To turn on the camera, just push the rear power button, and it announces that it’s alive with loud and distinct beep, which was easy to hear no matter what the outdoor ambient noise level was like.
It’s alive! It’s alive!
Leveling the camera was super simple and fun, and a quick press of the power button, illuminates the Lasers, and you point the camera at a stationary object, like a tree, rock or the ground, and then rotate the lens until the two beam spots are horizontally aligned. Although it can be hard to discern the Laser spots in bright daylight while looking down the trail, you can get a general idea of what the video will be capturing. I freaked out the family the first time I turned on the lasers, and pointed them against the wall, which was kind of fun until the kids wanted to play with it, NOT! To begin the recording, just push the slider towards the lens, and it beeps once, and the front indicator light turns from green to red. To stop recording, push the slider away from the lens, and it beeps twice. The loud beeps and mechanical nature of the recording switch were very intuitive and reassuring, and inform you of exactly what’s transpired, and if needed a quick check of the switch’s position quickly assured you of its status. I give extremely high marks to the Contour for its usage factor!
After you get everything set up it is pretty easy to reach up on your helmet and turn the camera on or off, turn on the lasers or slide the record button, all with the reinforcement of the nice loud beeps as things go on or off. The rear on/off button was less distinct when wearing gloves, but the loud noise it made, more than made up for it. The camera has an automatic shutoff if the camera is idle (not recording) for 15 minutes, and it beeps twice as it powers down.
While it was on my head, I did notice the additional weight, but it wasn’t significant, and after riding any distance it slowly disappeared and wasn’t noticeable. It doesn’t stick up in the air as much as the HERO camera, but it still got whacked by trees. I did actually break one set of rails, but it was a pretty abusive happenstance, and Contour sent me a new replacement.
Memory and Battery
The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery fits very snugly into the back of the camera, and there is a latch to hold it securely in the position, which greatly helps the jarring vibrations that mountain places on the battery. A loose connection means loss of footage, data corruption, and anomalies can be introduced. The 3.7 volt and 1050 milliampere-hour battery, gave me anywhere from 2-3 hour of usage, and its limit varied on the video resolution used, and the number times that on/off and stop/start recording were cycled, and in addition the ambient air temperature.
The unit comes with a 2GB MicroSD card which was good for 30-60 minutes of recording time in HD mode (15-30min per GB in HD). I went out and bought a 8GB MicroSD card for maximum recording time, since the memory gets maxed out when the battery limit is reached. I will probably get a 16GB card, but I currently carry an extra battery and MicroSD card, if I desire more footage.
Interfacing with the Computer
To download or view the video’s you recorded, open up the back door of the camera, and connect the mini USB to the camera, and then the other end of the connector to a computer USB port. The unit will appear as a Removable Disk, and just navigate down to the appropriate directory (example: F:\Removable Disk\DCIM\100MEDIA) and either download or view the video straight from the camera. For faster downloads, use a standalone SD card reader, and bypass the camera as the downloading interface.
To configure the camera you use Contour’s Easy Edit software on your computer, which can be installed directly from the MicroSD card or downloaded from their website. The Easy Edit software lets you do camera configurations, video downloads, editing (primitive) and uploads to their community site. You can configure the bit rate, Hi/Low switch video settings, microphone gain(0-59), and lighting conditions such as contrast (0-100), exposure (-4 to +4), sharpness(1-5), metering weighting (spot, center, avg) and set the time. I played with the bit rate and lighting settings, and they were fun to play with, and did make a discernible difference.
I didn’t use their Easy Edit software very much, except to change camera configurations, as I much preferred a more robust video editing software package, such as Cyberlink’s PowerDirector Ultra (my current fave), but they are plenty of other brands on the market. The Easy Edit wasn’t bad, and it a least gave you something to use for editing, plus you can upload 60fps videos, which isn’t the case with any of the popular video sites, such as YouTube or Vimeo. I usually manually download the footage to a local directory, and either upload to Vimeo as a raw file or use my video software to create a short video.
While the hooked up to the computer, the indicator on the back stays red until the battery is fully charged, which can take a couple of hours depending on how much video was recorded.