VholdR ContourHD 1080P Helmet Cam, First Impressions In the Wild



 

I was contacted by pointofviewcameras.com to give my initial impressions about the Vholdr’s new ContourHD 1080P which (unsurprisingly given its name) shoots 1080p HD video. In lay terms, where the older ContourHD POV camera shot video at a resolution of 1280 x 720, the new ContourHD 1080P shoots video at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

SUMMARY
The ContourHD 1080P will be $ 55 Cad/  $ 50 USD more expensive then it’s cousin the ContourHD (for the sake of clarity I’ll call the earlier model the ContourHD 720). Both units are available for sale. Vholdr is not obsoleting the 720p just offering customers a choice between grab and go unit (720p) and a higher end, more customizable camera with user adjustable settings like contrast, sound recording and exposure at a higher resolution. At $ 363 Cad ($330 USD) vs $ 308 (280 USD) the Contour HD 1080p will be worth it if you have:
(i) a pretty fast computer and (ii) want to view your videos on a 1080p HD viewable computer or TV. NOTE that I have yet to investigate the ability of the ContourHD 1080 to be configured by software so reserve the right to alter my opinion if the ContourHD 1080’s performance can indeed be tweaked by software.

In reading this opinion, keep in mind my previous opinion that the ContourHD 720’s video output was already very good for a POV camera. The ContourHD 1080p is an incremental improvement that, for my purposes, is probably not worth an upgrade. Think of the ContourHD 720’s video performance as a Porsche. The ContourHD 1080P is a Porsche Turbo. But the roads I drive on (substitute bandwidth for roads) are pretty rudimentary and I could never harness the power, performance and handling of a Porsche Turbo.

Perhaps you can, you with your new iMac, and your premium high-speed internet connection, or your new 1080P HDTV in which case the ContourHD 1080p is the tool for you.

THE CONTOURHD 1080p
I tested the ContourHD 1080P with a modified VIO “Double hook and loop” accessory mount (a $ 9 accessory mount) which I’ve found to be much more stable then the stock Vholdr-supplied mounts).

There’s already at least one article out with a detailed review of the ContourHD 1080p features. I won’t repeat what’s in the article or in the product literature at the Vholdr site.

I will offer the following observations. Keep in mind that these are very initial impressions having had the ContourHD 1080 for a total of one day and having used it for one ride.

The form factor of the ContourHD 1080P and 720 are essentially the same. The only difference is that the HD/SD switch (for the 720) is now replaced by a Hi/Lo switch (for the 1080). The Hi setting allows you to record 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. The Lo setting records 720p HD video at a stunning 60fps rate.
Most of the ways in which you can customize this camera are through the software. Vholdr’s website speaks to all of these modes at 60 fps; Full HD (1080p), Tall HD (960p), Action HD (720p) and Fast SD (WVGA/SD quality) and of course, the now legacy ContourHD (720p at 30fps). The only customization you can do to the ContourHD in-camera in the field is to use the Hi/Lo switch to go from Full HD to Action HD.

The downside to recording 1080p video is that no video-sharing website currently displays 1080p video. To my knowledge, only Vholdr’s video-file sharing service displays videos at the full 60fps rate. Notably, the most popular video-file sharing site, Youtube, chokes on HQ (High Quality) 720p hosted video; a feature attributed by industry commentators to a bandwidth issue on the Youtube end rather then on the consumer’s broadband pipe end. For the purposes of web-based file-sharing the 1080p HD video format - although nice, is not necessary. Indeed, streaming video technology currently makes it impractical.

As I feared, my 1 year old laptop (4Gb of RAM, miniscule 256mb Nvidia graphics chip, Intel Centrino Duo Core) choked on the 1080p video. It staggered through playing the video even though I resorted to playing the video output not on the bloated Quicktime player but on the open source VLC player. Rendering was slooooow. I don’t even have a 1080p monitor so the final output was wasted on my dinosaur computing setup as I had to resize the video. I suspect that many users will be in the same boat as I. In contrast, I don’t have a problem handling and rendering 720p files.

 

 

  Full 1080p movie raw output from Vholdr ContourHD 1080p test.

 

 

Downsized to 720p from Vholdr Contour HD 1080p test.


I made some screen grabs of shots from the ContourHD 1080p and the ContourHD 720 show that the 1080p video does indeed offer frame-grabs with useable resolution as still shots. Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to film the same scene with both cameras so the comparison will be redone when I have a chance.

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UPS
Given the limitations of this one ride initial impression I have to investigate the ContourHD 1080 further. Some possible follow-ups might be as listed below:

     
  • What is the effect of the software-configurable settings on video output of the ContourHD 1080? Apparently you can configure light metering; contrast,  exposure and microphone sensitivity. If this works, it will be a major advantage Vholdr has over competitors.
  • How will this camera handle variations in light (see question re software-configurable settings)?
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  • How will the ContourHD handle cold for skiing and snowsports use?
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  • Will the new Vholdr-supplied mounts be better? (they can hardly be worse then the old mounts)
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  • Does the 720p 60 frames per second video output of the ContourHD result in true 60 frames per second output -   ie is it useable for slow-motion and stop-action sequences?
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  • Will the Easy Edit software work with Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit?

This post was written by guest blogger Lee Lau. Lee Lau is an avid biker, skier and outdoorsman embarking on many adventures with his loving, and sometimes concerned wife, Sharon. He is occasionally found working in his day job as an intellectual property lawyer. As a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to Western Canada, including South West B.C. and the Selkirks. Lee blogs here.

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