Shooting things is awesome, and tons of fun. But what’s the point in enjoying your freedoms here in the United States if you can’t record it, share it with your coworkers in Australia, and laugh maniacally as they become increasingly jealous? There are a ton of consumer cameras on the market these days that look to give you the ability to record your various and sundry sporting activities, but which is tops for the shooting sports? I picked out two of the best — the GoPro Hero 3 and Contour ROAM2 — and took them to the range to test them out . . .
Cameras are becoming more and more commonplace on the range, especially at shooting competitions. Looking cool seems to be half the sport these days. Not that I’m particularly innocent of that criticism, I just happen to be better at looking awesome than most.
As I’m ramping up for the Team FNH USA competition season, I’m looking into which cameras will give me the most bang for my buck. And by that I mean not only the best video quality, but the least likely to get in the way during a stage and won’t detract from my natural cool factor.
In terms of video quality, right off the bat there’s a clear winner. Here’s some test footage I took with each camera:
The GoPro Hero 3 was designed from the ground up to be a cinema quality camera in a small package. It has a larger digital sensor, a better microphone and much more variety in resolution and frame rate settings. In short, its the Swiss Army Knife of tiny cameras. That also means that it has more menus, bells, whistles and knobs than you can shake a stick at. Not necessarily something ready to go right out of the box.
The Contour ROAM 2, on the other hand, does 1080p at 30 frames per second tops. That’s half the speed of the Hero 3. But the Contour also clocks in at half the price of the Black edition Hero 3 (used for this review, and just about all of my video needs). The Hero 3 Black runs about $400, while the Contour is only $200. It’s easier to use, has very simple controls and comes with a laser guide for making sure the camera is level. There are other benefits as well to the sleeker and cheaper camera.
Both of these cameras have headband mounts available from the manufacturer, which lets you give viewers a first person perspective of the action. However, the way they mount is drastically different.
The GoPro Hero 3 mounts directly to the front of your forehead, which gives the best perspective for the camera but (A) can get in the way of things and (B) makes you look like a doofus. It also means you can’t really wear a hat, which can be annoying when it’s sunny outside.
The Contour, on the other hand, mounts to the side of your head. It stays out of your way, and lets you keep your hat on. The view isn’t quite as good as with the GoPro, but it gets the job done.
Speaking of mounts, that’s another place where the Contour shines. The GoPro comes with a couple mounting options, and there are more available through various retailers, but their scope is rather limited. There’s a handlebar mount, a suction cup mount, and then a slew of sticky mounts, and that’s it. The Contour, though, comes with more types of mounts than the GoPro. Point and case: the Controur has a Picatinny mount you can buy directly from their web store. The best the GoPro has available is an aftermarket mount from Strikemark that I’ve already had to slice off of a firearm when the screw seized in the mount.
Just like the head mount, the Contour camera’s sleek design keeps it close to the rail and doesn’t stick out to the side much. If you’re planning on running a camera mounted in this fashion, the Contour is definitely the way to go.
The GoPro, on the other hand, sticks way the hell out there taking up valuable space and possibly getting in the way of your shooting. Again, due to its design, this is about the best you’re gonna get. It gives a superior view, but it also gets in the way.
Before we wrap up the discussion, I want to talk about battery life. With the Contour, I think I’ve had to charge it twice. When you flip the switch to start recording, that’s when everything turns on. Its nice and saves battery life, meaning you can usually throw it in a bag and forget about it for a while. With the GoPro, I have to charge it before every competition (as the battery will have inevitably run down) and it doesn’t last very long when you’re recording video. I’ve been reduced to bringing spare batteries for the thing so I can swap them when they run flat.
In short, the Contour is better designed in terms of battery life.
So, which is best? Well, it depends.
If you just need a camera to record videos to show your friends and are looking for a convenient and lightweight solution, then the Contour ROAM 2 is pick. The lower price combined with its ease of use makes it ideal for those who just want to be able to share their experiences with friends. There’s also a version that has GPS and can live stream for the same price as the GoPro.
However, if you really need cinema quality video of your competitions, or you happen to like/need tons of bells and whistles, then the Hero 3 is the right choice. It’s a little more awkward to use and doesn’t always fit into the places you want it to go, but with a little ingenuity you can always get that perfect shot. It also comes with a nifty feature that lets you control the camera via a remote or with your smart phone, but its buggy and doesn’t always work.
Personally, the Hero 3 is my favorite. Even though its big and bulky and the battery life sucks, the variety it gives you in terms of frame rate and resolution more than make up for the shortcomings. The Contour gets the job done, but the Hero gets it done right.