Contour HD Review (720p): 2009
Contour HD now available in 1080p with GPS tracking
Page updated January 2018: VholdR Contour HD (Note: This review is based on a review copy that I received from VholdR). I applied for and got accepted to take part in Enduro Africa 2009. This is a 1,000 mile motocross endurance ride across the Wild Coast of Africa. Being a professional photographer, the first thing I thought of was how best to capture the whole event?
Once I had sorted my standard, everyday camera and video out, I started sourcing helmet cameras. After days of research checking out the quality of camera after camera, one item kept cropping up with quality and features so high, nothing else could match it. The VholdR Contour HD.
This is a small, robust little camera that seemed to tick all the boxes and even shot video at 720p high definition. Great, so I got hold of a copy a couple of weeks before I left for Africa.
After seeing all of the sample footage that was available, I was concerned as to whether the camera could handle other aspects of the trip. Things such as rocks, water, dust and anything I could throw at it but before we go into all that. Here are the specs.
Note: Before I continue, this is probably a good place to mention this. Since I got my review copy of the 720p version, VholdR have now released a full 1080p version so bear that in mind as you read on (link at end).
So, I had the Contour HD and was ready to go but before I did, I made sure I had enough accessories. The battery life on any helmet camera is pretty low so I ordered a spare battery. This would give me around 4 hours recording time each day.
Note: The battery is charged quickly and easily by plugging the camera into any laptop or PC using the supplied USB cable. It can be done whilst you offload your footage.
I also tested the 2GB memory card that came with the Contour HD. However, I decided to order two more 8GB Class 6 cards which could handle HD video much better and would give me longer recording times. It turned out to be a good move.
I also ordered a few spare sticky pads for attaching the whole ensemble to my crash helmet. Trouble is, the helmet wasn't flat anywhere so I ended up using the camera on my goggle strap using the supplied adapter.
The first thing I noticed when I held the Contour HD was its robustness. This thing felt solid! Secondly, was the complete ease of use. I would need to be able to switch this on and off quickly and easily whilst wearing gloves and I was not disappointed.
The Contour HD has a simple but large slider on the top which you simply slide forward to start filming and backwards to stop. If the camera is switched on, you will hear a single audible beep as you start recording. Two beeps sound when you stop...very handy.
If the camera is switched off when you start recording, you start and stop in silent mode which is a little unnerving. Especially if you are shooting important, once-in-a-lifetime footage.
Aligning the camera for perfect footage is a piece of cake. Mounted to the front of the lens are two lasers which rotate with the lens 180°. You simply attach the camera where you need it. For me that was on the goggle strap on the side of my crash helmet. You then look at a wall in front of you in the position you will be riding in and twist the lens until the lasers are aligned to a perfect horizon.
You can also adjust the vertical alignment to ensure you don't just shoot footage of the sky or ground!
The micro SD cards are tiny...so small in fact that I lost one during our trip.
Make sure you have a case to carry them in. I used a standard SD card adapter as a holder. If there is no card inserted when you try to record, you will hear a series of beeps telling you so. The battery goes right next to the card and is easy to remove and replace.
In the same convenient, all-in-one location, is the switch to change from SD to HD along with the USB cable connector. When you close everything in with the latch, you feel secure that all is safe and well in a dust and splash proof environment.
Using the camera in the field was a joy
There were times when I had to switch on and off in a hurry, one handed on a motocross bike flying over rough terrain. This was achieved in an instant. Largely thanks to the big slider which meant I only left the handlebars for a split second.
The 8GB card outlasted the batteries every day. If you are going on long events with no laptop, I suggest one or two spare batteries. When I downloaded the first days footage and rendered it to AVI using Format Factory, I was amazed at the quality and I was not alone.
There were 80 riders on this trip and if I had 80 VholdR Contour HD's with me, I would have sold the lot. Well, 79 actually as one other rider had one!
The camera withstood:
One thing I did notice was that some gravel had flown up from the bike in front, hit the front lens cover. It had scratched it a little during the trip. This made no difference to the footage whatsoever. I have been informed that the front lens covers can be replaced for about £20…sorted!
Overall, I was more than happy with this great little camera. The footage is superb. I fully trust it to keep going in all conditions (except for one time when relentless bashing from branches hit the slider and turned the camera off...but that is all, no damage). I would have no trouble in recommending it to anyone. In fact I will be buying the 1080p version as soon as funds (the wife) will allow!
I only wish these were around during my skydiving days in the late 1990's!
The Contour HD range comes with a whole host of handy accessories such as car clamps, tripod attachments etc:
Please note that quality is reduced from the original for web use…
Best deals on the Contour HD and accessories at Amazon