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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Contour ContourRoam2 review:

Just the basics, but in a good way

Under the door you'll find the microSDHC card slot, Micro-USB port, and reset and format buttons. A rubber seal on the door keeps water out and appears to be easily replaceable, held in by just a couple of screws. What can't be replaced is the battery; it's built in so once you run out of power, you'll need to recharge before shooting again. Battery life is very good, though; I got up to 3.5 hours.

Absent is any sort of button or switch for changing shooting modes, which might be a deal-breaker for some.

All setting changes are handled with Contour's desktop software. Screenshot by Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Roam2's default recording mode is 720p at 60 frames per second with a 170-degree angle of view. Using the included Contour Storyteller software, you can change that to 1080p at 30fps (which also reduces the angle of view to 125 degrees), 1,280x960 pixels (4:3 ratio) at 30fps, or 1,280x720 pixels at 30fps. You can also set it shoot 5-megapixel pictures at intervals of 1, 3, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. Again, you have to use the desktop software to make these changes, so for example if you want to start out shooting at 720p and switch to 1080p you'll need to stop by your computer to do it. The only workaround is to use the reset button to set the Roam2 back to the default 720p-at-60fps resolution, so you could, for example, shoot some 1080p clips and then record at 720p60.

The software can be used to make other changes like adjusting the mic level and turning off camera beeps, as well as adjusting contrast, exposure, sharpness, and metering. You can use it to trim clips, organize your library, or share clips on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Vimeo.

Video quality
For the ContourRoam2's price, its video is very satisfying. If your main need is to share clips online, the results are definitely pleasing, with nice color and detail.

Viewed at larger screen sizes you'll see a fair number of artifacts, especially at high speeds or in complex scenes. (The 1080p video is recorded at a somewhat low 12Mbps bit rate.) You also see some lens flare and a bit of purple fringing in high-contrast areas. And, low-light videos are noisy and soft. However, these things seem to be typical of action cams, even more expensive models, the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition being an exception.

You definitely lose some detail when you record at lower resolutions, but when viewing at small sizes you likely won't notice that too much and, again, the results are overall very nice-looking.

Audio quality is OK and sounds a little muffled, likely because of the camera's waterproofing. Basically, it's good enough to record someone talking at a normal volume a couple feet from the camera. I found it handled wind noise reasonably well, but chances are you're going to want to throw some music over the video.

I like being able to change shooting modes on the fly, even if it's just to switch from shooting movies to photos and back again. That's the biggest issue I see with the ContourRoam2. It's lean on features, too, but if all you need is a shoot-and-share action cam, it's a very good option with pleasing video quality in and out of the water.

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