Capturing your feats of derring-do and sharing them with others has never been easier. The Contour+2, the company's latest-generation helmet cam, has all the smart designs of its previous devices, such as a rotating lens and multiple mounting options. This year, it's added a few new tricks, such as the ability to stream to an iPhone or even ski goggles. Find out why this $399 camera is the one to take outdoors.
On the outside, the Contour+2 looks much the same as previous generations. The bulk of the camera is a cylinder about 4 inches long and an inch in diameter, with a smaller squarish piece below. On the top of the device is a raised rubber switch; in front of that is a small Bluetooth button for pairing the camera with an iPhone.
The back of the Contour+2 houses a plastic cover with two smaller rubber covers that protect mini USB and a mini HDMI ports; pop open the large plastic cover to access the microSD card slot and battery.
We like that the rails on both sides of the camera allow you to mount it on either the left or the right side of a helmet. This gives the Contour+2 a much lower profile than the squarish GoPro Hero3. On the bottom of the Contour is a tripod mount, as well as a rubber cover for a microphone jack. Contour sells a number of different mounts that allows you to hook the camera surfaces, such as handlebars or a surfboard.
While the Contour+2 can take slight splashes of water, an included waterproof case will protect the camera to depths of up to 60 meters.
Using the Contour+2 is simple: Slide the switch on top forward to start recording, and slide it back to stop. The Contour's lens can rotate up to 270 degrees, making it convenient when mounting the camera on surfaces that aren't vertical. A red horizontal laser beam projects out the front for a few seconds, making it easy to level the lens.
Contour's iOS app shows whether the camera has a GPS signal, a battery meter, how much storage is available, and the resolution and fps rate of the recording. At the lower right is a button to stop and start recording. A built-in GPS sensor also records location data, which can be used to geolocate your video when using Storyteller, Contour's free desktop software, which you must download from the company's website. Storyteller also lets you share your videos to social networks -- too bad you can't do that right from the iOS app itself.
Bluetooth makes it easier to pair the Contour than the Drift HD Ghost or the GoPro Hero3, both of which require you to use your iPhone's Wi-Fi connection. The Contour uses Bluetooth to beam an image to your phone.
Uniquely among helmet cams, the Contour camera can also pair with goggles via Bluetooth that have Recon Mod Live technology, such as the Oakley Airwave ($599). That way, users can see in the goggles themselves what the Contour is recording. While potentially distracting when skiing -- it's best not to look down -- Recon Mod Live is an incredibly cool feature.
We generally liked the video quality offered by the Contour+2 camera. Despite overcast skies, colors were vivid, such as the blues, reds and greens of ski jackets. Contrast also looked good, and there wasn't much in the way of visual noise. The GoPro Hero3 has the edge here; it's footage was slightly darker, but it had even greater contrast and better color saturation.
When filming 1080p video at 30 frames per second, we were able to record only about 30 minutes worth of video before our 4GB card ran out of space. Fortunately, the Contour+2 can accept cards up to 32GB in size.
You can also select different resolutions: 1280 x 960 @ 30fps, 1280 x 720 at 60 or 30 fps, and slow-mo 854 x 480 at 120/100 fps, 60 fps, or 30 fps. The camera can take 5-MP stills as frequently as once every second, or once every 60 seconds. However, the Drift Ghost camera can shoot up to five stills per second. Unlike the GoPro and the Drift camera, though, the Contour+2 field of view -- 170 degrees -- can't be changed.
Contour estimates the battery will last between 2 to 2.5 hours. In our testing, we got 1 hour and 58 minutes of continuous recording WVGA video at 30 fps. That's better than the GoPro by nearly half an hour, but 90 minutes less than the Drift HD Ghost, which got nearly 3.5 hours.
Of the wearable cameras we've tested, the Contour+2 is the most well-rounded. While it doesn't have the best battery life or video quality, the Contour+2 is more than good enough in both respects. Moreover, it has a versatile and sleek mounting system, and we especially like the ways in which it can connect not only to a smartphone, but the latest goggles, too. If you're going to be geeked out on the slopes -- or anywhere else outdoors -- then why not go all the way?