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Contour+ Camcorder Review
The Contour+ can be set to a continuous photo mode rather than a video mode, but the switch requires the use of the Storyteller software or Contour's mobile app. When shooting continuous photos, the Contour+ captures 5-megapixel still images at a 2592 x 1944 resolution. You can also set the frequency that the camcorder takes these photos, with options of once every 3, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds.
This can be a cool feature, especially if used in conjunction with GPS. You can essentially track your movement with a series of photos and then bring up the points on a map (using the Storyteller software) later. The photo feature also works best if the Contour camcorder is kept still. In our testing, the camcorder often produced blurred photos when walked around or had the device mounted to a moving object while it snapped photos. You can't set the shutter speed, so the camcorder may be using a slower one than is necessary to take crisp, blur-free images. In the end, you may actually be better off pulling still images from your video clips.
The Contour+ is equipped with GPS, which, if turned on, should keep track of the location where your photos and videos are shot. Unfortunately, we had trouble getting the GPS to locate our position on the map. This happened both when we were indoors, during our testing, and outdoors in the Boston metro area. The only time we did get the GPS to work, it took about 10 minutes before the camcorder finally located our position.
All of this is nothing new for us, however, as nearly every camera or camcorder that has built-in GPS has worked terribly in our labs. Most are unable to ever find our location, and the ones that do usually take 5 minutes or more to obtain it (just like the Contour+). Perhaps Boston simply has lots of spots that are difficult for GPS satellites to connect with, we don't know. Or maybe GPS on cameras and camcorders is still just a flaky technology. Contour seems to back up this ideology, as the instruction manual for the Contour+ lists the following "environmental variables" that may keep the Contour+ from establishing a solid GPS signal:
• GPS won't work indoors.
• Tall buildings, cliffs, or canyons (natural or urban) may block the GPS signal.
• Covering the record slider on the camcorder with clothing or equipment can block the GPS antenna.
• The battery should be charged more than 30% for effective use of GPS.
• Keep the camcorder away from other devices that emit electronic noise which could interfere with the GPS antenna/
• Keep the camcorder still until a GPS signal is acquired.
• GPS fix may not be established if camcorder is used in an area with trees overhead.
Whew! Those are a lot of environmental variables to take into consideration. It's hard to imagine anything other than an open pasture that doesn't have an issue with at least one of those variables. At least this explains our difficulty getting the GPS to work in our time with the camcorder.
Anyway, if you can get the GPS to work on the Contour+, we imagine the feature is pretty cool. The Storyteller software allows you to view your videos on a map (organized by location), although we didn't see any way you could do this with photos. Location data for still images is saved by the camcorder, though, you just can't seem to view this info with Storyteller. You can also set the GPS to track the location every second or multiple times per second, which is great if you want to create a map of your movements with the camcorder.
The Contour+ produces a unique video image, so we’ve attached to sample videos to give you a better idea of what its resultant video clips will look like. The first is a sample video of the Contour+ attached to a dog. The camcorder got a bit wobbly because we mounted it to a soft backpack that was strapped to the dog. Contour may have additional mounts that work better with dogs or other household pets.
Our second sample video was taken with the Contour+ in our hand, walking around town. Using the Contour+ like this doesn't take advantage of the camcorder's unique recording abilities, but it can still produce an interesting look.
Our third sample video was taken with the Contour+ mounted to a bike helmet as our subject biked around town. We left the audio on for this clip to show you how much wind interference the built-in mic picked during the shot. The mic did pick up some good audio, however, as a passerby asks about the Contour+ camcorder while our biker is stopped at a traffic light.
All of these video clips were captured at Full HD resolutiong (1920 x 1080) with a 30p frame rate. You can see larger versions of each video by clicking on the YouTube video and going directly to YouTube.