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Published on March 22nd, 2011 | by Greg


Light, Splashproof, 1080p Video: Drift HD170 Stealth

Ac­tion cam­eras are a pret­ty com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. We’ve test­ed out a va­ri­ety, in­clud­ing mod­els from Go­ProVhol­dR Con­tour, and Ore­gon Sci­en­tif­ic. The lat­est con­tender is the Drift HD170 Stealth, which of­fers a pret­ty tempt­ing fea­ture set in a small, durable pack­age. We’ve ac­tu­al­ly dam­aged a cou­ple of oth­er cam­eras over time- rock climb­ing es­pe­cial­ly takes its toll- and we’ve lost at least one to some rapid wa­ters while kayak­ing. But we’d put the HD170 Stealth up against any­thing else, as the orig­i­nal was the world’s first sports ac­tion cam­era with full HD ca­pa­bil­i­ty, play­back screen, and re­mote. Of course, the last two fea­tures might very well be op­tion­al for many users, as it isn’t too hard to press a but­ton on the cam­era in most cas­es and of­ten a screen is un­nec­es­sary, if con­ve­nient.

What isn’t op­tion­al is video qual­i­ty, and here the Drift mod­el’s H.264 for­mat and CMOS sen­sor shines. In a va­ri­ety of con­di­tions- snow, fair­ly dark out­doors, even wa­ter splash­ing- it per­formed well. Au­dio, as with most ac­tion cam­eras, is an af­terthought here (though an au­dio in­put is in­clud­ed). With the non-Stealth ver­sion, video is strict­ly 30f­ps, and though you can low­er the res­o­lu­tion, you can­not up the fram­er­ate to 60 per sec­ond as you can with some of the com­pe­ti­tion. The up­grad­ed (and sleek black) edi­tion changes this lim­i­ta­tion and now can shoot in 60 fps at 720p. SD cards are easy to find, and this one can man­age up to 32GB mod­els. Dig­i­tal zoom, night mode were on­ly OK, as are the still 5 megapix­el pho­tos, but we liked that they were avail­able. The lens is fair­ly wide-an­gle, 170 de­grees, of­fer­ing a great field of view that is per­fect for ex­treme sports (skate­board­ing videos can feel a lit­tle cramped, for in­stance, and this gives them some ex­tra room if dis­tort­ing them like a fish­eye lens some­what).

As with most sys­tems, there are plen­ty of mount­ing op­tions avail­able and hand­i­ly in­clud­ed, like a han­dle­bar grip, gog­gle mount, head strap, hel­met at­tach­ment, and the as­sort­ed “uni­ver­sal” clip/vel­cro strap. Most any­thing but un­der­wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties should be cov­ered, as the unit is splash­proof, dust­proof, weath­er re­sis­tant but not de­signed for use un­der wa­ter. We had it out in the rain and dropped it a cou­ple of times with noth­ing more than a scuff to show, and the but­tons are im­pres­sive­ly durable, as is the lens it­self. There’s al­so a stan­dard thread­ed tri­pod mount!

The re­mote us­es RF, so does not re­quire line of sight and works to about 15 feet, and is more like a car re­mote/key fob than any oth­er com­par­i­son- it has on­ly a cou­ple of but­tons and is quite small. You can at­tach it to your wrist via a vel­cro strap, which works nice­ly. The screen is sur­pris­ing­ly good- col­ors are crisp and it’s sur­pris­ing­ly bright- but nav­i­gat­ing wasn’t quite as sim­ple as some sys­tems. Com­put­er trans­fer is han­dled via USB, or you can play­back di­rect­ly to your TV via an an­noy­ing com­po­nent ca­ble (no HD­MI, sad­ly). Bat­ter­ies are al­ways key on a cam­era, since you don’t want your big ride down the slopes at the end of the day to get missed, and the Drift HD170 Stealth scores in the mid­dle of the pack. The lithi­um recharge­able bat­tery lasts over three hours in record­ing, pret­ty good if not quite as much as we would liked to see. Recharg­ing is easy, but takes about the same time to charge as dis­charge it seemed. The unit it­self is im­pres­sive­ly light, but is pret­ty big- one of the largest bod­ies on an ac­tion cam­era that we’ve seen in fact.

Over­all, the video qual­i­ty is su­perb, and the sys­tem so easy and durable that we kept us­ing it. The Stealth is fun, sim­ple, and takes great ac­tion shots- what more can you ask? Wide­ly avail­able for around $350, if that seems a bit out of your bud­get, the mod­el a step down is quite a bit less ex­pen­sive and the on­ly ma­jor down­side is the lack of 60f­ps shoot­ing.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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