Auto123.com recently pitted a number of compact sports cars against each other on the track at Autodrome St. Eustache, Quebec. I saw it as a great opportunity to test Contour's latest action camera, the ContourROAM, as drivers completed a series of hot laps.
The ContourROAM was primarily designed to be compact, lightweight and user-friendly - and it's a success. In fact, I've never come across a camera that was easier to use than this one. A slight pressure on the record button with the index finger is enough to turn it on. No visual check is necessary since the camera beeps to let you know that it's filming.
Photo: Olivier Delorme
The 145-gram, aluminum-built ContourROAM can withstand serious abuse and is 100% waterproof to one metre for about 30 minutes - or so says the company. I did a couple of tests in the pool and was pretty disappointed. When I took the camera out of the water after a 5-minute stay at just 30 centimetres deep, it didn't respond at all. Dammit!
I let it dry for a short while and plugged it into my laptop. Still no signs of life. I had to wait more than two hours for the camera to work again. I finally had access to my video files and could resume shooting. What a relief!*
One important note: You need the free Storyteller app to configure the ContourROAM and import videos to your computer. Available from Contour's website, this app is extremely simple and easy to use. You'll be totally familiar with it after just a few clicks.
Photo: Olivier Delorme
Like I said earlier, I've never come across a camera that was easier to use. There are only two buttons to play with, so you can't really go wrong. Just slide the record switch and you'll be filming a mere three seconds later.
Unlike some competitors, the ContourROAM has no internal memory, meaning that you must insert a MicroSD card to start shooting videos. Therefore, remember to bring one (or two) along or you might miss a chance to capture spectacular footage.
As for picture quality, here's a video that will show you how the ContourROAM compares to an iPhone 4S equipped with an Olloclip lens. There is no editing whatsoever, so what you'll see is actually what you'll get.
On the track
Now that you know what to expect, let's focus on the ContourROAM's performance on the track. By the way, if you plan to use the camera in your car, you should note that the suction cup mount is sold separately. It will help you attach the ContourROAM to any windshield or body panel.
The system worked great and held on at speeds of more than 120 km/h. In addition, the ability to turn the lens up to 270 degrees means that you can almost always choose the right angle.
Unfortunately, the camera doesn't allow you to shoot at 60 frames per second, even with a video resolution of 720p. I definitely could have used this option for a number of sequences.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with the friendly new ContourROAM, especially at $249. Of course, I would have liked a sharper image, but those looking for a cheap HD action camera will love it. For more professional-looking results, get the Contour+.
The battery is very long-lasting. According to the manufacturer, you can shoot for three hours before it runs empty. I personally captured about 90 minutes of footage and still had more than 50% of the battery's capacity to spare.
Bottom line: the ContourROAM is a quick-shooting, high-value camera for amateur videographers.
*For the record, I did several other underwater tests after that and the ContourROAM remained operational at all times. I guess it was simply a case of bad luck. Just thought you should know.
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