Get ready for the Garmin VIRB, the latest new action camera to be revealed. While Garmin are well known for their GPS navigation devices, the company also boasts a variety of other technology devices, many of which revolve around maritime activity. In recent years Garmin has released several marine radio communication devices, as well as dabbling in the production of camera technology. However, Garmin has decided to take a step in a new direction - joining companies such as GoPro, Sony, Contour and JVC in the production of POV action cameras. It's a brave step by Garmin, but if they manage to effectively integrate the device with their other products, there may well be room for them in the GoPro dominated market.
Garmin VIRB Design
Upon first sight the device is quite good looking with an appealing display screen on the top of the camera, and a large power button on the side of the device. For those who helmet mount their action cams, this small change from what other cameras typically offer can really make things easier, allowing you to feel whether or not the device has been turned on or off. The build of the device looks almost like a hybrid between the Contour and the Drift HD action cams. The main concern when looking at the VIRB design, is the convex lens, which seems to extend a fair degree out from the camera. While the Sony AS15 has a similar design, there is no getting around the fact that the exposure of the lens would in turn pose a risk of damage, especially in sports where you'd expect the camera to take a knock. Garmin do show an image of the VIRB with lens covering housing attached, but it remains unclear whether this extra housing is the underwater housing, which is an extra option. The device will be made available in either black or white.
The VIRB is as expected, a high definition recording device that will allow video recording in 1080p quality, with a 16 megapixel CMOS processor and allow for up to three hours of filming from a full charge. Data is recorded onto a MicroSD card, with a recommendation of Class 10 - as to be expected with HD recording. The device will also sport a 2000mAh rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. Out of the box the VIRB is waterproof for 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter, while the purchase of a scuba diving housing device will extend that depth to 50 meters. The display screen is 1.4" large and while remaining on, uses very little battery life. The "WideVü" lens is comprised of 9-element glass and offers the user three modes of recording: Wide, Medium and Narrow. Built in lens distortion correction and stabilization enhances video quality.
- True 1080p HD Recording
- 16 Megapixel CMOS Processor
- 1.4" Chroma Display
- 2000mAh Lithium-ion Battery
- ANT+ Wireless Connectivity
- VIRB Desktop Software
- Wi-fi Connectivity (Elite)
It is clear that from the start Garmin would have to provide a form of functionality that separates them from other action camera manufacturers on the market, and this is where device paring comes into play. Using ANT+, the VIRB will be able to connect with other Garmin devices such as watches, remotes and cycling computers. While Garmin hasn't revealed exactly what one can achieve with the pairing of their devices with the VIRB, it certainly opens up a new avenue that most of the other action cameras lack.
Options and Pricing
There will be two VIRB options available, the basic VIRB device which will retail for $299.99 and then the VIRB Elite which will set you back $399.99. The differences between the two devices lie mainly in the functionality available. The VIRB Elite will offer wifi connectivity, allowing you to connect the device to your iPhone or Android smartphone. In my opinion the main selling point for the Elite is the ability to track your elevation, speed and other variables. This data will then be able to be overlayed on your video. While certainly limited to a small group of people, when in "Ski Mode" the device will also be able to detect whether or not one is on a chairlift and in turn pause recording for that period.
With the VIRB scheduled for a September release, there isn't enough video footage to really make a claim as to the camera's quality. Though it's expected that the camera will rank up along with the other action cams out there, and it's certainly worth keeping an eye on. In the mean time, for a preview of the device's recording quality, you can view the official advertising video for the Garmin VIRB below.