Over the last few years many brands have brought affordable HD video to the masses and so the use of helmet cams or POV cams has really exploded. Drift, VIO, Vholdr and GoPro are the big names but Vholdr’s Contour 1080P HD Camcorder and GoPro’s HD Hero helmet cam are definitely leading the pack in terms of popularity.
They also happen to be ones that I have purchased, so I thought I would do a quick comparison. If you’ve got a Drift or VIO cam feel free to sound off in the comments!
The GoPro HD Hero and the Contour HD cameras are very good at what they are designed to do (shoot close-up HD action footage in a variety of conditions). The Contour HD is a little more stylish, and it’s out-of-the-way mount is more convenient as well, but the GoPro is more adjustable in the field and has more accessories available to enhance your use experience like the LCD Bacpac, various mounts, etc.
The Contour HD has extremely limited in-field configuration. Most settings can only be changed via computer. The field of view is 135 degrees so there is less distortion/fisheye effect than the GoPro. Athough there is no zoom capability, this lends the Contour a slight edge when it comes to filming action that is not immediately in front of you, however the regular Contour HD only allows 16GB of memory compared to the GoPro’s 32GB.
Menu controls on the GoPro HD Hero rely on the camera’s only two buttons and no GUI. This takes some practice and familiarity to know what you’re doing to change settings. The mega-wide angle (170 degrees at 720/30fps) means you rarely miss your shot. Waterproof casing is a one-up vs. the Contour, as is the convex lens & cover which does a better job preventing the accumulation of snow from fogging up your footage.
Both cameras are a little difficult to use with gloves on and the audio indicator is not always loud enough to hear with a helmet on or in the wind. GoPro’s blinking light is easier to see than Contour’s.
The Contour’s swivel lens is an advantage over the GoPro. You do not need to re-orient the camera, you can just rotate the lens to get the right perspective.
On the other hand the GoPro requires frankensteining various mounts and you may end up with protruding camera. GoPro should really come up with some sort of sleeker, universal gyro mount.
Gopro comes with a handful of accessories,including headstrap mount and a few 3m sticky mounts for flat or curved surfaces. It also comes with the waterproof case. I am disappointed that they do not include the handlebar/seatpost mount as standard equipment. There are many accessories available after purchase including the LCD Bacpac which allows you to review footage on the fly, battery extenders, and various mounting options.
The Contour comes with a 2GB micro SD card, the goggle-strap mount, and a flat-surface mount but otherwise no accessories. I am disappointed that the Contour HD does not come with the waterproof case, although you can buy these and dozens of other accessories/mounts, separately.
Both cameras do a pretty good job with image stabilization. You can buy cheaper HD cameras like the Kodak Zi series or the flip, but these perform comparatively worse.
Both cameras originally sold for around $300 but the GoPro can be found for $240ish and the Contour HD is being heavily discounted to about $150 to make room for the Contour GPS (upgraded version of Contour HD) which you can get for under $300.
Ultimately which camera is best for you will come down to personal preference since each of the cameras has slight edges in various attributes: the Contour HD is great on a budget, but between the GoPro and the Contour GPS, I’d probably lean towards the styling and added functionality of the Contour GPS.
GoPro cameras have a known issue with their light sensor which occasionally causes the footage to be washed completely in pink hue, essentially ruining it. You will have to warranty the camera if you have this problem. They are also prone to some issues with battery connectivity. I am told that contact gel will fix this.
A common issue on the Contour is a defective microphone so the camera will not record or playback any sound. I am told that customer service will run you around suggesting different fixes that ultimately do not work. Your best bet is to call them and request a warranty claim, or return it to the dealer where you bought it.
Although I believe technical problems affect a small minority of these cameras, these are issues which I or my friends have experienced with these cameras. This is not an exhaustive list, and there may be other issues which I am not aware of. Do your research!