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Micro / POV Camera Systems
Covering the GoPro HERO and other small Point-Of-View video cameras.


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Old September 23rd, 2011, 02:54 AM   #1
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ContourROAM

After having a somewhat negative experience with the lack of user-defined camera settings on the ContourROAM (the website states otherwise), I decided to go through Contour's own support forum to see what other people are experiencing.

While it's understandable that the ones most likely to post messages in a support forum are the ones who are having problems, it seems there is consistency when it comes to complaints for the Contour line.

Just to be absolutely fair, there are a lot of other posts, many of which are positive. But just be aware of some potential problems, then weigh that against other available solutions of equivalent cost.

I have a GoPro Hero and a VIO POV. Both have functioned reliably in a marine environment in Alaska and Hawaii. Picture quality is OK. And they do what they were designed to do, meeting expectations set by manufacturer's claims.

My intent was to use a lighter camera to mount on a small helicopter, something that had less contrast and didn't have the excessive color saturation of the GoPro. The Contour cameras looked good in a side-by-side comparison, and the website said the StoryTeller software allowed the user to define characteristics of the Contour cameras.

But what they never said on the website is that the one camera that doesn't allow any user-defined settings is the ContourROAM. And that's the one that is designed to tolerate messy conditions.

On Contour's support forum there are several complaints about cameras leaking when they're promoted as something you could use in adverse conditions: mud, snow, rain. Some said theirs leaked in light drizzles. These are for the cameras that have retail prices up to a $300 more than the ROAM, which is at the bottom of the line.

There were numerous complaints about audio levels that are too low for all three cameras. In one case, a support tech reviewed files a customer submitted and declared them to be OK. I discovered that to be true with the ROAM.

Lots of reports of unreliability. Files being over-written without warning. Cameras not recording on demand. Power buttons that are hard to activate with gloves on. Power buttons that have fallen off.

The mount doesn't look very solid and, sure enough, there are reports of mounts breaking with very little strain.

Reports were also submitted for short battery life, sometimes as short as 90 minutes.

Even the underwater housing had an issue about rust forming in a magnetic switch. Housings that see service in salt water should have corrosion resistance as a design consideration.

Answers from tech support were usually prompt. But users were sometimes left hanging with no firm resolution. Sometimes the response said that the camera wasn't designed to handle particular conditions, and that additional protection is required, or the user's expectations were too high. But with all the hype from Contour's own website as being a camera for extreme sports, that's understandable.

So from what I've seen and read, some of the cameras in the Contour series might not be suitable as a rough-and-tumble outdoor camera. At least not as Contour claims. Perhaps the ContourROAM might qualify but the lack of user-defined camera settings is a "no-go" for some. And the lack of an interchangeable battery is another problem for extended coverage.

The camera might excel in conditions that keep it out of the weather. In race cars; on motorcycles during sunny days. FPV for RC aircraft. But be sure to have a backup just in case of a failure. It doesn't look like it would handle the kind of conditions encountered in extreme sports.

While not perfect, the GoPro Hero and the VIO POV have one thing going for them: Rain or shine, these cameras work.

All that said, I might get a Contour+. While it is relatively fragile compared to the GoPro Hero, it's lighter and there ARE user-configurable camera settings. The contrast level of the ContourROAM is slightly better than the GoPro. So the Contour+ should be at least as good, and can be improved upon.

The intention is to mount it on a small helicopter that can't lift much, and the hope is to get an image that looks better. It's not going to get wet since the helicopter can't tolerate any rain. And, hopefully, the camera won't be subjected to the shock of a crash! :-)

Contour's support forum
Community-powered support for Contour
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Old September 26th, 2011, 05:07 AM   #2
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Re: ContourROAM

After doing more research and going through more of the posts on Contour's website, I decided to order a Replay 1080 XD.

Contour's web page with reported problems:
Common problems

The Contour+ is about on-par with the Replay 1080 XD in terms of image quality and user-defined characteristics. The Replay doesn't have a field of view that's as broad as the Contour+. However, it seems to be better protected against the elements with it's simple, cylindrical housing and double o-ring seals.

Based on test footage found online, the Replay also has far superior low-light capabilities.

And there's a $200 price difference between the two. The Contour+ is $500. The Replay 1080 XD is $300.

In general, there were too many problems reported and it was looking more and more like Contour over-hyped its line of cameras. Their failure to quickly make a correction about which cameras could be configured was especially troubling. While it can be blamed on an innocent oversight, their reply to my complaint was, at best evasive:

"The text that you quote there is from the overview of the storyteller software which deals with all of the cameras that we produce and is not model specific. The info that you require is this extract from the ContourRoams description"

"The ContourROAM records the action with a 170 super wide-angle lens, capturing all the backgrounds and peripheral moments that can be missed with a narrower field of view. Sophisticated camera technology automatically adjusts the exposure and white balance, ensuring crisp, beautiful video every time. You can choose between three different video resolutions, 720p, 960p and 1080p, or shoot 5 megapixel photos enabling you greater creative flexibility."

Nowhere did it state that the ContourROAM was not user-configurable. Rather than simply rewrite the description to avoid further ambiguity, they blame the customer for misinterpreting an incomplete product description. Others on the forum had similar complaints.
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Old September 26th, 2011, 05:56 PM   #3
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Re: ContourROAM

For a comparison of four different POV cameras, check this out on YouTube. It was put together by Hot Rod Magazine.

It chooses a winner for each category. For an explanation of their choices I guess one would have to read the article in the Nov. 2011 issue.

HOT ROD Magazine Action Camera Shootout - YouTube

You will be able to see the picture quality, low light performance, and get a very rough assessment of audio sensitivity.
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