I’ve posted variously in the past few weeks about the DogCam Bullet HD Wide, but I thought I’d take the time to write up a general review of the camera so that others can get a better idea as to the good and bad things about it.
It’s been sent back for a refund, as you again have probably discovered from previous posts, but I’ll try to be as fair as I can and assume that I was just unlucky with my experiences with DCS, the makers / suppliers of the camera. That said, their customer service will therefore be commented upon in this review, since that was part of my overall experience. That’s surely only fair.
Aside from that, I’ll also mention the comparisons with the camera that I got to replace it; the Contour+. Now, you do have to take note of the significant price difference between these two products. The RRP of the DogCam Bullet HD Wide is £130, while the RRP for the Contour+ is £499. Do note, however, that while I had to pay the full RRP for the DogCam, I didn’t have to for the Contour+, and was easily able to get it for £320 on Amazon. Even then, though, the price difference is still significant, so do bear that in mind when I get on to the comparisons later on.
So, first things first, what was the DogCam like in terms of picture quality? Well, for a £130 camera, pretty damned good, to be fair. The 720px HD size was great and it truly was a picture that does the HD name justice. It coped very well at fast moving speeds, as I generally hit 25mph on my bike when commuting to work. Oh, and that’s probably worth pointing out; I have only used it so far on my road bike, I never used it on my mountain bike, so there was no time it was getting really thrown around; potholes in the road was the most bumping it had to deal with.
There’s no way to change the quality of the picture, mind you – you are stuck with the default 720px size. This didn’t bother me before I bought it, or after I bought it – that size is, AFAIAC, perfect for my uses. To be honest, I think I’d struggle to understand why anyone would want more if you just want a camera for social activities. You want to broadcast the video on a TV channel? Go get a better camera. For the 99% of other people, 720px should be more than enough, I’d have thought.
Terrible. There’s no way to change the volume that it records at, and my commutes just had massive wind sounds the entire time. Unless you’re going less than 5mph, you’re faced with that volume the whole time. You might therefore argue that it’s recording reality, since that’s the sound of the wind as you cycle past it, and that’s a fair point, but not having it set to a reasonable volume to begin with is not ideal.
I wanted to attach the cam to my vented cycle helmet. That was no problem at all, as it comes with a variety of attachment things, one of which was ideal to put on the top of my helmet. The velcro strap went through the vents and attached nice and tightly. Absolutely no problems with that.
The problems I did have was lining the thing up. I would line it up, but the video was always slightly off centre. I came to the conclusion that I rode with my head tilted to one side, but this was disproven when I got the Contour+ as it showed that I actually don’t ride like a mentalist, and instead I do indeed have my head straight. So that wasn’t ideal. But the camera did fit snugly in the velcro strap, and I ended up just having to line it up slightly off centre to take account of the fact that the lens must’ve been off centre.
It was sometimes difficult to tell whether it was recording or not. It has lights on the front that tell you if it’s recording, but in daylight, and especially in bright sunlight (which does happen occasionally in the UK), it made it really difficult to tell if it was recording or not.
On top of that, you couldn’t really put it on or off while it was on your head. You put it on by holding the single button down for 1 second, and switch it off my holding the same button down for 3 seconds. There are no beeps to tell you if it registered this. Therefore, you have zero confidence that it’s registered what you’ve done unless you’re looking directly at the front of the camera, and if you are likely to be switching it on and off repeatedly while it is located in a place that you can’t see it, you might end up recording the bits you didn’t want to record, and vice versa. So not good at all.
This is poor. It runs for about 90 minutes, and then you have to charge it. It has a built-in battery which means you can’t do anything that lasts more than 90 minutes unless you get another camera.
And then we’re on to the problems.
It crashed the first time I used it. It then crashed almost every single other time I used it. The video stopped recording for no reason at all, and more importantly, it wasn’t able to tell you that it had failed. You just cycled on, under the belief that it was recording because the difficult-to-see blue light on the front was suggesting all was well, even when it wasn’t.
I used the camera around 30 times, and I think it crashed approximately 25 times out of those 30. That’s a really bad hit rate. Yes, I sent it back – more on that shortly under “Customer Service”.
Over and above that, the camera crashed in a variety of ways. Most of the time it crashed by stopping recording video and only recording the audio with a massive amount of hissing over the top of it; so pointless. Another way to crash was to record 25 minutes of video, taking up 1.44GB of space, and then when you go to your Mac/PC, they can’t read the video file because the encoding type of “undef” is unknown. Well, no shit, Sherlock. Again, no indication while you’re out doing your awesome activities that it’s had a problem, you just instead find out when you get back home that it’s lost your treasured video of your awesome activity.
Sorry, my child, the video of your awesome accomplishment has been lost.
This was debatable. Note again that I had lots of experience with Customer Service because the camera had serious faults.
The DCS guys were definitely responsive and came back with replies very, very quickly. They didn’t shirk the issue, and went from the usual initial response of “your SD card is the problem” through to acceptance that there was a serious problem with the camera and providing a refund. They even went as far as wanting to talk to me on the phone to discuss the problem to try to identify any issues that could have been causing the issue.
Unfortunately though, DCS did initially claim the SD card was the problem, despite me explaining why I had discounted this, and their testing before they sent it back to me didn’t pick it up. When they sent the camera back, it also came with just a yellow post-it note with a scribbled message on it, rather than a somewhat more professional response as to what the issue was; and of course, it came back with the same fault.
So, in summary, I didn’t have the best experience with the camera or the company. I suspect I’ve just been unbelievably unlucky, because if the camera hadn’t crashed, then obviously I’d have been happy. And while the customer service was, in my view, not ideal (post-it note!!), they did respond very, very quickly and took the issue on board. To that end, they believe they’ve identified the issue and are working on a fix, but I’d lost faith by that point, hence wanting a refund.
Comparison with Contour+
I’ll finish off with a comparison with the Contour+ camera. Again, note the price difference; but also note that you sometimes get what you pay for.
The Contour+ picture quality is staggering. Even better than the DogCam. Full 1080px HD. It’s ridiculous.
You have four different picture sizes, and each of those have three levels of quality to record in.
The sound quality is better, and you can adjust the volume it records.
The Contour+ is bigger and looks more daft on your helmet. This doesn’t bother me, but might bother some.
The Contour+ has a replaceable battery. OMG, this is so important. Running out of battery on a 25 mile jaunt was pretty depressing. With the Contour+, you get more batteries, charge ’em all and can go on all day. Wonderful.
The Contour+ has an iPhone and Android app, allowing you to view the shot your camera is going to take, which means you can make sure you have your camera lined up correctly before you start to record. The app, you should note, is not that reliable and crashes a lot. I assume they will fix that, but as of right now, if that’s the most important thing for you, then you need to (a) consider waiting until it gets fixed and (b) get a grip on your priorities.
The Contour+ looks awesome. Sorry, but it does.
And finally, the Contour+ takes video and your GPS track at the same time, and then shows you these back to you at the same time when viewing your video. Yep, that means you can always see where you are, on a map, while you’re watching the video. I’m not kidding you. It’s bloody brilliant, and I don’t think they make that clear on their marketing stuff, which they totally should because friends I’ve shown this to think that’s a killer bit of functionality.
So, is the Contour+ worth the extra money? In my opinion, it can be argued that it is, and not just because of the problems I’ve had with the DogCam. The extra stuff really is pretty special, allowing you to do more with your cam. However, it is a lot more cash, so you might alternatively want to consider the Contour GPS as a cheaper Contour offering. Or, if/when DogCam sort our their Bullet HD Wide, maybe it’ll be a good cam to get. If it doesn’t crash any more, then I honestly do recommend it, because the price you’re paying and the quality of the picture you’re getting is really good. However, if sound, battery life, functionality and configurability are important to you, then Contour is the way to go.