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With the debut of the Contour+2, the replacement for the previous flagship model, the camera maker draws from the lessons that it's learned with all of its previous action cameras, giving it a lower price and even picking up a few tricks from the competition.
The Contour+2 uses the same design as every Contour camera, going back to the VholdR ContourHD of 2009. It's a tube shape measuring 3.86 inches by 2.36 inches by 1.34 inches. The business end of the device is home to an ultrawide-angle HD camera with a 170-degree field of view. Just above the six-element glass lens is an LED that projects a red line for leveling the lens with its 270-degree rotating barrel.
On the bottom edge you'll find a discrete microphone input beneath a rubber cap and threaded tripod that Contour first added to its cameras with the launch of the entry-level ContourRoam camera last year.
The unit's back door features a status button, also borrowed from the ContourRoam, that illuminates color-coded status lights for battery level, memory space, and GPS lock. There are also rubber flaps that act as pass-throughs for the HDMI and Mini-USB ports behind the rear door. Open the door and you'll reveal the removable, rechargeable battery, microSD card slot, bi-mode switch, and a format button that wipes the SD card.
On the top of the camera tube is the Instant On-Record switch, borrowed again from the ContourRoam. Slide this switch forward to power on the camera and start capture; slide it back to stop and power down. What's new about this record switch is it has its own lock switch that prevents accidental activation while the Contour+2 bounces around in your backpack. Just ahead of the slider is the simplified Bluetooth activation button, which we'll get back to later, and the aforementioned LED indicators showing battery, card capacity, and GPS status.
On either side of the Contour+2 unit are its rail mounts, which are unchanged and compatible with all previous Contour mounting accessories.
Also in the box with the Contour+2 camera are a 4GB microSD card with SD size adapter, a microphone extension cable and an HDMI cable, an adhesive low-profile surface mount and a rotating mount with two adhesive pads and safety leash, a rubber lens cap, and a Contour vinyl decal.
One of the best new inclusions in the Contour+2 package is a waterproof, clear plastic case. This was previously available as a separate purchase, but it's now included in the box, bringing the Contour+2's ruggedness on par with the likes of the GoPro HD Hero2 and the upcoming Sony Action Cam and Action Cam Wi-Fi. The Contour+2 itself is weather-resistant -- you can use it in the rain or snow without worrying about moisture -- but in the case, it gains the capability to survive being submerged up to 60 meters (196.85 feet). The case also adds an extra level of shock resistance, features pass-through controls for the record switch and status button, and retains the compatibility with rail mounts and tripod mounts.
Video capture modes
Like the Contour+ that came before it, the Contour+2 features a number of video-recording modes, including Full HD (1080p at 30 frames per second), Tall HD (960p at 30fps), and Action HD (720p at 30fps or 60fps). There's also a new slow-motion/SD mode that captures 480p video at up to 120fps.
Additionally, the Contour+2's 5MP sensor can also capture still photos at 1- to 60-second intervals.
With the Contour+2, Contour has moved from the MOV to the MP4 format, but captured video is still encoded with the H.264 codec with AAC audio compression.
Apps and software
The Contour+2 retains compatibility with Contour's ContourConnect app for iOS and Android devices. The camera links with the phone via a Bluetooth connection activated by tapping the Bluetooth button on the top edge and initiating pairing in the phone's menu. Once the devices are paired, you can access and adjust the settings for the Contour+2's two positions on the physical mode-selection switch behind the rear door. The phone's display can also be used as a live viewfinder for framing shots, showing what the camera sees. Those familiar with the ContourGPS' and Contour+'s live viewfinder feature will be happy to know that the preview frame rate has been dramatically improved. Battery level, card capacity, and GPS status are also mirrored in the app.
I was also able to try out an update to the iOS version of the ContourConnect app that will launch with the Contour+2. This update includes the ability to start and stop a remote recording by tapping a virtual record button and the ability to browse and preview video stored on the Contour+2's microSD card from within the app.
On the desktop side, Contour's Storyteller application for PC and Mac computers has also been updated. The app retains the ability to import video captured from the Contour+2 with GPS data for speed, elevation, and path, and can be used to trim those videos to highlight only the best bits. From Contour Storyteller, users can also upload and sharing their videos to Contour's video site at Contour.com, and to YouTube and Vimeo. New to this version is the option to share videos to Facebook and the ability to encode a GPS data overlay into the video when sharing on Facebook, Vimeo, or YouTube -- the previous version only supported GPS data for Contour's own site and video player.
The Contour+2 hits shelves with the new iOS app, the new Storyteller application, better ergonomics thanks to the Instant On-Record slider, and better survivability thanks to the included waterproof case in late September. It will also come at a lower MSRP of $399.99 -- down $100 from the previous generation.
This drop in price not only makes the Contour+2 more appealing to would-be GoPro buyers and those on the fence about the Contour+, but it also prices the midtier ContourGPS camera right out of the 2012 lineup. So, technically, the Contour+2 replaces both the Contour+ and the ContourGPS, combining the best features of the former and the price level of the latter with a dash of the easy usability that made the ContourRoam the unlikely favorite in the 2011 Contour camera line.