Tuesday, June 01, 2010

ContourHD VholdR 2800 Windshield Mount Kit

A few months ago I bought a VholdR ContourHD 1080p Wearable Camcorder ($309 Amazon) with the intention of sending it up in a kite. That hasn't happened yet, but I did buy another accessory for it and have been putting it to some good use.

The VholdR 2800 Windshield Mount Kit ($39 Amazon) is actually made by PanaVise, but has a mount on the top designed for the ContourHD camera. You slide the camera into the metal rails, and then tighten two screws on the bottom of the mount to keep the camera in place. The camera bracket is metal, but the rest of the arm and mount is plastic, which - along with the camera - keeps it light. I'm a little concerned about the long-term survivability of the top ball joint. My suspicion is that it's the part that's most likely to fail, and it's the part on which the camera mount spins and provides most of the positioning flexibility. However, the lightness of the ContourHD itself may help the longevity of the mount.

Since I hadn't put the ContourHD to much use prior to getting this mount, this test was as much about learning how to use the camera, as it was about using the mount.

Positioning the camera is helped by the laser targeting; which shoots two laser beams to give an indication of the direction that the camera lens is looking. It gives you an idea of the center of the lens, but obviously not the field of view. You have to guess with that; or take test shots and then remove the memory card and view what you're capturing on a laptop. We guessed.

The camera/mount worked surprisingly well attached to the outside of the car, though having done this test shot, I now want to move the camera further down and shoot more "forward" to show more of the road. Note that though the video doesn't show it, while shooting on the road we had a safety line running from the camera mount to the car in case the mount came loose. A big advantage of the ContourHD is that it is small and light, making it both less likely to fall off, and also less likely to cause damage to the car - or others - were it to come loose.

The ContourHD has a surprisingly wide field of view, which is particularly noticeably inside the car. The video is fairly compressed, with compression artifacting clearly visible in places, though I don't find it objectionable. The color of the image from the ContourHD looks very good too; more accurate than the video shot in the car using a Sony Handycam that was shooting in auto white balance mode. (None of the footage in the sample video was color corrected.)

Audio, however, is very poor. You can barely hear what's being said, even inside the car while relatively close to the camera. Most of the audio in the car segment comes from the Sony, not the ContourHD. At the end of the clip there's the audio from the ContourHD -boosted in Final Cut by 12db - followed by the Sony cameras audio with zero boost. There's a noticeable difference! So if you want audio, you're going to need a second system.

Some of the footage taken with the camera looking through the windshield suffers from intermittent reflections of the dashboard in the windscreen. This was another thing that wasn't noticed until we'd finished; though note that the footage taken with the second camera is even worse!

The VholdR 2800 Windshield Mount costs $39.00. Alternatively, you could buy the Panavise 809 Camera Window Suction Cup Mount ($23 Amazon) with the standard mount, and the VholdR 3100 Universal Mount Adaptor ($19.99 Amazon) which would allow you to attach the ContourHD to the standard mount. That combination is four dollars more, but you could use the 809 with other cameras, whereas the VholdR 2800 will only work with the ContourHD. Personally, I like having the VholdR mount; the ContourHD attaches very securely to it, and it's firmly attached to the windshield mount. I suspect that it will be slightly more secure than using the universal mount. If you're planning on shooting a lot with the mount and the ContourHD, I'd recommend getting the specific mount; but if you're only going to play a bit, get the standard mount so you can use it with other cameras.


[UPDATE] Björn Gramm forwarded a link to a picture of what happened when he tried using the ContourHD on a's not pretty!

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