GoPro have long since had a stranglehold on the POV camera market. The sheer versatility, picture quality, and more importantly their fanbase has ensured that GoPro is now a multi-billion Dollar worldwide phenomenon
Many have tried to take on GoPro’s crown, including Sony, without much inroad. Of course Sony make money out of this regardless because they build and supply the chip that is used in the latest generation of GoPro camera.
There is now a new, and I might add unexpected competitor to the market in the form of the new Garmin VIRB.
Capable of Submersion
The VIRB comes as an all in one unit that is capable of submersion of 1m for 30 minutes out of the box, or for true diving potential with the addition of an optional dive housing.
While the VIRB does not have the innovative rotating lens of the now since defunct Contour, fans of the latter will appreciate the low profile design of Garmin’s product.
The camera records resolutions up to 1080p at 30fps, 960p at 48fps, 720p at up to 60fps, and WVGA at up to 120fps, with stills up to 16MP (4664x3496).
These specifications fall short of the top of the range GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition, and it lacks the Protune modes that are available even on the GoPro Silver Edition, so it remains to see how well Garmin can compete in this ever increasingly crowded market.
Digital image stabilisation
However they do have a few aces up their sleeve. The camera can accept an external mic via an option adaptor as well as featuring digital image stabilisation and in camera lens distortion reduction. The camera also features a built in 1.4” Chroma Display, which Garmin claims makes virtually no impact on power consumption, currently listed as being around 3hrs.
Garmin claim that the display uses the sun's light and is visible even in bright conditions. This will make framing a shot far easier than buying an add on accessory as is currently the case with the GoPro.
Importantly Garmin have realised that one of the things that makes the GoPro so successful is the sheer variety of mounts that are available. Garmin have made sure that there are a plethora of mounting options including suction mounts, chest harnesses, head straps, tube mounts of various sizes, sticky mounts, and adjustable mounting arms.
In addition external power cables are available, an optional dive case with a flat lens, and even external sensors to transmit information such as ambient temperature, bike cadence, and heart rate monitors!
It is even possible to buy an easily replaceable lens for the camera itself for $20.
The VIRB comes in two flavours. The standard version at $299 and the Elite version which contains an accelerometer, GPS, and altimeter for additional metadata.
While the VIRB does not contain the quality bursting Protune modes of the GoPro, there are enough features here that will keep enthusiasts happy, particularly those who are more interested in keeping track of their fitness and performance analysis as well as plain old video.
Garmin VIRB video after the break