I'm a Mountain bike tragic and have owned, used and loved the Contour GPS for a while now and when the Contour Plus was released, I wasn't sure if there would be much in the way of practical improvements.
Resolution is identical. There are a number of shooting modes but the most important are 25 or 30 fps at 1080p, and much better for action footage - 50 or 60 fps at 720p (perfect for buttery smooth slow-mo of that rad jump – or indeed that gnarly crash!).
The key difference is that the newer camera has a wider angle lens capturing 170 degrees (the GPS model is 135) and this is where it shows it's superiority. The PLUS’s wider angle view captures more of the scene and feels significantly smoother in playback because the vibrations and bumps are less magnified. However, with both cameras, shooting at these full widths is only possible at 720p. I generally only use this 720p “action” mode anyway as it offers the higher frame rate.
At 1080p you get 125 degrees – still really nice and wide for making sure the camera sees into the next corner.
The GPS model only offers about 110 in the 1080p mode and can start to feel a little cropped in comparison, although to be fair, I never really noticed until this side-by-side test.
The new camera comes with the Connect View bluetooth card pre installed (normally another $50) This allows you to use your smartphone as a viewfinder to make sure you are getting the frame you want before you set off as well as fine tune various settings such as white balance, file compression etc. This Connect View feature is certainly useful but unfortunately you cannot play recorded footage back with it so you still have to get to a computer or a TV (the Contour Plus has HDMI-out) to relive your adventures. It's also a bit fiddly to use a touchscreen phone with gloved hands out on the trail.
My only serious criticism of this camera is that Contour have inexplicable dropped the laser alignment feature from this model. My Contour GPS projects a pair of red laser beams from either side of the lens at the touch of a button so you can instantly check the position of the centre of the frame and the the horizontal alignment – with such a wide lens, these are all you really need to check and I prefer the speed and simplicity of this method. I can spend more time riding and less time messing about with tech.
It’s important to point out that the Contour Plus has all the same GPS tracking functionality of the previous model (it’s just not mentioned in the name) and it also retains the massive on/off switch and loud on/off status beeps so you don’t have to (in my case) take your helmet off to see what the camera is doing. Contour have also added a mic input if you feel the in-built mic is not good enough. The in-built audio is acceptable for my purposes but I guess this input has been included for the ever-growing professional extreme filmmaking scene.
At $699, the PLUS is $200 more than the the $499 GPS (although you need to add $50 to the GPS for the bluetooth stuff). I’m not sure I need to upgrade but if you have neither and can afford it, it’s amongst the very best cameras available for this kind of footage.
The clips you see here were shot using the optional helmet mount which helps enormously with keeping the footage smooth on really bumpy trails but it would not be necessary for all sports. For this test, I piggy backed both cameras to capture the same ride from both.