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Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much

Man, and the Drift HD was so close to being a super-stealthy altrernative to my GoPro. If only it would just stay on.

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The video quality is top-notch with a 170-degree field of vision. Its rubberized exterior survived being dropped (repeatedly). The Drift HD is 25 percent smaller than its predecessor at 4 inches, the HD 170 and weighs just 4.23 oz—saving you the typical neck strain of supporting a helmet-mounted camera all day. Its torpedo shape—as opposed to the GoPro's camera shape—makes it less obtrusive when you've got it strapped to your noggin or handlebars. It also supports HDMI and USB output, as well as up to a 32GB microSD card—plenty of space for a few full-HD videos. The built-in LCD is handy too for quick reviews of what I'd just shot.

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This review should have included a POV video of me zip-lining 1500-feet of Sierra Foothill through the treetops. Unfortunately the Drift HD decided to stop recording three seconds in with nary a warning beep (so instead, you get a 17 second clip of me dicking around with it in the car.) It did work pretty reliably throughout testing, but had a weird tendency to stop on its own accord. That's not necessarily a deal breaker but damn, disappointing.

Drift HD 1080p

Dimensions: 104.14mm x 50mm x 33mm
Weight: 4.23 oz
Video Res: 1080p (30fps), 720p (60fps) & WVGA
Video Format: 16:9
Camera Res: 9MP
Price: $370

Last Word

It's a great little action cam with a penchant for screwing my directorial vision. It'll retail for $370 when it's released August 31st.

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much
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The Drift HD with it's larger version, the Drift HD 170 Stealth.

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much
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The Drift HD's 4-Button Control. It can also be operated via a wrist-worn remote control (not pictured).

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much
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The Drift HD's rotating optic allows you to switch from landscape to portrait (or vise versa) without having to rotate the entire body of the camera.

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much
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The battery bay (with the butt-plate removed). The Drift HD is capable of USB, HDMI, and micro SD output.

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much
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The rear of the Drift HD with the butt-plate on. The circular and square tabs can be pulled out for easier access to the USB and HDMI slots.

Illustration for article titled Drift HD 1080p Rugged Cam Lightning Review: Awesome? Check. Reliable? Ehhh, Not So Much
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The Drift HD 1080P

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DISCUSSION

All cameras and apps that function like cameras should have Feature Number One: The completely unambiguous "I'm Recording Now" indicator. There are a huge number of apps for the iPhones and iPad that are missing this prime directive.

The worst is found in an otherwise delightful app called DollyCam, that promises to iron out the hand wiggles you shoot with its custom camera. It has a big, round, transparent RED button with extremely thin text that changes from "REC" to "STOP" when you roll video. Impossible to distinguish in any lighting other than full shaded interior light. Which, by the way, is the very light that will give rise to processing problems when it does its magic stabilization process thing. DollyCam needs the sharp, super high speed shutter frames that daylight delivers.

Could they have changed it from, say, Cyan (not rolling) to Red (rolling now, bubba)? Sure. But that would have taken actual Consciousness and four seconds of extra effort.

Almost worse: DollyCam only shows you the center 3:4 aspect chunk of the middle of your 9:16 HD frame as you shoot. But that's another story.

Other iPhone App Cams with similar brain dead design include "Almost DSLR" and "Filmic Pro."

&^%$#@!!!!!