Garmin VIRB Elite Action Camera - Your Actions Recorded Forever
The action in the action camera segment is heating up and how!
Garmin, the leader in GPS products recently launched the VIRB Elite Action Camera, all set to take on the leader in this niche - the GoPro.
If you are adventure enthusiast, if 'action' is what gets you going, wouldn't you love to have a record of what you have done? From mountain biking to skiing to surfing and any other action you can think of, the VIRB Elite is there by your side, recording every moment forever. And even if you are not really an action aficionado, this action camera from Garmin is quite handy for shooting precious family vacations, baseball and basketball games and much more.
Yes, the need and the use for an action camera always exist. The question now is how well does the Garmin VIRB Elite satisfy this need? How does the video quality compare to the market leader? What is the ease of use for this action cam? And price wise where does the VIRB Elite stand?
Read this review to find out.
Garmin VIRB Elite Action Camera - An Introduction
Small and unassuming, this camera looks deceptively simple and easy to use. And for once, looks are not deceiving. The camera is indeed simple to use. Available in a self contained rugged unit that is highly resistant to the elements, there is no need for a separate housing -waterproof or any other kind- for this camera for regular use.
Let's take a quick look at the technical specs. The VIRB Elite records true HD quality video at 1080p at the rate of 30 frames per second. When you want still photographs, the CMOS processor does the needful at 16 megapixels. Weighing just 6.2 ounces, the camera is quite light and the dimensions are 4.7X2.2X1.6 inches.
The 1.4 inch Chroma color display is a convenient way to set up precisely the action you want. Preview and playback are made easy with this display.
Garmin introduces the VIRB camera in two formats- the VIRB and the VIRB Elite. Both have the same performance features. The difference is that the Elite model comes with in built GPS to tag your location, Wi-FI to enable connectivity and a host of sensors that let you track and record various parameters including speed, attitude, direction and even your heartbeat.
This camera is powered by a 200mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery, offering an impressive battery life of 3 hours. You may get tired of performing your stunts?chances are the VIRB Elite is still not.
What Works for the VIRB Elite
1. HD Video Recording - High Quality Video
On using the VIRB Elite at its standard settings of 1080p that covers 30fps we found the video quality to be smooth and it captured the action in minute details. On lowering the resolution to 720p to capture 60 frames per second, the resultant video appeared sharper and seemed completely blur-free.
So when you want high resolution in your videos or when you wish to capture high speed action, the VIRB Elite can meet your needs perfectly.
2. Ease of Use
The controls sit conveniently on the side of the device. In fact, we are forced to acknowledge that the VIRB buttons are more logically laid out that the GoPro?s latest offering.
The power button is present on the right side, which is also home for following navigation commands - Up/Down, OK and Snapshot. Navigation is extremely simple. Using the up/down button helps change the display settings. You can turn on the Viewfinder easily and use the leveling function- it's extremely intuitive.
On the left is a large toggle for recording, which you merely have to slide into position when you say 'action'. The camera is now rolling. And frankly what we like best is that the recording slider is nice and big and glove friendly. No more struggling with teeny-tiny buttons and missing the action! We love these practical touches Garmin has incorporated into the VIRB.
Another practical touch is bright bold green light which confirms that recording is currently in progress.
3. The Display
The 1.4 inch Chroma display is one of biggest advantages of the VIRB Elite over the GoPro. The latter offers a small (perhaps tiny is a better word) monochrome screen and users have to shell out extra for an LCD screen that can be clipped on. With the VIRB Elite, the display enables you to get your best shot. Use the display, go into menu settings, choose slow motion or other options and you can even switch to capturing stills.
Incidentally the VIRB Elite continues with the video recording even when it has switched over the image mode. So, you don't miss a moment of video because you want a photo.
It is no longer one or the other, you can have both, and it's great.
4. Shoot Anywhere...Anyhow
Yes, that's right. Garmin offers to you a variety of mount options for the VIRB. Firmly lock the camera into position on the handlebar, helmet, and curved or flat surface or a tripod. Become the cameraman yourself quite literally by mounting the VIRB onto your shoulder, arms, chest or wrist.
The interlocking joints in the mounts help grip the camera in place, so you get a higher degree of fastening than mounts, which rely on tension alone.
On their website Garmin states that they are offering an adapter so that the VIRB Elite can be used with 'other industry mounts'. A not-so-thinly veiled reference to the GoPro mounts.
Well, Garmin is being practical and acknowledging the market leadership of GoPro products. A smart business move or a dumb decision? We'll have to wait and watch on this one.
Oh, yes, the device can withstand accidental water immersions up to 1 meter or for up to 30minutes. But for serious underwater shooting, you would need the optional dive case, not available as part of the standard kit.
5. Enter...the Smart Camera
After smart phones, now the smart cameras have taken over and it seems that the VIRB Elite might be smarter than most.
GPS Sensors Lead the Way
The VIRB Elite model is equipped precise GPS sensors that stamp custom data on the footage and make all the difference. A .GPX positioning file custom geotags your footage automatically. When you enable smart GPA based profiles, the camera will record only relevant action- for instance you skiing down the slopes is recorded, but the recording automatically pauses when you reach downhill. Do you really want to record your movement in the line? Yup..we thought so too.
Add More Value to Each Video
Access the wireless connectivity feature of the Garmin VIRB Elite - the ANT+ system- that senses temperature, speed/cadence and altitude. The camera has a built-in heart rate monitor too. When all these features are in play, your footage is custom stamped with valuable data such as to what your speed was on that last bike trip or how quickly your heart was beating when you were on the Grand Canyon skywalk. Precious pearls of information, all this!
Remote Camera Control
Using the ANT+ wireless system, you can synch your VIRB Elite camera with other compatible Garmin devices or your smartphone. This enables you to remotely control the camera using your smart phone or a compatible Garmin device to start or stop video or take pictures. No need to disturb the camera from its set position.
When you want to share your videos with the world (the primary reason, we shoot them), some editing helps. Garmin offers the VIRB Edit, a free software that you can download to your computer for editing your videos. This is an intuitive robust editing software and ties in with the camera?s various sensors to give you the prefect videos to share.
In fact, VIRB's Digital Image Stabilization feature makes sure that your videos and images don't reflect the bumpiness of the ride. Auto-correction occurs at this stage itself, even before you are at the edit table. The unique lens distortion correction feature also contributes to improving the quality of videos and images.
Overall the pros and cons of the Garmin VIRB Elite action camera can be summarized as below.
1. Rugged sturdy device that can be used in a variety of conditions.
2. Performance of the camera is highly satisfactory in terms of video quality, clarity and smoothness.
3. The device scores high on its ease of use parameter, with simple to use logically laid out buttons and an intuitive dashboard.
4. The Elite model with GPS, Wi-Fi and other smart features facilitates creation of high quality, custom data stamped meaningful videos.
1. The display screen is powered by ambient light. There is no back light whatsoever, making visibility difficult in the dark or poor light.
Does the Action shift in Favor of the VIRB Elite?
After considering various factors, it does appear that the VIRB Elite action camera is likely to emerge as a strong competitor for the reigning leader GoPro?s flagship product Hero3 Black Edition. The VIRB Elite is comparable in performance and features with the Hero3. Besides, the price tag for the VIRB Elite is considerably lower than that for the Hero3. This might be a deciding factor for some buyers.
Overall, we would recommend opting for the VIRB Elite model rather than the base model.
1. Garmin VIRB minisite
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