ContourHD 1080p Review

Cameras Pro Reviews

I tested all the different HD video resolutions, and my preference was full frame 960p, since it gave more of the trail viewpoint of what is perceived when actually riding a trail, meaning taller and narrower FOV (field of vision). The 720p was nice and I used it regularly, and it was easy to edit and splice, and was more conformable to the video upload sites. The camera can have two preset video resolutions, which are set up with the Easy Edit software, and then are chosen with the Hi/Low switch, and I usually did a 960p and 720p pairing.

The captured footage had good clarity and sharpness, with realistic colors, although they were slightly cool and muted. It did well in bright sunshine, especially when panning directly into the sun, but it wasn’t the best when alternating between sunshine and shade. Like many of the CMOS sensors, straight on sun will cause some vertical colored bands (usually purple) and flares. Pixelation was good, with a mild amount of aliasing, and some slight edge artifacts. The framing was smooth, but heavy shocks, and vibrations caused distortion.

If the terrain was smooth, or you could tighten down your helmet or use a full faced version, the 1080p looked really sweet, as the additional clarity was outstanding, and the widescreen captured an expansive viewpoint. Unfortunately, with rough terrain encountered during typical mountain biking, and loose fitting helmets, the 1080p format had significant jellovision, and made those recording undesirable.

When recording in rougher mountain biking terrain, all the POV outdoor video cameras have an issue with what I call the “jump or shake” syndrome. It can be seen in the recorded media as in abrupt jump in the field of view, almost like one is in an earthquake, or as jellovision. Attaching the camera using a more stable mount so that it literally becomes part of the attachment point helps this issue. A great deal of the issue is due to the CMOS sensor, but the HD exacerbates the issue, since anomalies are more perceptible. Of course, in the price point range of the POV’s, compromises have to be made to get a rugged outdoor sport video camera to function within its design and cost parameters.

The ContourHD, like a lot of the CMOS video cameras use a Rolling Shutter, which makes videos seem a bit shaky and scattered (think sea sickness) and jellovisioned, due to motion artifacts (skew and wobble). A Rolling Shutter exposes different portions of the frame at a different point in time, hence “rolling” through the frame, while a Global shutter (CCD cameras use this) exposes the entire imager simultaneously. Neither does this in the physical sense. The degree that each camera exhibits the motion artifacts issue depends on a lot of factors. The final output can also display spatio-temporal aliasing, which has a rippled or watered appearance.

The back door would loosen sometimes, and pop open slightly when turning the record slider on and off, but it never did actually fully flop open, and it was easy to slide back into position, even on the fly. The unit doesn’t do very well in rain storms when mud gets kicked up, and although it still recorded (it’s water resistant), mud would get caught in the nook of the lens, and cause issues. They do have a new waterproof housing, which should help, but I haven’t tested it as yet, but it will come in handy next time I am submerged. If you don’t clear the memory before your ride, your SOL, since there isn’t a method for in the field deletion, so it’s a good idea to always have a spare card. Even if I played with the microphone gain, I still didn’t find the sound recoding very useful, it either had extraneous wind noise or was too muted, although I usually add music to my edited videos, so it was a moot point for me.

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • George says:

    I have one of their original vholdr cameras, and have had issues with it from day one. They had me send the camera back to them twice and I still have the same issue. However now they wont support the product since I’ve had it for over a year.

  • leel says:

    That’s pretty much bang on including comments re mounts

  • Sir Bikes says:

    No matter what camera you choose, the most common problem I see with pov video is shaky video due to poor mounting. It’s not necessarily due to the mounts provided by the manufacturer, although there’s always room for improvement. It also has to do with how and where you mount the camera. It has to be very solid and stable – not just the mount, but whatever you mount it to. My secret is counterweighting. You can see my setup here:

    Check out my latest video using the Contour HD. This little camera has impressive video quality. Its weakness is anemic, noisy audio (electronic noise):

    It’s very, very difficult to film fast moving objects in the woods, esp. on a sunny day, with any camera, let alone a small pov camera with a small lens.

  • tanpatnode says:

    I recently got one to use and i LOVE it! The only thing i do wish it had was an option for an external mic. I went on a mountain bike ride and it worked great. For some reason it was a little shaky but I had it mounted on my bars so it got whatever the fork missed. Now I would like to try a Hero. Compare the two!

  • Bob Ramsay says:

    Just want to say thanks for the great review of the Contour 1080. I’ve had mine for a while but haven’t been able to use it to it’s best ability, you’re article has really helped me understand the camera. Well done, cheers


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