Hands on with the Garmin VIRB
The Garmin VIRB marks the company’s entry into the action camera market, putting them in a head to head competition with GoPro.
VIRB vs VIRB Elite
The VIRB Elite adds WiFi, an accelerometer, barometric altimeter and a high-sensitivity GPS. While the basic VIRB unit reviewed here lacks the latter, it is easy to match up tracks from another GPS, using the free VIRB Edit software.
In the image at the top of this page, you can see four buttons on the right side. The top two allow you to scroll through menus. The OK button selects menu items or snaps a still picture, while the power button doubles as a mode button to toggle between modes (viewfinder, playback, setup; see image below). The record button is on the left (opposite) side and is slid forward to start recording. I found the interface to be simple and intuitive.
One note about the screen here — it is not anywhere near as vibrant as these images make it appear. It is best viewed in bright sunlight and it is challenging to really see what’s going on using the playback function. Nevertheless, it is reasonably easy to use it to verify that the subject is centered in the frame.
I tested the VIRB using the Vented Helmet Strap Mount. It took a few minutes to figure out how to add the mount to my helmet and attach the VIRB, but all in all it was pretty straightforward.
Garmin offers a wide range of VIRB mounts (click on the Accessories tab here), and the unit comes with an adapter for popular action camera mounts.
Using the VIRB
While you can slide the Record switch forward to start recording, if you have a compatible ANT+ Garmin unit, you can set it up to act as remote control (see screenshot at right). Basically, the process for doing this involves adding a main menu item, so don’t go looking for it under your ANT+ menu. Fortunately, GPS City has posted a series of videos showing the process on various Garmin handhelds. Otherwise I don’t have a whole lot to say about using the VIRB. It’s pretty straightforward and in this case, we’re more interested in the videos it records rather than the device itself.
Likewise, I found the free VIRB Edit software easy to use. To get started, you fire up the software and connect the VIRB to your computer and you’ll be presented with a screen like the one shown below, prompting you to import your videos.
Once you import a video, you’ll see a screen asking if you want to add a GPS track…
Once you do so, you’ll see the track on a map before choosing to add it to the video…
Once you go into editing a video, the options shown below show up at the bottom of the screen:
- Clips – Allows you to use multiple clips to make a video
- Edit – Options to trim or split the clip; adjust the volume or speed; replace, remove or adjust the GPS track; show or hide data overlay
- Music – Add music
- Overlays – Select from various data overlays
Here’s the result…
The first videos I shot used the default 1080p HD 30fps settings. Shown below is one filmed at Paris Mountain State Park near Greenville, SC. Check your YouTube settings to be sure it plays at 1080p.
The video below was shot on the same trail a couple weeks later. By this point, I had tightened up my helmet chin strap, and I tried using the 720p Fast HD 60fps settings. Again, check your YouTube settings and view it at 720p.
Can you tell a difference? Does one look superior to the other?
On my first outing the VIRB Edit software was not able to import a lengthy (15 minutes or so) video. I never saw this issue again but subsequent videos were kept to 10 minutes or less. On my last outing, I had numerous lockups (while trying to delete old videos) that I was only able to resolve with a battery pull. A firmware update a few days ago cited “improved software reliability,” so hopefully this issue is fixed.
I like it! I don’t really have enough need for trail videos to justify the purchase price but if I did I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one. Highly recommended.
More Garmin VIRB reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin VIRB action camera reviews have been posted at Amazon
- A review from Web Bike World
I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…