Recording in HD takes full advantage of the ContourHD's 135-degree wide angle lens with its wide-screen format. Video resolution is 1,280x720 pixels captured at 30 frames per second (fps). Video is saved as a MOV file with h.264 video encoding with AAC audio encoding. At this resolution, VholdR claims that the ContourHD will capture 30 minutes per gigabyte of available storage. So the packaged 2GB card should hold about an hour's worth of video.
Flipping the HD/SD switch to SD crops the viewing angle to a 4:3 aspect ratio and lowers the captured resolution to 854x480 pixels. As a concession, the frame rate is boosted to 60 fps, which is useful for capturing fast-moving objects without blurring. Also, the record time is doubled, so the included 2GB MicroSD card should now hold about 2 hours of video.
While the ContourHD's tiny lens limits low-light performance, video quality is quite good when the light is plentiful. Testing on a sunny California afternoon yielded naturally saturated colors and crisp details. Image quality was a bit too high contrast in the highlight and shadow areas, but overall we were pleased with the exposure.
On the subject of exposure, the ContourHD is a bit slow with its adjusting for rapidly changing light levels. For example, moving from an outdoor to an indoor environment left the ContourHD confused for a moment, as it searched for the proper exposure. As a camera designed primarily for outdoor use, this isn't too critical of a design flaw.
VholdR also offers its Easy Edit software for PC and Mac. When you plug your ContourHD up via USB for the first time, you'll be presented with a link to download the newest version of the software free of charge. The Easy Edit software will allow users to pull the MOV files off of the ContourHD, set video start and end clipping points, and share videos on VholdR's Web site.
What we liked the most about the ContourHD was its ease of use. The camera's limited feature set means that it is able to get by without cryptic menu settings or uselessly small LCD displays. Simply hold the power button until the unit beeps and slide the record slider forward. At no point did we have to consult the owner's manual, and we never botched a shot due to incorrect settings.
While the ContourHD is much better-looking than its competitors, it's also more fragile. The camera is splash resistant, but not submersible like the GoPro Hero or the ATC5K Action camera. The GoPro Hero is encased in a clear, plastic shell. So if, for example, the GoPro falls off of your car at the track, you just replace the $40 shell. Drop the ContourHD and you may be buying a new camera.
Additionally, the ContourHD is more expensive than the competition. With an MSRP of $299, it's about $100 more expensive than the GoPro Hero Motorsports Wide kit, which includes the PanaVise suction-cup mount (a $40 accessory for the ContourHD) and a variety of mounting brackets.
However, we believe that you get what you pay for. The ContourHD stands head and shoulders above the competition. Overall, we were thoroughly satisfied with the ContourHD's performance, high-quality design, and ease of use.