Before we get into the best gopro alternative its worth remembering something. It used to be that filmmaking was something only the wealthy and well-heeled could indulge in.
You needed a camera, experienced professionals to operate it, and a lot of film. People who are old enough would remember that a roll of camera film did not come cheap, especially compared to memory cards of today. Additionally, sound had to be recorded separately. And “video” playback was a whole other animal entirely.
The advent of digital cameras changed things pretty dramatically. Photography and filmmaking was suddenly a lot more accessible and, more importantly, inexpensive. Cameras on consumer devices like phones, especially the universally well-received N series from Nokia and the Cyber-Shot models from Sony Ericsson, made recording video the ubiquitous phenomenon it is today.
GoPro however, affected a paradigm shift in the video recording industry. GoPro cameras were one of the first consumer devices that were water and shock resistant while still delivering great picture quality and high definition video. This was significant because video recorders are, after all, electronic devices. Electronics do not do well when dropped from heights or when exposed to water.
If you wanted underwater video or action video, you had to put your camera inside protective acrylic cases. This made the whole thing bulky and awkward. GoPro’s portable cameras were a revolution. They were compact, could be dropped from heights and submerged in water. Yet they still delivered great video in high definition without sacrificing portability.
While GoPro products might very well be the best in the business, they are not the only option. Thankfully, there are a number of alternative brands that deliver the same ruggedness and water resistance at a far lower sticker price.
The Best GoPro alternative
The Roam 3 from manufacturer Contour is a great product that delivers video quality rivaling competitors in a much higher price bracket. Priced at USD 120, the Contour Roam3 is a great alternative for action video at almost a third of the price of a GoPro Hero 5. However, it delivers a high-quality video that doesn’t look cheap or low quality.
Roam 3 features
The Contour resembles a small toy telescope. A form factor that some might find much more portable than the square shape of GoPro cameras. It supports video in a variety of resolutions, from 1080p Full HD to 720p HD. At this price range, the lack of 4K video recording is a reasonable compromise. The HD video retains a large amount of detail and colors are nice, accurate, and well balanced. Granted, at this price point it is unfair to compare the video quality of the Roam3 to the GoPro lineup. Howver the quality that the camera delivers is more than enough for the price. The ultra-wide angle lens measures at a 170 degrees field of view (FoV) which looks great in action videography.
The Roam3 does not have an LCD display. However, there is an integrated laser pointer. This helps out tremendously in aligning the camera with what you want to shoot. The lens itself can rotate by 270 degrees, which is great for when you have already mounted the camera on a helmet or motorcycle. The robust aluminum body is waterproof for up to a depth of 30 meters. That means that you do not need to fiddle with cases, as you need to do with GoPro cameras.
The external controls are basic, with only a slider switch for video, a button for the still camera mode, and a status button. There is no power button; you push the slider forward and the camera starts recording video. Hold down the camera button for 3 seconds to switch into still camera mode. Pressing the status button activates the laser pointer for shot alignment, a great innovation which cuts down on complexity when you’re capturing live action.
An integrated built-in microphone takes care of audio recording duties. The mount is well designed and quickly locks into place. The rotating lens is great. Even if the mount is not aligned, you can rotate the lens to get the perfect orientation. The Roam3 kit comes with two included mounts that is enough to get you started.
Overall, the Contour Roam3 is a great budget alternative and is the best gopro alternative of action based cameras. The video quality is great for the price. The Roam3 is well engineered and designed, and the controls are extremely simple and intuitive to use. There are a few missteps here and there, but we are not complaining. This is a great product at the perfect price.