GPS specialists Garmin have entered the action camera market with two full HD models. On retail price, the VIRB (US$299.99/£269.99) platform and GPS- and WiFi-enabled VIRB Elite (US$399.99; £349.99) match GoPro’s market-leading HERO3 and HERO3 Black cameras in the States, slightly undercutting them in the UK.
The Garmin cameras are expected to hit US shops in September – just a month after one of the market’s most established brands, Contour, shut down in early August – and UK stores in October. On claimed specifications alone, Garmin’s entries look like strong alternatives to GoPro’s benchmark setting models.
The VIRB cameras carry a 1.4in colour display screen for immediate playback. Garmin claim the 177g units can capture three hours of HD (1080p) footage on a single charge, and that the lithium-ion batteries can be swapped out easily if the ride is longer than expected. The cameras can take a microSD card, meaning that at maximum capacity of 64Gb users are good for about seven hours of HD footage, say Garmin.
Both VIRB models feature digital image stabilisation technology, to smooth out footage, and can capture 16MP stills while filming. Footage can be shot in three modes - wide, medium and narrow. The lens distortion correction facility should eliminate the fish eye effect that makes vertical shapes like trees appear curved.
The Garmin VIRB is packaged in robust contour housing
The VIRB Elite uses the same platform technology as the VIRB but also carries an accelerometer and altimeter and has GPS and WiFi functionality. It means users can embed data like altitude, speed and location in their footage. iPhone and Android apps also mean the camera can be controlled via a smartphone and rides shared via social media.
The cameras’ internals are housed in a robust-looking, curved waterproof casing that should be able to handle the bumps and shocks of a typical ride. While most people will mount the unit on their bar or helmet and use the intuitive side trigger to start and stop recording, a nifty Edge 810 software upgrade means that computer can control either VIRB camera – especially useful if it’s mounted in a hard-to-reach spot or set up remotely to capture a jump or stunt. Currently nine mounts are available for a range of applications.
The VIRB action cameras form the second major product launch from Garmin in less than a month, after the long-awaited Vector power meter pedals. For more information on the cameras see the official Garmin website.
Video: BikeRadar's sample footage from the Garmin VIRB Elite