The new Garmin VIRB action camera brings something new to the table this year, with connectivity between the camera and other Garmin GPS and fitness devices. But how does the VIRB handle a hard week with the average Aussie adventurer?
The action camera market has gone from under to over-saturated in a few short years, and we now have a plethora of options to capture our weekend adventures on miniature video cams.
For several years now, though, the only real option for action camera enthusiasts was the GoPro in it’s various iterations, with the most recent model being the Hero 3+. While being a fantastic option, like any device, it’s still not ideal for all situations.
Garmin has now made it’s entry into the market with the VIRB and if you’re wondering what in the world that stands for, we can only assume that it’s a play on words referring to a ‘verb,’ or a word that conveys an action, for anyone who didn’t pay attention in English class.
Being an action camera, this is quite the appropriate title for the latest entry into the fray, and you can check out the new Aussie themed VIRB Adventure video below to see what the camera is capable of.
The first thing you’ll notice about the VIRB is that it is quite different in shape and design to the other cameras available. You’ll notice that it has a very rugged, moulded design, with a small 1.4 inch LCD screen in the top centre of the device.
Even though the screen isn’t as bright or vivid as it could be — which we suspect helps it to save on battery life — and is very small, it still provides an immeasurable advantage to framing your shots and making sure you’re capturing the angle you want. No more getting home and finding out that two thirds of your shot is floor, unless that’s your thing of course.
You’ll also notice a huge side mounted record button that you can simply click upwards to start recording. This will happen even if the camera is off, which is a great feature for being able to whip the camera out and start recording within a few seconds.
When you do this, the camera will use the last settings chosen for your video, letting you start recording in plenty of time to catch that rare glimpse of Santa trying to get down the chimney, before Rudolph is onto you for copyright infringement.
Usability and performance
Once you try navigating your way through the menu system you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how user friendly the interface is.
After five minutes of scoping out the menus, you’ll find your way around in a flash. We even found this to be more intuitive than the GoPro menu system. This simplicity is a great help when you’re out and about, and don’t want to spend ten minutes finding the right settings before you jump out of that car, boat, or even an aeroplane.
Garmin’s VIRB captures video in full 1080p at 30fps, as pretty much all cameras and phones do these days, also offering the standard extra functions that action cameras tend to have, including higher frame rate recording at lower resolutions, such as 60fps at 720p, 120 fps at 480p and a Tall HD mode where you can capture more vertical pixels which is suitable for mounting to a bike or something similar.
Alongside those are the usual photo burst and time lapse modes, and hey, you can even capture a still image while recording video, which can come in handy as well. There is also a microHDMI out port sitting here waiting for you, making it possible to hook it directly in to your TV and watch the footage on a bigger screen, which is great for showing off what you’ve done and where you’ve been.
It’s worth noting, though, that the VIRB doesn’t have the 4K Ultra High Definition or higher resolution filming modes of the GoPro Hero 3+, nor does it have as many different frame rate options, though we can only assume that these will be added if there is a VIRB 2. These features aren’t really missed at this stage, though, so don’t worry too much about it.
Perhaps when 4K is more widespread and the quality is better at the lower end of the market, it will be more vital to have this included. Right now, Garmin’s initial VIRB action camera supports a well rounded list of features, especially for a first generation release.
Checking out the quality of what you shoot, the 1080p image that comes out of the VIRB is comparable in quality to that of the GoPro, and a quick YouTube search will reveal a multitude of comparison videos that you can check out to see for yourself.
We found that with a quick colour curves adjustment in the editing stage, we were able to get a beautiful, nicely contrasted image from the VIRB with it performing best in high sunlight. It’s especially nice around sunrise and sunset, or magic hour as they say in the film world.
Initially the VIRB had some exposure balancing issues, but since has had a firmware release (v2.5 and up) that corrects the issue and improves the overall image quality. The exposure issues shouldn’t pop up in your model, and this is common with early firmware versions, with GoPro having it’s own problems on initial release as well.