Contour Roam3 review: One of the top entry-level action cams gets even better

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The Good The Contour Roam3 is waterproof down to 30 feet (10m) without a housing; it has a rotating lens with laser alignment so your video is straight; it has Contour's Trail mount as well as a standard tripod mount; and the big slider gets you recording without fiddling with buttons.

The Bad Though its battery can last up to 3.5 hours, it's not removable and a full charge takes about 3 hours. It has no screen or option for a screen, and without Wi-Fi or Bluetooth you can't wirelessly preview or view video on a mobile device.

The Bottom Line All the features that make Contour's action cams excellent are here in its entry-level Roam3. While it's not loaded with extras, it's one of the best you'll find for its price.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 7

A little more than a year ago, action-cam maker Contour closed its doors. Though it had a couple of the best cameras around in the Roam2 and Contour+2 , it couldn't keep up with the marketing muscle of GoPro or the onslaught of less-expensive competitors.

The situation seemed bleak, and the shutdown seemingly left a lot of Contour's customers in the lurch, especially those who were stuck with a broken camera still under warranty, as well as anyone who had sent one in for service.

Luckily Contour was able to find some investors, and the company is on its way back, trying to square up with its past customers (check its Facebook page to see what I mean) and looking to make new ones with its first new camera, the Roam3.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In light of all this, you might have expected Contour to make a big splash and update its flagship product, but the Roam is its entry-level camera with a price of $199 in the US and AU$299.95 in Australia. (Pricing for other regions was unknown at the time of this review, but it will be available in the UK as well as 46 other countries. For reference, at the current rate its US price converts to about £121.)

One of my main issues with the Roam2 was the inability to change resolutions or shooting modes on the fly. Just to take a picture you had to connect to a computer to switch from capturing video to photos. That changes with the Roam3.

The other big addition is waterproofing, or should I say, the amount of waterproofing. The Roam2 was good without a housing down to 3.3 feet or 1 meter. You can take the Roam3 down to about 33 feet or 10 meters -- still without a housing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

If you're not familiar with Contour's cameras, they have a few design features that help them stand out from the crowd. Unlike GoPro and other box-shaped action cams, they have a low-profile design so they fit closer to your helmet.

The lens rotates 270 degrees (180 degrees to the left and 90 degrees to the right), which gives you more positioning options and no need to mess with settings or flip the video with editing software.

Above the lens is a laser level. Since the Roam3 has no screen or built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect to a mobile device, the laser helps you set up your shot, so it's not crooked. Just push the Status button on the back and it kicks on for 15 seconds.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Status button also lights up some LEDs on top of the camera to give you a rough idea of the remaining battery power and storage amount. This button now works as a shutter release for snapping off photos, too. Just press and hold the button for a few seconds and it will switch on the camera, then press it again to take a picture. The photos have a 4:3 aspect ratio, though, which means you'll have to crop them if you want to drop them in with your videos and match their 16:9 aspect ratio.

The Roam3 gives you two options for mounting: You can use Contour's sliding rail mounts (aka Trails) or take advantage of the tripod mount in the bottom. Included with the camera is a flat adhesive rail mount as well as one that rotates and locks in place. The latter is nice to use on top of a helmet, letting you shoot in front of you and then you can quickly rotate it to capture behind you or off to the sides.

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