Garmin Launches VIRB - New Action Camera Enters the Market 6

Garmin has announced the VIRB, a wearable POV camera aimed at the action/outdoors market. The camera features 1080p true HD recording, as well as Wi-Fi capability and advanced GPS functions like preset recording profiles. For example, the Ski profile automatically records during the run but pauses when the user gets to the bottom. VIRB Elite features a built-in 1.4” Chroma color display that stays on when the camera is on, but is designed to use minimal power. The display lets the user setup/preview/playback video and adjust menu settings without detaching it from its mount. Garmin claims the camera can record at 1080p for up to 3 hours with the rechargeable lithium-ion battery (which is easily replaceable by the user in the field, much like the storage which uses micro-SD cards - meaning you can bring multiple batteries and memory cards and basically continue recording forever). It also features video enhancement features like Digital Image Stabilization and Lens Distortion Correction, which should translate to good looking footage too. It's always hard to really tell from early sample footage released by the companies themselves, but from the short edit below, it looks like it should at least be a contender.

Main Features

  • 1080p HD video recording with 16 megapixel CMOS image processor
  • Chroma™ display: color, high-resolution; easier control of setup, playback and adjustments
  • High-sensitivity GPS, accelerometer and barometric altimeter
  • Wi-Fi connectivity; use with free mobile applications for iPhone® and Android™
  • Rechargeable, 2000 mAh lithium-ion battery, record up to 3 hours at 1080p
  • File Type: .mp4
  • 1080p HD video: 1920 × 1080; 30 fps
  • 960p HD video: 1280 × 960; 30,60 fps
  • 720p HD video: 1280 × 720; 30,60 fps
  • WVGA (slow motion): 854 × 480; 120,60 fps
  • Still photo resolution: 16 MP (4664*3496); 12 MP (4664*2632); 8 MP (3264*2448)
  • Photo burst: 6/s
  • Photo time lapse (seconds): 0.5,1,2,5,10,30,60
  • Water resistant: IPX7 (1 m/30 min) (up to 50m with optional Dive Case accessory)
  • Image stabilization: Yes (digital)
  • Lens distortion correction: Yes
  • MSRP: $299.99 (VIRB) $399.99 (VIRB Elite)

Looking through the feature list, the VIRB should score well in some areas (built-in display, image stabilization, built-in WiFi), and slightly less in others (lack of 120fps @720 mainly). The integration with other Garmin devices seems like a fun gadget, although one might maybe debate the  usefulness of recording heart-rate and GPS location on all your POV masterpieces...

Pricing-wise, it's certainly at the expensive end of the market, although the built-in display, WiFi, and GPS provide good value for money. The basic VIRB looses the GPS and the WiFi, but retains the screen (and in reality, if you have a screen on the device, WiFi is no longer all that crucial). We'd predict the base model will be the big seller, especially since it retains the exact same video capabilities as the fully-featured Elite, as opposed to GoPro who only offer the most advanced video features on their top-end Black edition.

In terms of mounts, there are actually already quite a few available already - and perhaps the most intriguing statement we came across here was “there is even an available industry standard mounting adapter, making it easy for existing action camera users to get started with VIRB” - which does really sound like there might be an adapter to allow you to mount your VIRB using your GoPro mounts...(maybe even on the chesty then!). In addition, Garmin provides some pretty funky looking mounts itself, including a harness which holds the camera on your shoulder, Predator weapon style (look it up kids).

Just as Contour is facing an uncertain future, Garmin throws its hat into the wearable action camera ring. We'll reserve judgement until we can play with one ourselves, but it certainly looks as though its done its homework. Exciting times!

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