Last week I looked at buying a helmet cam, but it seems both GoPro and Contour released brand new cameras in the past couple of days, so here’s a look at the these new updated models and see which works best for snowboarding.
First, let’s go over what was released and what the stats are for each camera, then we’ll go over how I think they perform for snowboarding.
Overview: GoPro HD Hero 3
Let’s start with the heavyweight in the room – the GoPro HD Hero 3. It was only just released a few hours ago, but they got so much talk and traffic that the GoPro.com website actually crashed right after the site opened for orders.
First, here’s the teaser from GoPro:
So overall there’s 3 versions of this new GoPro HD Hero 3:
- GoPro HD Hero 3 White – $199.99
- GoPro HD Hero 3 Silver – $299.99
- GoPro HD Hero 3 Black – $399.99
What’s new in the GoPro HD Hero 3 White & Silver versions:
The White and Silver versions seem to be upgraded versions of the older HD Hero 1 and HD Hero 2 cameras.
Here are the main upgrades:
- 25% Lighter and 30% Smaller
- Wi-fi connectivity (change settings / check recording via app)
- Tweaked/upgraded lens & mic
So basically these are your previous generation GoPros but upgraded with wi-fi built in and made a bit better overall. You still get the same 30 fps at 1080p recording (or 60 fps at 720p) like the previous generation GoPro HD Hero 2.
These are clearly meant to be a cheaper priced GoPro to compete with the low to mid ranged alternatives from competitors like Contour and Sony.
It should be noted that both the White and Silver versions are compatible with GoPro’s wi-fi remote, but do not actually come with the remote. If you want the remote you have to buy one for $79.
What’s new in the GoPro HD Hero 3 Black version:
Here’s where things get interesting. The Black version is a whole new GoPro with some very enticing features.
What you get:
- 25% Lighter, 30% Smaller (same as White & Silver version)
- Wi-fi connectivity + remote included
- 2x image/video processing power – records video at 4k @ 12fps, 2.7k @ 30 fps, 1440p @ 48 fps, 1080p @ 60 fps, 720p @ 120 fps
- 2x better low light performance
- 12 megapixel photos with 30 fps burst photo capture
- Upgraded lens & Mic (same as White & Silver version)
The key feature here is that besides being lighter and smaller, it got some brand new image and video recording upgrades.
Okay, so now let’s have a look at what Contour just released.
Overview: ContourROAM2 & Contour+2
Contour has a smaller following than GoPro, but that doesn’t mean their gear is bad, in fact, their new line is actually really nice. Over the past couple months they’ve released 2 cameras: The ContourROAM2 and the Contour+2.
Here is the teaser for the ContourROAM2:
The ContourROAM2 is priced at $199 and is their entry level camera meant to compete with GoPro’s White & Silver HD Hero 3.
Here’s the key features and upgrades:
- Waterproof to one meter without case
- Records 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 60fps (vs 720p @ 30fps on previous generation ContourROAM)
- Comes in multiple colors (No real benefit – but you have to admit the colors look sweet)
Here’s the teaser for the Contour+2:
The Contour+2 is priced at $399 and is meant to compete directly with GoPro’s top of the line offering (ie the GoPro HD Hero 3).
Here are the key features for the Contour+2 as well as what it offers over the ContourROAM2:
- Removable battery (ContourROAM2 has built in battery)
- GPS and speed tracking
- Bluetooth connection to phone via app
- External mic jack (ContourROAM2 has no external mic jack)
- Not waterproof without case but waterproof case is included (water resistant without case)
- Records 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 60fps (same as ContourROAM2)
Which is best for snowboarding – GoPro HD Hero 3 Vs. ContourROAM2 & Contour+2
Alright, so that all said, which is best for snowboarding? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for, but here are my requirements and which cameras I think work best for which situations:
1) Low Profile
I’m aiming to spend half of every day on slope wearing my camera with a helmet mount. For me, that’s about 3 hours per day for 150+ days over the course of this coming season.
This means I want to be able to set it up and forget that it’s there. This means the more low profile it is, the better it is for me.
The Contour+2 and ContourROAM2 easily win the low profile battle here. You don’t have to use either Contour with a waterproof case while snowboarding and the side mounted option is a lot lower profile vs. the GoPro’s top/front helmet mount.
I have heard from other snowboarders that the GoPro is not really noticeable once it’s set up, but I don’t think anyone is going to argue that the GoPro’s teletubby look is more low profile than any of the Contour cameras.
Win: Contour+2 / ContourROAM2
2) Video quality
Before the GoPro HD Hero 3 came out today, I would have said the picture quality was pretty even between the Contour+2 and GoPro HD Hero 2.
What people don’t realize is that GoPro is very, very good at editing and selecting the video footage that gets posted on their YouTube account. That’s why their video quality always seems so far ahead of everyone else.
In reality the gap in video quality wasn’t that big and when Contour released the new Contour+2, the video quality was very comparable to the GoPro HD Hero 2.
Here you can see a comparison between the Contour+2 video quality and the GoPro HD Hero 2 (comparison video starts at 2:17 into video):
That said, now that the GoPro HD Hero 3 is out, I’d say GoPro definitely stole the crown on video quality.
The Contour+2 is using tweaked and upgraded optics from the previous generation, while the GoPro HD Hero 3 Black version has an entirely new optics system that does 1080p video at 60 fps.
The only competitor that might be able to compare to the GoPro HD Hero 3 Black right now would be the Sony Action Cam, but we’ll have to wait and see when people start doing side by side comparison videos using the new GoPro’s.
Either way, in this fight between Contour and the GoPro HD Hero 3 Black, the winner has to be GoPro for video/picture quality.
Win: GoPro HD Hero 3 Black
If we compare the top of the line models from each company, the Contour+2 and GoPro HD Hero 3 Black are both $399. However, I do think that the HD Hero 3 Black comes out on top for value for money.
Simply put, the GoPro HD Hero 3 Black offers better picture and recording quality for the same price. I do think that the GPS and speed tracking features of the Contour+2 are cool, but it’s not something I’m particularly looking for in a camera.
That said, depending on which features you’re after, I do think the ContourROAM2 is the best choice if I was going for the entry level $199 price point.
You get a nice low profile, waterproof camera with picture quality roughly equal to the GoPro HD Hero 2 or HD Hero 3 White/Silver with a decent 60fps @ 720p video.
I’m a fan of low profile and the only drawbacks I can find with the ContourROAM2 at $199 is that the battery isn’t replaceable and there’s no option to use an external mic.
Those drawbacks may or may not matter depending on the person. If I didn’t need an external mic jack or want to have the option for extra batteries, the ContourROAM2 would be a very tempting choice at the $199 price point.
Win: GoPro HD Hero 3 (high price point), ContourROAM2 (low price point)
So which camera am I going with in the end?
I really love the ContourROAM2 because it was so much cheaper while offering great picture quality still, but unfortunately I want to use this camera for other things that might require an external mic and extra batteries, so I had to rule that out.
This leaves me with either the Contour+2 or the GoPro HD Hero 3.
If you had asked me last week before the GoPro HD Hero 3 was released, I would tell you I was very close to picking up a Contour+2. However, GoPro just had to release the HD Hero 3 and make everything confusing again!
I much prefer the Contour+2′s low profile, but I’m finding it hard to argue against the updated GoPro HD Hero 3 with the higher quality recording options and better picture quality.
Overall I’m leaning towards the GoPro HD Hero 3 right now, but I’m going to wait a couple weeks to see more in-depth reviews before I pull the trigger.