ContourGPSSee all photos
The biggest update here is the included GPS receiver, naturally. Using it the camera adds positional information to the footage that it captures (at your choice of resolutions up to 1080p), which lets you later view the path covered and speed achieved while recording. Also new is a Bluetooth module, a nugget of silicon that's not doing anything right now but, in the near future, will enable mobile devices to receive video in real-time and to modify camera settings, a feature Contour calls Live Viewfinder.
Beyond that Contour has a habit of subtly tweaking and improving its camera designs with each revision, with the ContourHD 1080p model getting a more progressive slider compared to its 720p predecessor, along with a few other subtle tweaks. The new ContourGPS still shares the same look as those two that came before, but it offers still more modifications. The slider up top, which is used to start and stop recording, is now raised with little rubber nubbies sticking out. This makes it even easier to start and stop this camera without having to take off your super-comfy, fleece-lined mittens.
Flip the door open and the layout inside is much the same, with a miniUSB port on the left (still no micro), battery on the right, and a microSD slot in the middle. The battery is now held in place by a spring-loaded clasp instead of the finicky rotating lock that always gave us problems before, and there's a tiny switch that lets you toggle between one of two modes. Which two modes? We're glad you asked.
The software also lets you configure the camera, creating two configurations with different resolutions, exposure and sound settings, and also selecting whether GPS is enabled. Many of these tweaks will mess with your battery life, which the app will warn you about -- though it stops short of giving you any estimated figures.
Upload a video from the app and it'll show up on the Contour website, which attempts to offer a bit more social interaction than your YouTubes and the like. More important is that it has room for a map over on the right, providing a real-time Google Maps overlay of where the wearer was during this frame of footage and how fast they were going. At least, it will do that assuming the camera scored a GPS lock before the footage started recording.
Using the initial firmware for the camera, even leaving the thing outside and on for 30 minutes we'd struggle to get a lock, and any trees in the vicinity would prevent that. However, about a week after this review initially went live we were provided with a firmware update that comprehensively fixed this problem. GPS locks were scored in under 30 seconds, trees or no trees.
You can see the results in the embed above, which charts our progress around the plowed out track, chasing down an opponent in a white Mitsubishi EVO. The pass was ultimately made but the position later given back, clipping a snow bank on the last lap of the race. Unfortunately we can't show you that part because the driver of the camera car took that opportunity to hurl a few choice bits of profanity. Since the Storyteller app doesn't allow you to cut out sections or do anything with the audio we simply had to cut the clip short.
Overall video and audio performance of the camera seems unchanged from our earlier review of the Contour 1080p, so you'll want to read that. Wind noise at high speeds is perhaps a bit better managed here but still very noticeable, as you can see in this other clip that we captured with the camera mounted on the roof. Curiously, the GPS didn't work for that one.
Battery life seems comparable to the 1080p model as well -- at least it is with the GPS module disabled. Recording at the highest quality 1080p mode with GPS enabled we eked out a minute short of two hours before our camera went kaput. Without GPS that time went up to 2.5 hours. Moving down to a 720p encoding at a lower bitrate battery life jumped another 30 minutes to three hours of continuous recording. If that's not enough you can plug the camera in to a charger while it's in use, assuming you have access to a charger while doing whatever extreme thing you're doing.
Update: We got a note from Dmitriy letting us know there's a hidden tweak you can manually make to the camera's configuration that allows you to run the GPS unit at a higher refresh rate. This should result in a cleaner resulting map if you're doing high-speed stuff, like we were here.
Update 2: Contour provided a new firmware for us to test about a week after this review went live and it comprehensively fixes the GPS issues we had. Even standing near trees we were able to get a lock in under 30 seconds, and when filming numerous clips (like the one embedded below) the signal was never lost. Whether the camera is worth the additional cost over the 1080p model is of course still up to you, but the considerably improved performance is worth an extra point on the review score in our book.
- Same streamlined design
- Even easier to use with gloves on
- Good quality video
- Wind noise
- Unable to configure camera w/o software