|The Contour+ is rugged and compact; you can set controls via Bluetooth on a smartphone.|
We’ve been great fans of small HD video action camcorders since we started experimenting with lipstick-style units that had to be tethered to a separate and bulky apparatus. The technology has come a long way in a short time, and today you can choose from several small, light models that deliver outstanding image quality.
This class of HD video camera has gained most of its following among extreme-sports aficionados. The ability to attach a camcorder to your helmet while skiing or your mountain bike’s handlebars while riding through dramatic terrain has made for any number of wildly popular YouTube clips. The same qualities of ruggedness, compactness and top image quality that make these camcorders so popular with extreme-sports enthusiasts also make them great for outdoor photographers looking to have some fun with video.
We recently spent some time getting to know the Contour+ camcorder, and we came away impressed. One of the common frustrations with this entire class of camera is that they’re difficult to use. Full-sized camcorders have elaborate controls, features and menus, which can be navigated on their large LCD monitor screens. The small action camcorders, on the other hand, don’t have integral monitors, so accessing their functions and settings involves some intricate button pressing and LED/LCD screen decoding. Sure, you can get used to it, but most of us aren’t going to be using these camcorders every day, which makes them hard to master without an instruction manual.
The first aspect of the Contour+ that impressed us is the unit’s ability to link to a smartphone via Bluetooth to set the camera and do an initial composition. This is huge. Gone are complex button routines and random letter/number codes; instead, you can see the settings and, in plain English, get the camera set up for how you want to shoot. Choose shooting modes, image quality settings, frame rate and microphone gain, among other features. And while connected, you can line up the camera and see the results on your phone. Once you actually start shooting, you lose the image on the phone, but the wireless viewfinder feature gets you going in the right direction. The Contour+ also has onboard GPS video mapping, which uses an intuitive Google map interface.
All of these small camcorders excel at giving you cool perspectives and getting you into tricky shooting situations. There are a variety of optional mounts, including a multitalented flex strap, bar mounts for a bicycle, waterproof board mounts and waterproof housings and others. The Contour+ weighs a mere 5.3 ounces and measures 98x58x34mm.
Contact: Contour, contour.com.