The Drift HD170 is quite a special helmet camera. As the letters HD imply it will record at a resolution of 1080p, as well as in 720p and WVGA modes. Plus it will take 5 mega pixel photos. It’s pretty big – opening the battery compartment is like opening the wardrobe into Narnia – but in this case big is indeed better.
For the past year I’ve recorded each and every bike journey, weather permitting, with a Veho Muvi helmet cam, which I bought for its size and its price. I wasn’t expecting much more out of this Drift camera. But its superior performance soon proved that I should have done some proper research last year before I bought the Veho Muvi.
The first thing that struck me about the Drift HD170 was how easy it was to use without me having to read the instructions. Everything on the camera is in a logical place, and the buttons are big and clear. Then another fantastic surprise: you can change the angle of the lens to suit you and your bike setup (300 degrees according to the manual), rather than having to change your bike setup up to suit the camera. The lens also offers a 170-degree wide-angle view (not in 1080p), allowing you to capture the smaller details at either side of you quite nicely.
The HD 170’s 1.5in LCD display allows you to view: battery life; the amount of memory card space you have used; the time the video has been recording; and of course what you are actually recording. However, this is only useful if you mount the camera to the handlebar of your bike.
If you prefer to have the camera on your helmet, you can still operate it easily because you get a two-button RF remote that works within 5m of the unit. There’s a wrist strap for the remote, so you can put it in a safe and intuitive place.
The unit’s rechargeable lithium battery lasted for each of my journeys without draining completely, and was quickly full of juice again once plugged into a PC via the USB lead (supplied). The battery is removable, so if you buy a second (perhaps one that lasts longer?) it’s easy to stitch them over when the original gives up the ghost. Many smaller cameras have inaccessible batteries or use standard AAs, forcing you to keep Duracell in business.
The camera stays firm on its handlebar bracket over the roughest of terrains, so could be used for mountain biking. Durability is good too. On my first journey using it, I was toppled over by a car. This left nothing more than a scuff mark to the outer lens casing.
The casing is waterproof. By ‘waterproof’, the manufacturer means it can be immersed in 2ft of water for no longer than 10 minutes. To most cyclists, who will have only rain to contend with, this is more than enough. If you did find yourself under more than 2ft of water, there would be more important things to worry about than your camera.
The casing is stylish, though its two-tone colouring of black and orange can get dirty quickly, especially if the camera is on your handlebar and you’re riding on the trails and canal paths; the bright orange becomes a dull brown.
The handlebar is just one mounting option, however. There’s also a goggle mount (for skiing or motorcycling, perhaps), a head strap, and a helmet grip. Strong Velcro straps make sure that the camera stays put.
Attaching the camera to my PC via the USB cable was simple. My PC picked it up straight away as a removable HDD, allowing me to drag and drop the .MOV files onto the computer for editing. But you can play back your HD movies straight from the camera to your nearest HD TV, as Drift supply an AV cable.
It’s a great action camera. It’s not cheap but Drift do offer a £130 version – the X170 – that records at 720 x 480.
An excellent, rugged action camera that, with a big enough SD card, will capture quality video clips time and again
road.cc test report
Make and model: Drift HD170 camera
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's billed as a water resistant action camera that can be attached to various objects and parts of the body.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
1080p, 30fps, plug and play technology. 300 degree rotatable lens, with a 127 degree view in 1080p and 170 degree view in 720p and WVGA. SD / SDHC card compatible.
Can't fault it. Did the business in the dry and the wet, and handled a crash with ease.
Superb in every way and did everything that I asked of it.
Slight scuff on the lens as my bike fell over, but apart from that - stood up to the test very well.
Despite its wardrobe-type appearance, the unit is pretty light, weighing in at just under 140g.
At £340 it's steep, but you pay for quality.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed much better than expected.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The camera is very easy to use, and, if mounted on the handlebars, it's very easy to see what's going on without you needing to learn about various different LED flashes.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing to dislike other than the price point.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Trek 2.3 My best bike is: Fuji Mt Fuji Pro 2010
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, mtb