R.I.P. Eastman Kodak. Yes, this onetime Dow 30 component filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. It was a nice 120-plus year reign at the top for Kodak but its failure to embrace technology and the digital revolution paved the way for an amazing crop of upstart companies. Add smartphones to the mix–the world is capturing and filming more photos and videos than ever in history. No two companies have altered the landscape of action sports photography by amateurs in the past few years quite like GoPro and Contour.
Back in 1987, I had one of my fondest memories of skiing with my father at Snowbird in Utah. It had snowed a good 3-4 feet and the mountain closed for two days because of whiteout conditions. On Christmas morning, the clouds parted and the sky was as blue as the ocean. We spent all day floating through mounds of some of the lightest snow I have ever skied. Ten years after this epic day, I had another memorable day at Blackcomb, Whistler. My buddies and I took probably 20 laps down 7th Heaven and finished each run blasting through hero bumps. Awhile back, my wife and I were on day 2 of standup paddle boarding in Maui. Fifteen minutes into touring around sea turtles, a school of dolphins came up to us. They swam around us for a good 30 minutes.
The only problem with these three memories was that none of it was captured. We had no film, no camera, no video camera. And, in the case of swimming in turtle bay, we had nothing waterproof. Our iPhones would’ve either sank to the bottom of the Pacific or gotten ruined by the saltwater. If I only had the GoPro or Contour cameras during these days, I would’ve had 1080p photos and videos of some of my most epic memories to this day.
I’ve had the luxury of using both the Contour HD and GoPro HD Hero 2 wearable video cameras over the past few years, and have employed them mostly while skiing. Many people ask me which camera I like better. Honestly, its a toss up. There are pros and cons to both devices and I hope that this article will help you find the best fit for your outdoor adventure needs.
The Contour HD comes with a 2GB microSD memory card (supportable up to 32GB) that records up to 30 minutes of HD quality video at full HD – 1920 x 1080 at 30/25fps. The full viewing angle is 170 degrees. At 5.1 ounces, the camera is extremely lightweight and easy to mount in a variety of places. It comes with side profile/helmet mount and a rotating surface adhesive mount. The manufacturer estimates 3 hour battery life on full charge. The top of the camera is a single “Easy On” record switch that the user can easily slide back and forth. The camera is sleek in design, with no frills. Unfortunately, it is only waterproof up to 1 meter (the company does offer waterproof housings, one of which is good up to 100 meters). The Contour HD retails for $199.99.
GoPro HD Hero 2
The GoPro Hero 2 is a 11MP camera that records video and shoots stills. It also films at 30fps at 1080p and views at 170 degrees like its competition. The camera function allows you to shoot ten 11MP photos per second, in bursts, and one 11MP photo every 0.5 second in a timelapse mode. A simple LCD interface allows you to toggle between video and specific camera functions. The camera comes in a hard plastic housing that is waterproof up to 60 meters. The GoPro comes with a variety of accessories from a vented helmet strap, 2 curved adhesive mounts, 2 flat mounts and a 3-way pivot arm. It doesn’t come with a SD card, however. The Hero 2 retails for $299.99.
The “Pepsi Challenge”
Easy of Use: Contour – The Contour has a big slide button on the top of the unit that is easy to use, and most importantly, the user knows without a doubt if the camera is recording or not due to the position of the slider. In contrast, the GoPro has a silver shutter button and it’s hard to know if you’re in the record mode or not. The GoPro does have a nice LCD readout to see how many photos you’ve taken or how much video you can take, but depending on where the camera is mounted, the LCD display is sometimes not conveniently viewable.
Design: Contour – The Contour looks modern and feels modern. It’s half the weight of the GoPro and not as clunky. The camera itself is easier to carry and store, whereas the GoPro has too many attachments that you have to fold or remove to stow away.
Versatility: GoPro – Hands down, for the fact that it takes both video and photographs. It’s really easy to switch between video and photo.
Image Quality: Contour – The Contour lens seems to capture great video no matter what type of lighting. The video is sharp and crisp. The GoPro does have issues in flat and bright light creating a halo effect in the resulting video/photos.
Accessories: GoPro – Selection for the Contour is fairly limited. If you want to go in the water, you will have to buy a housing unit, while the GoPro already comes with one standard. The GoPro also has over 2 dozen mounting accessories and a ultra flexible mounting unit that can connect to roll-bars, flat surfaces and curved surfaces.
Durability: GoPro – The housing unit on the GoPro not only keeps water out but acts as a protective casing. Sometimes I worry how the Contour would handle if I landed hard on it while skiing.
Overall: Contour/GoPro – It’s a tie. There are pros and cons to both cameras. I love both and use them individually for a variety of situations. Whichever one you choose to buy, you won’t be disappointed and your adventurous memories will be lasting and in ready-to-use digital format.