewhat incomplete. This will help explain some of the bias in the cameras listed below. In the end, we strapped two GoPro's to one bike and the Contour to another. The Drift was strapped to my GS in addition to the VIO.

    Please note that one important detail was that we needed to set these cameras up on riders bikes with a short explanation, no written instructions and very little time to absorb and play with each camera beforehand. They needed to know how to operate video only while riding. In short, if you owned only one camera you would get to know it well and some of the little gripes below could be overlooked.

    Reviews of each camera:

    Drift HD170:
    Pros:
    -Remote control enables increased flexibility on mounting options and controls, a huge advantage over the others (except VIO POV)
    -LCD allows you to see the exact view while placing the camera. Again, a huge advantage over the others (except the VIO)
    -Easy to use buttons made it the second easiest camera of the bunch (Contour was the easiest)
    -Detailed menu was relatively intuitive.
    -Rotating lens added flexibility to mounting options
    -Convex lens sheds water droplets in mist or rain. VIO and Contour are flat and water droplets linger and obscure video until you stop and clean them.
    -status light on TOP of the unit allowed you to see the status without being in the video unlike the GoPro.

    Cons:
    -Somewhat limited mounting options (goggle, helmet, bar and a few others). No traditional tripod mount limits using Ram mounts, etc. It also did not have (or at least the one supplied) any flexible mounts like the GoPro.
    -It was the largest of the self contained cameras and so the mounting options were a little restricted on the bikes.
    -Remote did not respond well when not in line of sight. We missed some footage because the remote wouldn't reach from the handlebars to behind the pannier. I have no idea of the status of the battery in the remote, although the manual only claims 3m (9ft)

    GoPro Hero
    Pros:
    -Very small form allowed unique mounting options.
    -Lot's of available mounts from adhesive to suction to tripod. The adjustable arms one can achieve many mounting options (please see cons).
    -seemed to have the second best feeling weatherproofing system behind the VIO.
    -Video that I have seen from previous units is amazing for such a small and affordable camera (makes me regret buying my VIO)
    -time-lapse photo option (not used on this trip) is very slick (see here: http://www.youtube.com/user/km506#p/u/13/bU3Gk8YE3Io)

    Cons:
    -No screen for target adjustment
    -Interface is cryptic until you know the unit, even then it leaves much to be desired.
    -Two buttons need labels (enter, select, etc)
    -Mounting options are limited to your reach, so it scores behind the Drift and VIO in this area.
    -Status light is in the front of the camera, so you are the star of your video even if you just wanted to see if it's still recording.

    Contour
    Pros:
    -Easiest to use of all, power up and a large slider starts the video.
    -our unit came with a gimble type mount that increased mounting options.
    -rotating lens also allowed increased mounting options
    -Status light was on the rear of the camera
    -funky laser beams (sharks optional) to target your subject

    Cons:
    -No screen for target adjustment
    -our unit had the worst battery life of all units
    -seems to have the most limited mounting options and according to the site it comes with only goggle and surface mount.
    -date stamp (very important when editing video from multiple cameras) can only be adjusted when connected to a computer.
    -limited options

    VIO POV (please note that I own this camera and have used it extensively. I'm not sure this bias is for or against)
    Pros:
    -Remote head design allows great mounting options
    -Remote control greatly increases mounting options
    -wide array of additional mounts from VIO, most included in the 1.5M model
    -LCD screen allows you to see and adjust before filming with less disapointment
    -remote body allows you to make adjustments, see status, etc without being in your video.
    -several options for color enhancement, twilight adjustment, etc
    -can run on battery or vehicle power
    -remote microphone ability
    -ability to record as one file or loops
    -when in loop mode, you can record action that has already passed, a very useful feature.
    -adjustments for most things you can wish for including mic volume, backlight timeout, loop period, auto off, etc
    -Seems very rugged

    Cons:
    -video quality is not HD, and not available at this time. It suffers greatly when compared to the HD video.
    -My unit has a very annoying habit of turning off whenever it wants. I lost all footage from the first of the two races this weekend because it turned off.
    -included tripod mount is plastic and flexes too much thus producing very shaky video. Creating one from 1/4' steel fixes this problem.
    -support has been lackluster at best. I always feel like I get the same kid who tells me to reboot because that's all he know how to do.
    -camera angle seems too wide and always puts you too far from your subject, no other angles seem to be available. (please note that I have not compared similar footage with other cameras)
    -remote recording body can be problematic sometimes. Extension cables would solve this problem some of the time but not all. The Drift could excel here.

    You can see the rear mount of the VIO as well as the dopey helmet of your author and more attractive photographer in the pic below.
    [​IMG]

    I'll post up a couple of examples from previous rides with the GoPro and the VIO shortly.

    ---------------------------
    I was going to do a quick review of this cameras, but I got a little carried away doing the review and felt in it was important to compare to to other cameras in the process. I hope that Trizzo will forgive me going off the rails a bit with his post. I'll happily start a separate thread if preferred.
    #2
  3. HowlingMad

    HowlingMad drags knuckles

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    Here's a couple of samples from the VIO and Go Pro. As soon as I get the video sorted and edited from the Contour and Drift I'll try to post those as well.

    VIO:
    Please forgive the crappy video editing software that doesn't like wide aspect ratio. Although this video was before I worked out several better mounting options, it does give you some idea of why several mount options are important and you can see the camera body mount as well.
    <object height="322" width="512">




    <embed src="http://d.yimg.com/static.video.yahoo.com/yep/YV_YEP.swf?ver=2.2.46" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" bgcolor="#000000" flashvars="id=20336743&vid=7654138&lang=en-us&intl=us&thumbUrl=http%3A//l.yimg.com/a/p/i/bcst/videosearch/15125/109158730.jpeg&embed=1" height="322" width="512"></object>
    Test Run with KM506 @ Yahoo! Video



    Here's a sample from the GoPro
    Please forgive the slow intro, it means something to the subjects but probably not to you. Skip to 0:40 if you want.
    <object height="385" width="640">


    <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/4VcMxSyy2dw?fs=1&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" height="385" width="640"></object>
    #3
  4. trizzo

    trizzo Been here awhile

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    no worries bro, any feedback is good feedback! im still playing with this cam, hope to get info from Drift Innovations soon on their extended length battery.
    #4
  5. HowlingMad

    HowlingMad drags knuckles

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    What are you getting for run time? I'm considering buying one of these cameras now.

    We didn't have any issue filming for about three hours. The Contour died in less than two.
    #5
  6. greenlizard

    greenlizard adventure lite

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    My VIO did that a few times until I figured out how to lock the keyboard. It would take only a mild bump of a key to stop the recording. Funny, the keyboard lock feature is not mentioned in any VIO literature that I found.
    #6
  7. trizzo

    trizzo Been here awhile

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    i havent run it for any length of time yet, nothing longer than 30 minutes. ill let you know after this sundays ride. they "claim" over 3.5 hrs on the current battery with the power saving stuff enabled.... we shall see!
    #7
  8. Jarvis

    Jarvis DC GSer Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks Howlingmad -- fantastic comparo! :thumb :thumb I'll edit the thread title to reflect it.
    #8
  9. kjazz

    kjazz Been here awhile

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    Excellent thread thanks for posting it up.

    I use two cams from HelmetCamera.com. I use an A/B splitter and feed them into an old Sony Handycam 310. bulky, lots of wires, tons of AA batteries with this setup not to mention 8mm tape. Also a separate mike which I place by the exhause so I use the one sound track and dont get that annoying change in sound when switching between cameras. Yikes, it's a complex mess to set up, but gives some cool results.

    I'd really like a simpler set up with just a toggle to turn each cam on/off. Would like HD too. But the evolution of these things appears to be going so fast, I'm afraid whatever I buy will be instantly leapfrogged by something better!!!

    thanks again.
    #9
  10. JR356

    JR356 Long timer

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  11. wparkinson

    wparkinson Gear Whore

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    I like my X170... I wouldn't go swimming with it...(ask me how I know) but as for the videos and how it works.. I don't have any complaints...... If I put fresh lithuim batteries I can leave it on all day and they will still be good for a couple days.....

    I got vids
    |
    |
    |
    V
    #11
  12. HowlingMad

    HowlingMad drags knuckles

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    Wow, he sounds really happy with his purchase.

    I still have yet to see the video from our rental, but the initial report is that there is a horizontal line running across the screen. Camarush said they've had this issue with a previous unit, not a good sign for this camera.

    I can't judge until I see the footage, but it doesn't sound promising so far. However, I am impressed that Drift chimed in to this thread and took responsibility. Hopefully they make it right with customers since the camera has some really great features.
    #12
  13. Aether

    Aether Been here awhile

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    No complaints with my Hd170 thus far...
    #13
  14. trizzo

    trizzo Been here awhile

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    aether, what version of firmware do you have on your HD170? i got my unit 2 weeks ago, and it was shipped with 1.3.4. they have 2 new revisions out, 1.3.9 and 1.5.0 that have a bunch of improvements, most notably audio and color saturation. if you need the links to the firmware let me know...
    #14
  15. Aether

    Aether Been here awhile

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    1.3.4 here too. Would appreciate the links! Thanks!

    -A
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  16. trizzo

    trizzo Been here awhile

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    check PMs
    #16
  17. martinius

    martinius n00b

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    Hello I'm Italian and I would like to upgrade my HD170 to the DRIFT firmware 1.3.9 or 1.5.0 can you help me?
    #17
  18. RomKnight

    RomKnight XT12 Proud Rider

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    Hi, can you comment on what changes on both fw versions?

    I ordered mine today online awhile ago so I guess it will arrive this week. Just want to be ahead of any situation that might happen.

    Or PM the links?

    TIA
    #18
  19. OldSchool750

    OldSchool750 Old Rider

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    I like the camara, but I would like to try an external mic...the connection or specs of which don't seem to be published. Maybe the new firmware will make to internal mic work better as it is pretty bad on firmware 1.3.4. If they can update the firmware why is there not a link on their site to do so...even in beta? Any link would be appreciated. :deal:wink:

    An included helmet mount that is similar to the bluetooth intercom mounts that slip behind the liner would be great also. Adhesive doesn't cut it for me!

    I purchased a suction cup mount that works well on any smooth part of the bike. I still use a lanyard in case it falls off. The camera has a standard camera mount. Their included adapter just screws into it.

    I think the video is great, but this is my first HD cam so take that for what it is worth. I use the highest resolution and it works out to about 10 minutes/gig. Also, if you just change the file extension from mov to avi, it will play back a lot better....at least on PC's and using Media Player Classic with the right codecs. The extension has to be mov to work in the camera though.

    Jim
    #19
  20. Anasazi Al

    Anasazi Al n00b

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    #20