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Contour ContourRoam2 review: Just the basics, but in a good way

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The ContourRoam2 is what happens when you take a really good action cam -- the Contour+ 2 -- and strip away almost all extra features, taking it down to just the essentials.

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7.4

Contour ContourRoam2

The Good

A very simple POV action cam, the <b>Contour ContourRoam2</b> produces nice video; is waterproof without requiring a housing; includes a 4GB microSDHC card; and has a threaded tripod mount for more mounting options.

The Bad

All changes to settings -- including shooting modes -- are done with desktop software, and the ContourRoam2 can't record 1080p video at a 170-degree angle of view. The rechargeable battery can't be removed or replaced by a user.

The Bottom Line

As long as you don't need to change shooting modes on the go, the ContourRoam2 is a simple way to capture fine-quality POV videos in dry or wet conditions.

You still end up with a nice camera, but it basically captures movie clips and not much else. In fact, just to change shooting modes requires hooking it up to a computer. If you like to change resolutions, adjust camera settings, or even just snap off a couple photos in between shooting movie clips without connecting to a computer, the Roam2 isn't for you.

On the other hand, for those who just want to hit record and capture what comes next, it's a pretty good choice.

What's in the box
Despite being lean on features, the Roam2 comes with a decent amount of accessories for its $199 price tag. Along with the camera and lens cap, you get a Mini-USB cable for charging and transferring video and photos off the camera; an adhesive profile mount; an adhesive rotating mount; a 4GB microSDHC card (a rarity at any price point); and a sack with a lens cloth to keep everything in.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Two adhesive mounts should be enough to get you started, but if you require something more, Contour has plenty of others that use its rail-mounting system, or you can take advantage of the quarter-inch threaded tripod mount in the bottom.

Contour's mounts slide into the rails on the camera's body. Sarah Tew/CNET

Also, while the Roam2 is waterproof down to 3.3 feet, there is a $40 housing that's good for dives down to about 196 feet.

Design and features
In design, the Roam2 isn't much different from the original CountourRoam. The bullet-style camera is slightly larger than its predecessor but still small, measuring 2.4 inches high by 1.3 inches wide by 3.9 inches long and weighing about 5 ounces.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On top of the lens barrel is a wide sliding switch that both turns on the camera and starts it recording in one move. The slider has its own switch, which is a lock so you don't accidentally start or stop a recording. Beneath the lens barrel are the camera's mono mic and an activity light.

At the back is a status button that gives you a rough idea of remaining battery life and storage, and activates the camera's laser level above the lens. (The camera's lens rotates 180 degrees to the left and 90 degrees to the right.) The button is actually in the middle of a slide-up door.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Conclusion
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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7.4

Contour ContourRoam2

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 8Image quality 7