Helmet cameras have exploded in popularity thanks to two main factors: first, the declining cost of HD technology which has improved accessibility to the masses, and second, the continued miniaturization of components that has enabled sophisticated cameras to weigh so little. When it comes to helmet cams, the names that tower above all others are GoPro and Contour. There are a few other manufacturers of note but these two are up there in terms of reputation and popularity among consumers. Both have extensive product lines that cater to different persuasions and it can be tough to choose between them. Here is an initial comparison to help potential buyers decide which one to purchase.
These two companies are poles apart in their aesthetic sensibilities though iconic in their own way. The GoPro cameras look similar to compact point-and-shoot digicams with their rectangular boxes, clean lines, and wide-side lens placement. They are designed to be mounted at or near the middle of a helmet, sticking out a bit awkwardly some might say. Contour cameras, on the other hand, are more reminiscent of new consumer-grade videocams with a long cylindrical piece up top and additional circuitry down below. These are mounted to the side of a helmet, making them more inconspicuous. A lot of people who prefer the Contour cite the sleek brushed aluminum design as their primary reason for choosing the camera, although the GoPro's brick styling is not without its own fans.
First we will look at the features of the two brands flagship productsâ€•â€•the GoPro HD Hero 2 and the Contour+. The Hero 2 has an 11MP CMOS sensor with black and white screens for settings adjustment. It is capable of three FOV settings: wide (170º), medium (127º) and narrow (90º). It has a standard 3.5mm mic jack and comes along with a waterproof case. The Contour+ has a 5MP sensor and has no LCD screens. However, it can be connected to a smart phone via Bluetooth for an improvised "live view." Field of Vision is fixed at 170º. It uses a proprietary mic adapter for external audio and the waterproof housing is available separately for $50. It is one of a few cameras that feature GPS sensing so users can see their path plotted on Google Earth or other maps. Both Hero 2 and Contour+ are capable of 1080p HD recording.
When it comes to image quality, the much larger sensor on the Hero 2 beats the Contour+ by a mile. The videos come out sharper with vivid colors. The Contour+ does a decent job as well but is not in the same league as the GoPro in this criterion. As for build quality, neither exhibits any ill effects from being dropped or bearing high impact.
The Contour+ is more expensive than the Hero 2 by a few hundred dollars. Those who are more concerned with image quality and price rather than looks should probably get the GoPro, though people who really like the design of Contour cameras can always go for the cheaper ContourROAM.