Think of an action cam, and the name GoPro probably comes to mind. But there are a lot of alternatives to consider, as a recent action cam Battlemodo proved. One brand, Contour, has always been just a step away from gaining GoPro-style notoriety. The recently announced Contour+2 might change that.
What Is It?
A miniature HD video camera that you mount to a helmet, bike, surfboard or car.
Who's It For?
Those who engage in activities during which "cowabunga" might be heard.
Ravishing. Sleek brushed metal. Definitely better-looking than the homely GoPro line. Then again, you don't buy these for looks.
Contour makes a big deal about a single switch handling power and record. On the rear, a status button shows battery strength and storage space. You can control almost all aspects of the camera via Bluetooth-enabled iOS or Android smartphone. Being able to start recording and change settings without fiddling with the camera is a really great feature.
The Best Part
Great image quality. There are minor issues such as a yellow colour-cast in certain lighting conditions, and the occasional "jelly effect" if the camera is vibrating heavily. But compared to the GoPro Hero2, the images are noticeably sharper when viewed full-screen.
Not rugged enough. Stuck to the underside of a skateboard, the plastic rotating surface mount actually broke apart while skating down the street. The rear-control hatch was knocked open. Luckily, we had some backup duct tape holding the camera in place. Not good -- and all from skateboarding down the street!
- To fit the camera on an object, there is a strappy "Profile Mount" meant for a helmet, and a "Flat Surface Mount", which is an adhesive square that sticks to most smooth surfaces. This mount, which rotates so you can align the camera properly, was the one that came loose from the skateboard.
- The camera's rotating sensor is really cool. You can rotate it a full 360 degrees so that your horizon is straight no matter what crazy way you have the thing mounted. You will never have annoyingly off-axis video to watch.
- The Contour software can overlay a data box on your video that displays GPS location, elevation, and even speed.
- The kit comes with waterproof housing. This used to be an add-on accessory, but with the Contour+2 it is included.
- The laser beam on the front, meant to help level your camera is damn near useless in daylight. It shines in your eyes when you least expect it. If I go blind, it's on Contour.
- There are decent options for adjusting picture settings -- contrast, sharpness and white balance.
- Battery life is decent at 2-2.5 hours, but it takes forever to recharge.
- The camera seemed a bit heavy for the helmet strap. It held in place but wobbled around a lot.
- Field of view is fixed at 170 degrees, whereas as GoPro Hero2 has variable field of view going up to 180 degrees.
- Sound is not great. There is a mic jack (that uses a proprietary adaptor cable) if you want to record anything besides muffled wind and vibration.
- For those not interested in complex video editing, the Contour Storyteller software is easy to use and designed fairly well.
Should You Buy It?
The Contour+2 is not a bad product. Yes, we had a couple of problems, but it still offers great image quality in a versatile device.
The real question is whether to buy a Contour+2 or a GoPro. It comes down to what you care about. If you like tracking GPS data, want excellent footage of your exploits, and you love the idea of controlling the camera with your iPhone, then the Contour+2 is a great choice. If you just want a decent image mounted as securely as possible, you might want a GoPro -- as we learned recently, GoPro mounts are freaking strong.
Another factor to consider: The Sony Action-Cam is on the horizon, and it could potentially offer a better product for less money. Wait to see how the Sony tests, and then make a decision based on what you need. The Contour+2 could be the one. Just don't forget your duct tape.
• Field of view: 170 degrees • Storage: up to 32GB microSD (comes with 4GB) • Frame rates: 1920x1080 @ 30/25fps, 1280x720 @ 60/50 or 30/25fps, 1280x960 @ 30/25fps, 854x480 @ 120/100 • Dimensions: 98mm x 60mm x 34mm • Price: $549 RRP in Australia