Contour+ Plus Camera Review, Price and Buy
The hands-free Contour+ Camera doesn’t just record all of your cliff-hucking, base-jumping, and wicked surfing skills in stunning HD; it also features built-in GPS capability to track the location, speed, and altitude of your every exploit. The Countour+ is water, impact, and vibration-resistant so it can handle extreme environments, and it also comes packed with so many features that you should prepare yourself for the inevitable streams of drool that will emerge from the corners of your mouth should you decide to read on.
I bought this camera primarily to be used for motorsports (autocross, track days, time attack, etc.) but took it on my recent ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. I’ll update the review once motorsport season comes around.
With the GoPro HD and ContourHD 1080p coming out around he same time for the same price point I did a lot of research on both. I was already biased against the GoPro having owned the original Hero Cam Wide.
The quick sliding of the GoPro is pretty simple, but the parts that you have to screw and unscrew are difficult. The screws were hard to tighten and it’s too easy to lose the screw and/or nut. I also managed to break one of the mounts by dropping it – a bit too easy to break in my opinion. Getting the correct angle by stringing the screw mounts together was a challenge as well.
I like the ContourHD mount a lot more. It just slides on and off and locks into place. While skiing, I was able to slide it off and hand it to my friend so he could take video of me. Using the included goggle mount, the video was pretty steady as long as my ski goggles were on snug. Never worried about it sliding off.
If I were to have gone with the GoPro, I would have to get a ski helmet. It would not be as easy to switch and I feel it looks and feels obtrusive if sticking out to the side, top, or front. The ContourHD, when goggle mounted, sits slimly along my head – not far out so that it feels like an antler. And since the goggle mount sits flush, I always know that what I am looking at (or at least slightly to the left or right) will be what is filmed. This would not be true of a camera that is chest-strap mounted or sticking farther out to the side.
Pointing the camera up/down was difficult at first but became easy to work with.
I found the GoPro to be too wide. I love having a wide angle lens for point of view sports video, but the GoPro Hero Cam Wide just seemed so wide that it would be distorted (to reiterate, I have not tried the GoPro HD). The ContourHD was wide enough to have a large field of vision, but not so wide that things looked distorted. I’ve also tried the Kodak Zi8 camera which I feel has a great viewing angle for youtube type videos but not great for POV sports videos.
I was really impressed with the quality. Everything was really smooth with no artifacts. Any higher video quality and I don’t think they could have kept this price point. It does have a rolling shutter, so I would occasionally get the jello effect if constantly over uneven snow. But I believe this is true of most cameras in this segment. The only cameras that won’t do this, as far as I know, are some point and shoot cameras or camcorders which usually don’t offer the same helmet cam functionality.
The colors and lighting seemed okay. Hard to tell as I was skiing and everything is white, but nothing seemed “off”. I went night skiing in Keystone Colorado and the video didn’t turn out that great there. I doubt any camera would be different though given the poor lighting conditions.
Not great. All I heard on my skiing videos was wind noise. I don’t see any other way around this though and I don’t think the competition does either. I’m just going to add music. When I’m still and talking though, the audio comes out clear.
The thing I like the most is how simple it is to use. Hold down the power button to turn it on/off and slide the switch forward to record. The display on my GoPro wasn’t useful and I was never really sure it was recording. When helmet-mounted, you can still feel the switch on the ContourHD is moved forward. Also, when it’s on, the slider reveals a big red sticker that says “REC” in big letters. With the GoPro, you have to look at the tiny display – which can be really difficult to do when the camera is strapped to your head and you have all your gear on. And while the slider switch on the ContourHD can be difficult to turn on with heavy winter gloves on, it is near impossible to press the GoPro’s tiny buttons.
I also really liked the beeping system. 1 beep lets you know when the camera is turned on or recording. 2 beeps lets you know when the camera is off or stopped recording. This is really useful when helmet mounted since you can’t see the camera and it’s usually close to your ear. This beep system helped as well when my battery died or the camera automatically shut off due to inactivity. I forgot to turn it off once and I heard 2 beeps while on the chair lift. Even though I skipped this in the manual, I knew that it turned off by itself.
The camera allows you to switch between 2 modes. I chose 1080p @ 30fps and 720p @ 60fps. It would be nice to switch between all modes without having to preset them in the computer, but realistically, I usually won’t need more than 1 mode in a given day.
The on off button is small, and since I’m constantly worried about running out of battery, I always turn off the camera when not recording. Maybe they could just make this one button (anytime it’s on, it’s recording and anytime it’s off, it’s not recording)? It also takes some time holding it down to turn on/off. 1 or 2 seconds less would be adequate.
There is no display on the camera or a viewfinder. Again, displays aren’t really as useful as tactile buttons when mounted to your head. Other POV cameras don’t have a display either for simplicity. Camcorders, flip cameras, and the Kodak Zi8 have displays but they aren’t meant for the same type of things the ContourHD is. The lasers to orient viewing angle are a great compromise. And I like that you can rotate the lens. I can see this being useful if you need to mount the camera sideways or upside down.
The ContourHD feels very sturdy (anodized aluminum). It’s water-resistant(not waterproof) and still worked even when I fell in the snow. The GoPro does have the added benefit of the waterproof case – not only in terms of water damage but impact damage as well. I’d hate to drop my ContourHD on concrete or scratch the lens with a flying rock. If this is an issue for you, consider the new, somewhat pricey, waterproof case. For my uses though, this is not a deal breaker.
- The mounting mechanism seems sturdy as well and the plastic mounts feel high quality. Again, I was able to break a GoPro mount.
- The ContourHD isn’t shaped like a traditional camera like the GoPro is and I feel this is more condusive to helmet mounting and POV sports videos.
- The record switch provides good resistance, but I accidentally opened the back cover of the camera when I switched it on. The camera was still safe though.
- The Hi/Lo switch, On/Off switch, battery door cover, and microSD slot are all behind the back cover. The back cover is easy to open and is tethered. The tab holding the battery in seems flimsy, but really isn’t.
- The camera is light enough that it wasn’t too noticeable when goggle-strap mounted.
The included battery lasts a fair amount of time, but depending on what you do, consider picking up a second battery. I didn’t time the battery usage, but I left the house with a fully charged battery and was able to finish an almost full day of skiing without it loosing charge. Keep in mind that I would turn off the camera when not in use. Also consider the cold temperature in which I was using it (25 – 35 degrees).
Personaly, I prefer proprietary batteries to AA’s and such because they seem to last longer and are easily rechargeable in the camera. I had problems with the GoPro Hero Cam Wide’s batteries. The camera seemed to turn off after a while if it didn’t have the right battery. The GoPro HD has a proprietary battery now.
The camera does a good job of turning itself off when it is not in use. I forgot to turn it off and after several minutes of not recording, it turned itself off and gave me 2 beeps to let me know it did so. The camera also gave me several beeps when it turned off due to the battery being drained. I was able to switch to my back up battery with little interuption to what I was doing.
I bought a 16GB microSD card so that I can take many hours of high quality video. I would have prefered regular SD since I already have several of those cards, but I’m sure this contributes to the ContourHD’s small size.
I didn’t use this too much. I like to transfer my video’s on my own. On trips, I just back up the video’s on my netbook which doesn’t really have the processing power to edit such high quality videos. The interface seems nice though and I was able to switch settings easily with my netbook. I would have preferred to switch some of the settings on the camera without a computer, but I think this would overcomplicate it.
I’m really happy with my purchase. It made skiing with my buddies a bit more fun. I would ski with the goggle mount and we would stick together. If I saw a jump or terrain park coming up, I would watch my friends and get the action on video – just by looking at them! I’ve taken video of them before with my point-and-shoot camera but that’s harder to do when not mounted.
First person view without anyone else around is good for my own memories, but not really exciting enough to share. Small jumps don’t really look like jumps. I don’t do the terrain park but I’d imagine grinding rails or big jumps would look amazing in first person.
The quality is great. All my friends were impressed. I really didn’t worry about operating it or having enough memory or battery. I was worried about shaky video at first or dropping it in the snow, but after my 1st (of 4) days skiing with it, I stopped worrying. I had a fall on my second day and not only did the camera survive, but it made for a pretty funny POV video.
I’m really looking forward to using this for motorsports. It should be easy to switch angles on my car (front view, wheel view, rear view, etc.) given the simplicity of the mounts. And I won’t ever have to worry if it recorded like I did with my GoPro or other cameras I used with a traditional on/off button.
Contour+ Plus Camera Features:
- Material: (shell) aluminum
- Dimensions: 58 x 34 x 98 mm
- Zoom Length:
- Effective Focal Length:
- Field of View: (960p, 720p, photo) 170 deg, (1080p) 125 deg
- Resolution: (full HD 1080p) 1920 x 1080 pixels, (tall HD 960p) 1280 x 960 pixels, (action HD 720p) 1280 x 720 pixels, (original HD 720p) 1280 x 720 pixels, (5 MP still) 2592 x
- 1944 pixels
- Megapixels: 5
- Memory Card Type: MicroSD
- Video Size:
- Video Formats: H.264 Codec (.mov file type)
- Video Processor:
- Sensor: 5 Megapixel Codec Sensor
- Photo Formats:
- Frame Rates: (full HD 1080p) 30 FPS, (tall HD 960p) 30 FPS, (action HD 720p) 60 FPS, (original HD 720p) 30 FPS, (5 MP still) 1 photo per 3, 5,10, 30, 60 seconds
- Battery Type: Lithium ion
- ISO Range:
- LCD Size:
- Manual Exposure:
- Manual Focus:
- Mic Type: built-in, external mic jack
- Operating System: Mac (10.5, 10.6), Windows (XP, Vista, 7)
- PC Connection: yes, USB port, , Bluetooth v2.1, , HDMI port
- Attachment Type:
- Weight: 5.3 oz
- Recommended Use: video storytelling
- Manufacturer Warranty: 180 days