SEATTLE — The camcorder category is going through a revolution as young action-seekers look for new ways of capturing their X-treme activities, and relative-newcomer companies like Contour have been paving the trail now being taken by more established brands.
Now several product generations in, Contour has just introduced one of its most sophisticated and value-oriented models to date in the Contour +2, and it is looking to expand its network of brick-and-mortar retail partners.
Marc Barros, Contour CEO, said his company designs, markets and sells “action video” cameras around two driving attributes: The cameras must have integrated software that makes them easy to tap into social-media sites to instantly share images and recordings, and they must be ready to use in any high-action hands-free shooting situations regardless of climate conditions.
“This whole category is being driven by social [media], so the more people are connected online, the more they are sharing video, the more they are using these products,” Barros said. “We basically make cameras and products for people [trying to capture critical moments] to be remembered.”
Barros said Contour designs its products with a “laser focus” on action, so it naturally calls its product category “action video.”
Users typically use the company’s cameras while engaging in some form of outdoor activity.
Currently, Contour offers two point-of-view (a.k.a. action) video camera models, the entry Contour Roam and the recently introduced Contour +2 ($400 suggested retail), replacing the previous Contour +.
Out of the box, the Contour +2 ships with the camera, an app to interoperate with iOS devices and a 4GB MicroSD card. The card slot can accommodate cards up to 32GB.
“It fits right in with the whole Apple belief system,” Barros said, adding that the Contour +2 will be the first action video camera sold in North American Apple Stores and on Apple.com.
At launch, the Contour +2 will also be carried at REI, B&H Photo Video and Pro-Audio, and EMS, with others slated to come on board later.
“We are starting to see the whole category finally start to take off,” said Barros. “It’s the only camera that Apple is carrying, which we are pretty psyched about. It has a better design. It’s easy to use and integrates smoothly with its iOS platform.”
The Contour +2 is being introduced at a $100 lower price than the previous Contour + model, and allows users to capture video and the information around them using an improved GPS system, Barros said.
In addition to identifying the general location, the camera will record such data as ski elevation and distance, and will then let users share those images and data online through YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, etc.
The +2 is capable of shooting in a variety of formats, including 1080p FullHD, and has a 170-degree lens (135 degrees if shooting in 1080p) that can be swiveled independently of the rest of the camera to adjust the shot if the camera is mounted at an angle.
The +2 includes a watertight housing, which can be submerged to a depth of 197 feet.
The camera also has the ability to shoot standard-definition video at a 120 fps slow-motion rate and is capable of live streaming.
It also features improved Bluetooth connectivity to better tether with an iOS or Android smartphone for use as a remote viewfinder and/or playback screen.
The camera also has an external mic jack and a battery run time of about two to 2.5 hours.
Barros said he is undeterred by the recent entry in the action video camera space by camcorder manufacturing giants including Sony, JVC and Panasonic.
“The core camcorder department is down 30 percent. The action video camera category, led by Contour and Go Pro, is the only thing growing,” Barros said.
Barros said that despite the “rugged” billing of the category, the driving purchase motivator is something else: “It’s not about being rugged at all. It’s about being handheld and hands-free,” he said.
For similar reasons, he said the category will never feel the competition of smartphones in the space because phones are handheld and action video cameras can be worn or mounted to shoot hands-free.
“From Contour’s perspective, we think of our camera almost as an accessory to the phone,” he said. “These other companies getting into the category now talk about apps, but we’ve been using apps that make our cameras speak to the phone for two years. We have apps that make the camera control the phone, and the phone controls the camera’s start, stop and settings.”
The Contour Plus 2 will launch with iOS support, and Android support will follow a month or two later, Barros said.