After ruining two of my three cameras out west, I thought I’d get a camera that’s waterproof and doesn’t require any hacking to get a battery life that will last for a whole race, even a relatively long one. That search led me to the Contour ROAM3, which is actually marked down to $90 on Amazon these days. It’s a pretty simple 1080p camera, nothing fancy, but it’s waterproof and advertises 3-3.5 hours battery life. It’s very much like my late lamented Polaroid XS100, except with much better battery life. Just like the XS100, you can’t see what you’ve recorded until you pop the SD card out and put it into a computer – no wifi and no app like the GoPro and GeekPro have. And because there is no display, not even a little one, the only way to know what is going on is via a couple of cryptic icons and very cryptic beep signals. One very odd feature is it has a little laser beam to help you line it up. I’m not sure how useful that is since the only way to turn it on also appears to put it into photo mode. Like the XS100, it has a standard tripod mount as well as a proprietary mount. I also bought a “hat mount” for a few bucks which allows you to attach it to a baseball style hat.
Today we were doing a killer workout on the bay – 1 minute on, 30 seconds off, repeated 32 times with longer rests every 8. It seemed like a good opportunity to try it out.
You can’t see it from this part of the clip, but it did a pretty good handling changing light conditions, like going under a low bridge or into shadow. I liked the picture quality. I really wish it has a 1080p/60fps mode like my GoPro did – I think that made action a lot smoother looking, but I can hardly complain for the price. I didn’t much like the hat mount – the sides of my head don’t go straight up and down and so the camera ended up slightly off square. I think I’d prefer a proper headband mount like I had for my GoPro. Also the video shows that it doesn’t handle wind noise all that well when pointed straight into it. It actually was a lot better on the downwind part of the recording. Compare with the GoPro which hardly catches any sound at all when in the waterproof case.
The GoPro has better picture quality and a much bigger ecosystem of accessories. But if adding a third party extended battery is going to cause the waterproof case to leak and ruin the camera, then I can’t afford it. Since I haven’t found another action camera with 3 hours of battery life, I guess this is going to be it until somebody makes a better one.
If you’re reading this, action camera makers, how about coming out with a waterproof camera that shoots 4K at 30fps (or even better, 60fps) and 1080p/60fps and with a battery that lasts 3+ hours? Yeah, and if you can bring that in under $200, that’d be great too. That’s not too much to ask, is it?