POV Camera Shootout – GoPro, Drift, Contour

Cameras Pro Reviews

GoPro Hero HD Vs Drift Stealth FX


Until recently, if you wanted to make a movie of your mountain bike excursions you had to either advance to professional level where people paid you to put your skills on video, or shell out big bucks for a high end unit by the likes of Sony, Nikon or one of the other specialty camera brands. Not so anymore. Over the last few years, a few companies have put together camera packages that boast professional quality video at amateur prices.

In this article I am going to showcase the two leaders in this market: The GoPro Hero HD and the Drift Innovation HD170 Stealth.

GoPro Hero HD ($299)

The GoPro camera system is a highly versatile camera package with kits available for almost any type of extreme sport out there. They boast true 1080p video in a small lightweight package that almost any rider can afford. Their camera package for biking includes a small lightweight camera with 2 housings; a waterproof shell for really nasty environments and a skeleton housing that will protect your lens and give you decent audio but won’t protect your investment in wet environments.

Both housings come equipped with a removable and replaceable lens cover so when you pull a full-on yard sale and scratch up your gear, you’re only about 20 bucks away from a clear picture. Along with the camera and housings you get an assortment of mounting options like strap, helmet mount, and several different stick-on mounts. The user interface is pretty basic with 2-button operation; both of which are easily accessible even while wearing gloves.

As I said before, the Gopro HD shoots in true 1080p (with the option of getting additional video time by scaling down the resolution). Other shooting options include single shot still photo capture as well as 3-shot photo sequence and a timed single shot that will grab a photo ever few seconds (you are in charge of how many seconds between shots) until you either shut it down or it runs out of memory.

On The Trail

Using the GoPro for the first time can be a bit awkward. Out of the box, you load up a standard SD memory card (I recommend at least 8 GB) and stuff the included rechargeable battery pack into the unit before charging right off your computer (with the included USB cable).

After charging, the real fun starts. Pull out the instruction manual and you will instantly realize that setup is going to require a little bit of forethought and intuition to avoid capturing footage of the ground or sky. With only two buttons to work with, it takes a little bit of time to navigate the multiple menus to set the camera in the picture mode and recording resolution that you are looking to use. I strongly recommend keeping your manual with your camera at all times because you’re going to need it to make any changes in the future!

Luckily, the camera remembers its last used settings so unless you are looking to do something different, you won’t have to mess with it too much. After you’ve set up the camera you need to figure out where you are going to mount it. The model that I picked up comes with a strap mount, a helmet strap and some stick-ons. No matter where you mount the camera you’re going to have to try and think ahead. Without the luxury of a preview display, you can’t see where the camera is actually aimed. I would like to pretend there is a solid scientific approach to insuring that you will capture the best angle of the action, you really have to simply take a best guess at it. The plus side is that with it’s wide angle lens, if you’re pointed even remotely in the right direction, you’re going to catch the action (although possibly not at quite the angle you want).

I haven’t spent too much time fiddling with the included helmet strap because it doesn’t seem to really secure the camera to my helmet. Plus I’m not particularly keen on the idea of dropping my 200+ dollar camera out on the trail. I suspect the strap mount works best when used with a standard vented bike helmet (which I was not sporting). However I should report that the mount proved really effective for mounting the camera to the underside of my seat.

The best method for mounting the unit to a helmet I discovered was to apply the provided stick-on’s. These allow you to stick the camera wherever you want it without concerns of the camera turning into a trail treasure for somebody else to discover. Even using these mounts, the form factor and mounting system puts the camera in a fairly awkward position however and leaves it vulnerable to smacking tree branches along the way. Also worth noting, the pivot actions on the mounts tend to move no matter how hard you clamp down on them. Applying a bit of hair spray on these pivots helps hold them in place so that you don’t get home and find that got a great video of the underside of a bunch of tree-limbs.

Pros: Excellent video quality, multiple mounting options, replaceable lens cover, waterproof, wide angle lens with minimal distortion, battery life.

Cons: Awkward mounting positions, no display for preview, a bit difficult to setup.

Drift Innovation Stealth FX ($329)

The Drift Stealth is the other major offering in this class and shows a lot of forethought in its design; almost if their engineers looked at the competition and tried to capitalize on each of their shortcomings. The Drift Stealth, like the GoPro, boasts true 1080p recording capability as well as lower resolution settings to allow for longer recording times.

The Drift has multiple mounting options including helmet straps, stick-ons and surface straps. Unlike the GoPro the Drift sports an LCD display and a wireless on/off switch so you can turn it on for the cool sections of trail and turn it off at will to conserve your battery.

Also like the GoPro you get the option of capturing video, stills and multiple still shots. Unlike the GoPro, the Drift does not come with any housings, so you have to be a bit more careful when using it. Whatever you damage on the Drift in the event of a get-off (including the lens), you’re stuck with. There is no denying the peace of mind that comes with knowing the GoPro’s lens plate can be replaced for $20 should you manage to scratch it.

On The Trail

Like the GoPro, the Drift is pretty straightforward out of the box. Drop in a standard SD card, battery and plug the unit in to charge. The first difference I noticed is that along with an LCD display the Drift Stealth also sports multiple buttons that really help with the setup.

Sadly mounting the Drift is as equally awkward as the GoPro. While it boasts a longer form factor that doesn’t stick out nearly as bad as the Hero, once you’ve mounted it with the stick-on’s, you’re pretty much locked in with only a single axis of rotation at your disposal.

Unlike the GoPro you can rotate the lens to get your shot right side up without having to navigate menus but I’d still appreciate adjustment through two-axis. Also like the GoPro, the head strap and strap-on mounts are passable though I’m still not completely comfortable with trusting them. And forget about trying to mount the Drift under your seat facing backwards! It simply doesn’t work.

Once you’ve gotten your camera mounted up it’s a pretty straightforward process to set up the camera to get the kind of shots that you seek. With just a few button clicks, you can set up the remote control, which easily straps to your handlebars for easy on/off recording. I suppose the positive side to the lack of axis adjustability is that when you get the Drift mounted and pointed in the right direction, it’s locked in place/ not going anywhere. No need to mess with hairspray or other home remedies to simply keep it in the right direction. Couple this to its lower profile exterior design and there is little need to worry about smacking it on a low-hanging tree branch.

Pros: Excellent video, multiple mounting options, battery life, super wide angle lens with minimal distortion, remote control, low profile design, LCD screen, easy to set up.

Cons: Limited range of motion in mounting,  decreased protection for lens or camera body.

Conclusion

Both of these cameras offer such excellent video quality that the only way I could tell the difference between the two was in judging the view based on the mounting locations I selected. Yes, it’s really that close! Both of them can do just about anything a mountain biker can ask of them on both still captures or video quality.

To our surprise, and in all honesty, neither one of these units really stands out head and shoulders above the other as we initially anticipated. Rather I found that I personally like/ dislike them equally but for different reasons.

Its awkward mounting easily offsets the GoPro’s awesome versatility & video quality. Additionally the fact that it is fully waterproof is counteracted a bit by a cumbersome user interface.

The Drift on the other hand boasts a much nicer form factor and is super easy to use right out of the box but it’s lack of a protective housing makes me question whether this camera was actually designed with extreme sports in mind.

All factors considering, unless you want to spend nearly a grand on a remote camera and recorder package, either of these units are pretty darn incredible for their price point. Sure there are a few shortcomings to take into consideration but both proved quite reliable and trouble-free during our testing.

Perhaps the biggest news to be excited about is that what nits I could pick during the shootout are all concerns that could be easily remedied in future model updates.

 

 

Countour+ Review: By Brian Mullin of GramsLightBikes.com

The Contour+ is a small, light and compact video camera, that is easy to use and includes the capability to do GPS Video Mapping. It has an excellent usage factor, combining a mechanical start/stop recording slider, loud and distinct indicator beeps for mode changes, a 270° rotatable lens and uses a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone or mobile device, as a viewfinder for horizontal alignment and to alter camera configurations. The camera records in a vast array of high-definition video resolutions up to 1080p, and has proven itself to take excellent footage with great clarity and realistic colors.

Contour+
The Contour+ is a POV (point of view) high-definition sports CMOS camera with a 5MP sensor and 2.8″ aperture, that can record video footage in 1080p, 960p and 720p formats, along with GPS mapping information (speed, location and elevation). It records data onto a MicroSD card (2GB included) up to 32GB in size, and is powered with an internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery that gives around two and half hours of recording time. The cameras Connect View card uses Bluetooth V2.1 to wirelessly converse with iOS and Android based smartphones or mobile devices to align the camera and change settings. It has ports for a mini USB for computer connection and recharging, a mini HDMI for live streaming to a TV or other sources, and an external microphone for higher-quality audio recording. The 270° rotatable lens, is flush mounted, and uses a custom six element glass for additional clarity and decreased aberrations. The small and light camera is mostly made of plastic, and uses a fiberglass lower body, with a protective anodized aluminum barrel surrounding the lens and electronics, and its impact, shock, and water resistant. The camera attaches to an assortment of mounts, including a goggle, profile, flat surface, universal adapter (camera and RAM), flex strap, vented helmet, and handlebar, using their proprietary TRails system.

Contour+ Kit Contents

The kit comes with the Contour+ camera, a low profile and two rotating mounts, an instruction guide, a USB, HDMI and Mic cable, a rechargeable 3.7V 1050mAh Li-Ion battery, lens cap, leashes, and a Connect View and 2GB MicroSD card.

Video Resolutions
The Contour+ can shoot in High Definition, in three video resolutions. It can shoot in 1080p (widescreen) at 30fps (frames per second), 960p (full frame) at 30fps and 720p (widescreen) at either 30 fps or 60 fps. The 720p 60 fps allow for slow motion playback, which is pretty cool to watch, and in addition, it gives the normal footage a smoother and more fluid look. Each of the video resolutions is captured at different bit rates (which can be customized), which entails varying recording times and storage requirements, meaning greater resources are needed for the higher usage formats. The resolution settings are done within Contour Storyteller software on your local computer, or through the Bluetooth connection to a smartphone. There are two preset video resolutions for the camera, which can then be changed by using the 1/2 switch on the inside back of the unit. The camera records in two viewing angles, unique to its video resolution, so 1080p is 125°, while 920p and 720p are at 170°. It uses the H.264 video codec, AAC audio compression, and a .mov file type. Everything defaults to the NTSC standard, but it can optionally record PAL video in 25fps and 50fps increments.

Photos
The Contour+ can shoot still 5MP photos with a resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels and 135° field of view, in an automatic mode, which allows photos to be taken every X number of seconds, where X is 3, 5, 10, 30 or 60-second intervals.

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  • Richard Crawford says:

    One point about the GoPro that is useful is the chest mount – this give a wide shot incl hands on bars and feels much more in zone .

    Here is a good example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21NS1x1XBP0&feature=related

  • Dan says:

    Nice Review,

    Would have been nice to have some side by side video footage. Shot at the same time, same handlebars, lighting conditions… etc.

    I know you said their both excellent quality video, but the proof is in the footage.

  • brianD says:

    how do you not mention contourhd or contourgps?? i’ve tried both the gopro hero hd and contourhd and found the contour was the clear leader.

  • Mike says:

    Forget mounting the Drift backwards on your seatpost? Whaaaat? :-) For evidence to the contrary please enjoy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MApAXOtYPmI

    Mike

    P.S. I used a simple, little hiking tripod similar to this: http://www.rei.com/product/777249/pedco-ultrapod-mini-tripod

  • Ken N says:

    You completely passed over another viable camera in this price range the Contour HD.

  • pfb says:

    The Contour HD is the clear winer over the HeroHD in my book:
    -> Much cleaner helmet mount solution. You don’t end up looking like Marvin the Martian with a camera sticking up over the top of your head, or have to worry about getting it ripped off when you duck under a branch.
    -> Ubiquitous and tiny MicroSD cards
    -> Runs super-cheap and easily available Nokia BL-5C Lithium Ion batteries
    -> Better field of view. 135° (960p, 720p) 110° (1080p). Hero is stupid wide.
    -> Laser alignment. Without a LCD, very nice for verifying level/attitude on a helmet camera.

    GoPro has awesome marketing, just wish they would come out with a better camera!

  • Fourbeer says:

    I am surprised the Countour was not also tested as it is one of the more prolific cameras out there.

  • Ari says:

    I’ve only used the GoPro hero HD. You didn’t mention the optional helmet mount (what I use). If you mount it on the handlebars you get excessive shaking and unviewable video if you do any real mountain biking. On the helmet is much better. I’m sure the Drift cam has the same issues with vibrations unless it has a built in stabilizer in cam or through the mount (correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think so!). So in the end, having the helmet mount for the GoPro makes it extremely handy. And MORE IMPORTANTLY. The GoPro camera has a lot of add-ons. Most recently is an LCD screen that mounts to the back of the camera. Also the ability to buy two cameras and link them together to record in 3D.

  • yoterryh says:

    I agree with brianD; I’ve never even heard of the “Drift Innovation”, but Contour is certainly a well-established product in this category!

  • skiahh says:

    Have to concur with brianD; the Contours are definitely in this class. With the (limited) footage of the new Contour+ I’ve seen, they may have opened a new class, too… in both capability and price.

    The picture of the Stealth kit isn’t the HD… it’s an X170. I hope this isn’t the camera you used to compare! Plus it’s orange! The photo of the one on the bar is the stealth, so I’m thinking the footage comparison is valid, though.

    And though I’ve heard some negative stuff about their quality, I’d say you ought to include the Oregon Scientific ATC9X in your test, too. It’s at the same price point and the footage looks really good.

  • jlib says:

    Although a fair review, it is not really a shootout since the Oregon Scientific ATC 9K wasn’t even mentioned.

  • James says:

    I agree with Brian D. Where are the Contour models? This doesn’t really seem like a shootout with only 2 cameras.

  • Tim says:

    I have owned both gopro and contour hd. No comparison Contour HD blow the doors off of anything currently out there in it’s price range.
    Not to mention the fact it is built for live action mounting. (GoPro a regular old fashion camera in a lexan case.)
    Also, if you fix your review and make it descent by adding the contour HD you should add videos of all cameras review on the same course section maybe mounted if possible side by side or as many at a time as you can.
    Whew, here moderately fair reviews.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLK1sOuD9Gc
    But he thinks the pov hD is a much better camera. Maybe but it is in a differnt $ class and is really bulky.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBtqpmPA7vw “laser beams”

    Btw, I use the contourHD all the time for taking pictures close to my subjects off the bike and around the house instead of a still action camera.

  • Mike Sullivan says:

    Side by side video would have been helpful, as it was, I had both cameras mounted to my helmet at the same time. The GoPro mounted to the side and the Stealth mounted on top. The views were nearly identical and when I played them on the computer and Tv looked great. However, once I dumbed them down to youtube resolution they looked pretty much like any other crappy youtube vid out there. I felt that it would be better to send readers to the maunfacturers websites and see the quality that they are able to show.
    As for the countour, They didn’t offer to send me one of those as a comparision but I’m looking forward to trying one out.

  • Mascobe says:

    I shot this video with a DXG-572V I paid about $100 with a 2 GB card. No, it is not HD but it is pretty good for how little I paid. There are a bunch of other videos on my YouTube channel shot with this same camera. The mount on the seat post is an old stem with a right angle aluminum shelf to velcro the camera to.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mascobe#p/u/24/13NnaZcBy-M

  • Floridabiker says:

    If the video you’re comparing was from handlebar mounted cameras I think you should go back and try it outside of the local park and on some serious trails. Any serious mountain biking with a handlebar mounted camera just isn’t going to look good unless the trails are glass smooth (which isn’t going to happen with serious mountain biking). I suggest you drop the BMX helmet and get an actual mountain biker to review it next time: all helmet mount, forward facing, and rough technical trails.

    That being said this way very useful. Thank you for putting in the time to compare these two. I’d love to see you contact both companies and see if they’re going to be addressing any of these issues in future models.

    How terrible is the spelling in this forum?

  • brianD says:

    Mike-
    It might be beneficial to the readers to state that these were the only two cameras compared because no other companies supplied their comparable version.

  • this is a biased review says:

    Go pro looks silly on any helmet. Contour hd is the one and only helmet cam out there. I have tested the drift, this is over priced crap with a dodgy remote control. I have seen helmets with the go pro on…definately a no no.
    The beauty of the contour is that it is sleek ,adjustable lens orientation to 180 degrees and you can use the ipod / iphone as a viewfinder and also change cam settings on the go….not to mention the gps feature.

  • Rodney says:

    Contour Helmet cam! I don’t own one yet, but others here mentioned it and I checked it out. The cheap one is the same price range with the GPS version costing only a little more. The great thing about the GPS version is the ability to use your phone as the viewfinder (iPhone only currently with Android coming soon). Contour has a rotating lens also.

  • M&M says:

    Guys you know if you want to see your favorite brand (or just the one you are considering) included in these comparison tests, email the company who makes them and tell them so. Mags and sites query all the companies but so often come up with excuses or worse yet, no response at all.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    M&M => we have a Contour+ review coming out shortly, and in the fall we’ll see if we can get a shootout done, but it’s an extremely large amount of work doing testing and reviewing (let alone a shootout) of these camera’s, and we usually try and isolate the test to one camera at a time, although we do some cross testing during the process for comparison purposes. I’ll chat with my compatriot about a shootout: GoPro HD Hero vs Contour+ vs Drift HD (the new small one)

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