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Contour ROAM Model 1600 Review

The Contour ROAM is a helmet cam for capture action videos of extreme sport. Its form is of a tube, like other bullet cams on the market. However, it provide various mount points that are versatile in many situations. The most noticeable is the stand tripod mount on the bottom of the cam. It also has a proprietary mount system, so that you can attach it to virtually anything with the right mount adapter.

The beauty of the Contour ROAM is that the video camera operation is so simple, it's practically foolproof in the field. You slide the big switch on the top forward to turn on the cam and start recording. You slide it backward to stop recording and turn it off. It's perfect when you are performing activities. There is no need to deal with standby mode, etc.

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In the Box

The Contour ROAM comes in a hefty black box. The bullet cam is encased in a plastic case. The package gives off a sense of quality. After opening the package, you'll see that Contour provided you a nice protective case for the ROAM. It's transparent and works as a high quality display case to show off. Unfortunately, you won't be able to use the lens cap with the display case. A separate compartment in the display case allows you to store USB cable and other goodies.

Other than the quick start guide and the user manual, Contour provided the Rotating Flat Surface Mount, the Profile Mount, a USB cable, an extra adhesive pad for the Rotating Flat Surface Mount, a detachable strap, and a "CONTOUR" sticker.

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Look and Feel

The actual Contour ROAM cam is actually a lot bigger and heavier than I had imagined. From the photo on Amazon product page, I looked small and light weight. I thought it might have been made out of plastic. I had hoped to strap it to a sunglasses and use it on the go. But when it arrived, I realized my mistake. This action cam is made out of impact resistant aluminum body. It's shell has a really high-quality feel to it and it is solidly built. It weighs 5.1 oz. It's a bit too big and heavy for sunglasses. You'd probably look quite weird. Ski goggle might be more suitable.

The on/off switch on top is big and has a rubber surface. It will work wonderfully with gloves. The mount and back cover is made out of plastic. Not sure why Contour didn't use aluminum for these parts. A switch on the back cover locks and unlocks it for access to various interfaces. The switch is locked when a white dot is showing. It's unlocked otherwise. You slide the back cover up to open it.

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The Contour ROAM offers three video modes and one still photo mode. In the video recording modes, you can choose between high and low quality.

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Full HD - 1080p

In this video recording mode, the video resolution is 1920x1080, the aspect ratio is 16:9, and the field of view is 125 degrees. When the bit rate (quality) is set to high, a 1 GB memory card can store 8 minutes of 30 FPS video.

The following screenshot of a video shot at Full HD shows the action cam's angle of view. The bird bath is 10 feet from the ContourROAM.

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Tall HD - 960p

In this video recording mode, the video resolution is 1280x960, the aspect ratio is 4:3, and the field of view is 170 degrees. When the bit rate (quality) is set to high, a 1 GB memory card can store 10 minutes of 30 FPS video.

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Contour HD - 720p

In this video recording mode, the video resolution is 1280x720, the aspect ratio is 16:9, and the field of view is 170 degrees. When the bit rate (quality) is set to high, a 1 GB memory card can store 15 minutes of 30 FPS video.

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Continuous Photos

In this mode, the Contour ROAM captures still photos at various intervals. You can set the interval to 1, 3, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. The 5 MP photo resolution is 2592x1944, which has an aspect ratio of 4:3. The field of view is 170 degrees.

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Sensor Orientation

The Contour ROAM has various proprietary mounts to attach to helmets and other surfaces. One of the concern with these proprietary mounts is that they all attach to the side of the Contour ROAM. That means it's more likely that the Contour ROAM will be mounted sideways rather than standing up. What's that going to do to the video orientation?

It turns out Contour has designed the front lens element to be rotatable. You can leave it at 0 degrees, or rotates it to 90, -90, and -180 degrees. You just have to make sure you rotate it to the correct orientation after mounting the cam.

The big round button, on the back of the cam, activates the laser line for 15 seconds. The laser line helps you align the rotating lens/sensor.

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Filter Thread

The Contour ROAM has no filter thread in front of its lens. So if you are thinking of shooting special effect videos and photos with this bullet cam, then you are out of luck. Only special effects you can apply will have to be in post-processing on your computer.

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Status Indicators

There are two indicator on top of the cam, behind the on/off sliding switch. To activate the two status indicators, push the big round button on the back of the camera.

The battery indicator (on the left) shows: 1) green when battery is 50% full; 2) yellow when battery is 20% to 50% full; 3) red when the battery less than 20% full.

The memory card indicator (on the right) shows: 1) green when microSD Card has more than 50% free space; 2) yellow when memory card has 20% to 50% free space; 3) red when the card has less than 20% free space.

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To charge the Contour ROAM, simply plug it into your computer's USB port, using a standard mini-USB cable. The standard mini-USB port is on the back of the cam, under the cover. It complete 80% charge in an hour, which is plenty of juice when you need it quickly. Full charge completes in 4 hours. The battery indicator turns red while charging and turns green when fully charged.

There is also a microSD Card slot under the back cover. It's compatible with microSDH Card and can handle 32 GB microSD cards. To format the card in the cam, you need a pin to push an indented button for a few seconds. Once the card is formatted, your computer will recognize the card when the cam is plugged into the computer. Contour does not supply a microSD Card with the cam, so you'll have to get one of your own.

Other than the proprietary mount points, the Contour ROAM has a tripod mount underneath the cam. Thus, you can use a micro ball head to aim the Contour ROAM at will.

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Normally I don't install any software that comes with digital cameras and digital camcorders. I prefer to insert the memory card into my computer and copy them directly from the memory card. However, there is no way to change the Contour ROAM settings without using the Contour Storyteller companion software. So I downloaded the software from Contour's web site (see Related Links below) and installed it.

As soon as I started the software, it detected the 1.02 firmware on my Contour ROAM. It offered the newest firmware. When I approved, it download the newest firmware to the microSD Card. Then it loaded the firmware installation instruction (see Related Links below) on the web browser. The instruction basically tell you to disconnect the Contour ROAM and push the "Status" button to install the new firmware. After it's done, my Contour ROAM reported firmware version 1.06.

Because you can only configure the Contour ROAM with the software and that the Contour ROAM has no build in LCD, a Windows 7 tablet is a good field companion for it. You can install the Storyteller software on a Windows 7 tablet and plug the cam into it on the go. It's like a detachable LCD for viewing your videos.

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