Contour ROAM video camera

This cheap waterproof video camera is a great tool for all-weather fun

Contour ROAM
  • Contour ROAM
  • Contour ROAM
  • Contour ROAM
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Low price
  • Good image quality
  • Waterproof to 1 metre

Cons

  • Alignment is a guessing game
  • Changing exposure settings requires a computer

Bottom Line

Contour's cheapest camera is also its most versatile -- it's waterproof to a depth of one metre. This should make it great for all-weather sports (think surfing, skiing, whitewater rafting) where other Contour models or competing sports cameras require a bulky waterproof case. The quality of the video is good, the camera handles low light reasonably well, and plenty of accessories are available. It doesn't have the Bluetooth viewfinder option of the more expensive Contour+, and you'll need a computer handy to change video quality and other settings.

Would you buy this?

Contour ROAM: Use and video quality

The crucial difference between the Contour+ and the cheaper ROAM is the budget camera’s waterproof body. While it’s not good for diving (it’s only rated to one metre deep), it’s perfectly suited to surfers, ocean swimmers or waterskiers that want to record their exploits. While we weren’t able to test it on Sydney’s sunny beaches we did immerse it in a bathtub for an hour with no ill effects, and we’re confident that it’s up to the task.

With no built-in Bluetooth and no option to add in a Connect View card, it’s impossible to use your smartphone as a viewfinder for the Contour ROAM — setup is guesswork with a little help from the alignment laser. Similarly, you won’t be able to adjust the ROAM’s video settings on the fly; the only way to change video saturation, sharpness, exposure and exposure metering is to hook the camera up to a computer and use Contour’s Storyteller software. This is a problem if you are the kind of person that wants to check and adjust video settings each time you start recording — if you’re not, it’s no trouble since the preset modes and standard exposure metering works reasonably well. We did set the camera to Exposure -1, so that it didn’t blow out the bright areas in the video we recorded.

Contour ROAM front view

We were hard-pressed to find large differences in the video quality of the Contour ROAM and Contour+, making the ROAM a very good value miniature video camera. It handled low light situations quite well, with only a small amount of grain when we were recording in dusk and post-dusk conditions. Bright daylight recordings look excellent with a good amount of detail visible (although setting Sharpness -1 does make fine detail look a little less over-sharpened and jagged). We did notice that there aren’t any white balance or exposure presets for underwater videography, so you’ll need to make a guess when you’re setting it via your computer.

The Contour ROAM’s 170-degree wide lens is reasonably good across the centre of the video frame, although wide edges can suffer from some visible purple fringing especially during bright exposures. The wide lens is able to capture a very wide field of view in The camera can record at 1080p in 25 or 30fps, at 720p at 25/30 or 50/60fps, and at ‘Tall HD’ (1280x960 pixels) at 25 or 30fps. You can compare all of the features of Contour’s cameras here.

Contour ROAM: Conclusion

The Contour ROAM has the main features of the Contour+ at a much reduced price. For taking videos wherever you are — as long as that place isn’t more than a metre underwater — it does a good job. Setting it up correctly is the main impediment to getting a good video and with some time and effort, you’ll have this obstacle overcome.

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