ContourROAM Review

by on August 11, 2012

in Reviews

ContourROAM

The ContourROAM is a POV action camera that competes head-to-head with the GoPro line.  The ContourROAM is the $200 entry-level model of Contour’s POV camera lineup.

There are a couple of key things that separate Contour cameras from GoPro.  First, the on/off switch is a big button that slides back and forth on the top of the camera.  Slide it forward and it’s on – a red record light gives you visual confirmation along with an audible beep.  Slide it back and it’s off – the light goes off and you get another beep.

ContourROAM Mounted on Downtube

This record switch makes it easy to operate the camera when you can’t see the buttons (for instance, on top of your helmet).  I didn’t realize how convenient this would be until I spent a few days on my mountain bike with the ContourROAM.

The other big deal with the ContourROAM is the rotating camera barrel.  The tubular shape of the camera allows you to rotate what looks like the front ring of the lens; however, you are actually rotating the camera.  As a result, if you can mount the ContourROAM onto something, you can level the horizon by turning the “lens”.

There are markers on the end of the lens to show you which way is up, and there’s no more worrying about getting the camera mounted even with the horizon.  If you need to mount it on its side, that works – you’ll just rotate the lens ring 90-degrees and it will be upright.  I did this every time I mounted the ContourROAM on the handlebars of my mountain bike or on my helmet.  Works like a charm.

Contour offers several mounting kits so you can grab all the mounts you need for your particular sport.  While working on this review, I made thorough use of the Bike Mount Kit; however, you can also get a Helmet Kit, Moto Kit, Outdoor Kit, Snow Kit and several individual mounts.  Speaking for the Bike Mount Kit, I haven’t even managed to use every mount that’s in it yet and I’ve been able to get every shot that I wanted thus far.

Every mount that I have used thus far has withstood everything I can throw at it, including plenty of bumpy singletrack and even a spill or two along the way.

Helmet Strap for Contour Cameras

Helmet Strap for Contour Cameras

The helmet mount uses straps to slide through the vent slots in your bike helmet.  One word of advice though is to check the straps tightness throughout your first ride or two.

Straps for Helmet Mount

Straps for Helmet Mount

As you ride, the nylon straps will give a bit for the first couple of rides and the camera won’t be entirely secure to your helmet, resulting in some wobbly, unusable footage.  After the slack is out of the nylon though, the camera stays nice and snug on the helmet.

Handlebar Mount for ContourROAM

Handlebar Mount for ContourROAM

The handlebar mount secures with a couple of allen screws.  Any bike tool should have an appropriate wrench for this, so there’s no need to carry anything extra in your bag.

Bike Tool with Allen Wrenches

Bike Tool with Allen Wrenches

The strap mount has a rubber strap that’s perfect for mounting on the downtube of your bike.  It has varying tension capabilities, so you can mount it on just about any bar or such.

Strap Mount Rear-facing on Downtube

Strap Mount Rear-facing on Downtube

ContourROAM Key Specs

  • Full HD – 1920 x 1080 @ 30/25fps
  • Tall HD – 1280 x 960 @ 30/25fps
  • Action HD – 1280 x 720 @ 30/25fps
  • Photo Mode: Every 1, 3, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds
  • 5MP Sensor
  • Codec – H.264/AAC / File Type – MOV
  • AAC Audio Compression
  • 32GB microSD Compatible
  • Battery Life: 3 hrs

The biggest downside to the ContourROAM is the accessibility of the camera settings.  Unfortunately, you can only change the ContourROAM settings via a program on your Mac or PC.  That is, you have to physically connect the camera via a USB cable to your computer, open the Contour Storyteller app and then change your settings from there. You can change video resolution (e.g., 1080/30p, 720/30p) or switch to time lapse modes.

When I was first experimenting with the ContourROAM, this was really frustrating.  It turned out, however, the more I used it, the more I realized I generally had only a single use for it on each outing.  That said, if you want to capture some POV video and some time lapse stills on the same outing, you need to pack a laptop.  Other, higher-end, Contour models allow you to connect and control the camera from your Android or iOS device.  On those models, you can even stream the camera view to your mobile device to get the shot aligned just right.

The footage from the ContourROAM is pretty contrasty and saturated in-camera.  As far as I know, there’s no CineStyle-type profile for Contour cameras to make the footage a little easier to grade in post.   There is also a lot of rolling shutter problems that become apparent over rough terrain; however, that’s to be expected and we see the same issues in GoPro footage.  I’ve left the footage untouched (i.e., no color correction, grading or warp stabilizer) in my above mountain bike video so you can see what comes straight out of the camera.

The ContourROAM is waterproof to one meter right out of the box.  No underwater housing required.  This is great for surface water sports like surfing or jet skiing.  And it’s something that the higher-end models don’t offer out of the box.

ContourROAM

Depending on your intended usage, the ContourROAM could be the right alternative to the GoPro.  If you just want to grab some footage of your action sports and aren’t planning on switching recording modes while you are out, the ContourROAM is one of the easiest-to-use POV cams in terms of mounting and making sure the thing is rolling.

You can learn more about the ContourROAM at Contour’s website.

The ContourROAM is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

ContourROAM at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

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