Monday, May 27, 2013

Contour ROAM 2 Makes For Video Fun

Contour Roam 2
While some people are still looking for Google Glass to be the revolutionary hands-free video camera, the innovation already exists. It's much more durable and versatile too because you don't need glasses.

While there is already a more advanced version on the market, the Contour ROAM 2 I own captures crystal clear high definition video footage and 5 MP still photos. The battery specs are impressive, with about 3.5 hours of battery life and an instant-on record switch to maximize it. 

So why haven't more people embraced the Contour camera? It mostly has to do with the way it is marketed. It originated as an adventure and extreme sports helmet mount video camera, but has become much more versatile as an everyday cam as long as you don't mind waiting to see the shot.

If you want to see the shot, you have to upgrade to Contour +2, something I don't own but have seen in action. The viewfinder relies on Bluetooth connectivity to a smart phone, which is still a bit hit and miss. It's something I'll circle back around to cover later in the review. The focus here is on what I own.

Designed for action enthusiasts, but fun for anyone with a little creativity. 

Although the Contour ROAM 2 bills itself as a hands-free camera, which it is, it can also be turned into a held held by attaching a hand grip (a.k.a.pistol grip) to the the tripod mount. With a little practice, it's easy enough to learn how to frame up your shots without a viewfinder (or use the laser alignment).

Most people, of course, don't buy the Contour ROAM 2 for handheld functionality. Most are interested in the mounts, specifically helmet mounts. Once the mount is attached, usually with adhesive tape, the camera slides right into place. It also pays to add a tether in case the mount comes off. 

Helmets aren't the only place to add the camera. They can be added to almost anything, including surfboards, which is why I picked one up. While I wouldn't keep it submerged for any length of time, the camera is waterproof up to one meter without an additional casing. Waterproof housing will extend that depth to 60 meters. One of the more creative promo videos adds in some fun.

Contour collects hundreds of videos with vignettes of what's possible with the camera. And although I know many people attempt to compare the Contour and GoPro, they really are two different kinds of cameras, with the Contour's minimalistic bullet shape giving it a slight edge despite the slightly better vid quality most associate with the GoPro. 

For example, although it's not the most comfortable shooting solution, Contour even makes a headband that you can use as a camera mount. And the headband doesn't even come close to the extent of mounting solutions that the bullet shape offers. It's also the tougher construction, in my opinion. I've seen one dragged from behind a motorcycle that survived with relatively little road rash.

There are plenty of places Contour can improve its offerings. 

The most frustrating aspect of the Contour ROAM 2 was learning that it isn't Bluetooth ready, which makes the Connect app released for the iPhone and Android useless. You need to invest twice as much for the Contour+ 2 to pick up what seems increasingly important to plenty of people.

As mentioned earlier, it's not the viewfinder that makes people want the Connect app to work better than it does, it's the ability to change settings. Once you set the Contour ROAM 2, you're stuck with the setting until you connect to your computer again. It's inconvenient, but not as bad as some people make it out to be. 

The Contour ROAM 2 Snaps 6.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The biggest thing I can say about hands-free and viewer-less cameras is that you stay connected to the action instead of the screen. Sometimes getting the perfect shot gets in the way of real life. The Contour, whether you have a ROAM 2 or invest in a Contour +2, makes video fun again because you don't have to think about it. Go. Do. Record. And play it back later. If you don't like the shot, go do it again. 

You can find the Contour ROAM2 Waterproof Video Camera and Contour +2 on Amazon. The Contour ROAM 2 also comes in black, red, green, and blue. For more tech specs, visit the site. Visit the iTunes App store for Connect if you already own Contour +2. Check the requirements and for the latest update information; the app is free. 
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