One thing a helmet cam has to be is simple to use, and the ContourHD 1080p has that down. This rugged little tube of anodized aluminum starts recording when you slide the long top switch forward and stops when you slide it back. It’s easy to do with gloved hands and built-in stops at either end let you know the job is done correctly. Two small lasers beams let you align the lens to ensure horizontal shooting. Believe me, tilted helmet cam videos are something you’ll only watch once. The lens rotates 192 degrees to compensate for pretty much any mounting situation.
The rechargeable battery is removable, but why bother when you can charge it right in the camera with a USB connection? Contour claims it’s good for 3 hours of recording; I didn’t use it that long on any one charge so can’t comment on battery life. The battery and microSD digital media live behind a rubber rear cap on the ContourHD 1080p that also houses the camera’s on/off button. You press that through the rubber to energize the system, then activate recording using the top switch. The camera accepts memory cards up to 16GB to support those epic adventures.
Memory use depends on the video resolution and frame rate you choose. Available are three HD resolutions – 1080P, 960P and 720P – and WMVA. You can also choose between 30 and 60 frames per second, with 60fps purported to give much smoother action. With just a 2MB card available, I shot at 30fps in 720P. The movies are fun and enjoyable, but do get blurry when the action heats up. I’d advise popping for a 16GB card or two and maxing out the frame speed. Files are output is in Apple Quicktime format (.MOV file extensions). I got the camera just before a press event and didn’t have time to download and play with the free software that lets you configure the camera for exposure, contrast and metering, plus the microphone gain. My one serious complaint was wind noise; less gain may have fixed that.
The ContourHD 1080p’s 135mm lens captures both sides of a two-lane road in front of the motorcycle, giving your viewers a full picture of your ride and any companions ahead. The camera reacts to light changes quickly, but not invisibly. Coming out of shadows into sun, you’ll get a few overexposed frames, and some underexposure when returning to the shade. It works well in low light, as I found during the rain/sleet/snow dampened BMW R 1200 GS intro last April. That was also a good test of the ContourHD’s weatherproofing, which worked well in spite of the sleet bouncing off the lens and the rain sitting on the camera. The only hitch was when the lens fogged up in cold temperatures. What – no integral lens heater? I also got some atmospheric “tick, tick, tick” sounds from sleet hitting the lens.
There are lots of mounting options for the ContourHD 1080p—body, helmet, goggles or on your bike. I chose to stick it to the side of my helmet using the adhesive-equipped puck included in the kit. The trick is to find a flat spot, so a helmet top is pretty much out. I picked the side of my Arai XD3 dual-sport helmet and got good solid contact. The puck is lined with some gnarly hook-and-loop that matches up with its counterpart on the camera, and includes a little tether in case the hook-and-loop fails. You’ll need to experiment to get the camera elevation right. I marked the camera and mount once I dialed it in so I could repeat the setup. The instructions were spot on for this: “aim high.” That is, unless you want movies of your instruments. Next up is horizontal alignment, which is child’s play thanks to the twin lasers. If the beams are level, so is the camera.
With the camera on my helmet, all I noticed was a little extra wind noise at times. Contour claims it weighs just 4.3 ounces, the lightest available. Overall, the ContourHD 1080p performed well for me, and certainly was easy to use and held up well to some punishing weather. Contour encourages their camera owners to share video at the company’s web site, http://contour.com/, so you can see for yourself what others have accomplished with this little black torpedo. MSRP for the ContourHD 1080p is $299.99. Available at various camera retailers, outfitters and Amazon.com; see http://contour.com/dealers/us to find the closest retailer.