Contour+ review: a video camera for extreme sports junkies
The Contour+, from extreme sports video camera company Contour, is a tough and compact camera that records Full HD video at a variety of quality settings and frame rates. It has the potential to be an indispensable tool for anyone looking to record their sporting endeavours, and we’re pleased to report that it does its job near-perfectly.
Contour+: Design and specifications
The Contour+ is compact. There are no hand straps or flip-out screens or dangly clip-on lens caps, just a smooth (and very strong) brushed metal barrel that houses the camera’s internals with a mounting rail on either side. The back of the camera flips down to reveal a mini USB connector (charging and file transfers), microSD storage, a battery compartment, a dual-mode switch (for changing between preset video modes) and a proprietary Bluetooth card slot. The camera’s front lens housing rotates over 270 degrees of motion, so even if you’ve got the Contour+ mounted upside down or on an angle you can adjust the lens to frame your video correctly.
The lens of the Contour+ covers a 135 degree field of view for 1080p video, and a maximum angle of 170 degrees when it’s recording in the reduced-resolution 720p mode. This is heaps — wider than the human range of vision, and much wider than even most wide-angle sports cameras. To put the lens of the Contour+ in perspective, if you were recording on a digital SLR camera you’d need a fisheye lens to get this kind of coverage, with all the distortion that those kind of lenses have. The Contour+’s lens and sensor do a good job of fighting distortion, so even towards the edge of the video frame straight lines are reasonably straight.
The two mounting rails running along either side of the Contour+ can lock into a whole heap of Contour mounts suited to different activities. When we tested the Contour+ on top of a car we used the two rotating mounts included in the camera package (a single profile mount is also included), but you can also buy mounts for helmets, car or motorbike windshields, goggles, bicycle crossbars... there’s a mount for almost all purposes we could think of. We are disappointed that the Contour+ doesn’t have an integrated tripod screw thread (like the one on the bottom of a camcorder or compact camera), though — this extra bit of versatility would have been useful.
Without a doubt, the Contour+’s coolest feature is its inbuilt wireless communication to an Android or Apple smartphone or tablet over Bluetooth, letting users set and position the camera’s video frame coverage using the phone as a wireless viewfinder. It does this through a removable Connect View card in the camera — you can buy these to enable the functionality in Contour’s other cameras, but one is bundled with the Contour+. When you’ve connected the Contour+ to your smartphone over Bluetooth (we used an iPhone 4) and installed the Contour app, you can change camera settings like exposure, capture resolution, frame rate and quality.