Drift HD170 1080p Action Camera Review



drift hd170 mounted on bern helmet

Newly Added Night Mode Demo Video

Box Opening Video


I was privileged and lucky enough to receive the newly released Drift HD 170 Camera from Drift Innovation a few days ago. The minute the camera arrived from the UK, I opened the box, took some preliminary products shots (included in this review) and, the following morning at 7 am went out for a mountain bike ride to test the capabilities of the camera and to capture some test footage. Most of my weekend was spent testing the camera followed by another early Monday morning ride (test) in an effort to get some footage during the nice morning light.  I’m excited to share with you my thoughts and initial impressions in the following Drift HD170 Review.

What is included in the Drift HD 170 BOX

  • HD170 Action Camera
  • Remote Control
  • Handlebar Mount
  • Goggle Mount
  • Head Strap
  • Helmet Mount
  • Universal Clip
  • Velcro Strap
  • Industrial strength Velcro adhesive pad
  • HDMI Cable for play back on TV
  • USB Cable for downloading to your computer
  • Lithium Battery
  • Quick Guide to get you started

Are you curious to see what comes in the box with the Drift HD170 Action Sports Camera - we were… so we opened it up!

Drift HD 170 Features

  • 1080p High Definition Video Resolution (also records in 720p and WVGA)
  • LCD Screen.  1.5” Color TFT
  • Video and Photo Capture
  • Digital Zoom (in 720p and WVGA mode)
  • Expandable Storage -  SD Memory Capacity up to 32GB
  • RF Wireless Remote Control for Hands Free Video and Photo (16 ft, 5m range)
  • 5 Megapixel Still Photos with Photo burst Mode
  • 170° Fully Rotatable Wide Angle Lens
  • Built-in Microphone & Speaker
  • Rechargeable Lithium Battery
  • User Friendly Control Panel
  • Waterproof to 1.7 ft (0.5m)
  • Multi Sport Mounting (Package includes Handlebar Grip, Goggle Mount, Helmet Grip, Head Strap, Velcro Strap and Universal Mount)
  • Standard 1/4” (8mm) camera (tri-pod) thread great for use with after market mounts such as RAM
  • User Friendly Control Panel (menus) in 7 Languages
  • 1 year manufacturers warranty

Initial impressions

The Drift HD 170 is extremely easy to operate with only a few buttons, a large 1.5” color LCD screen and easy to follow on-screen indicators and menus. I was up and running in seconds without having to look at the instruction manual.

Being able to review and change the settings right on the spot was a huge relief - a definite luxury denied by other HD helmet cams such as GoPro HD or Contour HD, which do not have built in displays.  Setting up shots could not have been easier and the ability to review footage on the fly was priceless.  Given the many different mounting configurations we wanted to test, this was a life saver.

Below you will find some earlier footage demonstrating the LCD and some of the menu options and functions. Keep in mind this video was shot for the Drift X170 (SD model) however the functionality of the HD170 is very similar.


Another impressive feature is the 170 degree wide angle rotating lens, which gives users a lot more flexibility when mounting the camera. The camera doesn’t always have to be mounted upright; it can be mounted sideways or upside down with an easy twist of the lens, post-production flipping, or the use of conversion mounts is no longer necessary.

I found myself rotating the lens back and forth as I switched between the different mounting configurations on my bike and ended up with upright footage every time -  sweet! (well, every time I did not forget to rotate it back that is). The lens can be rotated into any position through out the full 360 degree range, compared to the Contour HD lens which can only be rotated within 180 degree range or the GoPro which does not have a rotating lens (although they are just about to release a firmware update which will allow the users to flip the image vertically).

rotating lens close up
Lens rotated to 90 degrees when the Drift HD170 camera is helmet mounted.

 


During most of my shooting, I found myself using the included remote control.  Even though the well positioned stop / record button is easily accessible from most mounting locations, I ended up using the remote quite often, especially when the camera was mounted on the top of the Bern helmet. The remote control - with a range of 16 feet (5 m), allows for some seriously “remote” mounting options.

drift remote control
Remote Control included with the HD170 Action Camera


Another feature worth mentioning is the rugged case design. The rubber like jacket surrounding the camera gives it a bit extra impact protection while keeping the elements out. The camera is waterproof up to 0.5 m (1.7 feet).

rugged case of the HD170
Drift HD 170 in its rugged case made out of hard rubber like material.


Before I dive into the details here are some quick Pro’s and Con’s of the HD 170 Camera:

Pros

  • Outstanding Video Quality
  • 5 MP Photo Capable (incl. Digital zoom)
  • LCD Screen
  • Remote Control
  • Long battery life
  • Ease of use
  • Flexible mounting options
  • Date & Time Stamp

Cons

  • Not capable of 60 fps shooting
  • No record indicator on the remote control
  • Not waterproof when using external microphone
  •      
  • Camera size a bit on the bulky side

 


The Details

Mounting Options

Unlike some point of view cameras, the Drift HD 170 comes standard with a wide range of mounts.
Included in the box are the handlebar / seat post mount (tubular mount), helmet mount (w/ industrial strength velcro adhesive pad), head strap mount, goggle mount, universal clip and even a wrist mount for the remote control.

drift hd170 helmet mounted drift hd170 seat post mounted drift hd170 seat post mounted front view
Click on the above photos to see larger images.

Topping off this impressive mount selection, is a standard tripod thread built into the base of the camera itself - a thoughtful idea that just makes sense.  The threaded camera mount gives you the ability to use many other available mounts.

drift hd170 tripod mount drift hd170 ram mounted drift hd170 mounted using ram atv mount
Click on the above photos to see larger images.

Battery and Power

While the Drift X170 came with alkaline AA batteries batteries - which only lasted for about 1.5 hours, the Drift HDX170 Action Cam comes with a rechargeable 1110mAh Lithium-ion battery keeping you shooting longer and away from stores buying replacement AA’s.

Shortly after I took my first few video clips with a fully charged battery, I noticed that the battery life indicator showed 1/2 full with was a bit disconcerting. However, I’m happy to report that the battery ended up lasting long after the two and a half hour shooting session was over, despite of having the LCD turned on all of the time. As I write this the battery is still running strong after the display has been on for more than 4 hours. How about that? If that’s not enough, you can put the camera in power saving mode where the LCD screen turns off after moments of inactivity (when you are not pressing any of the buttons).

To recharge the camera, simply connect it, using this supplied USB cable, to any USB charger (automotive, AC outlet, etc..) or plug it into your computer. A blue indicator light will come on while the battery is being charged.

The battery life tests were done with the included 1110mAh battery. The optional expanded 1700mAh battery is a great choice for long days of shooting or when you are working in cold climates.

Video

As to be expected from a 1080p capable camera the video quality of the HD170 1080p is outstanding - a drastic improvement from its predecessor -  the X170 which shot video at mere SD resolution. It’s nice to see individual blades of grass wizzing by, the rubber texture of a bike tire or the shine of a rain drop. In addition to the Full HD 1080p video, the camera is also capable of shooting 720p and WSGA video all up to 30 fps.

One of the common problems of CMOS based cameras is the rolling shutter effect and judging from the test video I tool (while riding next to horizontal bridge railings), the drift HD 170 keeps it to a minimum.

White balance and auto exposure can at times be problematic on wearable cameras but I must say from what I’ve seen so far (and using the default neutral auto exposure setting), the HD170 handles fast changing lighting conditions quite well. If you are expecting to shoot in low light or very bright conditions, the drift cameras offers adjustable exposure settings as well as night mode. If that’s not enough - Manual Exposure Control is available for advanced users.

For those inquiring minds here are some additional Optics and Video specifications:

Angle of View: 170 deg. ultra wide angle in 720p and WVGA and 127° in 1080p mode.
Lens Rotation: 360°
Lens Focus:  0.5m to ∞ (infinity)

Zoom: 4x Digital Zoom in 720p and WVGA modes
Aspect Ratio:16:9
Sensor Type:CMOS
Video Format: MOV (H.264)

Night Mode:

The night mode setting enables the most optimal results when recording in less than ideal lighting conditions, stay tuned for our own videos to come soon looking at and testing night mode in depth, for now, you can see the difference that night mode can make in this test video from Drift Innovation:

Photos

In addition to shooting brilliant 1080p video, the Drift HD170 Action Camera is quite capable of shooting Five Mega Pixel photos. One feature I had no idea existed - but was pleasantly surprised in finding, was the digital zoom. While in photo mode you have the ability of zooming in. Keep in mind that the photo quality degrades with higher zoom levels. All photos are saved in JPEG format.

Actual photos taken with the Drift HD170, Click on thumbnails to enlarge

drift hd 170 sample photo - late drift hd 170 sample photo - coffee cup drift hd 170 sample photo - coffee shop
Click on the above photos to see larger images.

drift hd 170 sample photo - edmonton murtagh drift hd 170 sample photo - Edmonton river valley drift hd 170 sample photo - Edmonton river valley zoom
Click on the above photos to see larger images.

 

One draw back is the fact that you have to go though about 4 menu options (clicks) when switching between photo and video modes.  A separate photo shutter button would have been a welcome addition, but then again - I suspect Drift Innovation intentionally omitted it as an effort to keep the number of buttons to a bare minimum.

Audio

The built-in microphone of the HD170 does a great job of capturing the relevant sounds of what ever action fueled activity you are filming while keeping the effects of wind noise down to a minimum. I noticed that when the camera is mounted to a rigid surface (for example to a bike frame or seat post)  the sound tends to be a bit harsher (brighter) as vibrations get amplified. When the camera is body mounted for example on a helmet, the sound tends to be quite softer. 

Another welcome feature is the Optional External Microphone which can be great for in-car footage or a life saver in high wind situations. The Drift Microphone connects into the AV connector located behind the rear hatch of the camera.

The built in speaker, given it’s small size, does its job very well when playing back the captured footage.

Dimensions & Weight

The Drift HD170 measures in at 5.2” x 2” x 1.3” (133mm x 50mm x 33mm) it’s compact and weights only 4.9oz (138g).
The GoPro HD Helmet Hero measures in at 1.6” x 2.4” x 1.2” (42mm x 60mm x 30mm) and weighs 6.3oz (179g) in its housing.
The Contour HD 1080p measures in at 2.1” x 1.3” x 3.75” (53mm 34mm x 95mm) and weighs a mere 4.3oz (123g)!

helmet cam
Proportionate size difference between GoPro HD Helmet Hero, Contour HD 1080p and Drift HD170 Action Cameras.
Click on the above photos to see larger images. helmet cam
Proportionate size difference between GoPro HD Helmet Hero, Contour HD 1080p and Drift HD170 Action Cameras.
Click on the above photos to see larger images.


Storage & Memory

The Drift HD 170 comes with 32MB of Internal Memory and supports SD cards up to 32GB capacity

Input / Output Connectors

All of the I/O connectors are located at the back of the camera (behind the latched back cover) and include a standard USB 2.0 port for PC / MAC connection and battery charging as well as video HD TV out connector (cable included) for instant playback on your TV.

drift hd 170 I/O port details drift hd 170 helmet camera
Click on the above photos to see larger images.

PC Compatibility

The Drift is compatible with Windows XP, and Vista, Mac OS X 10.2 and later.

Another nice (and often inquired about feature), is the ability to Date & Time stamp the videos and images taken. While for most people this is simply a nice add on, for others such as Military or Law and Enforcement this is a must have feature.


How about the shortcomings?

No record indicator on the remote control.  In some cases where the camera is mounted out-of-sight or out of audible range it would be nice to tell if you are recording by a visual indicator on the remote control itself.

Camera not waterproof when using External MicrophoneSince the rear hatch has to stay open when connecting external microphone the camera will no longer be waterproof.  Since most people will simply use the built-in microphone, this should not be much of a concern.

Camera size. The Drift is a bit on the bulky side, but hey - the built in LCD is definitely worth the extra bulk.

 


Box Opening


Test Videos

Here is the video I complied from my first test. I exported it in 720p size (1280 x 720), downsized from 1080p to make sure most people can stream it from Youtube and other video sharing sites. Thinking of including the 1080p size soon, just need to figure out best way to export while maintaining reasonable file size and picture quality:


This next video was shot a few days after by Mark Z and a friend on their Vancouver to Whistler drive in Mark friends Civic Si. Find out what happens when you are trying to capture some fast POV footage:

Summary

The Drift Innovation HD170 1080p Action Camera is made for those who demand simply the best. It shoots both high definition videos (up to 1080p) and 5 Mega Pixel Stills - allowing you to capture the action from your unique point of view.

If you are looking for a great quality wearable HD camera with a built in LCD screen, loads of mounting options and a remote control, the Drift Innovation HD170 is a hands down winner.

With the color LCD screen, setting up shots couldn’t be easier. The on-screen menus are very easy to navigate, so changing any video and photo settings is a snap. Plus, the ability to review footage on the fly is priceless. Priced at $329 it offers a lot of value for the money.

A limited supply of Drift HD170 1080p cameras is expected to arrive in late July so Pre-Order Yours today!

Drift HD170 Photo Slide Show

We welcome your questions and comments about this review.

Have we missed anything?  Perhaps there are additional things you would like us to test?

Please leave your comments and / or questions below.

Cheers!
Mike B, PointOfViewCameras.com

 

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