The portable sports-camera market is a hotly contested battleground with dozens of contenders entering and leaving the fray every year. However, there are but two major competitors at the top of the heap: GoPro and Contour.
Contour's latest HD camcorder, the Contour+, is a professional-level bullet camera that packs in every trick in Contour's book, including GPS location technology, smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth, and an established rail-mounting system. It also brings a few new tricks in the form of an HDMI output, a microphone input, and a higher-quality, superwide-angle lens. But is all of this worth the premium price that Contour places on the Contour+?
At first glance, the Contour+ under its new brushed-aluminum chassis appears to be identical in its hardware to previous-generation Contour sports cameras like the ContourHD. However, closer inspection reveals that there are more changes to be found.
At the business end, for example, the ContourHD's dual aiming lasers have been omitted to make room for the larger lens and premium optics of the Contour+. Additionally, where the ContourHD models featured a recessed lens, the Contour+ has glass that is mounted flush with the bezel. Perhaps this is to better accommodate the new F 2.8, 170-degree superwide-angle lens (up from the old 170-degree FOV) without vignetting. However, we felt that the flush glass was now more vulnerable to scratches than the old recessed glass. Fortunately the Contour+ ships with a rubber lens cap. Also, where the rotating lens assembly on previous ContourHD models only allowed 180 degrees of twisting articulation, the Contour+ spins 270 degrees. This means you can mount the camera in almost any orientation, even upside down, and be able to twist the lens to level.
The Contour+ also gains some new connectivity technology, some of which debuted on the ContourGPS. On the unit's top edge, the record switch now features a large hump that houses a GPS receiver for recording the unit's latitude, longitude, elevation, and speed, as well as a Bluetooth receiver that can be used to connect to a smartphone.
Along the lower edge of the unit, there's a new 2.5mm input for an external microphone. This is useful for recording commentary, interviews, or just more specific sound than the Contour's omnidirectional microphone normally captures. The microphone input is hidden beneath a rubber cap when not in use to preserve the unit's water resistance. A short 2-inch microphone extension cable ships with the device.
On the back, there are a few new inputs as well. Joining the standard Mini-USB connection is a new Micro-HDMI connection that allows the Contour+ to output video to a display or external capture device via an included HDMI connection cable. The unit cannot, as far as we can tell, play back recorded video through this connection. Further differentiating the Contour+ from its predecessors is a new mechanical rear door hinge that replaces the old soft rubber flaps that were prone to tearing off. The rear door also gains a pair of removable rubber caps for the HDMI and USB connections, so you won't have to completely open the back of the camera to access them. The rear power button and indicator lights for battery and storage status are unchanged.
Behind the new door is the same microSD card slot (a 2GB card is included) and removable lithium ion rechargeable battery. There's also a mode switch for choosing between two user-configurable modes. Contour's Connect View iOS interface card is included with the Contour+ and preinstalled. (For the ContourGPS model, this card was a separate purchase.)
The Contour+ features the same rail-mounting system as the rest of the lineup, so it is compatible with all of Contour's mounting accessories for helmets, handlebars, suction cups, rollbars, and surfboards. There's even a Picatinny mount for attaching the camera to an assault rifle (or paintball gun). In the box, the Contour+ ships with two adhesive rotating mounts and one adhesive low-profile mount.
Storyteller software and smartphone Connect View
The Contour+ has four video recording modes, a still photo capture mode, and an array of options for each.
Full HD mode captures 1080p (1,920x1,080-pixel resolution) video at 30 frames per second. Tall HD captures at an odd 960p (1,280x960-pixel resolution), also at 30fps. Original HD steps down to 720p (1,280x720 pixels) at 30fps. Finally, Action HD also captures 720p but at 60fps. All of these modes are for the NTSC standard, but the Contour+ can also be set to record PAL video in 25fps and 50fps increments.