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David Zax

A View from David Zax

For Indie Jacques Cousteaus, an Underwater Camera

The waterproof ContourRoam camera lets you make exciting adventure videos beneath the surface—provided you don’t go too deep.

  • September 12, 2011

Aspiring filmmakers are constantly told that they live in an era like no other, an era where the means of production of their art are available commercially and at affordable prices. That’s all well and good if you want to make the next mumblecore film in your Brooklyn loft–but what if that’s not your style? What if you’re more interested in being the next Jacques Cousteau, chronicling life beneath the water’s surface?

For the first time, Contour, a maker of hand-free cameras for adventure travelers, may be producing something that meets your needs. Their new ContourRoam camera (which we come to today via Engadget), may not allow you to make those deep dives like the great French undersea chronicler. But the ContourRoam will let you go underwater to up to a meter, and for up to 30 minutes at a time. It is, if not a scuba diver’s camera, then at least one for a snorkeler.

Or one for any manner of adventurer who doesn’t mind getting wet. A downright exhilarating video from Contour shows the sorts of footage you can capture on this device, which records in 1080p, 960p, or 720p at 30fps.

Contour realizes that you want bragging rights for your extreme adventures, but that you can’t exactly hold up a camcorder while shredding that awesome wave, or hitting that massive jump on the ski slope. So they’ve designed a series of cameras that mount directly onto your helmet, board, or extreme sport implement of choice. About a year ago, Contour beefed up its offerings with a camera with built-in GPS; the Contour+, which packed an extra wide lens, launched in May. Sensing a demand for a waterproof camera, though, Contour came out with its Roam model.

The device retails for $199. In addition to the HD recording options mentioned above, you can take still photos at five megapixels. The wide-angle lens gives a 170-degree view; the lens also rotates 270 degrees and can project a laser to help you make sure the device is level (a relative term, I guess, when you’re doing flips, twirls, and spins). The camera comes with a tripod screw mount and mounting system that allows you to mount virtually anywhere,” promises Contour. At 5.1 ounes, the device is “so lightweight and compact you don’t even notice it’s there,” asserts CEO Marc Barros. For further specs and to compare Contour’s three leading models, see here.

Should you rush out and buy the camera now? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to do deep dives, this camera isn’t for you (or at the very least, you’ll need to buy an accessory waterproof case). There’s a wide range of underwater cameras on the market; the length of time you intend to spend underwater and the depths to which you’ll dive will determine which one is right for you. In the meantime, though, if you want to make some killer videos and only plan to encounter a splash here and there, Contour’s latest offering may just do the trick.

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