VholdR ContourHD Helmet Cam Review

One tight package

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And so the race continues to make a better onboard video camera. Leap-frogging competitors bring to market new technologies every year: SD, HD, slo-mo, time-lapse and so on.

And just like any technology race, this one had me more excited about video production for Motorcycle.com. The ContourHD, also known by its more common name, VholdR, is a water-resistant high-def helmet cam system with a 135-degree field of vision – all the action, sans the distortion. It’s also shock, vibration and impact resistant.

Unfortunate as it may be, a direct comparison to the older, standard-definition VholdR cannot be made anymore, as our test unit was scraped off an editor’s motorcycle at over 100 miles per hour and acquired a few too many internal bruises.

Warranty repairs are available for 180 days from purchase, but ours was more than a year old.  Regardless, it’s a moot point, as the latest and greatest camera from VholdR shoots both SD (standard definition) and HD (high-definition)! Furthermore, the SD mode (yet still widescreen) shoots 60 frames per second (59.97), which can be then used for slow-mos. Booyah!

ContourHD frontview

Compared to Motorcycle.com’s previous onboard video capture system, the standard-definition GoPro Hero cam, the increase in image and audio quality is most obvious. While not quite a fair comparison (SD vs. HD), the convenience of form factor and the plethora of mounting kits included with the GoPro system make for some compromises, but there are options! And until we get a look at one of the newer models from GoPro, the ContourHD will surely win the footage race to any final edits you’ll see on MO.

Simplicity is the name of the game with the ContourHD cam. Constructed of a plastic body wrapped in a sleek black aluminum housing, it’s a looker.

Strap it on and go!

Included in the base package is the camera, a USB-rechargeable battery good for a claimed 3 hours and convenient for footage download and charging from the same USB port, a pair of flat mounts good for the side of your helmet or fairing, a 2GB microSD memory card good for up to 2 hours recording time and a goggle strap mount for, well, goggle straps.  Since we don’t do much dirt riding and wearing goggles on the street (it reminds us of our old pal Matt Cuddy on the 2004 Literbike shootout, we ordered a few optional mounts as well.

VholdR’s ContourHD with the optional universal mount is the perfect package for mounting on motorcycles in any form.

Alternative mounting options include a universal mount, beefy handlebar mount (or trellis frame, $29.99) and a windshield mount. In cooperation with Pana-vise, VholdR created a suction cup mount that perfectly mates to their TRail system ($39.99). When your mounting point conforms more to aerodynamics than right angles, as is often the case with motorcycles and helmets, you’ll be able to easily mount and level the shot thanks to the unit’s192-degree rotatable lens and dual-laser alignment aid.

The Universal mount (well worth the $19.99) takes the proprietary TRail mounting out of the equation, allowing you to use anything with a “1/4-inch-20” thread for shooting – mono-pod, tripod, gorilla-pod, magic-arm and so on – making your CHD even more versatile than the GoPro system, if you spent the extra money.

Also available for your ContourHD camera is an accessory lens kit ($29.99), providing a replacement protective glass filter for those inevitable rough landings or flying debris, and a 37mm threaded ring adapter so you can ante up protection and also add creative filters if you’re so inclined. Polarizers help add greater color saturation and reduce reflections, but starburst filters really enhance those Xanadu moments at the beach.

In the Deets

One big improvement over the previous model of the VholdR system is the redesign of the recording switch. Turning around the “on” position and adding the helpful hint under the switch, the word “Rec”, means you are now recording.

Also, the switch now moves forward to record as you would when you are riding, moving forward; much better than seen on the previous model. I used to get confused after a prolonged recording session – is switch to red recording or stopping? Have I been recording or did I just turn it on now? A terrible feeling for sure. Now I simply move the switch toward the front of the lens and ‘go be ghostbuster!’ You’ll see the word “Rec” and know you’re getting the shot.

Second best optional mounting accessory is the ‘windshield mount,’ which works best on fully faired motorcycles.

If all that doesn’t help, there are audible clues as well. One beep says you’re recording. Two beeps tell you that you’ve just switched it off. Good for those moments when you can’t see the camera on top of your head and no one is around to ask. You also can operate in silent mode, with no beeps if for example you have the cam strapped atop your shoe at the high-school prom – mirrors only tell half the story!

On the front of the camera (below the lens) is one more light in case you have a mirror handy: when it’s red, its recording. When it’s green, it’s currently off and ready to record.

Around the back, there are a few more lights along with the power switch and access to the memory card (up to 16gb for up to 8 hours of HD footage!) and battery. The top light is your battery status indicator – green for 80% plus, yellow for 20-80% and red means less than 20% left.  At the bottom, the memory card status indicator light uses the same color scale. Neither light is illuminated during shooting, so stop the action and press the power button before you look.

One Button, Two Models

This is where the two available models differ.  This test is of the ContourHD ($299.99) but there’s an even better model called the ContourHD1080p ($329.00).

The ContourHD is auto-balanced for outdoor lighting and is the perfect wearable camcorder for first timers and non-geeks. Go big and shoot HD 720p action in “HD” mode (720p @ 30FPS = 1280x720) with the 135-degree field of view, or go smaller, in “SD” mode (WVGA @ 60FPS = 848x480) with a 110-degree field of view and be able to slow down the action in postproduction.

The highly configurable ContourHD1080p model offers adjustability for not only frame rate and resolution, but also image contrast (high, med or low), sharpness, metering (spot, center, avg), exposure (-4 to +4), microphone gain and more. A real winner for image geeks like myself.

Both models record in the H.264 codec with a 5mp sensor and write a .MOV file. Audio in all modes is in Apple’s AAC codec with 1 channel at 48,000 Hz.

ContourHD ContourHD1080p
With this model ($299.00) you get: With this better model ($329.00) you get:
30FPS: Contour HD - 720p (1280x720) 30FPS: Full HD - 1080p (1920x1080)
60FPS: Fast SD - WVGA (848x480) 30FPS: Tall HD - 960p (1280x960)
  30FPS: Action HD - 720p (1280x720)
  60FPS: Contour HD - 720p (1280x720)
  60FPS: Fast SD - WVGA (848x480)

When you’re done, home sipping on some chamomile tea and enjoying the glow of an action-packed day in the saddle, why not share the ride with the rest of the world on VholdR’s online community? Be a part of the team video mapping the world and post your video online using the easy-to-use Easy Edit software provided by Twenty20 Inc. Available for PCs and Mac; awe, I feel so included!

You might even win your money back if you submit your video to RockMoto’s One Tank, One Day contest!

Where it was fun to have onboard video with our previous camera system, it’s now starting to look good, too!  Check out the video on board the Kawasaki KX250F, KLR650 and the Aprilia RSV4, partially recorded at the Milestone MX park in Riverside and Buttonwillow Raceway, both in California.

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