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Garmin takes on GoPro with VIRB and VIRB Elite action cameras

By dpreview staff on Aug 20, 2013 at 19:03 GMT

Garmin has taken a leap into the rugged action camera market with the Garmin VIRB and VIRB Elite, designed to capture video and stills in extreme conditions. In a market segment currently dominated by GoPro, the VIRB steps into the ring with a 1.4-inch display, 1080p video capture, integrated weatherproof housing and ANT+ connectivity. The VIRB Elite is a step-up model with built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. Both are capable of 16 megapixel still images, as well as time-lapse photography.

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Press Release:

Garmin® Enters the Action Camera Market with Compact, Waterproof, Easy-to-use HD Cameras, VIRB™ and VIRB Elite™

Garmin VIRB Elite offers built-in Wi-Fi and GPS.

OLATHE, Kan./ August 20, 2013/Business Wire — Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), the global leader in satellite navigation, today announced VIRB, its first true HD 1080p action camera series. From action sports to family vacations, VIRB combines a unique feature set that makes it easier than ever to capture life’s memories. VIRB features a rugged and waterproof (IPX-7) housing, so there is no extra case necessary to withstand the elements. The unique 1.4-inch Chroma™ color display makes setup and playback a breeze and uses minimal power so VIRB can record up to three hours of true HD (1080p) video on one charge. On-board video enhancement features such as digital image stabilization and lens distortion correction ensure that footage recorded with VIRB will look great, even before editing. VIRB can capture high quality still photos while the video camera is recording. VIRB Elite incorporates all these features, plus has built-in WiFi, data sensors and a high-sensitivity GPS. Both VIRB and VIRB Elite feature ANT+™ connectivity for remote control functionality with other Garmin products, and for data transfer with other fitness sensors.

“Action cameras are growing rapidly in popularity, and VIRB has some game-changing key features—like a color display, extended battery life, optional GPS and compatibility with existing Garmin products—that set it apart from other cameras on the market,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “Our customers already embrace an active lifestyle, whether they’re hikers, mountain bikers, skiers, trail runners, boaters, or pilots, so a Garmin action camera is a compelling option to them. With GPS and enhanced wireless capabilities in VIRB Elite, users can capture not only what they were doing, but also where they were and how they did it—and then share it with their friends and family.”

VIRB has a sleek, aerodynamic design that makes it fun and simple to record HD video- just move the slider forward to record. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery can record up to three hours of HD (1080p) video with one charge, and can be easily changed on the go. The WideVü lens captures all the action, and the high-resolution Chroma display makes it easy to change menu settings, set-up and playback shots, but has reflective technology so it doesn’t drain the battery. The 1.4-inch screen uses ambient light (instead of a battery-draining backlight) to illuminate the screen and make it easy to see in bright sunlight.

VIRB is durable enough to capture even the most extreme activities right out of the box. With the rugged external housing, VIRB has an IPX-7 waterproof rating (can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes), so it can record activities like skiing and kayaking without additional protection or fear of damage. An optional dive case is available for deep-sea adventures, as well as a wide variety of other rugged mounts to secure VIRB to handlebars, helmets, surfboards and more. VIRB easily snaps into the mounts, and the teeth linkages tightly secure VIRB in place to prevent drooping and sagging in high vibration environments. There is even an available industry standard mounting adapter, making it easy for existing action camera users to get started with VIRB.

Users don’t have to be professional cinematographers to get great footage with VIRB. Video enhancement features ensure quality footage, even before the editing process begins. The digital image stabilization technology corrects camera shakiness for smoother footage, and the lens distortion correction feature gives users the option to automatically remove the fish-eye look that is common with action cameras. In addition to high quality video, VIRB can take 16 megapixel stills with photo burst and time lapse options. VIRB can even take stills while recording video. VIRB also has a micro HDMI output for convenient video playback and a microSD slot that can hold up to 64GB card (64GB microSD card can hold over seven hours of 1080p video).

VIRB Elite incorporates all these features, as well as high-sensitivity GPS, accelerometer, altimeter and WiFi. WiFi capabilities allow users to connect to the free mobile applications for iPhone and Android. VIRB Elite comes equipped with specific activity profiles so users can track location, speed, elevation, heart rate (monitor sold separately) and more while recording. This data can be reviewed right on the device, or can be embedded into their video during the editing process.

Additionally, in Ski Mode, the VIRB Elite is able to recognize the difference between going down the mountain and going up the ski lift. In this setting, VIRB Elite automatically turns on and starts recording when going down the mountain, and then goes into standby mode once on the ski lift. This mode saves battery and memory space, and keeps the user from forgetting to record when going down the mountain. This allows VIRB Elite to record all the action while users focus on their activity.

VIRB allows many current Garmin customers to take advantage of the Garmin ecosystem. In addition to the optional accessory remote (available Q1 2014), the Edge® 810, fÄ“nix™, quatix™, Oregon® 600 series, and many more can control VIRB allowing users to start and stop recording and take stills right on the device through ANT+ wireless communication (for the full list of device compatibility, visit garmin.com/virb).  Also through ANT+, users are able to control several connected VIRB devices. Just move the slider forward to record on the master device, and all the other connected VIRB devices will record as well. VIRB Elite is compatible with other sensors with ANT+ connectivity such as the heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and tempe™ temperature sensor. This data can then be embedded into the video during the editing process, or viewed on the display of VIRB Elite.

To complement VIRB Elite, Garmin is launching a mobile application for preview, playback and remote functionality, along with a free desktop software application to edit and upload VIRB and VIRB Elite videos. With this software, users can easily edit their footage and embed sensor data in the video, then share with family and friends or upload to social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

VIRB and VIRB Elite will be widely available for purchase in September 2013. VIRB MRP is  $299.99, and VIRB Elite MRP is $399.99. VIRB is the latest solution from Garmin’s outdoor segment, which focuses on developing technologies and innovations to enhance users’ outdoor experiences. Whether it’s golfing, hiking, hunting or geocaching, Garmin outdoor devices are becoming essential tools for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. For more information about Garmin’s other outdoor products and services, go to garmin.com/outdoors, garmin.blogs.com and twitter.com/garmin.

Additional Images

 Garmin VIRB  Garmin VIRB
 Garmin VIRB Elite  Garmin VIRB Elite

Comments

Total comments: 39
audijam
By audijam (2 weeks ago)

i'd rather have Garmin designs a GPS + dashboard camera that records 360 degrees

0 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (2 months ago)

Once the new GoPro4 comes out, everyone else might as well pack their bags ... like a number of companies already have.

0 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (2 months ago)

So many of these producers don't seem to get it that a FLAT profile is what is required to be versatile in production!

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (2 months ago)

Longest press release with the fewest hard specs I had ever seen. Nothing on sensor size, lens type, lens focal length, lens maximum open aperture brightness, and so on.

Also at $399.99, they are at the same exact lofty price as the world class leader GoPro Hero 3 Plus Black Edition. I would rather get that, frankly.

1 upvote
indymtb
By indymtb (3 months ago)

The fact that it can overlay sensor data (gps, temp, speed, etc) automatically in the video is incredible for an action camera. The profile is better as well. The pictures are great for a one device adventure. It also uses my watch as a remote.

I agree the Hero 3+ black has higher vid specs but for what it is designed for, it is great. The 240fps does rock. Once they get the glitches worked out of the VIRB (and they are going down), I am sure they will be able to up the res and the fps. Firmware should be able to tweak color issues as the clarity is good.

1 upvote
skellener
By skellener (7 months ago)

My question to Garmin is where is 24fps? The camera does to slo-mo so surely it is capable of shooting 24fps. I would love to get a Garmin Virb if it would out do GoPro's limitation of offering 24fps only at certain resolutions. Garmin should give the Virb the ability to do 24fps at any resolution. Having that along with the benefits of GPS would sell me on the Virb. Not sure why they would leave it out. It's slower fps so it's less drain on the battery and less storage of the media. You'd be able to shoot longer and store more. Hope they can update the firmware and add 24fps.

0 upvotes
lovecows
By lovecows (7 months ago)

24fps its not the format for slow-motion, if you want slow-motion you have to have more then 100fps, 24fps its the limit to get a smooth movie, below that you start seeing breaks in the image.
The Gopro hero3 Black have at minimum 24fps in all formats ( beside 4K) and have much more formats then garmin has, example 4K 2.7K 1440P and much more.It has also a data transfer of 45mbs while garmin has 28mbs, more faster you can store in your memory card and better quality you have.that's why Black Edition use ONLY class 10 memory cards.
Personally, I'm absolutely not impressed at all with that garmin.
Size strange and big not practical if you want use it more as family style walking birthday holidays, for that Gopro with the size of half credit card its my preference. And much more performance.

2 upvotes
realityChecker
By realityChecker (8 months ago)

The form factor is already a disaster. If you take that(tube-like) shape, you'll want to be able to rotate the front lens like a drift 720HD etc. Let's say I want attached to the side of my helmet. How exactly is that going to be ergonomically-flat against my helmet for minimal wind noise etc.?

1 upvote
M00F
By M00F (2 months ago)

yeah, like the Gopro is sooo sleek when mounted on a helmet!?
The tube-like shape is designed to reduce surface area and be more aerodynamic than the boxy go pro.

BTW, Ergonomics is the science of human interaction with design, not wind interaction with design. Maybe you mean aerodynamically flat??

0 upvotes
kaiser soze
By kaiser soze (8 months ago)

Garmin? Seriously? I've owned three of their GPS, starting with the GPS V, then one of their most expensive automotive models in 2007, then one of the most expensive Nuvi models in 2009. They were all RIDDLED with software bugs. All marginally junk, as far as I am concerned. They integrate software from multiple sources, and do a horrifically bad job of it. Driving on a road not in their map was guaranteed to cause a crash, and this was not even fixed until just a couple of years ago. For more than a decade, this bug was in their software base, and it took them more than ten years to get around to fixing it. And many, many bugs remain, with new ones introduced with each new release. With respect to software enfineering, they have no discipline at all. And they are slow as thick mud with updating their maps. A new, major freeway near me under construction for many years finally opened about a year ago, and still is not in their map. I DESPISE Garmin.

1 upvote
OneGuy
By OneGuy (8 months ago)

I've talked to the Garmin rep in their Chicago store. I specifically wanted to know if or when will Garmin do the updates over the satellite. The (sales)guy said it could not be done given the number of users. I thought it was a self-serving answer.
We'll see. If a company (such as Apple) doesn't put customers first, it will suffer badly as soon as the competition catches up.
I like Garmin, but I would agree the updates can make or break the company.

1 upvote
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (8 months ago)

Telling us the action cam shoots 1080p video and then not telling us what frame rate is like not actually telling us anything at all.

4 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (2 months ago)

Yes indeed. Mystery-Cam Extraordinaire -- Garmin had failed to provide even the most basic of camera and lens and codec specifications for these two POV mystery-cams.

0 upvotes
GCHYBA
By GCHYBA (8 months ago)

1080p at 240fps.
That's what I want. THAT'S what makes action videos cool.

1 upvote
Mark Roberts
By Mark Roberts (8 months ago)

For those needing a better form factor... check out the Replay 1080XD. Personally I think the GoPro is the oddest form factor imaginable...

2 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (2 months ago)

? It's the only one that works when placing cameras in tight spaces ... which is what we do ALL of the Time shooting commercials, stage shows, reality TV

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (8 months ago)

Here we go again... 1 meter depth for 30 minutes... I wonder how many years will have to pass before all manufacturers begin applying the proper sealing which does not suffer from unnecessarily introduced time limits.
This game of purposeful creating of weak spots is becoming laughably transparent. Since any water ingress makes the Warranty useless, this kind of waterproofing seems to serve only that one purpose... :(

1 upvote
AlanG
By AlanG (8 months ago)

I fly RC multirotors. And some of the new brushless gimbal camera mounts are made for GoPros only. That form factor has become kind of an industry standard which makes the setup and use of these gimbals much easier than if they have to accommodate various shapes and weights.

2 upvotes
koolbreez
By koolbreez (8 months ago)

I much prefer the ISaw 2 over the GoPro 3 black, both for battery life, and contrast. The ISaw can interchange with all GoPro mounts, and costs 1/2 the price. There are lots of YouTube videos comparing the two, some even in split screen comparisons. I haven't had a chance to get the newer ISaw 3, but the specs look good. I have never had problems with the ISaw 2. The only non-interchangeable part is the waterproof case itself, as the ISaw's lens is not center mounted like the GoPro, but the cases of each mount on all GoPro adapter mounts. Looking at the two side-by-side the only visual difference is the way the lens sits on the camera, one side mounted, one center mounted. The ISaw 2 also does real good in low light situations.

0 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (8 months ago)

try techmoan website for quality chinese dashcam.
also known as carcam

0 upvotes
MaxiMax
By MaxiMax (8 months ago)

I wonder why the big camera manufacturers don't produce HD dashcams for vehicles. Most dashcam manufacturers are made by unknown Chinese companies, and the quality is a bit poor. Dashcams, with continuous recording, are also increasing in popularity, and this should be a very profitable market for well-known brands.

1 upvote
Rbrt
By Rbrt (8 months ago)

So the quality is poor but when some drunk comes flying out of nowhere and cripples your kid, you'll be happy you have the video. Oh wait... d'oh!

2 upvotes
ssam
By ssam (8 months ago)

Would be nice to have some competition on image quality. 1080p does not necessarily tell you how much resolution the image will have.

I've just got the Sony HDR-AS15, as it seemed slightly better IQ than the GoPro (and i was very unimpressed by the gopro dmca incident). It still can't make out quite as many number plates as it ought to (I use it on my bicycle, because there are too many bad drivers around).

0 upvotes
Rbrt
By Rbrt (8 months ago)

I have GoPros front and back on my bike. If some SOB gets close enough to make a difference I can make out the plate and, depending on the light, get a glimpse of the driver.

2 upvotes
ssam
By ssam (8 months ago)

Yes, i can get most plates, but for example i can't read the plates on a red light jumper that i film yesterday.

0 upvotes
Rbrt
By Rbrt (8 months ago)

I have GoPro Silvers on the front and rear of my bike. Wouldn't go anywhere without them. I agree with Mark Roberts about low light performance. It IS weak. Don't agree about image quality.

I put my GoPros on my bike for documentary reasons. Last November I was run down by a guy in a pickup truck. I was riding north and he was coming south. He made a swooping left hand turn into the intersection I was going through and T-Boned me. I ended up 30 ft away, flat on my back on the sidewalk. The first thing I remeber after being hit was the back of my head slamming into the cement. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet, I'd be a drooler right now. He tried to tell the cops I had run into him. Lucky for me they didn't buy his story. Now I have a reliable video witness. The GoPro works every time, although it does have a few quirks.

A lot of what we buy is special purpose. The GoPro gives me enough resolution to decipher license plates and, if there's not too much glare, faces. Enough 4 me.

2 upvotes
Rbrt
By Rbrt (8 months ago)

Replying to my own post because I ran out of characters. When the light is decent, colour quality is very good. Resolution is also good. The lens is very wide angle so that sort of limits things. The lens itself is not bad but we're not talking Distagons here. And yes, I have had Distagon lenses on my Hasselblad 500 C/M. Miss it now, I have to say. Processing is too difficult now.

Detail is good when things are within striking range. There is a pretty good white balance function. I used it once to prove to my landlord that, indeed, my kitchen sink was filling up with suds every time the guy upstairs did the dishes. Like I said, documentary.

I alluded to the quirks. Every once in a while it locks up. I'm a software guy and I attribute this to a software error. I pull out the battery, wait a few seconds, then put it back in. Everything is good again. Wait can I Say? I've made my living programming Windows for the last 15 years. A hard reboot is often an option, no matter what the OS.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (8 months ago)

Good information in your text, and an inspiration to use such a device for some very practical applications. Sadly, it's got so far that you actually need video recording to battle the traffic wildlife.
I just looked over the https://isawusa.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=3 and I must state that GoPro does not seem to have the advantage any longer, but the competition is good for all manufacturers of all things, and thus, I expect more good cameras will emerge, and the prices will go down.
As to the freezing problem... since you're Windows programmer, you probably know that the alternate name has been suggested long time ago ("Pleasewait")... I guess they'll solve it with the next firmware release, provided enough people report the trouble.

1 upvote
JordanAT
By JordanAT (8 months ago)

I certainly like the form factor (GoPro may be the dumbest looking action camera ever), but will it do high speed video? I'd really like 240fps or faster, even if it's at a reduced resolution (but still decent...720? 540?).

1 upvote
robatbitpackrat
By robatbitpackrat (8 months ago)

People complain about the GoPro form factor all the time and I don't really understand their beef with it. While I wouldn't mind something slimmer for some applications, I prefer having a flatter camera when I'm using the chest or head mounts, rather than 4-6" of camera sticking out. I hit my camera enough while kayaking with the chest mount as is.

2 upvotes
MASTERPPA
By MASTERPPA (8 months ago)

I like the box GoPro form factor. Esp on the head. But these Garmin, Sony, JVC, etc, have A LOT more features for the same price as a GoPro.

2 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (8 months ago)

I've used action cams on helmets, bikes, and rockets. In all those cases a streamlined form factor is better for me, though I can see where the flat GoPro would be better for a chest mount. I could probably get by with the GoPro on the bike. On a helmet it simply looks stupid (which isn't a huge deal if you're the only one with a camera). For rockets, the form factor matters a lot!

0 upvotes
abortabort
By abortabort (8 months ago)

I suggest checking out the Panasonic alternative if form factor is an issue (most are much the same anyway).

http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/01/07/Panasonic-hx-a100-wearable-action-camera

3 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (8 months ago)

Oh yeah, I'd forgotten all about that from early in the year.

0 upvotes
Mark Roberts
By Mark Roberts (8 months ago)

The big limitation I've had with these sort of cameras has been low light performance, and image quality... both strongly impacted by the sensor size, and the lens. Interested to see if improvements have been made in these areas by Garmin.

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
1 upvote
TOR8472
By TOR8472 (8 months ago)

I agree and believe these types of action cameras are on the rise and of interest to more and more DPR readers. I'd love to see both reviews of these devices and a forum dedicated to their discussion (I requested this to DPR a couple weeks ago as none of the other categories really fit).

I promise when I buy one I'll buy it from GEARSHOP if DPR helps me evaluate these :)

2 upvotes
Charletti
By Charletti (8 months ago)

If Garmin satnavs are anything to go by, downloading updates and firmware is like stepping back into primeval times. Over 4 hours on a fast computer via USB instead of a direct download onto a hard drive then upload onto Garmin hardware. And this with a top model. I'd done my research beforehand but this issue was not addressed. Double check before purchasing.

1 upvote
Almeida
By Almeida (8 months ago)

I don't think the update for my Garmin GPS ever lasted more than 30m. But I live in a small country and it's a relatively cheap model.

0 upvotes
steve_hoge
By steve_hoge (8 months ago)

Though they aren't within dpreview's traditional purview, I hope this site will make the effort to publish complete reviews of these devices.

8 upvotes
Total comments: 39