Drift Ghost S

With so many action cameras now on the market, which one do you choose for capturing your rides?

Update:
The Drift Ghost S has been superseded by the Drift 4K. Other than being a higher resolution (which will make no difference unless you have a 4K tv) the new model seems to be worse in every way for moto-vlogging.
Update of the update:
Drift have now introduced the Ghost X, which is smaller and has a fantastic claimed battery life - check back for a review of this new model soon.

Unless you have been living in a cave, or perhaps never visit YouTube, you can't have failed to notice the ever-increasing amount of video content captured from cars, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, and all manner of vehicles. Until just a few years ago this type of on-board video was the preserve of the professional TV and film production company. Then the invention of the cheap, fast, high capacity memory card capable of capturing video in real-time meant that video cameras no longer needed delicate tape-transport mechanisms, and the introduction of the first small video cameras opened up the world of the action video to just about everyone almost overnight.

The camera that first brought this technology to the masses was probably the GoPro, and these cameras are still hugely popular today. Within a relatively short space of time the market has become flooded with action cameras of all shapes, sizes and prices - everything from high-end to cheap Chinese knock-offs, and while each has its merits some are more suited to motorcycle vlogging than others.

The first thing to decide is whether or not you want to include on-board narration in your videos. This narrows the field considerably. If you do, you will either need an external mic input on the camera, or some additional equipment that will allow you to record from a helmet mic (such as the box of tricks from Sena that records from helmet mic to GoPro via Bluetooth). Sena also produce their own cameras that use bluetooth to record from their intercoms, and even a combined intercom/camera - the Sena 10C). As I already owned a Sena 10S intercom system this seemed like the obvious choice. However, on further investigation it appears that you lose the ability to hear sat-nav or music if the intercom is linked to the camera - a deal-breaker for me.

Initial tests

Not knowing what to expect, I just set the camera to it's widest angle, wedged the mic into a gap in the helmet cheek pad, and set the mic sensivity to the middle of it's three possible settings…

For the second test of the Ghost S I reduced the mic sensitivity setting to level 1 in an attempt to improve the narration quality…..

While the voiceover quality with the visor down is better with the mic sensitivity at it's lowest setting, it is by no means perfect. The clipping evident at mic level 2 have been removed, but the sound is recorded at quite a low level. At both settings the quality is far better with the visor up than down. The enclosed nature of a crash helmet does seem to give a 'recorded in a bathroom' quality that is impossible to avoid.

The boom mic fitted to my Sena intercom seems to give much clearer speech under all conditions, and I did wonder about rigging on of these up to the Ghost. However, because they are intended for voice communication they would filter out all other sounds, including the noise of the bike itself.

I will do a few experiments with mic positioning to see if I can get any improvement, but don't have too many options with a flip-front helmet.

Camera / Mic comparison

The highest quality video for both the Ghost S and the considerably cheaper Stealh 2 (both from Drift) is 1080p 30fps, but how do they compare in the real world? The short clip below shows footage from both cameras along the same stretch of road. As you will see, the lack of an external mic facility makes the Stealth next to useless as a main vlogging camera for motorcyclists. If you're not overly bothered by the sound quality though, it could be a good buy.

Drift two camera setup

A great feature of the Drift range of cameras is the ability to control them in sync from the remote control wrist band. The following video uses a helmet-mounted Ghost S for the forward facing camera, with the sound being recorded on this using the external mic, while a dash-mounted Stealth 2 faces back toward the rider.