on June 20, 2011
So I picked this Contour + up after buying a GoPro HD, with the intention of returning the GoPro.
I haven't returned it yet, so I've been going out testing the 2 camera's side by side, trying to figure out which I like better.
Here's my initial thoughts.
I like the form factor better on the Contour +. I did a couple of hikes with the GoPro HD and felt like a complete idiot with the camera sitting on top of my hat, using the head mount. It was heavy, and flopped around a bit. The Contour+ on the other hand, sat nicely on the side of my head, and was a lot less goofy looking.
I've taken them both in my car, and had issues with the GoPro, where the mount came loose from vibration, and I had to catch it, and adjust the knob again while driving. Dangerous!
The Windshield mount on the Contour is not that good though, as it shakes, and is not a very tight fit where the Suction cup mounts to the mount...It holds, but the whole thing just wiggles all around, creating shaky video. not cool. But it holds very very well.
Now, to the Camera's...
I find the overall sharpness of the Contour better, with slightly better definition and clarity over the GoPro HD, BUT...I find the color a little green. The GoPro is not as sharp, as I just said, but the colors are more vibrant.
The Fisheye on the GoPro is a little more prominent than the Contour+ but they both have fisheye effect from the wide angles of their cameras.
The Contour + handles light MUCH MUCH better than the GoPro HD, and as I shot side by side comparisons, on one tree lined street, there was a truck parked in the shadows...On the GoPro I did not notice the truck at all! On the Contour, it was very well lit, and showed up clearly!! Very cool!
However, there aren't as many mounts for the Contour+, compared to the GoPro HD, but there are enough, for my uses, I guess.
I've noticed some stuttering video on both cameras, so I guess they both do it. They are both using totally different codecs, so it made editing them together a little difficult (GoPro is H.264, Contour+ is called Amberella).
I notice a lot of video noise on both camera's, but I am a video professional, used to high end equipment, so I notice all sorts of video artifacts. These artifacts, or noise, are what makes the video look slightly blurry. I ding them both for this, but since the Contour + is already sharper to begin with, I guess it affects the camera less than the GoPro HD.
To the GoPro HD's defense, though, I will remind you that it does indeed look though a plastic case. Who knows, maybe without the plastic case attatched the video would be clearer. But since it is not designed to be used like that, I can't say.
Now, here is where the Contour stands ahead...the iPhone program! I typically had NO idea what I was shooting with the GoPro HD, and could not see it until I got back to my hotel room, on a recent trip hiking in Zion, UT. If I had the GoPro talking to my iphone, it would have made me feel better, knowing what I was shooting. Plus when I first got it, I had no idea what the settings were all about, since they are so archaic, until I got back to my hotel room and spent some time looking at the instruction sheet.
The Contour, was pretty easy to use, right out of the box, and once connected to the iphone, I was able to change settings and such. However, it's not all good.
My first video, I shot upside down, and didn't realize it until I shot my next one, and checked it out on the iphone first.
You can't see anything while you are shooting. You also have to go into your settings on the iphone to connect the bluetooth each and every time you want to use the program. annoying. but at least it's there! Since the lens rotates, you always have to remember what direction it is in, or your video will be slightly skewed...or upside down... Good that it can do it, bad because you always have to check.
Videos also seem a little shakier on the Contour +, and smoother on the GoPro HD. Don't know if there is some motion compensation in there, but it seems that way.
The GPS portion, where it tracks your location, is very very cool, and a major + I can see using to track motorcycle rides I go on. However, outside of the Contour Storytelling application on the computer, I do not know how else you would access this information?
I got the GoPro Hd on sale recently, and paid full price for the Contour +. the cost was about $260 more for the Contour +. This is actually more than I paid for the GoPro HD!
Are the extra features worth the extra cash?
Yes and no.
I haven't returned either yet, and am leading strongly to the Contour +, but for only slightly better video and a bit wider lens, it is worth double the price?
Good luck on your purchases!
on August 11, 2011
I bought this for skydiving
-great picture quality. Significantly better than the gopro hd.
-switch is really easy to use and positive - it's easy to flip just before you jump out of the plane
-camera crashes. In my case, I have lost several important skydives to this
-bluetooth viewfinder functionality is so unreliable/buggy as to be unuseable
-battery live is really poor (It can't handle 8 skydives in a day without recharging). Each skydive is about 1 minute of freefall, followed by a few minutes of canopy flight.
-although the record on/off switch is easy to use without seeing the camera (when it's mounted on your head), you still have to turn the camera on with a small button on the back. This isn't nearly so positive.
-the video importing is annoying; as soon as you import the files, the contour starts creating file001 again, so you end up with loads of movies with the same filenames
-gps is a nice idea, but not really accurate enough for skydiving. It's frequently significantly off location even on a clear sunny day, and it turns out that many of my skydives actually go upwards
-the bundled video management doesn't contain even the most rudimentary editing capability, so you can't even trim your videos to remove the fluff at the beginning/end
on September 4, 2011
As an owner of the older ContourHD 1080p, I looked forward to taking my new Contour+ on a recent snowboarding trip to New Zealand. Although I was keen to make use of the new features, such as the GPS and Bluetooth preview/settings, I was mainly interested in seeing the results of the new lens and super-wide field of view.
Before I cover the new features, I should mention the things that haven't changed:
Form Factor - The size, weight and shape of the Contour+ is pretty much the same as previous models. I prefer it to some of the other offerings for both practical and aesthetic reasons. When mounted on a helmet, wrist or leg it doesn't look like I've got some monstrous appendage growing out of me. This may seem like a styling issue but it has very practical implications when getting on, riding and getting off lifts. It doesn't contact safety bars and I'm able to turn my head without it hitting surrounding objects, or people. There are some mounts for other cameras, like chest mounts, that avoid these issues, but chest mounts for snowboarding don't work very well as the direction of travel is generally not where your chest is facing.
On/Off Switch - The placement and function of the on/off switch is such that it is reasonably easy to operate, yet it can't be accidentally operated.
Record switch - Although the Contour+ record switch is now chunkier due to the GPS antenna, the actual operation remains similar to the ContourHD version. It's well placed and positive in operation and, if anything, it's easier to operate with gloves than the ContourHD, although I never had a problem with the older ContourHD. The familiar beeps used to indicate various states are loud enough to hear without being intrusive.
OK, now to the new (for me) stuff:
Video - This is the thing that pleased me the most. There is a significant and noticeable increase in quality over the ContourHD. I assume this is due to the new lens design and materials. The video seems "crisper" and there seems to be much less of an issue with contrast. I ended up adding a polarising lens to the ContourHD to get over a contrast issue with snow, whereas I used the Contour+ without a polarising lens, on default settings, and achieved better quality video than I was able to get from the ContourHD. Note: Just about all my video was recorded in the "action" mode 720p 60fps.
Field of View - I liked the greater Field of View, but there is a down-side. The issue is that it is more difficult to mount the Contour+ in such a way that you don't get surround objects (helmet, goggles, etc.) in the frame. I ended up modifying the rails on the camera so that it would sit further forward (about and inch) in the rotating surface mount. Personally, I'd like a additional video setting that mimicked the older 135° Field of View.
GPS - The GPS worked well and, in my opinion, was a great feature to add to the camera. I had no locking issues and it was accurate. When snowboarding you generally have a good view of the sky, so I can't report on it's effectiveness in more challenging terrain, such as built up areas.
Bluetooth - The Bluetooth connectivity worked well, 90% of the time. There were occasions where I was unable to establish a connection, but I was able to eventually connect by either re-pairing or turning my iPhone off and then on again. This feature could use some work to make it bullet-proof. In terms of the Bluetooth functions, the ability to change the settings on the fly is invaluable, as is the ability to line the camera up out in the field.
Audio - In comparison to the ContourHD the audio is a big improvement. I'm not sure if it's the new location of the inbuilt mic, or the design of the mic enclosure, but it is less affected by wind noise than the ContourHD 1080p. You still get wind noise, but you have to be either travelling faster or be hit by a good gust of wind at a particular angle.
That pretty much wraps up the pros, now for the cons, which pretty much comes down to the video importing and editing software - Storyteller.
Storyteller is Contour's video importing, editing and uploading software. It's editing features are limited to basically trimming the video, so if you want to do anything more adventurous you will have to use some other video editing tool, like iMovie. It also allows you to change the settings on the camera. While the editing, uploading and camera settings functionality works, if in a fairly simple way, the file handling leaves a lot to be desired, particularly if you have more than one camera.
When videos are recorded they are given sequentially numbered filenames on the camera, i.e. FILE0001.MOV, FILE0002.MOV, etc. OK, that seems like a good approach, until you import and delete the videos from the camera, at which point the file numbering is reset and new videos are saved with numbers starting at "0001" again. See the problem? You end up with duplicate filenames.
Well Storyteller gets over this by appending a "-1", "-2", etc. suffix to avoid duplicates. However this approach ends up being confusing. It's bad enough with one camera, but imagine having two cameras and trying to work out which video was recorded by which camera when. Storyteller dumps all the videos in the one folder so you end up with a confusing list of files like "FILE0001-1.MOV", "FILE0001-2.MOV", "FILE0002-1.MOV", etc. A similar issue arises if you don't use Storyteller to import the videos. You need to separate them into different folders or rename the files as you copy them.
Not such a big issue? Maybe, but it leads on to the the second issue I have with file handling - timestamps. The Contour+ uses the time received from the GPS to timestamp the files (great idea), but there is no ability to add a time offset for local time. This may be manageable if you live closer to the Prime Meridian, but for those of us 1/2 way around the world it's a nightmare because videos from one day can be timestamped with two different dates and confusing times. Manually applying a time offset to calculate the local time and date is not an easy process as a result. Not impossible, but so easily avoided with a relatively simple change to the software/firmware. Because of the timestamping even using something like Lightroom to import the videos ends up with videos in incorrect folders.
Various suggestions have been made on the Contour support forums to improve the file handling, so I live in hope that at least some of them will be incorporated in future releases of Storyteller and the camera firmware soon.
Rating the Contour+ was difficult for me. Looking purely at the camera and it's features I would give it 5 stars; however, because the supplied software is integral to the overall package I could only give it 4 stars. Storyteller itself barely rates 3 stars. It does what it needs to do, but it could be so much better. Unfortunately, because of the file numbering and timestamping issues it's not even an easy process to ditch Storyteller and use another tool, and then you would also have to forego the moving map display available on the videos uploaded to the Contour community site.
The Contour+ is a significant and easily worthwhile step up from the ContourHD 1080p. More good features, better video and better audio all make it a great upgrade.
In my opinion the Contour+ is so good that I would recommend it to anyone, unfortunately that recommendation has to be in spite of the current state of the supplied software rather than including it. Roll on software and firmware updates ...
on October 9, 2011
I have researched POV cameras, and this seemed to be the best out there. Yet, I'll describe both pros and cons so that buyers beware.
- Great form factor with several mounting options, unlike the other POV cameras out there.
- Wide angle
- Full 1080p HD @ 30 Hz is great
- Support known to be great, and my experience confirms that.
- High price
- GPS accuracy is a disaster. It is a joke that they market this camera for sports applications, and they show videos of people skiing, skydiving, doing motorsports, when the camera can't measure speed with any acceptable accuracy. At 4Hz GPS sampling rate, which is barely acceptable for high speed action, the speed captured by the GPS hardware of this camera can be up to 25 Mph off!!! Clearly this is garbage! Even worse, Contour can't do anything about it, and they gave me the answer that the camera is "operating within specifications". What kind of a lousy specification is that exactly, and who in their right mind told them that this was adequate for the all the applications they are pushing this camera for?! They asked me to lower the sampling rate for better accuracy. 2 Hz gives me a 12 Mph error, still nonsense. And 1 Hz is a ridiculous sampling rate that I don't even care to use it!
- Bluetooth is unstable and will frustrate you! They never got it right from the first day they released that bluetooth card. It is a great feature that gives you a view finder to adjust your camera before you use it -- when it works. However, the instability can disappoint you. You just have to figure out a way to deal with it. This is just another example of an area where Contour just cut corners for the sake of releasing a product way before it was fully ready for production. It is as if someone there said hell with it, we're releasing anyway! Or may be they don't have enough know how in-house to develop and properly test such a thing.
- Manuals are crap! Written by people who either shouldn't be doing any technical writing at all, or may be never touched the product that they were writing about. The manual will MISLEAD you, so take what's in it with a grain of salt, and expect deviations. For instance, if the manual tells you to keep the bluetooth button pressed until you hear a beep, that's wrong! Under the current firmware, the camera will never beep while the button is pressed. You just have to hold it down for 1s then release it, then it will beep to signal the activation of bluetooth. There is a lot of mistakes like that.
Bottomline, these 2 flaws have completely reduced the value of the camera to me. It is so NOT worth $500, probably not even half of that! To me, Contour doesn't seem to have the engineering know how in-house to venture into GPS and bluetooth territories, yet they did it anyway just to beat the competition on paper specs only, and dared to slap a high price tag on product that falls short in these two areas. Had I known this in advance, may I would have bought the entry level Contour camera and saved my money; I don't know. :-(
Last, for all the people who struggle with bluetooth out there, here is the procedure that yields the best chances of having a stable connection -- so that you don't pull your hair ;-). This applies to Contour+ and an iPhone 4. I assume here that you paired it with your iPhone already:
(You don't need to ever remove the pairing and then redo it again, like some posters suggested. You do that only if things go really bad and the two devices can no longer talk.)
- Turn on your camera
- Wake up your phone and enable bluetooth. You'll see that it still remembers Contour+ and shows its status as not connected.
- Exit the settings app on the iphone. You DO NOT need to do anything else on the iPhone!
- Hold the bluetooth button on the camera for 1s, then release. You should hear a beep followed by the front LED blinking blue.
- During this, pay close attention to your iPhone, you'll see the bluetooth icon at the top flashing, which means it is establishing a connection with the camera.
- Again, DO NOT do anything, it might only confuse the whole process, you should be observing only! Once the connection is established, the phone automatically launches the view finder app! Enjoy!
If the bluetooth connection breaks before you finish your adjustments, turn off the camera. Then turn it on again, and restart the process. Sorry, the bluetooth implementation is flaky, and this is what worked for me with the highest probability of success.
GPS error for speed measurement:
@4 Hz: -25 Mph
@2 Hz: -12 Mph
@1 Hz: -8 Mph
(Minus sign means it consistently underestimates your speed up to that value.)
For comparison, GPS speed measurement error on iPhone 4, sampling at 1Hz: 0.5 - 1 Mph.
Puts the Contour+ GPS to shame! The Contour engineers should be embarrassed!
on August 22, 2011
I honestly wanted to like this product. I really did. From the moment I read about the Contour+, I just knew it would be the solution to my video recording needs. Sadly, the Contour+ disappointed me from the moment I opened the box.
I originally purchased the Contour+ to use during High Performance Driver Education events hosted in my area. The Contour+ was my video recorder of choice since it provided an external microphone solution, external video and settings capabilities (via Bluetooth), and GPS data tracking inherited from its older brother, the ContourGPS. Here is how each of these features fell short of my expectations.
- External Microphone Solution
The product page on the Contour website describes the external mic functionality as a new feature that was added based on community feedback. Many owners of previous Contour models complain of wind noise issues using the built-in microphone and attempts to provide DIY shielding have mostly failed. On the product page Contour pictures an external microphone which implies the device is included. This is not the case. What you get is a 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable adapter which is used to connect to an external microphone that you need to purchase separately. While I admit I could have done more research into this particular item, the photos on the website are misleading. I am certain that this is not an intentional slight on the part of Contour, but it still was a point of frustration worth noting.
Searching for a compatible external microphone was another issue. Contour doesn't provide a list of compatible microphones so I pretty much had to figure it out on my own. I did reach out to the community for advise but I received very little feedback. What I did learn, via Contour support, is that whichever type of microphone is chosen, it must have its own power source. This information was not readily available in the user manual nor on the packaging. Thankfully, I took the time to ask.
I ultimately took a leap of faith and purchased an Audio Technica ATR3350 at a local brick and mortar store. (In hindsight, I should have purchased it through Amazon because I would have saved 50%!) This microphone works well enough and has a very long cable to allow easy placement of the microphone wherever you want it. Sadly, since the microphone had its own power source, one must turn it on separately from the camera. While this makes total sense, it quickly becomes something you'll forget to do if you are distracted or focused on other things (HPDE driving is a high concentration, high stress, event and is therefore very demanding of your concentration.) The Contour line is designed to be a "one button" solution and unfortunately using an external microphone changes this dynamic considerably. It would have been nice if the Contour could provide power to the external microphone, therefore maintaining the Contour's ease of use.
- Bluetooth Video/Settings management
This functionality, to me, was icing on the cake. Previously, I had a very frustrating experience with a ContourHD that ran out of disk space halfway through an HPDE event. I did not have access to a laptop or other computerized device at the time and was unable to diagnose the issue. The Bluetooth functionality would have resolved all of that.
Out of the box, my Contour unit would not connect to either my iPhone 4 or my HTC Thunderbolt. I turned to the support forums and quickly learned that a firmware upgrade was available that specifically addressed this issue. Furthermore, updated iPhone and Android apps (which I already had) were released to coincide with the firmware upgrade. I was easily able to follow the firmware upgrade instructions. Sadly, this did not fix my issue completely. Neither of my devices would connect to the Contour+ for more than 20 seconds. Typically, connectivity lasted no more than 5 seconds. Ultimately, I gave up on this.
- GPS Tracking/Playback
Naturally, anyone who records a day at the track would appreciate knowing some basic GPS statistics about their day, right? After viewing countless ContourGPS videos on the community website I figured this functionality was also a must have. Yet again I was disappointed by the GPS data and its playback capabilities within the included software.
My first issue with the GPS data resulted in the form of jittery playback within the Storyteller software provided by Contour. The Contour+ has the ability to sample GPS data at 4Hz (4 times per second), yet for some reason the video playback within Storyteller only updated the GPS location once per second. I tested this several times with several different videos with the same results. Contour support helped verify the camera was indeed configured to sample at the correct rate, yet my issue persisted. It wasn't until I uploaded one of my videos to the Contour community website that my videos exhibited smooth GPS playback. While I can appreciate the social nature of the website, not everyone wants to utilize this web functionality.
My second issue came with the exporting of the GPS data itself. Since Storyteller was not providing me with local playback that met my expectations, I decided to try a software called Dashware which was recommended as an alternative by someone on the community forums. Dashware can interpret data from the ContourGPS/Countour+ and export your video and display your GPS data on a nice overlay, similar to what you would see in a racing video game. I quickly learned that Storyteller was exporting my GPS data with erroneous speed information. For some reason, Speed was being exported in meters per second rather than miles per hour. I verified that the Contour+ was correctly configured to measure MPH. Furthermore, Storyteller properly displayed the MPH detected by the GPS unit. This issue simply baffled me. I wasn't able to resolve this problem either.
- Other points of contention
One lesser issue I encountered was battery life. The Contour+ battery died after about 90 minutes of use (recording and standby). I thought the complaints from other Amazon reviewers were an exaggeration. I was wrong. I ended up not being able to record my best HPDE session because I didn't know the battery had died until it was too late. While I did prepare for this possibility (I recharged the battery shortly thereafter), losing that footage was a huge disappointment. Later on I investigated whether turning off some of the features (Bluetooth for example) would help improve battery life (iPhone4 anyone?). Sadly, I could not find such a setting in the configuration software.
Also, I can think of no reason why the Contour+ doesn't include a non-adhesive style mount or at the very least the Universal Mount Adapter. After all, who in their right mind is going to use an adhesive based mount on a $499 product?
Lastly, the documentation included with the Contour+ is reminiscent of an Apple product. Yet, the Contour+ is anything but an Apple product. There is far too much user intervention required in order to get this device working to one's expectations. As such, the documentation needs to be much more elaborate and accessible. I found the included manual to be useless and the community/support websites to be lackluster.
- The good stuff
Now, I can't say everything is bad on the Contour+. The extra viewing angle provided by the 170 degree lens is really nice. Being able to see my side view mirrors in the videos was extremely helpful in determining my awareness of my surroundings while on track. Also, being able to rotate the lens 180 degrees allows plenty of flexibility when mounting the camera. In addition, the Contour is a sexy device which is something the GoPro cannot claim in its current form factor.
That being said...
- Summary assessment
I simply cannot recommend the Contour+. This device is ultimately a marginal upgrade to its predecessor, the ContourGPS. I am certain Contour will get the bugs ironed out eventually. Until then, anyone who buys this device is paying a lot of money to be a beta tester of an incomplete product. Even if the bugs are fixed, I do not feel the Contour+ is a worthwhile purchase at the current MSRP. When compared to the ContourGPS, the price difference of the Contour+ is far too steep and the extra features are far too shallow.
As for the rating, I would have given the Contour+ only one star except I don't actually hate the product. I believe there is room for improvement, both in features and price point. I guess you could say the second star is me giving Contour the benefit of the doubt. They are trying to make a great product. Unfortunately, the Contour+ is mediocre at best in its current form.
on June 29, 2011
I originally bought a ContourHD 1080p to use to capture difficult shots for documentary work. However the quality of it was disappointing and I ended up using it for hobby shooting. It was a good helmet cam that I could use while biking or whatever and get interesting POV shots. I also used a GoPro HD Hero for a while, but the limitations made it difficult to use and mount, also it got useable quality shots infrequently enough that I didn't really feel I could use it beyond getting shots that no other camera could get like underwater and places I couldn't fit a bigger camera.
When I heard about the Contour+ I didn't really expect much from it. I didn't really care for the GPS, the mic input seemed nice to have but not essential for my applications, and the bluetooth connect view looked nice but it wasn't something I was excited about. I started hearing from people that the quality was far better than the Contour HD 1080p, so I figured I would pick one up and try it out. From the moment I started playing around with it I liked it, but when I adjusted the settings right for the setting and light, I fell in love with it.
I have an upcoming documentary that I'm shooting, and I already know this will be indispensable for shooting. My main camera is a Canon 5D Mark II which records very nice HD 1080p and looks fantastic. So when I say that I'll be able to shoot with both of these cameras and match them fairly close, I don't say it lightly. There are huge difference between the cameras and the Contour can't match the 5D in low light, lens quality, etc, etc. However with well lit footage from the Contour+, I can use video from both footage and it's not jarring at all. The differences are there yes, but since I'll be able to record in places the 5D isn't feasible, this camera will save me heaps of time. For instance, part of the doc is a road trip, and with the windshield mount I can plop the camera on the window and point it at my subject (the driver) and record all I want. The mic adapter will let me use my Sennheiser 112p G3 wireless lav to record directly to the camera, but to be honest I feel safer going into an audio recorder and syncing in post with pluraleyes.
Conclusion: As far as compact cameras are concerned, the Contour+ is easy to use, easy to setup and records a very high quality image with rich colors. The new glass they put on it is noticeably better than previous models. The noise in low-light is atrocious, but with strong lighting like in daylight or overcast outside, it captures a very high quality image. The price is a bit high, but this thing looks and feels like it could survive a lot of abuse. It's also only 5.3 ounces or so, which allows you to mount this camera just about anywhere, on anything or anyone.
Warning though, do not think this is a camera for recording your family at disneyland. Although it would work for that just fine, there are plenty of cameras that are better than this and cheaper that are handheld with built-in lcd. This camera is designed to be mounted for shots that are otherwise very difficult to obtain, POV shooting and as an action/sports camera. From my tests I find it is also very good for recording high quality HD video in tight spots.
on May 7, 2012
I was excited when my Contour+ arrived. It was packaged very well and out-of-the-box it looks sleek and stylish. No problem pairing the camera to the Bluetooth on my Android phone. Using a smartphone as a viewfinder, what a fantastic idea! But that's how I feel about the entire experience with Contour. A great concept, it's too bad that the execution and delivery of core functions are not yet up to the task, nor is customer service. I compare the Contour+ to Windows ME because it feels like that awkward stopgap product that still has many flaws and also the potential to be a great portable HD camera at some point in the future. That future is not now, not even close.
Within a few hours of using the camera I found that it would not shut off, and yes I could physically turn the camera off but the red record light remained on and the camera would get very hot. I tried troubleshooting the problem online with no luck. I had to take the battery out of the camera and wait until the REC light would go out, then I could reinsert the battery and start again. Often the problem would repeat itself immediately. Contacted Contour customer support. They got back to me in 24 hours offering me all sorts of workarounds but none of them cured the problem, some didn't even address the problem. They wanted me to return the battery for a new one. They wondered if I had flashed the memory and caused the problem myself!
It suddenly hit me and without any pity for Contour. This is a defective product, plain and simple and had I purchased this product in a big box store I would have taken it back immediately. Why the hell was I even trying to get this thing to work? Contour cameras obviously have some serious "issues.."
I returned the camera and mounts to Amazon. Very grateful that they would take it back.
The reviews of the Contour are mixed. All the same, I took and chance and once in a while I get lucky with a product like this. After my experience I would surmise that this camera is simply unready, customer support is unready, the Storyteller editing software is badly in need of a technological uplift. The whole thing felt "beta." For a camcorder with a $450+ price tag, this is inexcusable.
UPDATE: Contour's Storyteller software would not uninstall either through the Win7 interface or its own uninstall link. I had to download a program to force removal from my computer. Not a huge critique but does reveal the not-ready-for-primetime quality of the product.
on September 11, 2011
I had the Contour plus now for several weeks and I'm thoroughly impressed with the camera. The video quality is great. The camera has many video modes (including still images at 5MP) and I'm using 720p/60FPS for Mountain biking. The videos are tack sharp, colors are good and the camera has no problem with highly variable lighting conditions (riding in sunlight, under trees, at dusk).
All features that I used so far are working very reliable (bluetooth, GPS, camera, sound). I did not have any issues that older models had. Everything is very reliable and robust independent of weather or any other rough handling. And the camera get lots of that. The camera is tough and survived a number of crashes on my bike and numerous drops. It is water resistant. That means it withstands rain and so far it had no problems with me biking in rain and mud. I use a 16GB card in the camera and had no problem recording several hrs of video. The battery time is about 2-3hrs depending on use. I often use the camera for short videos and leave it on stand by during the rest of a bike ride. In that case the camera lasted several hours.
There are many mounting options for this camera and a third party vendor (Hypoxic) sells even very robust helmet mounts made of aluminum for parachuting. However mounting the camera in a solid way onto a mountain bike requires some creative ideas since all bike frames are different and the mount has to be very solid because of the vibrations in rough terrain. Fortunately the lens can be rotated so that your video is always right side up regardless of the way you mount it. Via the bluetooth connection you can line up the camera shot through an iPhone or Android phone. This is not a live video stream during recording, it is only for lining up the shot before recording. But it is tremendously helpful to be able to see where the camera is pointing to and to change settings in the field via your phone.
I can't think of many negatives. The price is high but for a HD camera with GPS at 4Hz and a great wide angle lens for sports the price is to be expected. The camera comes with a few mounts but additional mounts cost between 20 and 50 dollar. This adds up quickly because you will want to use it for all or your sports. The other negative is that the waterproof housings for scuba diving/surfing are great but specific to the various Contour models. If you upgrade or have different models you need different waterproof housings at $40 each. Aside of that I haven't encountered any negatives yet. I did not run into the problems that others report with short battery life or buttons not working or breaking although as stated above I handle the camera quite rough and it gets dirty a lot.
Initially I thought the HDMI port was a gimmick but the I realized how convenient it is to quickly check your footage directly from your camera on your hotel rooms TV.
Technically not relevant but to be honest: The design of the camera looks great and when attached to your helmet or bike it does look not as goofy as other cameras.
Contours video program is very simple and allows you to upload the video to Contours website and share the video with others. However the videos can be easily edited in iMovie. iMovie even makes full use of the 60FPS for great quality and slow motion videos. But be aware that you are editing High Definition videos. That means you need a fast computer and lots of hard drive space because you will do lots of videos with this great cam!
I love this camera (best xmas present ever!). Contour just released a simpler version (no GPS) and I am planning to buy a second camera to capture various angles of a bike or snowboard ride. I would recommend this camera to everyone who wants to capture action in sports and any other activity.
on August 30, 2011
As an avid action video maker, I've destroyed countless camera and video cameras trying to get action shots prior to the Go Pro. I have extensively used the Go Pro HD, and have found it adequate, but not spectacular. When I saw the Contour camera, I was instantly interested in taking action video to another level. Contour delivers.
Since many people reading this, probably have a Go Pro or want a Go Pro..this review is for you. What sets Contour apart from Go Pro? What doesn't! But let's start with video quality. Let's face it, without that it's a fancy paperweight. There are several video modes, but most will rely on 3, 1080p, 720p(30fps) and 720p(60fps). Most of my videos are ATV and UTV related, so facing the driver I've used 720p(30). But it's really nice to have 60fps to capture wheel spin, road whizzing by, etc. The 170 degree view lens rocks, and there's no perceptible pixalation or warping of video on the far edges of the frame. Go Pro can't touch that.
Configuration. Let's face it. Configuring a Go Pro is like texting with an old cell phone...111, 22, 3, 444. I'd rather have a root canal. Contour, takes camera configuration leaps and bounds ahead of Go Pro. You can configure the camera on your computer, using their application simply select what you want from an easy to follow menu. You can configure 2 settings for your shoot in advance. On the camera, in the field, easily switch between both configurations. Going to shoot 30FPS? Setup 1. Need 60FPS? All you do is flip the switch to Setup 2. Still not enough? Use the bluetooth connection...whoa a what? Yes, a Bluetooth connection to pair to your iphone or Android (more on that later). You can change setup right there in the field. Toss the manual. You will NOT need the manual to know how many times you need to press the button, like a Go Pro. The camera also has GPS, which I have not explored extensively. I suggest if you aren't going to use it, turn it off in configuration to save battery life. Save the GPS for something cool, like skiing down a mountain or ATV riding across Glamis.
The App. Oh My God...thank you, thank you, thank you! How many times, have you mounted a Go Pro and either hoped it was aimed correctly and found out later you messed up? Or you recorded and stopped so many times you thought you'd wear out your card trying watch countless setups until you got it right? Contour? There's that Bluetooth again...grab your Iphone/Android phone, fire up the App and WHAM! Video on your phone! Now you can aim in seconds. Camera at a slight angle? No problem. Just twist the lens to level out your subject. Have you ever tried to mount your Go Pro, and couldn't get the camera level without breaking the mount? Now you can use a straight mount to an angled object! Have a Mic stand or cymbal stand? Simply watch your phone, twist the lens and you're level! Done.
Countless connectors...like windshield, handlebar, even a slide mount that allows you to put your Contour on a Tripod.
The camera is sexy looking, functionally awesome and built well. No product is perfect, otherwise I wouldn't believe the review. The mic is a little quiet. For most video, I recommend setting the mic sensitivity to MAX (100). All is not lost, Contour did give you a way around this, so don't fear. On the bottom is a mic jack, 2mm. They include an adapter to go 2mm to standard 3mm. If you are using multiple cameras, connect one Contour to a good mic, and use that sound for all your shots. Deficiency solved.
If you're new to action video...save some money, skip the Go Pro purchase and go straight to Contour. If you have a Go Pro like me, want WAY more features and better video, get a Contour+ and accept the fate of your little gray box, 2 buttons and lens.
on September 13, 2011
This review is for the Contour+ version of the camera (Amazon seems to be lumping the reviews for all the different versions into one).
This camera takes great videos. I've been using it for mountain biking and I really like the 170deg field of view that you get with the 'Action HD' setting.
The slider to start recording is very easy to feel and use, even when you're wearing gloves and moving quickly on a mountain bike.
There are a ton of features crammed into a very light and compact package. I find the bluetooth pairing with my phone to be particularly useful for getting the camera set up right.
I haven't been using it for too long, but it seems to have a very nice build quality.
It's hard to tell if you're actually pressing the bluetooth button or not. You can forget about going into the pairing mode when you're wearing gloves.
The Storyteller software is pretty bad. I bought the third party software Dashware and have found it to be much better and well worth the cost.
The included 2Gb memory card will only last for about 15 minutes of HD video. If you're buying this camera, go ahead and get yourself a 16Gb card.
Contour has a number of nice mounts and even a nice case that they sell separately from the camera. For $500 I would expect to at least get the case with the camera.
Overall I am very happy with this camera. Its few flaws are easily overlooked in light of its strengths.