on February 2, 2010
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.
on February 9, 2010
I have been shooting first person action videos ever since I got my hands on my first sony handycam video 8 back in the 90's. Fast forward 15 years and numerous video cameras later, I bought a compact Vholdr Contour 1080p after testing and comparing all wearable HD video cameras presently available at our local stores here in Southern Calironia. The need was brought from the fact that I had to get rid of my habit of using my bulky, yet trusty, Nikon D90 DSLR when both photos and HD videos when I go snowboardng, longboarding and mountain biking hehehe... :p
Fluid HD Video on 720p at 60 frames per second is the main feature that I love about this product. 1080p at 30 frames per second is just an extra bonus / icing on the cake for me.
Lens view angle is perfect. Wide and not annoyingly distorted compared to the GoPro.
Easy, simple & practical controls on board the camera
Size, weight, design & build are of the best materials and make given its price.
Mounting accessories are solid and secure.
Sound quality is mediocre. I dub in a soundtrack on all my action videos anyway.
Exposure and resolution setting tweaks can only be adjusted through a computer device.
It would be nice if it was an on board adjustable feature.
Kit does not come with a wall charger (charge through computer USB)
Kit does not come with a protective case/pouch for storage.
Camera does not have a standard screw hole for tripod/monopod mounting (Universal mount sold separately)
Easy Share software is ok, but to be honest, iMovie is a better and simpler way for Mac users to share/edit videos.
Overall, I recommend this device to those who enjoy capturing first person perspective action oriented sport/activity videos. The Vholdr Contour 1080p is indeed the industry standard to date.
on March 12, 2011
My plan was to get a wearable video camera for an upcoming motorcycle journey through Spain. I chose the Contour VHoldr camera over the GoPro based on the design and positive reviews. To be honest, I just couldn't (and still can't) get past the ugliness of the GoPro. GoPro's wide angle is just too wide for my taste. During some testing to get the camera configured before my trip, I noticed very distinct verticle lines of interference in the videos. Looking over Contour's support area, I found several others reporting the same problem. Some were diagnosed as "flares" due to the sun. Others, like mine, were diagnosed as a problem with camera and to return for a replacement. So, $12 to ship it back to Contour. I got my replacement Vholdr and lo and behold, same problems. This time, speaking with someone from support, I was now told that the problem is a "sensor overload" and I need to have a neutral density lens filter for it. Now, with less than a week until I leave, I've had to buy Contour's lens kit in order to get the adaptor for the ND filter (which Contour doesn't sell and after calling around, it's apparent I found the only 37mm ND filter in the Portland metropolitan area).
In order to get my Contour to work while it's sunny I've now had to pay to ship the camera back ($12, which now according to them wasn't necessary) buy Contour's lens kit ($25 + $10 express shipping in order to get it before I leave the country) and $13 for the ND filter. I explained my frustration to the employee whose attitude was one of indifference. At least they could have refunded my $12 for shipping the camera to them at their request even though it wasn't apparently necessary to do so.
I hope my videos from my trip turn out okay. If not, I'm going to return the camera. Come on Contour, how about a product that works right out of the box??
Well Contour says the problems are an overload in the sensor and despite their solutions to fix it, using a filter didn't stop it from continuing to happen. I guess you can only use this camera on cloudy days. Contour was not willing to honor its warranty either. They insisted that since I didn't buy it directly from them, they did not have to honor the warranty. Luckily the place I got it from was able to work out a satisfactory arrangement with a Contour rep to get me credit (which I used to buy a GoPro!). Still ended up with the accessories which are useless and will be hopefully getting sold.
So this camera doesn't work in the sunshine even with a filter. Their customer service in dealing with their warranty was terrible. How about no stars?
on April 25, 2010
So after much debate I ended up picking up one of these little guys at a local retailer in the Bay Area. I'm gonna say that so far I'm completely satisfied with the amount of money I spent on it. Its lightweight, seems pretty durable and is super easy to use. The slider switch is kinda stiff to the ungloved hand, but with a gloved hand the added traction causes it to operate with no hesitation. I use it for motorcycling. The flat surface mount works great so far on my helmet (a slight curvature of the helmet) just have to find the 'sweet spot' to stick it in. typically this will also result in a good forward facing attitude/angle, the camera is seeing what you're seeing.
Video quality is superb, no complaints. It really is as good as they're saying it is, most of the other reviews i've read seem to amplify the negative qualities. the fisheye effect at 135 degree field of view is really not noticeable unless you get right up on something then it'll distort but other than that, its rather pleasant and easy to watch. recording at 1080p you have a 110 degree field of view. I have noticed that when you point the camera directly at the sun it causes a vertical strip to appear... some sorta digital artifact due to being pointed directly at the sun, but other than that there is no lens flare or ghosting. at it only really occurs when you have the sun directly in the frame. pretty normal for the size sensor that's in there.
Audio quality... 5/10. cuz when your standing still or walking its good. picks up your voice, depending on the where it is/and the microphone gain settings. on a motorcycle, anything faster than 10mph is just wind noise. really good wind noise at that, no distortion or any sort of harmonic. so be prepared to invest in a way to dub music over the video if you're really into showing off your adventures.
Software. 5/10. Free software, available from their website. The only real function it provides is being able to setup the camera. Programming the hi/lo switch, mic gain, exposure, metering, sharpness, contrast.. other than that its fairly useless unless you really want to participate in Vholdr's online community. but hey, thats why i have youtube and facebook. so the movies come off the camera really more like accessing a flash drive. The software has rudimentary video editing abilities. in other words, you can cut the beginning and ends off of a video but thats it. just to show the good stuff in the middle. It works good for what it does but thats all it does, you know?
Overall? I love it. Its perfect for what it does, its not complicated, and you can stick it to just about anything. The question remains, do you really need 1080p? as a motorcyclist, i deemed quantity over quality and realized in hindsight that being able to record at 720p/30fps and have 30min/gig was more useful than 15min/gig at 1080p/30fps. but then again, i really like the 720p @ 60fps feature too for those short rides where i know i can fit it all on a 16gb card and have that lush video at 60fps. maybe more appropriate for those snow/ski people doing mad tricks and they can playback in nice liquid slow-mo those awesome jumps yeah? just need to buy video editing software to make it all come together.
on January 18, 2010
I bought this camera for recording for when I'm skiing up in Colorado mountains. When it works, the video quality is very good and especially in 60fps @ 720p it is very smooth. Microphone wind noise is there but it really isn't the camera's fault so it is okay. Mounting on goggle strap or helmet is straight forward (could be a little more secure) and operation of the camera is simple.
HOWEVER - I've been to skiing twice with this camera and in the morning this camera just doesn't want to turn on. I have two batteries, and I even kept one inside my inner pocket to keep it from getting cold but no dice. It does say the minimum operating temperature is 5F but even at 10F-ish I had to try turning my camera on at least 5 times to get it going. And even then, it would randomly shut off until it is "sufficiently" warmed up.
You'd think 5F is plenty low enough but if you are into skiing you will find yourself skiing way below that, and in that regards this camera is pretty useless.
I still recommend this camera for dirt biking, mountain biking and other non-cold sports.
EDIT - Let me clarify if you have the camera on before you go outside for skiing then it still works without any issues. The problem is that if you want to shut the camera off to preserve battery under cold environment - then it is very finicky about turning on. So the only workaround is to have the camera on before you walk out there in cold but that pretty much requires another battery since it barely lasts two hours when cold. So if you are going to use it for skiing I HIGHLY suggest you buy another battery right from get go (along with the 16 GB micro SD card, 2 GB just isn't enough)
EDIT2 - I sent mine in as RMA and they sent me a new one for replacement. We will see how this one does @ 5 F but as far as customer services goes, I have to say 5 stars out of 5 - if you are interested, buy with confidence - Twenty20 will take care of you. Very fast communication and shipping.