While there are many different cameras on the market today, few offer the rugged versatility needed for motorsports use. We have been using cam systems ourselves for many years dating back to around 1994 when the first "Lipstick" Style cameras became wearable.
Although these cameras were small, they were not really small enough to include a recording device in the same housing. You were always stuck with putting a recording device in the backpack or hard case and while this worked ok, it was easy to break those delicate recorders when flying off jumps, swamping them in mud or freezing them in the arctic chill of winter. Not to mention most were heavy enough to change the way you rode.
Thankfully the electronics we have now birthed a new generation of recoding and storage mediums. SD cards, jump drives and other solid state media storage allows for much more rugged use, while also increasing video and audio bandwidth so the little cameras can now transfer data fast enough to get the best HD picture and sound out of a recorder no bigger than a few fingers. Because solid state drives have no moving parts (just complex microchips) these devices also consume far less power allowing for smaller power supplies and less weight.
The latest jump in technology has moved these adventure recorders into the full HD recording market. Many of the small cams today will outperform many of the larger, more expensive devices that were the hot sells even just 12-24 months ago. The most modern cams can auto focus, detect light settings and use auto sound level management so your videos don’t record too loud or soft. Great features that were nearly impossible to make just a few years ago. The last 6 months have spawned even a cooler feature… the ability to record GPS data so you can track where you were with any given video. This makes mapping your ride tons easier and even gives you the ability to show your video progress with a map in real time.
So what does this all mean to me? How do I choose a cam system that is right for me? These are questions we hear all the time and because of the options available, I’m writing this review to help you choose. Being that we have used lots of these cams ourselves I’m going to narrow the field down to 2 camera we use all the time that have stood the test of time. From our experience, we recommend only 2 manufacturers those being GoPro and Contour. These 2 units have some of the best mounting options, great HD recording, awesome sound and good warranties. They are about the same cost and are able to take all the abuse you can toss at em.
Let’s go over some of the features these unique systems have to help you make a decision.
First the GoPro – offered in a few different versions all these cameras now offer HD recording. The main difference in the top models is the mounting hardware you get with your kit. GoPro is the most popular cam system on the planet and in use by thousands of riders.
GoPro can record in many different resolutions including Professional quality 1080p, 960p, and 720p HD resolutions records the action at 30 frames per second (60 fps in 720p). The bigger the number here, the larger the video size will be on the screen as well as the file size when recording.
The GoPro has a wide verity of mounts so you can record all the action no matter what you are doing.
Anything from Roll Bar mounts for the bigger UTV roll cages
To any other bar, body or item mount you can think of
Other nice features are the optional rechargeable batteries, anti-fog inserts, 1 year warranty and lens / housing replacement kits, editing software and detachable viewing screen. The GoPro will also take 5MP still pictures which can be a perk but realize that even basic editing software can grab HD video frames and make them high res (10+MP) stills.
Another neat feature is the ability to use 2 cameras in sync to record 3D video. While we haven’t tested this model we did take time with it at the latest dealer expo and it did seem to provide a great picture quality and ease of use. Editing 3D can be done in some editors or in the free GoPro CinForm Studio Software available for free at gopro.com. We have the ability to do 3D videos here and are excited to get some videos done in this format.
Our take on the GoPro – We like our GoPro and it takes the abuse well, has great video quality and rugged construction. While we would like to see longer battery life (higher mAh or milliampere-hour) it is easy to just pop in an extra battery when out riding. If you do underwater shooting, we also found that you need the flat lens to properly focus the cam. The mounts can be a little “iffy” in some situations and we would like to see more robust and secure mounts for extreme motorsport use.
Overall this system is spectacular.
Next up we have our Contour HD cam.
Contour formerly known as VholdR, began making unique cam systems in 2003. They were the first to use CMOS commercial grade recording chips for great picture quality. This cam system uses a unique TRail™ Mount system to keep it snug under all conditions. In using this product we found that it works well in all conditions and speeds (road or dirt). Unlike the GoPro, they offer 3 models at the time of this review. First is the standard HD model which doesn’t take pics but does record full 1080p, 960p, and 720p HD Video as well as NTSC and PAL (30/60 or 25/50) frame rates. The lens sports 2 lasers that help you adjust the cam so that you know your recordings are level.
The Contour GPS records your location for video mapping which can be done easily in their free StoryTeller video editing program. It also allows you to take still photos and use the Bluetooth phone viewer app.
The top of the line Contour+ has all the features of the previous models but steps up the game with HDMI live streaming, External Mic Jack and flush front Lens for 170 degree viewing as opposed to the 135 degree angle of the previous models. It also can rotate the lens further from the standard 180 degrees to an awesome 270 degrees giving you the most shooting flexibility.
The mounts are pretty diverse as well and we found the goggle, roll bar and stationary mounts to work extremely well for Dirtbike, ATV and UTV. Contour partnered with RAM mounts for the Roll Bar mount and it works really well (like all RAM mounts). Some additional mounts not common to other cams were the gun mount and deluxe H2Ov Stay Base.
Our Take – The Contour cams work really well and have some of the best mounting options we found. Like the GoPro, the Contour camera is rugged and easy to use. We love the slider record function and it is real easy to know when you are recording saving on editing and file organization. The duel lasers allow us to make sure the recordings are level in any situation. The rail mount is lower profile so the cam doesn’t stick out as far as other cameras would which is a nice plus.
Here is the latest video shot using the ContourHD
You can get all your riding adventures captured now with these great systems. Pick the cam that is right for you at http://ow.ly/5dsq1