By Peter Tranter and Richard Cree
The mounted action camera scene has been dominated for years now by GoPro, however, there is now plenty of competition coming to the market that may break their stranglehold. At the very top end is the Garmin VIRB.
There are many budget units around up to the very top end units at the upper price range – you take your pick based on what you think you will need. If you need 1080p GPS, WiFi, LCD colour screen etc – then the VIRB will suit your needs every time plus it has great looks to boot.
So the box arrived and I was more than eager to get my hands on this very sweet looking stylish camera inside. The battery comes pre-charged and the only fussy element of setting up the camera for immediate use is to replace the Mini SD memory card, which is way too small for capturing a decent amount of footage.
I didn’t find it particularly easy to lift the fiddly gate mechanism, which is located beneath the battery and it took all of ten minutes to get this working properly but part of that may be down to my large sausage fingers!
Anyway, once inserted we went out to play. The attachment brackets for sticking the camera to your helmet, or whatever you prefer, are easy with all the flexibility you will need. This unit came with two attachments but be careful to make sure you know where you want to place them – as taking the sticky base off again is very difficult.
When in position on your helmet, you’ll see immediately that the camera is not as obtrusive as the black square GoPro and is so much more aerodynamic. However, you will notice that it is quite a bit heavier and after a while that does add up.
Recording is easy – just push the large sliding button on the side of the unit forward and off you go. Pull it back again for when you want to finish. That’s the basics and if that’s all you need you will not be disappointed with the results.
However, the camera can do so much more if you’re willing to read the instruction manual and if you’re paying so much for the camera in the first place – I recommend you do.
The VIRB records true 1080p but it can also record in various other modes such as 1080p@30fps, 960p@48fps, 720p@30/60fps, 848×480@120fps and all with excellent stabilisation.
Everything you take is viewable through the top mounted viewfinder, which like most of these units is a little difficult to view in bright conditions, however, it is a big help to see what you’ve already recorded and in darker conditions is absolutely fine.
The VIRB takes top notch photos as well, up to 16 mega pixels. The camera will take photos as you record video with no interruption, either manually on the unit itself or remotely. Combined with a battery that seems to last forever, (Garmin say three hours) and you start to appreciate why you paid the extra money.
Richard Cree borrowed the camera to record footage from his sea kayak on the water. One item he would have liked to have seen included would be a lanyard just for the extra safety when the unit isn’t attached to its bracket around water.
Reason being is that the VIRB is only waterproof for up to a metre depth of water – so dropping it into anything deeper could be expensive. Garmin do sell an optional diving case, which we would recommend for water use.
However, as you can see from the footage on the right, Richard gave it more than a fair amount of under water use and the unit worked perfectly fine, capturing excellent footage.
We have to confess that we didn’t try the GPS or WiFi elements of the camera but as Garmin built their reputation on such devices, I think we can take it as read that these features would be amongst the very best.
Would we buy one? Yes with no doubts whatsoever. Its build quality, reliability, functions, ease of use and for the fact it doesn’t look like a box attached to your head. It was wrench to have to give the unit back!