HD Video Camera Review: Contour Vs. GoPro
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Problem was, until recently, GoPro was really the only viable option. We all used them. We even sold them (and still do!). But its fish eye appearance, along with difficulty to set and use with gloved or wet hands had us wanting a viable option. Then we discovered Contour HD Video Cameras, and found an a very different HD video camera rivaling GoPro Hero cameras .
After months spent testing the two most popular action sports HD Video cameras, we bring you this review from the standpoint of surfers, paddle boarders, kiters and skaters. Honestly, both cameras are killer. It’s kind of like trying to compare Red Bull against Monster: they both get the job done really well. They just taste different and come in different cans.
For most board sport lovers, capturing amateur video is mostly for personal fun and web posting. Choosing a camera really comes down to preference. Which is why we, here at Air & Earth, we now carry both GoPro & Contour HD Video cameras.
GoPro vs. Contour Review Summary
We tested five cameras: ContourROAM, GoPro HD Surf Hero HD, Contour GPS, GoPro Surf Hero2 and the Contour+. Base prices range from $199 - $499.
Best Video Value: GoPro Hero2
Contour’s are ruggedized (without a housing), a bit more stylish, easier to operate while “in-action,” and their out-of-the-way mounts are more convenient as well. Go Pro’s allow “on the fly” settings adjustments, are smaller sized when compared to the Contour’s water housing, and have a few more accessories available to enhance your experience.
If you simply want a great Basic Camera, it’s a toss-up between the Contour ROAM and GoPro HD Surf Hero 1. Even though the Contour ROAM's base price is less, with similar options (i.e.include water housing), they cost the same.
Or, if you're looking for a One-For-All Gadget, the Contour GPS is a must. It's currently the only camera offering both HD video, and built-in GPS to track your route, distance and speed (Contour calls it Video Mapping). It's best for logging personal treks and earning bragging rights. Or, for any race style competition.
Now, if you want the most Professional HD Video Camera available, the Contour+ is top Choice. EvenCnet.com gave it the ultimate “Editor’s Choice” award. But, it will cost you $500. That’s why we feel the Go Pro HD Hero2 comes in strongly at second. It offers similar professionalism, at a little less cost (once you add in all the accessories that come standard with the Contour+).
Contour Vs. Go Pro HD Video Cameras Comparison Chart
“Even before Contour brought GPS tagging to helmet-cams, the company had solved the most irksome thing about them: It replaced the Record button with a giant, glove-friendly slider switch. . . The smartphone app lets you use your mobile as a viewfinder and controller. We give the Contour GPS the coveted Editor’s Pick stamp and an 8 out of 10 rating, the highest of the 4 cameras tested.” - Wired Magazine
The ContourRoam manages to make Contour's already easy-to-use control scheme even easier by combining the power and record buttons. The ultrawide-angle lens makes framing a point-and-shoot affair.
• Light, compact and streamlined design.
• Ruggedized aluminum chassis. Contours are shock, temperature and water resistant to 1m without needing the protective water housing. Great for any land based sport. We do suggest using the water housing for most water sports (i.e. kiteboarding and surfing).
• Stellar low profile mounting system. Great options like “On-the-fly” rotation, flex straps, built-in tripod (Contour ROAM) and ability to mount cameras without needing the water housing case.
• Rotating lens with laser alignment. Helps aim the camera while mounted without needing a viewfinder. And, allows you to mount Contour sideways and upside down.
• Built in Blue Tooth. Contour GPS & Contour+ can connect to an Android or iOS device using an app for live view and adjustment of settings.
• Included memory card and removable battery (Contour GPS and Contour+ versions only)
• Simple operation. Easy slide record switch with audible alert. Great for wet or gloved hands. You can simply feel if the camera is on or off. And, Contour’s simple beeping system tells you when you start and stop recording. Especially awesome for out of sight mounting (i.e. helmets).
• Very good configuration options.
• Low Distortion Wide angle lens (when compared to traditional GoPro Hero “fish eye” look).
• Handles low light well.
• Removable batteries (Contour GPS and Contour+ only).
The omission of dual recording modes and Bluetooth connectivity makes it impossible to change video or photo modes on the fly. A microSD card is not included with the base Contour ROAM model.
• MOV File system supported less in movie editing software.
• Larger size when in Water Housing (compared to GroPro Hero).
• Lack of on the fly settings adjustment. For example: Switching from video to photo mode requires a computer or smart phone.
• Audio is a bit muffled.
• Base Contour ROAM model battery is built-in. There’s no swapping out if you run out of juice.
• Free StoryTeller software lacks stronger editing options.
The Connect View card allows the Contour+ and Contour GPS to connect to their smart phone app for live view finding and settings adjustments.
The ContourRoam finally matches the rugged construction and ultrawide field of view of the competition, while still excelling as a sports camera with its ease of use and low price. We do wish it had a removable battery.
The Contour+ is simply the coolest camera out there. It’s highly configurable with excellent Video quality, yet also extremely easy to pick up and use. Imagine Live streaming your next event with a series of cameras. HDMI output, microphone input, and Bluetooth connectivity offer expandability. It's simply the most professional compact HD video camera and comes with all the options. It's also $200 more expensive than the professional GoPro Hero 2, but does come with all the options.
The GoPro HD Hero2 boasts improved optics, a few new video- and still-photo-shooting modes, and backward compatibility with current HD Hero accessories. Most importantly, its interface has been overhauled and is now much easier to view and understand.
• It’s the original, time tested “you can be a hero” HD video camera.
• Super tough when left inside included polycarbonate shell.
• Smaller size, even with housing (when compared to Contour).
• MP4 video widely supported and easier to edit.
• Above par sensors produce great overall video quality.
• On-the-fly settings adjustment.
• Good mounting system with many options.
• Still Photo Options.
• Excellent configuration options. Especially onGoPro HD Hero 2.
• Great accessories. We especially like the optional LCD Bac Pac, which adds an view screen to your GoPro.
As improved as it is, theGoPro Surf Hero2's interface can still be a bit confusin
g for the first-time user.
• High profile mounting. Even though small, it's "bulky" and sticks out. Some mounts seem a bit flexible and fragile. Adhesive mounts only like warmer climates (tend to fall off in cold weather).
• Difficult to operate while “in-action.” Especially with gloves on or wet hands. Simply stopping and starting the record mode requires a visual stare-off at the on-board flashi
• Fish Eye distortion.
• Poor night-time performance.
• Must use polycarbonate housing for mounting system.
• Fragile without housing.
We love the configuration options, especially with photos. And, the fact you can actually change these settings directly on the camera anywhere, without needing a computer (but only after some serious manual studying). You can switch between video and photo modes while sitting on a sand bar in the Atlantic.
GoPro’s have countless “tough” case studies of bouncing down mountains into treacherous seas, only receiving mild “flesh wounds.” Which is a good thing since their mounting system is higher profile, often creating a bulkier target for getting it ripped off its mount.
GoPro offers more accessories than competitors. There’s more mounts, and they now offer a foam floatation safety attachment. Great for when your GoPro breaks off in the surf. We specifically like the premium BacPac series which offer LCD screens, extended battery life, and Wi-Fi remote operation. Small issue, you can only use one at a time.
Our biggest frustration is simply turning the GoPro on and off. Its small button takes significant pressure. Unless you’re having a stare contest with it, good luck guessing if you’re actually recording. And, forget using gloves.
The GoPro Surf Hero 1 now has a lower price, rivaling the Contour ROAM with optional water housing. While its video quality has a slight edge over Contour, we’re less than found of the permanent fish-eye distortion. In our experience, the GoPro Surf Hero 1 is great for filming yourself, but its super wide angle makes filming anything else tough.
The GoPro Surf Hero2 is our top “professional” pick. It has all the configuration options and quality most videographers will appreciate, all at a very good price. With an upgraded sensor, the video quality is great, though it still struggles in low light conditions. Colors are way more vibrant and realistic; details sharper, and brightness and contrast are much more balanced. On top of that, it has the GoPro ruggedness we've come to expect.
With a new language based user interface, vs. the hieroglyphic abbreviations of the Hero 1, it’s much easier to configure. With the addition of LEDs on each side, you can see if your GoPro Surf Hero2 is recording from any angle (as long as you stand close enough).