If you’re not GoPro then it’s a tough action camera market to get attention in to. However, the Drift Ghost-S is a fresh camera with a different approach on life and we think it’s definitely worth consideration. It’s water-proof, without the need of extra casing; has an in-built LCD, so you can review your shots and get an instant replay of the action; has heaps of battery power; and it’s got a rotating lens so you can line up your shots perfectly.
Out-of-the-box the camera comes with two flat surface one-time-use sticky mounts, audio-in cable, wrist strap, wrist remote control, USB cable, goggle strap mount, dry weather rear door, 1700mAh replaceable battery, and 16GB micro SD memory card. Pretty much everything you need.
The Ghost-S is a forward facing camera, like the Sony Action Cam and now defunct Contour. Being so it’s a little different to mount chest mount it pretty much out. It’s also a little bigger than it’s competitors but that’s because of the LCD and toughened exterior. However, seeing as it doesn’t need an extra housing, when compared to others (once in their housing) it’s not too bad.
The top of the camera has all the menu buttons and mode indictor light. The rear of the camera has a water-proof door that hides and protects the memory card, battery, microphone input, HDMI output and USB port. If you’re never going to get the camera wet you can change the water-proof rear cover with a cover that lets you access the ports without removing said cover. The right side has the 2” LCD display and the left a standard tripod mount – which we loved as we could easily attach the camera to other assessories.
The Ghost-S is a killer on paper with all the technical spec’s you’re looking for: Up to 1080p @ 60fps, super slow motion @ 240 fps (only at small WVGA though), 3.5 hours of recording life, a 2 inch LCD display, water-proof (to 3m), rotating lens with Gorilla glass, standard tripod mount, Wifi connectivity, 4 shooting modes (video, stills, timelapse, burst), 90-160 degree Field-of-View settings, digital zoom (for stills), and optional manual exposure.
Overall the image quality was good (as good as you can get for any action cam). Even though the Ghost uses a Sony sensor we think it’s not quite up there with Sony on image quality. Colours and quality are best in full light and being that most people will be uploading their footage to the web then the image quality is more than acceptable. Image stabilisation wasn’t industry leading but acceptable (we’re still waiting on someone to come up with something that’s good enough for mountain biking anyway).
Most people get caught up in the megapixels, frame rates, and all the technical guff, but in reality it’s the easy of use, mount-ability and durability that really matters. We’ve been playing with the Ghost-S for a few weeks now and here’s the lowdown on what we think of it as a real-world mountain bike action cam.
The Good Stuff
No case. That’s right, there’s no extra case to mess with. The Ghost-S has a toughened exterior and can take a pretty good pounding as is.
It’s water proof right out of the box (without the need for an extra case). Whilst it’s only to 3m we don’t expect anyone to be riding their mountain bike below that depth anyway so it’s a winner.
It has an LCD. This is fantastic for lining up your shots and reviewing your footage. Sure you can get this review function on other cameras with a wifi connection to your smart phone but being in-built saves time and battery power. Viewing the LCD screen was good in shaded or darker situations but in direct sun it’s a little harder to see. The LCD also displays all the important information (resolution, Field-of-View, battery level) in an easy to read manner.
Bright colours to indicate shooting modes. The front of the Ghost has a bright light that changes colour to indicate what mode you’re in. So simple.
Simple menu system. Navigation was simple and intuitive and with the added bonus of the LCD to navigate with.
A 300 degree rotating lens. Sometimes you just can’t mount an action camera exactly where you want and rather than messing around with re-aligning the shot in post (in software – which will mean some cropping and loss of resolution) you can get the shot perfect no matter what angle it’s at.
Standard tripod mount. The Ghost uses an industry standard ¼” threaded tripod mount for attaching the Ghost to other accessories. No propriety adaptor needed. The mount is also directly on the camera with no case needed for mounting.
Simple small remote. The wrist remote is small and very easy to use, with bright lights to indicate what mode you’re shooting in.
16GB Card in the box. We love a big card that comes standard.
Battery life. It lasts for ages. In one test session we used the camera for about 2 hours, using the LCD and fiddling a little more than normal and only got to 50% battery life. That’s pretty good in our books.
The Less Than Good Stuff
It’s probably a bit heavy. All the hardening, LCD and big battery means a camera that’s a little heavy, but still only 173g (as tested). When mounted on the side of a helmet it’s weight is notacable and a counter weight on the opposite side would be preferable for balancing.
Remote range. Yes, we loved the remote, but without getting out the measuring tape and being overly accurate we found that it wouldn’t work too well past about 5 meters from the camera. Not a problem when shooting on body or bike, but if you’re into off bike selfie movies then don’t expect to be able to trigger the camera from the start of your 100 meter run-in for that huge gap.
Goggle Strap. The goggle strap (which comes in the box as a standard accessory) isn’t the best. As we’ve said before, the only way to get the best out of an action cam is by being able to tighten the camera down firmly to minimise camera movement. It’s probably more marketed to the smoother snow world but on a mountain bike the harshness of the terrain was just too much.
Dynamic range. We though the dynamic range (the ability to see details in the dark areas of a mixed light scene) was a little on the low side. We also found that when riding in dappled light it was a little slow in adjusting exposure.
Audio. Like every single action cam, get over 10kms and it sucks.
Helmet Mount. The one-time-use helmet mounts worked great but seeing as they need a solid surface to mount to it’s a little hard to mount them on most mountain bike helmets. This would be the biggest mounting issue we see with the Ghost-S.
No case. (yep, this is a good and bad). While it’s a great thing not to have the case we’d be worried about the long-term durability of the lens and LCD. While the lens cover can be replaced we’re not sure what a huge rock would do to the LCD (which probably isn’t as easily replaced). Plus, the LCD may get pretty scratched over time making it harder to see the action.
No “lock” function. It’s pretty hard to knock the buttons on the top of the camera for accidental operation, however there’s still not ability to lock off the camera buttons.
As we’ve stated before, action cams are really only was good as where you can mount them and a tick in the box for Ghost for their list of accessories, which seem good for mountain biking (apart from a good helmet mount). Add the standard tripod mount, and rotating lens, and you can mount this camera anywhere (except probably your chest).
The Final Word
As a mountain bike action camera the Ghost-S is great. It’s simple to use, strong, goes forever and has a usable LCD screen. It’s different and we think that it’s the difference which makes it a great camera and well worth your consideration.