The not-so-minor details
Contour Roam 3
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Easy, one-button-to-record operation.
Waterproof without a case.
Easy to switch between video and photo modes.
No screen or mobile connectivity to review footage/angles. Internal battery.
Contour are one of the older players in the wearable/helmet camera world, though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. In 2013 the brand closed its doors, but with new management and vision, they’re back to challenge for a bigger chunk of this incredibly competitive market.
The Roam 3 isn’t a huge departure from previous Contour cameras. It has the same cylindrical shape as earlier models, making it very low profile, so it’s ideal for helmet mounting. Alignment is achieved via laser beams (good in low light, but hard to see in bright sun) with a rotatable lens to ensure a flat horizon. The Roam 3 also gets the trademark Contour slide-to-record button that’s easy to use with gloved hands.
Where it does represent an improvement over previous versions is that it’s now waterproof to 30 feet, and you can switch to photo mode on-the-fly. There are two default video modes (720p @ 60fps, or 1080p @ 30fps), and you can select other resolutions if you plug it into your computer (which is unlikely, as 720p/1080p are the standards). Battery life is a claimed 3.5hrs, which is fine, but the battery isn’t removable so once it’s flat your recording fun is done till you get to a charger.
The Roam uses Contours own mounting system, which is a kind of rail arrangement, with the camera sliding into place. For helmet mounting, this system is low profile. There are stacks of other mounts available (including for a gun barrel – yep) but no chest mount option.
The simplicity of the Roam is both its strength and weakness. Upsides: The big slide button both powers up the camera and starts recording all in one motion and is really easy to operate in a hurry, and switching to photo mode is just a matter of holding down the rear button for a few seconds. Downsides: Without a screen or mobile connectivity, you can’t check the camera angle, review footage, or make adjustments to the settings without a computer. Picture quality is fine, especially given the price point, with a super wide 170 degree lens. It doesn’t do so well in dappled light at high speed, but few helmet cameras do. There’s no built in stabiliser (ala the Sony Action Cam) so we recommend running it through your stabilisation software of choice, which is something we do as a matter of course for all wearable camera footage.
All up, the Roam 3 is solid offering that plays to the strengths of its simple design and ease of use of the trail and won’t break the bank.