This is a great action camera…but I won’t be using it.
It’s no secret that GoPro is king of the action cameras that you can attach to your body, especially within OCR’s so I’ll be comparing the Contour ROAM3 to the GoPro HERO4.
First off, let me just highlight a few of the features that the Contour has that goes above and beyond what the GoPro offers:
1) It looks less dorky. Face it, the GoPro looks as if your carrying around a tiny phylactery box on your head. You’re known as ‘one of those guys’ when you show up at a race with it and your race pics don’t looks so cool. The Contour on the other hand is much more sleek looking and attaches to the side of your head and is a little less noticeable, and if the photographer catches ‘your good side’ it won’t even show up in the pics. It still looks dorky, but less dorky.
2) The design is simple, but genius. On the bottom you have a standard 1/4-20 screw socket that is the standard size tripods use, this means unlike the GoPro where you have to purchase a special adapter you can immediately attach the Contour to any tripod, monopod, or grip that you would purchase at Walmart, Best Buy or Pro Camera shops. On each side you have grooves that slide and lock into Contour-specific attachments. Among the attachments are flexible adhesive mounts that are ideal for sticking to surfaces that aren’t perfectly flat, such as the side of motorcycle helmet. Many of these mounts rotate as well—meaning you have wiggle room if you can’t apply the mount perfectly level. Which brings me to my next point…
3) A rotating lens. This is another simple yet genius idea. With the GoPro, if you want to attach it to a bike for example, you may have to use (and purchase) several attachments before you can configure it in a way so that it’s not at a crooked angle. With the Contour you can attach it at almost any angle with one simple mount and then rotate the lens without repositioning the entire camera and to ensure your angle is even with the horizon a button on the back of the camera emits a laser level.
4) The record button. To turn on the camera and start the recording there’s a sliding switch on top that you can feel click into place when it’s on. This is a nice change from wearing a GoPro on your head, mashing a spongy button and either removing it to double check it’s indeed recording or asking someone to stare at your forehead a minute to see if that little red light is blinking.
5) The camera itself is water proof. The GoPro’s have separate water proof housings (except the new baseline GoPro has a ‘fixed’ waterproof housing). It’s just one less thing to worry about and I like that. But a word of caution here; without a housing around the camera, once your lens is scratched or damaged, your video is forever compromised, whereas with the GoPro you can simply buy another housing. Fortunately, you also have the option of buying a housing for the Contour as well, but it’s noticeably heavier than the GoPro already, so you just have to decide what what’s more important to you.
And there’s other things I could go onto rave about including the ease of switching between preset video configurations as opposed to dialing through submenus, the price is nice, the variety of adjustable settings, the amount of ‘goodies’ it comes with, including an 8gb SD Card to get you started.
So why on earth am I not going to use this camera? To much fisheye? Bad video quality? Poor construction?
No, nope and no….it’s because of the headband mount system.
As great as all the mounting options are, the end of the day I’ll be using this camera mounted to my head at OCR’s 99% of the time and that’s where it just falls short for me. I tightened that headband to the point where I felt I was going to lose circulation in my tiny head and I just couldn’t get rid of the bounce or the unbalanced feeling, and it’s evident in the footage compared the GoPro. It actually made me appreciate the balanced feeling and smooth(er) footage that GoPro headmount offers. Also, because their headband mount doesn’t offer the cool rotating feature that many of their other mounts do, the way you wear the headband mount it makes the Contour point at a slightly upward angle, which I found to be aesthetically annoying compared to the GoPro’s ability to angle it up and down (so you’re not just seeing the tops of people’s heads).
(See the test footage here)
I REALLY wanted to use this camera as an alternative to the GoPro and test it out on the field to really see it’s durability (especially since I’ve had to exchange almost every GoPro I own due to bugs and quirks), but I can’t compromise on getting shakier footage than the GoPro already produces. I really wish Contour would create a more balanced and thoughtfully designed headband mount (with the rotation option) that would appeal to the growing popularity of the use of the types of cameras in the OCR and general running community, and if they do, we’d be happy to review it. But since it couldn’t handle the short jaunt around my backyard I was sadly compelled to return both the headband mount and the camera.
Now if OCR is not your sole and primary intention with this camera, I would highly recommend checking it out as it’s far more flexible than the GoPro. If you’d like to see more reviews for gear like this, let us know in the comments below.
*Photos and Video By: Jeff Marier
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