I first received the Contour+2 (C+2) from Highly Tuned Athletes in January for the purposes of testing and reviewing but couldn’t pus out a review out of confusion. I knew the C+2 had a lot to offer, I just couldn’t quite work out what. Having given it a great deal of thought, I reckon it’s pretty clear these limitations were self-imposed.
You see, I started capturing and editing video with a very specific purpose in mind – trail running. I wanted to try and capture, and communicate, my love for the sport. My first video was shot using an Olympus TG-1 and then I moved over to a GoPro Hero3 Black. While the Hero3 had some teething problems (and still does), I fell in love with it – for the purposes of capturing trail running, hiking, mountaineering and so forth, it’s ideal.
It was this framework that I originally tried to slot the Contour into. After all, isn’t Contour just another sports/action cam manufacturer trying to grab some of GoPro’s market share? This is certainly what I originally thought and I was keen to give the under-dog a go. But in retrospect, this completely misses the point. The C+2 is a different beast all together and, while I have included some side-by-side video footage, any prospective action-cam buyer should approach the decision of “which one should I buy” with a clear understanding of what, exactly, they’re trying to achieve.
Let’s not beat around the bush. For hard-mounted purposes such as bikes, cars, skis and helmets, the C+2 is fantastic. For soft-mount applications (e.g. head mount, ski pole etc.) I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the GoPro. The C+2 is significantly heavier and bulkier than the Hero3, but with this bulk you get some excellent features that the Hero3 is lacking: namely, laser levelling; the ability to rotate the lens on the fly, and; a robust, slimlined mounting system that is very well suited to rigid mounting applications. While the overall range of mounts available for both cameras is fairly comparable, a quick look at the Contour website confirms this emphasis.
While the on-paper video quality specs are pretty similar, the Hero3 Black undoubtedly has more grunt. The ability to shoot higher resolutions and faster frame rates will definitely win a lot of fans for the Hero3 range. That said, the ability to tag your footage with GPS data, stream live to your phone via BlueTooth or easily connect external audio and video inputs may very well tip the balance. But again, these features are much more likely to appeal to a vehicle-based videographer than someone on a long run or expedition.
Another area where the two devices differ dramatically – and which again highlights their market positioning – is in there setup. With the GoPro, you can setup almost everything from within the slow but thorough LCD menu system. The C+2, on the other hand, requires you to define two presets via a Phone or Computer interface. The user can then manually switch between these two settings via a slider on the camera. There is no menu or interface on the camera itself. This is very well suited to someone base-camping or hitting the slopes/corners/waves for day sessions before returning to electricity. But I know from experience that while on expedition this lack of customisability would drive me nuts.
I originally thought this review would turn into a fight to the death, declaring either the Hero3 or C+2 the overall winner. However, like I’ve suggested, that would only serve to ignore the different pros and cons that each camera offers. I spent more time on bikes or around motor/board sports, choosing either way would be a damn difficult decision. However, given I tend to hold the camera in my hands or, at most, mount it to a hiking pole, the Hero3 remains my camera of choice. While the Countour+2 is a great camera, The lighter weight, in-camera menu and resolution/frame rate versatility suit my activities better.