on 17 January 2014
I have been actively using this VIRB Elite for a few months now so I feel I can write a valid review WRT using it on my cycle helmet and also in car attached to the windscreen.
Firstly the product itself and the packaging it comes in is very impressive and the VIRB is a well constructed item that is overall very easy to use and get to grips with. I like the fact it has a built in screen that is used for the setup and the buttons provide good tactile responses and even more so when you set the beep to work on button presses. I really like the large record now slider button that is easy to use even with big gloves on. What you need to remember though is the screen runs off ambient light so you may need to be near a light source to get the best viewing. On the flip side, the LED for being charged or recording is to the top of the screen and when it's green it takes your focus away from the screen and is annoying. I normally put a finger over it.
The menu system works well on the screen and is easy to use but like another reviewer, if you set it to use WiFi all the setup control is taken away locally and you need to use your smartphone app. This wasn't clear until I worked out what was going on. Note the WiFi will connect to a PC but there is no software for controlling from a PC. Personally, I have found using the WiFi very problematic with my Android smartphone and I'm not impressed with that part of it. Essentially the VIRB sets itself as a WiFi hotspot that the phone connects to.
In cycling use . I mainly use the VIRB for a 10 mile round trip commute and it fits well onto the vented cycle helmet strap (extra cost item) that I use. I think it's a shame the helmet strap isn't included in the price. The VIRB is easy to clip in even wearing the helmet and using the instant record slider switch is great. It emits a reassuring beep at the start and end of recording and the LED flashes red. I have tried a number of the video settings for cycling and then imported those clips into the VIRB Edit software. What I am finding is that even at high 60fps rates it's not easy to pause the video and get a number plate recognition. I suspect that's the VIRB Edit having problems. Back to cycling the unit has been used in both dry and very wet conditions and I have not had any problems. Obviously the video quality suffers with rain drops on the lens though. To cut down on the wind noise on the microphone keep the small foam plug in place on the VIRB mount. I was hoping that the VIRB would sit closer to the helmet and it certainly is quite prominent.
In car use. I had to buy the Garmin windscreen mount and this means that due to the sloping screen the VIRB has to be mounted inverted and you need to make sure you select the inversion video option from the Advanced menu. For longer journeys I plug in a USB cable to charge the VIRB at the same time. One point here is that I was confused that if you charge the unit and record the LED may stay green instead of flashing red and this was strange. It seems to do with how you plug things together in order but it does record while charging. To improve the microphone remove the small foam plug on the VIRB mount and it will pick up all your conversations and background music/radio.
In house use: I have successfully use the time lapse functions and they make for some very amusing short clips so those functions work well.
VIRB Edit software. This is the editing software that you have to down load to import your videos into once the VIRB is connected to your PC. Overall I think it does a reasonable job and works OK and provides a range of data overlays you can select.
Garmin web site. I have previous registered another product with Garmin but their UK web site didn't seem setup to find or register the VIRB. However if you do enter the product serial number then it is recognised. I have since had both the VIRB edit and the VIRB firmware update successfully.
I have had the odd lock up or freeze of the VIRB and I hope the Edit software will perhaps improve together with the WiFi to the phone. I think it would be nice to have some control software for a PC too.
As has been mentioned this site has a good review and comments:
Overall the VIRB is a very solid piece of kit and pretty much does a good job but there is room for improvement and for that reason I think 4 stars is valid.
June 2014 - update
So, I was getting increasingly fed up with the unit just freezing where it would just lock up and not record anything. I made sure it was all up to the latest firmware and in the end called Garmin. They were brilliant and after confirming it was a registered product and up to date with firmware, I shipped mine back as just the carcass (no battery etc) and within a week they had shipped me a brand new unit all fully boxed with all the accessories too. So far this new unit has not let me down and I have just upgraded to firmware 3.70. Impressive Garmin customer support.
August 2014 - update
I have used the VIRB Elite for a week of extreme MTB in the French Alps and it worked wonderfully producing some great video coming down the mountain trails into Val d'Isere. Even on misty rainy days with plenty of mud flying it produced amazingly clear and stable footage attached to my helmet.
on 21 June 2014
After an experience when a driver pulled out in front of me as I was cycling and suddenly stopped for no reason, I decided it was time to invest in a camera that could record any future incidents. In addition I sea-kayak so I also wanted a camera that was waterproof for filming trips.
I looked at the obvious model - GoPro - but I was concerned by the number of reviews criticising the focus being too close and making a lot of the depth blurred. Not much use if I wanted to use any film to support me in any incident or for filming the fantastic UK coastline from my sea-kayak. I'm sure they'll sort it out and its otherwise a great piece of kit based on many other reviews, just not for me at the time.
With further research I found and purchased the Garmin Virb Elite and no regrets to date.
+ Decent quality filming. I don't profess to be an expert, but at least when I playback and pause I can make out details such as registration numbers (though not every time). Also the overall image is clear so you can get a good view of the landscape (at least on a laptop).
+ Besides video and still images, GPS allows lots more functionality to be a more versatile tool, such as:
- speedometer (current, average and maximum speed on a trip)
- distance covered
- climb/descent profile of trip
+ Generally simple and intuitive to use, but haven't mastered the stopwatch. Particularly easy to record - push a large button forward and it starts recording (though there is a brief delay of up to 1-2 seconds so does not appear to be instant)
+ Waterproof (IPX7 = up to 1 metre for up to 30 minutes), though I've not tried it sea kayaking yet, so this is TBC. The rubber seal covering on the USB access point doesn't look too tight, but will double check warranty/instructions and give it a go in coming weeks/months and update accordingly
+ A fully charged battery seems to last around 3 hours in recording mode which has been plenty for me so far, but may not be enough for longer trips that you want to record in full. You can buy spare Garmin Li-ion batteries for longer trips.
+ Clear screen so you can easily set up what you're filming, rather than getting it home and finding you've been focussed on the wrong point.
+ The design looks sleek and modern. It looks/feels high quality as you would expect.
+ All the connectors I've bought (eg. for bike attachment) have been good quality and provide a secure hold.
- My biggest issue is that if recording, then you can't change the display screen so you have to choose what screen you want it to be set on before you start recording. Unfortunately that means you have to choose one of video, speedometer, distance covered, climb profile or stopwatch. As my main use to date has been cycling it would have been better to have a summary option with simplified speed + distance + time + climb metrics. This could easily be achieved by not having all the sub options (eg. current + average + maximum speed on a trip from the speedometer) as these can be reviewed at the end of the trip. Or simply allow the user to switch while recording. I've struggled to decide whether I should lose a star for this. Whilst this isn't the main functionality of the unit, it has proven to be an obvious miss from me as a cyclist. However, it's main competitor doesn't offer this functionality at all, so I don't believe it justifies taking a star off.
- Stills have a fishbowl effect due to the lens (though I haven't noticed it in the video I've shot). Having said that, not a major issue as I bought it for the videoing, not the stills.
Overall - for my needs - I love the product and I believe it has several advantages over the GoPro for those who see a benefit in using the GPS technology to provide additional insights, without losing the fundamentals of a robust action camera.
(For information a 64GB micro SD card seems to hold around 7 hours of filming based on my experience to date.)
SIX MONTH UPDATE:
After six months use I thought I'd add a couple of points on battery life.
On a 5 hour bike ride, just using it as a stats tracker (eg. av speed and distance) rather than as a video recorder, the battery lasted just four and a bit hours. With recording and GPS on seems to last around three hours. Really disappointing and needs improving. A spare battery doesn't help as you have to find a convenient location to switch them and lose the earlier data from the trip. I believe you can extend the life by reducing the frequency it registers your position, but I don't know the impact on data accuracy/recording so I'll try that out and feedback later
I have also found with charging that when it's plugged into the USB it switches itself on after a few seconds and you have to physically switch it off. Early on I hadn't realised this and left it charging a couple of days and came back and found it still switched on.
Almost loses a star for this, but as most of my trips are closer to three hours it just about works (with a little frustration). Overall though, still does what I need it to do (record) and more (stats) so I'll live with these niggles
on 13 February 2014
Was looking for an small camera to use on board a light aircraft and for timelapses and originally intended to purchase the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, which many friends use. However, GoPro recently changed the lens design for the Hero 3+ and as a result the focal length is far poorer than before - fine for close up action, but not great for aviation (or anything where you want a distant image in focus) - for this and other reasons I found myself looking around and found VIRB by Garmin.
The camera itself feels every bit as well built as the competition, if not better, and even offers a degree of water-protection without any additional cases. Personally I prefer the more streamlined form factor (although there others who would argue the 'square' look of the others is better as you can fit it closer against a surface, I've not noticed that much of a difference that limits placement. On a related note, the locking mounts are feel far more robust than some of the others.
The image quality is superb, the battery life is great (over 3 hours, even with GPS) and the included VIRB Edit software that allows you to overlay GPS tracks and other sensor information (GPS speed, altitude etc) is a nice touch although a bit clunky at times - but I'm sure future versions will improve this. It also saves standard GPX files to the card along with video recordings, which can be used by any application.
It's also very handy to have a display on the camera (although the quality is no-where near that suggested by the PR images produced by Garmin it's certainly good enough to use to frame a shot or to level the camera, using a display which looks very much like an aircraft attitude indicator)
There's a few downsides worth mentioning;
The battery takes forever to charge (taking almost 6 hours next to the Go Pro's 2 hour recharge time!) so a spare battery is essential if you want to record more than 3 hours in a day. This is probably my biggest bugbear with the device.
The WiFi application is still quite limited (as of February 2014), there's no ability to download / share footage using an iPad/iPhone etc - it must be connected to the computer to retrieve video - and there's no live view whilst recording (although you can use it as a viewfinder when not recording)
It doesn't support the same range of video formats as GoPro and others, which now boast 4K video amongst other things. However, I don't own anything capable of displaying 4K video, and don't really have the storage space for it either, so I don't really consider this a negative - but it's worth mentioning.
The included mounts are two sticky backed mounts, and that's it, they're obviously not repositionable and whilst probably ideal if you want to mount one to a helmet / car / aircraft that you own it would be good to see an included suction or clip mount - rather than paying £24 for the official Garmin suction mount (which, in itself, isn't as well designed as it could be) to complement the camera - there is also an adapter to allow you to use the VIRB with most existing GoPro mounts however it's worth noting this adds over an inch to the length of the mount, and can be quite awkward with some.
I used one of the included mounts to make my own standard tripod to VIRB adapter, which I use with a Gorilla Pod with great success so far.
Overall there's a few things that could be improved, but the VIRB is a fantastic alternative to the popular action cameras, it is a bit pricey (February 2014) but comparable to the GoPro Hero 3 Black which doesn't have a display or GPS, but the VIRB loses out on the larger format video (4K etc) - so it depends what's more important to you. Personally the GPS functionality makes it ideal for my primary intended use (in light aircraft).
Finally, and I always hate reviews that review the service rather than the product (you see lots of 1* reviews from people who received damaged goods, or they were late etc - which is entirely unfair as it has no bearing on the product), I feel it's worth mentioning that Amazon customer service excelled in getting a replacement VIRB to me quickly after this order was lost in transit.
on 19 December 2015
I've had this unit less than 24 hours and it's already broken. Yes it did come very quickly and well packaged. I brought the bundle that included an extra battery and a cycle mount.
The first thing I did was charge both batteries using the supplied USB cable but with no memory card installed. Please note this is all you can do until a micro SD card is installed (which is not supplied). Once the batteries were fully charged I then installed the Micro SD card and went throught the set-up process. All appeared to be going well and I then downloaded and installed Garmin Express. Now my problems started. It said there was an update availble for the device, so I installed it. This update failed and the device will no longer work!!. All I get in the green power light and nothing on the screen. I can only turn it off by removing the battery. I've left the battery out of the device for a long period and tried pressing various buttons without any success. Reading forums, others have had the same issue and the only way to fix it is to send the unit back to Garmin.
Really upset as this was an early Christmas present and had fitted the cycle mount to my bike all ready to try it all out. I've now got to decide to return to Amazon for a refund (I can't see an option to exhange it) or contact Garmin UK for them to repair it.
Update: Garmin advised me to return the product to retailer, which I have done today. Sadly no longer available at the price I paid, so should be getting full refund. Back to the drawing board to see what other cameras are out there in the price range I want to pay.
on 20 November 2015
Purchased this as I was sick of having near misses on my bike and not been able to do things like take number plate details as I was sailing through the air (what the police expect!).
Spent lot of time debating pro's and con's of this versus Contour, GoPro and many others…
Eventually I thought I would just take a dive on this one, and heres what I found.
Firstly, its very well built, and I mean very, feels incredibly solid, but this also means its a lot heavier than other options, ties a bit of getting used to but it isn't to bad, even when used on a helmet.
The support from Garmin is great, and there are loads of software updates and support on their site, I'm using it on a Mac, and it works fine, but be aware it works best and has the best support if your OS X is mavericks or newer… if you are on anything older it works but you have to find old, simpler archive versions via Garmin.
The features on the camera are great and cover everything I need as a cycle camera, they may be missing some tricks for extreme sports and such, but it does a great job as a cycle camera.
Image quality is sharp and smooth, and even gives a good picture on night commutes with just cycle and street lights for illumination.
As a basic camera this is great, the only thing that stops me giving it 5 stars is the Virb Elite.
I own both and the Elite lives on my helmet as my main cam, this is on the back of the bike catching a rear view and it is superb, but the added features on the Elite mean it records and overlays my journey progress on a route map, my direction of travel and my speed onto the video, which means as a safety camera it bakes up how and where I am riding.
Botom line is if you need a good cycle safety camera and you are on a budget, this is almost unbeatable, if you have a bit more cash to splash and you want some extra detail on statistics, go for the Virb Elite…
But at the end of the day they are both well built, smaller than you think and give a great picture, so you can't really go wrong.
on 7 January 2014
I received this camera just after Christmas and have taken it out three times ski mountaineering in the Scottish highlands using the head strap mount. Conditions were generally very poor; overcast with very strong winds and frequent rain, sleet and snow showers. All of which were handled surprisingly well by the Virb.
One problem I encountered was with spindrift freezing onto the lens causing a blurred picture; hardly the camera's fault! The only other problem was that the video was a little underexposed. This is caused by the predominantly white (snow) scene which tended to go grey. On a good quality still camera I would normally overexpose by about one stop in snow landscapes but this is not an option with the Virb (and I suspect is not an option with any other action camera). It is, however, pretty easy to fix with video editing software with a slight lift in brightness and contrast.
The videos are sharp and are saved at a very high bit rate (over 20,000 kbps) which results in large clip sizes but this in turn means that there is no noticeable loss in quality when they are edited and resaved (at a lower bitrate). The clips were also pretty steady even when I was skiing whilst recording. How much of that is down to my good skiing style (unlikely!) and how much due to the lens stabilisation I can't really say. However, overall I am very, very impressed with this little fella!
One thing to note is that the ability to take a still photo without interrupting video recording is not quite as clever as it first appears. The still is taken at the same resolution as the video (1920 x 1080 in my case) rather than at the 4608 x 3456 resolution I was getting when not recording. In other words I suspect all it is doing is snatching a frame from the recording which can be done just as easily afterwards with most video editing software.
on 25 April 2015
A few problems at first and had to return 2 devices and Garmin had to send me a replacement in the end, but now its all working I am really impressed. One of the things I wanted it for wa setting up behind a goal and the wide angled lens is perfect for this and the picture quality is outstanding. I went for this over a Gropro because I liked the idea of having a view finder, for initial set up of picture, but lens is so wide you don't really need it. The other factor in the end was £190 knocked off the price. The edit suite offered by Garmin is also very good and simple to use and have already uploaded my first video to Youtube. I was a bit concerned when first watching back what I'd recorded, as it was oftening lagging, but this is purely the memory card I imagine, as once edited and turned into a video this is all resolved. All very straightforward, so delighted with my purchase. Still 5 stars despite the initial problems as the product is fantastic and Amazon were brilliant regarding returns and their technical support.
on 15 May 2014
I bought this as I have a Garmin Edge and can operate the device remotely.
Garmin has released a device that is trying to please as many people as possible. It has longer battery life and lots of GPS functions and data information.
I have tried this camera on my bike, on the handlebars and mounted on the helmet. All I can say is that it really does not matter what features this camera has, it is not very comfortable mounted to my bike helmet, it is a extra 260 grams in weight and depending on the position can make the helmet feel unbalanced.
So if you purchase this item just for cycle helmets, I would investigate the competition more in terms of size and weight. The camera weighs 180 gram and the helmet mount and cradle is 80 gram. I would suggest comfort over weight and if you had to go for a competitor which is a lot lighter and less battery life.
What i like about the camera is that is has a good amount of protection all round the body and it has lots of features, that will show lots of information when watching the videos. The camera is fairly easy to use.
This is my first video Camera and the fisheye lens takes some interesting pictures, but i think detail is lost due the compactness of the camera and the size of the sensor.
The camera on the handlebar mount is brilliant and I like the fact, I am carrying no extra weight on my body.
the camera does come with a plastic bracket that allows you to mount the camera onto gopro mounts, which can be very handy if there isn't a garmin mount out there for the job.
I recommend when you buy one of these cameras you add another £100 to your budget for the accessories, memory card, charger, bike mount, extra cradle, another battery(useful for weekends away), screen protectors.
If you have several cradles, you can quickly remove the camera whilst riding and attach it to another position in seconds, rather than unscrewing the bracket to change its position. There has been times where the screws holding the camera has worked loose.
Having looked/played around with the gopro camera for 5 minutes, I think the real pluses on this camera is the ease of use and how easily and quickly you can navigate through the menus, with 4 buttons to operate and a screen to read, it makes life a lot easier to operate, it also has a slider to turn on the film mode and off. I found just setting it up was easier, because it is GPS it will automatically detect the time zone you are in the sync the time. The camera has several different zoom modes, depending on the setting between 2 and 5 from ultra wide to ultra zoom. From my experience ultra zoom is still pretty compared to a normal camera.
I did find it a bit tricky to connect the camera to my Garmin Edge cycle computer, it might take a while to figure out how to sync the two up, but this is one of the plus points, but edge cycle computer needs to have a firmware update before doing this. I have found when operating the camera via the edge the camera can lose signal at times and you may need to switch on and off for a re-connection.
The camera does allow you to take photos whilst riding, but I have discovered whilst filming it is only at the resolution of the video and not at your photo resolution. If you want to take pictures you are better off turning off the video mode.
Garmin have updated there camera firmware, so after downloading the camera is capable of both ntsc and pal, but pal seems to record at a slower frame rate to the other.
The GPS function of this camera is the main selling point in my opinion, the added bonus is it is like a second cycle computer on the bike. The data which can be collected, is speed, direction, altitude, cadence, heart rate, power and possibly temperature.
Overall I give 3 stars, because of it being too bulky for a cycle helmet. If you are not waring it, then I suggest 4 stars.
I think it would be nicer if the memory card was more accessible and not behind the battery unit and the device came with its own battery charger
I have not had a chance to compare the camera with another brand on film/ picture quality yet.
on 30 October 2013
I bought this as an alternative to the legendary "go-pro" due to the fact that it has a view screen already built into it, rather than an added accessory that you need to buy with a go-pro, something that I feel is quite important when using a camera.
Overall I think the Garmin Virb is a good solid construction that is designed to take knocks with relative ease, a must for an action camera, it also stands up to water pretty well, but for proper underwater use,you would need a dedicated case (same as the Go-pro)
It comes with a couple of basic stick-on mounts and necessary brackets, but you soon find yourself looking for more dedicated mounts which at the time of writing take a bit of hunting down on the internet (try 'Force 4 Chandlery' they seem to stock a fair few accessories) ,
The main thing with any action camera is the quality of the picture, I won't go into spec comparisons with the go-pro here, but I think the picture on the Virb is pretty good and at 1080 hd with a 32 GB micro sd card you get over 3 1/2 hours of footage and the battery seems more than capable. I would say the picture quality is as good as a Go-pro from what I have seen but I am no expert so some may disagree, I use my camera mainly for mountain biking and the film I made when blown up on a large tv watched via YouTube was a bit pixelated and blurred in places but watched on a tablet device or computer gave an excellent picture which was very clear, I have not tried streaming the footage directly from the Virb to the tv yet but that may give a good picture that way, I'm not sure, and I have yet to experiment with all the editing programmes you can download from Garmin on to a computer.
In summary I would highly reccomend the Garmin Virb as an alternative to a Go-Pro, it is very simple to use and you just have to slide a switch to start filming anywhere, it is also quite a bit cheaper when you consider you don't have to buy a screen for it on top of all the other accessories
on 23 June 2015
First of all, this review is written from the point of view of a moderately technical user with a bike mounted camera. Secondly, there are many more detailed reviews available. This is just my opinion.
The good points:
1, It takes good quality 1080p HD video.
2. Once set up it’s easy to use on the bike with a large on/off slide switch.
The bad points:
1. Out of the box it comes with sparse instructions and to make much sense of its features it's necessary to search on independent review sites such as YouTube. Garmin provide almost zero information.
2. Before you can even charge it up or access any of its functions, it needs a micro sd card which must be bought separately.
3. It’s cumbersome to set up using the buttons menu (no touch screen control) and as the screen is quite small and not backlit, it’s not easy to see in low light. I never did get it to integrate with my Garmin Edge 510 either, which it is supposed to do. (A great product by the way)
4. Next thing you need to buy if you want to record bike rides is a bar mount, so that's around another £15/20 and you haven't even taken a shot yet! Added to the cost is the fact that it looks like “a zimmer frame on the bars” (not my words but correct)
5. It’s heavy! You have spent a large wedge of your hard earned on keeping your bike as light as possible and to plonk 200+ grams on the bars doesn’t appeal. Don’t even think about wearing it as a head cam. By the way that’s another special mount you will need to purchase.
6. The battery life is poor. Garmin quote “up to 3 hours” but I rarely got over 1.5 hours. Not even enough to capture as far as the tea stop on your club ride. It seems to use up the same amount of battery power on standby as on record.
7. A spare battery will cost about £15/20 and you will need a mains charger at another £8/10 as charging via the supplied usb lead (no mains adaptor provided) proved problematic with software glitches and takes for ever. (Other reviewers agree).
8. The built in microphone is useless. It picks up all the road, wind and bike noise but very little else. Garmin accessory mics’ are available but have poor reviews.
9. So, at last, you have managed to capture your first video and you want to view and edit it. For this you have to download the Garmin Virb Edit software to your PC. Here you will discover that unless you have a modern PC with a fast processor and running at least windows 7, the Garmin software will not function. Buy a new PC?
10. When you have upgraded your computer or, like me, borrowed one and managed to install the software and made the camera upload its files you will be able to spend many hours fiddling around trying to edit your clips. The software is not user friendly. It’s slow and seems beset with operational problems. However I believe that this is true of a lot of video editing software so perhaps I am being a bit harsh.
The Garmin Virb Elite works well on the quality of the video but is woeful in almost every other aspect. Garmin need to take a serious look at battery life and the editing software. There seem to be software upgrades for the unit and the editing programme on a regular basis, so it is obviously a work in progress. They say they have improved battery life in the most recent models, which mine was, but general chatter on the forums still suggest close to 90mins maximum. I was very disappointed with my camera.