Review: ContourGPS

As we reported last month, Contour Inc. of Seattle recently unveiled the world’s first GPS-enabled helmet camera. Right, a camera with built-in GPS. We were confused at first, too. But the unit, which is essentially Contour’s flagship HD camera with a GPS chip added in, is an interesting evolution. After a shoot, you can now connect to your computer to view video as well as your shot locations via interactive Google maps. Distance traveled, speed and elevation change are also calculated by the GPS, letting you get geeky and compare the raw video footage with your stats side by side.

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Contour’s new GPS helmet camera

The camera is called the ContourGPS, and over the past couple weeks we put it to the test. On a recent motorcycle ride with a buddy, I wore the camera and recorded our trip. When we returned, we were able to watch the footage next to a window showing an overhead map view of our journey. Is it necessary? No, but it’s pretty fun!

To view the footage, simply connect the camera to your computer’s USB port and open the free downloadable software to begin importing the files. Once videos are in your library, you can play them and select the “Map View” option to see the GPS at work.

I’ve used a standard Contour HD camera for several months now, and have found it to be easy to operate. Its footage is high quality. The GPS version is just as easy to use, and it has a few improvements to boot — there’s a lock for the battery/controls hatch now, so no more accidental opening while trying to record footage, and its larger “record” switch is now easier to operate. Multiple recording formats as well as a still photo mode make this version a significant jump from the previous model.

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Screen grab from the author’s motorcycle ride test

Developers at Contour are working to improve the software and functionality of the computer/camera interface. Since I received my test camera, the company has made 70+ “micro-improvements” to its software. And with each visit to the Contour site, automatic updates will be made for you. A support page allows you to converse with other owners and Contour employees — it’s been handy for the more technical questions during my test.

GPS geeks and video aficionados alike will appreciate the ContourGPS. Retailing for $350, this small, weatherproof camera brings documentation of your outdoor adventures to a new level. Video and mapping work together to form a unique type of media package to give your adventures a depth heretofore unseen in the world of point-of-view video online.

—T.C. Worley

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