Contour+ Versus GoPro HD Hero

 both cameras
Professional cameraman Matt Gormley tries out two of the leading action cams on a real assignment in harsh conditions which quickly reveal the pros and cons. The brief; two teams of tradies to battle it out to win a 4WD ute in a one-hour TV special.The teams will face challenges in water, dust and heat. The terrain is fierce — from goat-track to quarry-and there s bull-dust by the bucket-load. Beyond the principle broadcast cameras, the job demands nine mini-cameras to capture the action in and around the dual-cab utes. As one of two cameramen, my duties involve sharing principle photography while assuming the design of mini-camera and in-car coverage. Prior to the shoot, I spent two days of preproduction running the gear and workflow through its paces. Of the nine mini-cameras, eight are GoPro Hero models with one Contour+. The shoot took place in the weeks preceding the GoPro HD Hero2 s release so this comparison is made with the original GoPro HD Hero model. The GoPro cameras are a popular choice among broadcast cameramen and they re products we re all familiar with. They re proven performers, readily available with various attachments and extension devices, and fuss-free. The GoPro is easy to communicate with, robust and waterproof straight out of the box. The Contour+ was provided as a test unit, and came with a rotating helmet mount, although there is also an extensive selection of other mounts. In the hand it felt solid, and looked smart with its brushed aluminium housing. The levelling lens promised to be a huge help. It had no water-proof cover, but is designed to be weatherproof. To familiarise myself with the unit, my first stop www.contour.com and the Website s video shows the image quality I was expecting, perhaps even offering a richer colouring than the GoPro. Add to this the microphone input, compact design and easily removable battery, and I m excited about this camera s potential. I m also impressed by the technology the Contour+ packs — viewfinder on the iPhone via Bluetooth, GPS tracking, HDMI streaming, long battery life, super-wide angle lens. I couldn t wait to get started —and that s where I ground to a halt.
 GoPro Hero
An app was installed and firmware updated. The camera blinked various coloured lights, my iPhone wasn t connecting to the Bluetooth device. I didn t know what was going on. I put the camera down and went outside. Under the pump, I returned and mastered the Contour+. It was more complex than the GoPro, but having the iPhone as a viewfinder was brilliant, and I could see the potential unfolding. I slid the camera into record mode, and the image on the iPhone vanished! I can appreciate it s there as a line-up tool, but to lose the image at the critical point was annoying. I stopped recording, only to find I needed to manually re-sync the Bluetooth device on the iPhone each time. This was frustrating. Mounted on the vehicles, the GoPro and Contourn-were predominantly suction-mounted to glass. However, the form factor of the Contour with its cylindrical design and mounting points towards the rear of the unit, meant that it jutted out and wasn t able to tuck away into nooks like the GoPro. With both cameras offering a 170-degree angle-of-view the GoPro thus offered the wider framing as it sat back further. The Contour+ was limiting, and was soon relegated to a forward-facing POV. Both the GoPro and Contour+ handled the extreme contrast of the interior/exterior in the same manner, and the images were generally indistinguishable. As noted earlier, the levelling lens of the Contour+ was a handy touch. Once in the field and under a massive time crunch for set-ups and camera repositions, the Contour+ proved itself too time-consuming. There wasn t the time to sync the Bluetooth device, the flashing coloured lights drove me nuts and it was simply too tricky to use compared to the GoPro. Workflow-wise, both cameras are identical. Both plugged into USB for data transfer or disgorged their SD/MicroSD cards. So, to summarise —the GoPro proved itself the better camera for this project. Its simplicity has always made it a winner despite its aesthetic shortfalls. It may look clumsy on a helmet, but it can be thrown into any hostile environment immediately, and is its oh-so practical. The Contour+ is a fine camera, elegantly designed and packed with excellent features, but perhaps it s more directed to the  enthusiast  or hobbyist market. The form-factor may work well with a helmet, but is limiting elsewhere. Its operation is more time-consuming than the GoPro, and the Bluetooth connectivity perhaps works better in theory than practice. Of course, with the release of the GoPro Hero2, the stakes have been raised again as it has three lens focal lengths for greater coverage, a 2x sharper lens, an external microphone input, a remarkable improvement in the low light performance, 10 fps photo burst capture, improved timelapse speeds, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It s simple, easy to master and tough. It is the new standard and hard to see it being displaced anytime soon.

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