Contour GPS HD Camera Review



ContourGPS
ContourGPS HD Camera. Click to see larger.

When the Contour GPS HD Camera first arrived in our office, there was an abundance of excitement revolving around this little camera. With so much build up increasing our expectations, we were pleasantly surprised upon opening the box. The camera offers a familiar design to its relative, the ContourHD 1080p, retaining the sleek, smooth body we’ve all come to know and love. But it feels more substantial in your hand than its predecessor… suggesting that they’ve beefed up the construction methods, increasing the durability factor. In any case, read on to find out our thoughts and opinions on this great little camera. We hope it helps you to make an informed decision, narrowing the search for a camera that’s just right for you.

So lets take a look at what comes in the box with the Contour GPS Camera:

• ContourGPS Camera
• Rechargeable Battery
• MicroSD Card (2GB)
• 2 Rotating Flat Surface Mounts
• Goggle Mount Rails
• Lens Cap
• Goggle Mount
• 2 Mount Tethers
• USB Cable
• Quick Start Guide

Lots of good stuff to get you started.

Now, let’s cover the specifics:

• 1080p Full HD at 30fps, 960p Tall HD at 30fps, 720p Action HD at 60fps and 720p Contour HD at 30fps.
• Built in GPS Receiver.
• Water Resistant Aluminum Shell weighing in at 5.3oz / 150 grams.
• 5 megapixel Still Photo Capture at intervals of 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds.
• Expandable Storage -  SD Memory Capacity up to 32GB.
• 135º Angle of View in 960p and 720p, 110º in 1080p.
• Newly Designed Omnidirectional Microphone.
• Rechargeable Lithium Battery.
• Multi Sport Mounting - package includes Goggle Mount, 2 Rotating Flat Surface Mounts and 2 Mount Tethers for camera security.
• Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Mac OS X 10.5 and later.
• 180 day manufacturers warranty.

helmet cam    helmet cam
Contour GPS, Locking Back Latch. Click to see larger images.

Right off the bat, this camera is different. I mean, it resembles its brethren, sporting Contour‘s great, original design… it’s sleek, cool, smooth and light… but the Contour GPS is still a little different. There are a few additions and alterations that put this camera into a place of its very own. Holding the two cameras at same time suggests that the Contour GPS has been beefed up a bit. This lends a bit more peace of mind, in terms of the cameras capabilities in those extreme, rough and tumble situations. It doesn’t stop there… in addition, the Contour GPS also addresses some previous concerns about the original ContourHD 1080p Camera. For instance, the back cover on the previous design wasn’t all that it could be… and for some, had the periodic tendency to flip open, exposing the battery and memory card, eliminating any protection they were getting from the elements. With the all new Contour GPS, this has been fixed, replacing the previous cover with a latching and locking back cover that isn’t going fly open in the middle of an extreme adventure.

Another sweet improvement is the new record switch. Requiring a good amount of pressure to move between the record and off positions, now there is no fear of accidentally bumping the switch, which was previously easy to slide with no effort. The new Contour GPS record button also houses the GPS unit, adding a bit of height to the camera… which I think totally adds an added sharpness to its silhouette. The down side to this button is that it makes the Contour GPS too tall to fit into the existing Waterproof Case. However, to rectify this, Contour is on it, and will be releasing a Waterproof Case specifically for the Contour GPS in Spring 2011.

I am also a fan of the Contour GPS’s Angle of View. It is just wide enough, without overly distorting the imagery. Wide angles lenses are great for recording action sports, no question, although personally, I think 110º in 1080p and 135º in 960 and 720 are totally sufficient, taking in the scene without too much of a fish eye effect. But hey, that’s just me!

I find it handy that the Contour GPS sports a range of indicator lights as well, it is always letting you know what’s going on. The blinking light on the front of the base systematically blinks green until a GPS signal is acquired, in which case it turns solid green. This is definitely a handy feature, because it lets you know that your engaged, instead of just hoping that you are. Directly behind the GPS signal light, at the back of the base of the camera, you’ve got a second light that engages when your memory card begins to reach capacity and finally, on the back of the camera at the top, you have a battery light, which indicates when you are reaching the end of your battery’s life. These are some pretty convenient features that make up for the lack of an LCD screen.

How about Pros and Cons…

Pros

• Outstanding HD Video Quality.
• Durable, rough and tumble body.
• 5 MP Still Photo Capabilities.
• Built in GPS, documenting speed, altitude and location on an interactive map.
• It comes with a lens cap… no more scratches!
• Slim, Sleek and lightweight.
• Rechargeable battery.
• Newly Designed Omnidirectional Microphone for better audio capture.
• Default data recording rate is half of the ContourHD 1080p, which provides the same high quality recording, while using half the space.
• Replaceable lens in case of scratching or breakage.

Cons

• No LCD screen, but this does keep the camera streamlined.
• Not waterproof without a Waterproof Case.
• Settings have to be configured through Contour’s Storyteller Application.
• The Storyteller Application is still a little buggy, but Contour is working on this issue.

Let’s Get Down to the Nitty Gritty of the Details

Built in GPS

Since this is a GPS enabled camera, it makes sense to talk about the GPS feature before getting too deep in the thick of it all. So GPS, that’s right, built right into the recording switch. What’s cool is the fact that the GPS light blinks until it acquires a GPS signal, when it locks onto a signal, it then turns to a solid green, letting you know that it is engaged.

The inclusion of GPS is a pretty cool feature, as it enables you to log a load of information like your speed, altitude and location while locating your position on an interactive map. This is a great tool for documenting new trails and pinpointing specifics about your rides and journeys. It is also a great way of improving your game, because with all this information you can review previous excursions for improvement on your timing and technique.

So, yes, you can shoot with GPS on all the time, but it is only uploadable using Contour’s Storyteller Application, where you can edit your videos and upload to contour.com to preserve all of your information, sharing it all with Contour’s online community. From here, you can imbed your GPS enabled video to share pretty much anywhere on the web.

But you don’t have to shoot with GPS on. You can configure the camera through the Storyteller Application and turn GPS off. So, GPS is optional, which was a nice surprise.

Check out the Contour GPS Enabled Mountain Bike Video From Alaska below:

And here is a Motorcycle Track Lap Video:



A Mess of Mounting Options

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Contour GPS Included Mounts. Click to see larger image.


The Contour GPS offers so much in terms of mounting options! In the box you get a Goggle Mount, 2 Rotating Flat Surface Mounts and 2 Mount Tethers to keep the camera secure. The way the Contour GPS mounts to its accessories is via the TRail mounting system. The mounts slide and lock into the grooves on the body of the Contour GPS, greeting a snug, secure and stable bond. This is a great beginning… but the options are really endless when it comes to mounting, because with the range of compatible Contour mounts on the market… the sky is the limit.

HD Video Speaks the Truth


Contour GPS Test—How are Bison and a BMW M3 related?


This camera is hooked up with the ultimate in HD recording modes, but what would you expect from a company like Contour… who prides themselves on top quality, crystal clear footage to bring your most memorable moments back to life overtime you hit play.

So, what are the modes? First off we’ve got True HD 1080p - filming at 30fps, next in line is Tall HD 960p - filming at 30fps, followed by two 720p modes. Action HD 720p records at 60fps - providing buttery smooth footage that looks amazing during playback… the other 720p mode is Original HD mode, recording at 30fps, providing a smaller file size. No matter what you are planning on filming, the Contour GPS has got you covered with the perfect recording mode… and that is really nice to know.

Field of View - Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

The Contour GPS sees through a 135º lens when shooting in Tall HD 960p and in both 720p modes - Action HD and Original HD. When you switch over to True HD in 1080p mode, the Contour GPS swaps down its field of view to 110º. The great thing about this wide field of view is that you capture the entire scene, without any fear of over distortion, because the lens isn’t over the top in terms of width.

Photo Mode - That’s Right this Contour Takes Still Photos too!

The ContourHD 1080p did not take still imagery, which wasn’t a huge deal, but now that the Contour GPS does take 5 megapixel stills, excitement begins to grow! This addition may seem small, but it really adds a whole new level to this camera. Just configure setting one or two to take continuous photos at intervals of 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds and try documenting your next attempt at heroism in a sequence of stills. I haven’t quite done this yet… but I did get out in the neighborhood to snap some samples, just so you all can see how the photo mode works. It snaps photos through the full 135º field of view, taking in a whole lot of the scene, providing an almost fish eyed effect. Perfect for action sports!

ContourGPS    ContourGPS

ContourGPS    ContourGPS
Click to see larger images.

Wait, I Think I Heard Something…

You know how some cameras just don’t cut the mustard in terms of sound recording? That can’t said about this camera! Contour has gone all out with the development of their new omnidirectional microphone, which ups the ante in audio capture. The Contour GPS’s mic has changed positions from the previous HD model, finding its new home directly below the lens at the front of the camera. In a comparison video we’ve done to really note the sound quality improvement, wind noise is drastically reduced… and you can really head the sounds of the bike clearer. Take a listen and see for yourself.

The Contour GPS Doesn’t Forget a Thing

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Contour GPS SD Card. Click to see larger image.

The cool thing about all these new little gadgets is the fact that they all incorporate such a high internal storage capacity. The Contour GPS is no different, because it can incorporate an internal SD card up to 32GB. This means no matter what, you’re probably going to come home with space on your card… and if you happen to run out, hopefully you had the foresight to toss an extra card into your bag… It does pay to think ahead after all.

I will tell you this, we have been passing this camera around the group here since we got it… we’ve got an 8GB card in there… and we still haven’t filled it up! You basically get an average of 15 minutes per GB at 1080p, 960p or 720p at 60fps… in 720p at 30fps you average at about 30 min per GB.

What About Battery Life?

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Contour GPS Battery. Click to see larger image.

The Contour GPS sucks its power from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery… so not only are you doing something nice for the environment by not tossing out batteries… you are also giving yourself a nice, long battery life of up to 3 hours. Need to keep shooting? Grab an extra battery and keep it charged in your bag… just in case.

Durable Doesn’t Always Mean Heavy

The durable construction of this unit allows it to be used in some heavy hitting situations. Built from a tough, water resistant aluminum shell, the Contour GPS remains lightweight, sporting a streamlined silhouette, that really is perfect for mounting anywhere. Weighing in at a minimal 5.3oz / 150 grams, the Contour GPS is provides the best in versatility, because it really doesn’t hold you back in any way.

Designed to work perfectly with Contour’s TRail mounting system, the Contour GPS is perfectly compatible with all of Contour’s existing mounts. However, due to the new, more substantial record button which houses the GPS unit, this camera doesn’t fit into the existing waterproof case, but Contour is working on a case of its very own, to be released sometime this winter.

A major improvement in the body design of the Contour GPS has been made with the inclusion of the new locking back latch. This eliminates any fear of the latch opening to expose the battery, memory card and heart of the camera to the elements. In addition to this, the new, stiffer record button is much more difficult to accidentally knock into the on or off position. These welcome changes provide peace of mind when you are tearing down a super bumpy trail or a wet, muddy slope.

Tell Your Story with Contour’s Storyteller Application

Storyteller Software    Storyteller Software

Storyteller Software    Storyteller Software
Screenshots of Contour’s Storyteller Application. Click to see larger.

In order to utilize your GPS information, you need to import and share your videos via Contour’s Storyteller Application. Most move editors don’t support the ability to edit videos with embedded GPS, they will simply strip this from the edited video, allowing you to only upload video that has been “trimmed” or has come straight out of the camera. Were know that Contour is working with video sites and editing software companies to help them support GPS video, but as of now, its still in progress. The good thing is, that GPS enabled videos can be embedded and viewed on any webpage.

Through the Storyteller Application, you also configure your camera settings, assigning specific recording jobs to positions 1 and 2. You can also cut up and edit you videos, mix in some cool tracks, apply the interactive map and GPS information for export and posting to contour.com. Compatible with both Mac and PC, the Contour GPS and the Storyteller Application can be utilized by anybody.

Short Comings

Ok, there are not many things I don’t like about this camera, in fact, I would say I like pretty much everything about it, aside from the waterproof case issue.

LCD screens are great additions, but I guess the addition of one would totally have made the camera far too bulky. I mean configuring everything through the Storyteller Application is easy enough, but it is kind of an extra step.

Other than that, I am pretty much down with this camera.

Summary of the Contour GPS HD Camera

If you are the kind of person who is serious about video making, this camera is an ultimate choice for you. Giving you a creative edge and the ability to incorporate your stats and position, the Contour GPS combines all of the features you loved about Contour’s previous cameras, while incorporating a bunch of great new ones - not to mention some improved physical additions.

The Contour GPS HD Camera embodies quality and versatility and will definitely become a welcome addition to anyone’s camera gear. Surpassing the other GPS cameras on the market with Contour’s ongoing integrity and dedication to perfection, this camera is definitely changing the way people shoot and share video.

If this sounds like a piece of equipment you can see yourself falling in love with, you should check it out. Also find out what Christie from Contour has to say about their great new camera, at Interbike 2010.

Offered at a price point of $349.99, the Contour GPS HD camera is a steal.


Have we missed anything?  Perhaps there are additional things you would like us to test?

Please leave your comments and / or questions below.

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