Wednesday, July 27, 2016

FCE Review: ContourROAM Hands-Free HD Camera

I've had my helmet camera for a year now and somehow never gave you all a formal review. Hillary's recent review jogged my memory tho and inspired me to put the proverbial pen to paper and expound on my thoughts.

After reaching out to Carly for recommendations, I purchased the following from Amazon:

i'll take any excuse to use this photo


  • Fool-proof On / Off slider switch, complete with a beep and red light when recording.
  • Lens spins 180* and has degree markers to true the horizon. This is particularly useful if you want to lay the camera on a surface to record without getting a tilted horizon.
  • Easy to use memory disc formatting button.
  • Water-resistant means it's safe to operate in rainy conditions.

HD Fish Eye Lens & Orientation

The camera's fish eye lens flattens the picture a bit. This reduces the appearance of hills and slopes (both uphill and downhill) and can make jumps look smaller than they are.

It also means, tho, that the lens captures a wider picture and is less sensitive to placement (ie, you don't have to be too precise in where, exactly, the lens points bc it's probably gonna catch the whole picture regardless).

I point mine down farther than one might think, to ensure it catches a lot of Izzy's head and neck. There's a laser test function so you can press a button once the camera is on to see where the laser is oriented with respect to the horizon and your sight line. 

big enough to know it's there (and remember to turn it ON), not so big that it's distracting 

Slide Mount & Safety Tether

  • The camera locks in to an adhesive-patch slide mount for shake-free recording. 
  • The adhesive mount affixes to the helmet, while the camera is removable. 
  • Pro tip: The folks at Contour will send extra patches and mounts gratis if you ask. 
  • For skull caps especially, the helmet cover hides the slide mount (about 2sq inches) completely when no camera is attached.
  •  A detachable rope tether connects the camera to the helmet mount in the event that the camera is knocked loose in a fall (the mount design allows for the camera to pop off with minimal crash force)
  • Since that has, in fact, happened to me - I can attest that the tether did its job and I didn't lose the camera (which dangled harmlessly and undamaged from the helmet until I could pull myself together).
  • Benefits of a removable camera are many - including using the camera as more than just a helmet mounted camera. Examples: I've set it in jump cups or laid it on fence lines / arena walls to film schooling sessions, lessons, and dressage clinics. 

Video / Battery Length 

  • Camera automatically shuts off after 45 min. 
  • However I usually turn it on and off as needed while riding (makes for easier video file management and editing anyway). 
  • The battery lasts longer than 45 min tho - I've used it to record multiple 45 minute sessions (dressage lessons, actually) without recharging and it's been fine.

adhesive slide mount and safety tether both visible here

Let's get to the real reason behind this review, tho. It's no secret: I LOVE media. Especially videos. And ESPECIALLY helmet cam videos. LOVE.

It's also no secret by now that I'm not riding Isabel seriously at present. And while we had some really awesome jumping experiences this year (like some fan-fucking-tastic lessons over the winter after my leg healed), we had some really bad times too.

It's been, honestly, a bit more than mildly depressing. I do not know when, or if, we will try to put the pieces back together.

But in the meantime, I've been revisiting my favorite memories often. Especially, unsurprisingly, those captured on video. And the videos that make me feel the most like maybe we could do it again, that bring me closest to wanting to keep trying, are the helmet cam videos.

So they're included here for two reasons. 1: these are some of my all-time favorites. I love watching them and hope you do too. And 2: they are all excellent examples of the ContourROAM's performance as a helmet camera.

The crisp, high-def picture is readily apparent in the video from running BN at Fair Hill earlier this year (it was actually at rainy Fair Hill last year when I decided I needed a helmet cam. and as a side note, this thing works equally well in the rain too):

Loch Moy is a great example bc we go into and out of the woods, from strong sun to shade - something that can be problematic for lower quality cameras as they adjust to different light settings. You can see in this video from earlier this year that the light poses no issues.

Same story running N at the same venue, Loch Moy, last year too. You can see that the camera does not have problems adjusting to the light, and that fences in shady spots are still equally crisp and visible even when the camera is still in direct sun. It works pretty darn well in the dark too.

Another important detail in helmet cam videos is the sound quality. I love listening to hoof beats and whipping wind and whatever random things I say to the horse. And ya know what else I like hearing? The actual instruction from my trainers haha (this especially proves useful in instances where the camera is resting on the rail rather than being worn on my helmet).

This following one from a lesson with Dan at AOPF last fall is a fantastic example bc you can pretty clearly hear much of what he has to say - especially when he's yelling at me about my loopy reins and shitty ditch jumps (oops) lol.

video here - xc lesson where you can hear much of the instruction pretty clearly 
(esp the part when i get yelled at lol)

But basically, my favorite thing about this helmet cam is that it immediately takes me back to that happy place of running cross country with the horse. That feeling like it's just the two of us - we're completely alone. Nobody can reach us, everything is just us as a unit, for better or worse. 

And when it involves galloping through wide open fields and over giant fences? What a feeling!

So long story short, I love this helmet camera for a lot of reasons. It's not as streamlined in appearances as the Cambox Isis, tho less visually imposing than the Go Pro by nature of being side-mounted on the helmet.

However in performance, it can't be beat. If your end objective is a crisp, clear video in any conditions that can be enjoyed again and again - this camera gets the job done.

It couldn't be easier to operate with a fool-proof slide on/off button and a lens that doesn't require much effort to get the right frame of horse ears + horizon.

The battery lasts forever, I haven't come anywhere close to filling up that memory card, and the camera casing is sturdy and weather-proof.

Most importantly tho? The HD audio / visual quality rivals or beats anything else on the market at a price that is highly affordable.


  1. I love helmet cams! I'm glad you have your videos to enjoy.

  2. Every time I see awesome helmet cam reviews I wish I jumped so I had an excuse to buy one :)

  3. i really want one of these - i went full on bargain buster because im a cheap broke asshole but i always love the contour roam. that's what elisa wallace uses!!

    side note that picture of you jumping is amazing and adorable.

  4. I want one but just can't get myself to pony up the cash. Womp womp. We now have a dash camera for SO's work and I have seriously thought of strapping that bad boy to myself!

  5. You already know how much I dislike Helmet cams and helmet cam footage, but I really appreciate your thorough review!

  6. I too REALLY want one of these now. I've never been a fan of the GoPro and after wearing a friends once and feeling like it was weighing my head down a ton, I really didnt like it. The cambox video quality isnt my fav so I have to say that this cmera sits right inbetween the two!! Kind of ugly, but the quality makes up for it. pLus it looks a lot more balanced. Now I have to have it, damn you!!

    Sidenote, that pic is < 3

    1. Make sure you check weights before you buy. According to Amazon this one weighs more than my GoPro did (which I also thought felt heavy and weirdly balanced, even when it was center mounted). I encourage people to really consider the safety aspect of a larger side or front mount camera as well. Even with a breakaway feature, if you land on it just right it's much like landing on a rock. Slim chance, for sure, but something to be aware of and decide how comfortable you are with the risk!

    2. i'm somewhat wrapped up in work stuff basically this entire week (thus explaining my inability to interact in real time with comments right now, boo) but wanted to chime in for just this:

      risk is real and we are all benefited by acknowledging and staying informed about it, and taking steps to reduce risk when possible. i would like to add clarification here tho, about what the risk actually means.

      what we're basically talking about are two types of risk: risk of an accident happening, and risk of increasing the magnitude or impact of that accident.

      wearing a helmet camera does not increase the likelihood of an accident happening. not in the way that raising fence height by 4" increases that likelihood. (yet we still jump bigger jumps tho)

      it may in some cases increase the potential magnitude or impact in the event that an accident *does* happen, if very specific criteria are met. and each new criterion, each new qualification, makes the potential of that event happening even more rare.

      so while yes, it is not inaccurate to say that there is risk associated with mounting a camera to a helmet in a semi-fixed manner, i might argue that the risk pales in comparison to other choices we make every day with our horses. and that it can be misleading to highlight one very rare (but definitely scary!) outcome that is unrelated to the behavior of actually wearing a helmet camera (vs, again, the behaviors that do actually increase the likelihood of an accident).

    3. Weight-wise, I've never used a GoPro, but I do find that if I haven't used my helmet cam for awhile I definitely notice it's up there for the first few minutes. It's not like it's pulling my helmet off my head or anything, but you can tell there's something attached to one side. Once on for awhile and you start riding though, I completely forget it's up there--sometimes to the point where I do actually forget to turn it on! :P

    4. Agreed with you Emma. Should clarify in case it wasn't clear - I was referring specifically to a possible increased risk (which is, as I stated, fairly slim) when using a camera that is mounted to the side or front of a helmet. It can increase the risk of an awkward impact, and whether or not that is an acceptable risk is personal choice. I used a front mounted GoPro for quite a while, so obviously I found it to be acceptable risk at that time. ;) It's worth mentioning in any scenario though, because it's an aspect that a lot of people don't consider, and IMO they should.

    5. Totally did not mean to spark such response, but admittedly didnt immediately think of any safety risks, so thanks for pointing it out. As Emma said though, riding is inherently risky and I *might* be willing to get a camera that has better quality and might be a little riskier IF I fall off. Might, on all accounts. I honestly will probably never get one, because I have adultier things to spend money on, but I loved her review and was saying that out of all of them, this looks like the best quality and functionality. Never having ridden with it of course, but it seems more balanced just based off her review. Thanks for writing it Emma!

    6. sorry if the response came off roughly - not intended!! i'm at a stats/analytics type conference right now and am thinking in a very stats-like manner. plus the topic of safety and risk has been very high on my mind lately anyway, with a couple draft posts sitting around unfinished.

      safety is a big and important topic that is obviously hardly covered by just this one question of external helmet cams. and the last thing i want to do say "well the comparative risk is lower than some other behavior so we shouldn't even bother talking about it".

      mostly tho it gets me thinking and inspired me to write more about it and process my thoughts more than much else right now (since the rest of my horsey life is kinda boring right now lol). food for thought is always my favorite!!

      oh and carly - i feel the same way for the first few moments wearing it too, but then kinda forget about it haha

  7. I love helmet cam videos in general, mostly for the same reasons you do. I love being able to go back and "re-live" it!

  8. I LOVE my Contour Roam. But the battery on my GoPro lasts longer. I found a really good deal and because I do OCRs and such plus love the idea of strapping a camera to my dog... But the Contour is just like you said, big enough to remember it's there and to turn it on, but not enough to get in the way. Sometimes I feel with the GoPro that I'm riding around with a Unicorn Horn ahaha.

  9. Good review on it! I'm also finding that as I'm jumping less I watch my old videos more.

  10. I didn't understand the helmet cam hype until I had my own. I love being able to relive my fun rides!

    I won't talk this to death but I think that it's reasonable to bring up concerns about strapping something to your head even if it only slightly increases the chance of injury. British Eventing even went as far as to ban helmet cams for a time. Maybe I am paranoid but appearance and even the remote possibility that it could be safer will have me staying firmly in the CamBox house.

  11. I have the same camera and it's great. Another added bonus is it comes in fun colors. I got the bright blue to match my XC/Jumping colors.

  12. I love your helmet cam videos! They have helped me so many times to work up the courage to jump awesome things behind my own set of chestnut ears :)

  13. I like how you mounted it. I really hate the ones that mount to the top of the helmet, they seem like they would feel awkward, and I feel they distract from the overall picture of the rider.

  14. This has such a nice image,and I'm always impressed in your ride videos!


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