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Drift Innovation HD170 Stealth: First impressions

Discussion in 'Electronics' at netrider.net.au started by thermal, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. Thankfully our choice in cameras seems to be increasing all the time. With that said, I have only owned one so far, so I won't be able to draw any comparisons to other cameras. Also, this is going to be the first version of my review. I am planning to buy more accessories and as I gain more experience with this camera I'm sure I'll have more to add.


    The first thing I noticed when I pulled the camera from its box, was that once I put in the battery, I already knew how to use it. It really can't get much simpler than this. The only thing that didn't feel right is occasionally I'd press what I thought was 'up' in a menu and it would go in the opposite direction to that which I expected - this really isn't a drawback, I'm just picking nits.

    Apart from the camera itself, you'll find two mounts (one goggle and one helmet) and some velcro for each. There was also a single double sided super sticky pad to use with the helmet mount if you don't want to trust the velcro. We'll also find the remote and a velcro wrist strap to go with it and another strap for your head and the goggle mount. There's also an hdmi->composite cable and a usb cable. Oh, and there's also a handle bar mount for a bicycle, so we can safely discard that one... ;)

    The one thing you won't find in the box is a manual. You won't need it anyway, but it's easy to find from the Drift website. The only thing that isn't easy to work out is 'how do I know if the battery is charging/charged?' Grabbed the manual off the site and the answer was there.


    So I decided to mount the Stealth to my helmet using the velcro. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to things like placement so it took me a few minutes to work out the best place to stick it. Ultimately, it isn't very hard and the camera has enough y/z rotation that you can compensate for nearly any mounting position.

    Which leads us to the lens. This thing rotates 300°, which is... well I can't find an analogy, but it's a lot. With some tweaking and experimentation, there is no reason you should ever have a crooked horizon while shooting on this thing.

    Recording Quality

    This is what really matters, isn't it? I've been shooting at 720p 60fps. The only reason I haven't tried 1080p yet is because I don't own an HD panel. During the day, the video is smooth and clear. It moves from shade to bright sun with relative ease, so you won't be seeing any of that instant exposure compensation. There was an issue with some angles of lens flare triggering vertical lines in the footage, but a recent firmware update claims to have fixed that. The Stealth also has a night mode. From what I can tell, it changes exposure settings and focus settings. It definitely tries for a 'best effort' on the focus in low light. It's not unpleasant to watch, but certainly is not what I would describe as crisp viewing. However, while I have not tried other cameras, other reviews of this one indicate it is one of the better for night shooting.

    When it comes to sound, well, don't expect anything amazing. I have a background in sound and I'm going to take a guess and say that 'Mic sensitivity' doesn't adjust the input gain to the mic, only the output. What does this mean? It means that out of 3 choices for sensitivity, you'll get the exact same audio quality, just at differing volumes. The mic is ok at lower speeds when wind isn't an issue, but get above 40kph and wind is about all you'll hear. This is true for the helmet mounting position - I'll be testing out other positions when I buy the mount. I also intend to get the external mic to put in my helmet which should make a big difference.

    For anyone that hasn't already seen this video from my other thread, here is an example of early morning quality. Keep in mind that this has been crushed to upload and the raw footage is obviously much more crisp.


    So far, I've only had two issues with the camera. The Stealth has an LCD on the side for viewing previous videos, or can be used as a viewfinder for current recordings. I had it set to turn off automatically after 5 sec of inactivity. I then changed some settings, including this timeout and when I tried to set it back to 5 sec, it just plain didn't work. I went to the Drift website and saw that there had been about four firmware updates since the version I had pre-loaded on my camera - one of which indicated a fix for LCD timeout problems. Updated the firmware and everything seems normal.

    The second issue is far more significant. After recording about 4 hours of footage, the files for the next 2 hours or so were corrupt. When I started writing this review, I initially thought this was because of a faulty SD card and had nothing to do with the camera. While this may still be true (though I hope it isn't...), a bit of googling leads me to believe that it may be caused by user input. The manual for the camera doesn't mention this, but if you turn the camera off without first stopping recording, you may corrupt the file and any subsequent files. Even though the play/stop button is also the on/off button, this does seem like a plausible explanation. I will try to experiment and confirm if this is the case.

    One other thing to note is that if you've already looked at pictures of this camera and thought 'it looks kinda big', well, it kinda is. It's not ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination, but it's no spy camera either. However, it looks much better on the side of a helmet than a GoPro, that's for sure.

    If I'm going to be really picky, it would have been nice to have included some kind of case for the camera. I'm not talking a hard shell, but just a soft bag that could be used to protect the lens more than anything while the camera isn't in use.

    Conclusion and Cost

    For the camera itself, you're looking at around $360. But don't forget to factor in an SD card - a 32GB card will set you back in the region of $130. An external mic is around $30 and if you go down this path, you'll also need a rubber booty which is about $25. A long life battery is also available if you want to film for extended periods and these are around the $50 mark. So for the basics, put aside at least $450 and if you're like me and want to expand the possibilities, you're probably looking into the $6-700 area.

    So it's fair to say this is not a cheap camera. But in the wise words of 'you get what you pay for', I think anyone who can find the coin will count the Stealth as a worthy recipient. It feels solid, battery life is great, recordings look great and it gave me no grief when plugging it into a Windows 7 box.

    If you're looking at entering into the HD170 Stealth/GoPro HD/Contour+ range of cameras, this one is definitely worth a look.
  2. I bought one of these and agree that the video quality is very good and that the camera feels solid and well made. Also bought an external mic which works really well. I mounted it in the right hand mirror and this gave a good view of road but at a slight angle so rotated the lens to accommodate this.
  3. I've started looking around at getting an camera to shoot my trips and start a vlog this camera and the contour+ are the only one's I've seen so far that have an MIC input.
    the price seems a bit higher then what I saw On-line $269-299 same with the sd card most are $60-80 for a class 4 which I think should be enough (had a quick look in the hd170 manual and it doesn't specify)

    need to go and physically check them out, thanks for the info
  4. the more I look into this model the more I like it till i saw the drift HD which is suppose to be coming out any time now... another camera to add to research :(