I was pretty stoked to learn my significant other won a Contour helmet cam when the last Matchstick ski movie rolled through Missoula. I’d never heard of Contour, but a helmet cam is a helmet cam, right?
Eh, maybe not.
The ContourROAM is a tube-looking device with full HD video and eight hours of recording time at 1080p with a 32 gig micro SD card. The cards are relatively cheap to buy. It’s got a 170-degree wide angle lens with auto adjust for white balance and exposure. It has an aluminum body weighing almost nothing. But here’s what’s up.
These are the PROS of the ContourROAM.
-->The Contour’s on/off switch is a big slider on the top, very easy to do with big, bulky ski gloves on, unlike the GoPro, which can be a little challenging to push the button in and figure out if it’s working. Is the red light on? It’s obvious to tell when the Contour is recording because it has this really loud and obnoxious beep at the beginning and the end when you power down.
-->The Contour definitely has a sleeker profile over the GoPro. It’s tubular body doesn’t stick out quite as much as the little box that everyone runs around with on top of their heads.
-->If you push a button on the back, you can see a laser where the camera is pointing, so you know it’s recording what you want. Also, the camera lens rotates a full 180 degrees, so you can make sure your shot is always level. That’s a definite plus.
-->The thing is waterproof up to a meter under water, and the aluminum shell makes it tough for sure.
And all of this is fine and dandy, of course, until you get to the cons.
These are the CONS of the ContourROAM.
-->Oh hey, none of that stuff up there matters when you CAN’T TURN IT ON. Especially when you most need it. I kept the camera in the house, and then in the warm car, and then into my deepest coat pocket. I exposed it to air for maybe 15 seconds up at Discovery Ski Area, it turned on, beeped once, and promptly turned back off. Fully charged. So, did it freeze? What’s the deal? I plugged it into Disco’s office computer and left it for six hours. It never turned back on. Twenty-four hours later, after it took all my self control not to chuck off the side of the mountain (this was Glen Plake’s advice), it miraculously rallied. So, if reliability is something you want, maybe Contour is something you don’t. To be fair, I’ve heard of GoPro’s freezing, too.
--> Image stability on this camera is a big problem for me. Several times I’ve been out skiing around, gotten home excited to see what I captured for the day, and found I wasn’t able to sit through the footage without feeling nauseous almost instantly. The camera is so shaky. I had it mounted to the side of my helmet, so maybe I just have a really bouncy head? I dunno. GoPro definitely has Contour beat there. It’s a steadier image that’s actually pleasing to watch.
--> The Contour’s footage is very loud, and not in the way of sound, but in the way of noise on the picture. Even the blue sky is sort of fizzy, if that makes sense. The picture is not as crisp as the GoPro.
--> Once it’s on, it’s on. The Contour slides onto a track mount, so you mount the other side of the tracking onto your helmet with an adhesive. Unless you have A MILLION of these little adhesive mounts (which aren’t that cheap), you’re the only one getting footage. This definitely discourages creative angles. And if you mount it wrong, too bad. You’ll just have to get another one. No chest mount option here, either, unless you go DYI on its ass.
So there you have it. Lots of people have chucked their GoPros off sides of mountains all over the world and switched to Contour and love it. This is just my experience, which has been less than favorable.
Enjoy this short example of some ContourROAM footage.