Sunday, 5 January 2014

Garmin Virb Elite Part 2

I have been using the new Garmin Virb Elite on loan from Garmin UK for a few weeks now and I am able to offer a more detailed breakdown of what I think of it and how it has performed. I have a Part 1 blog post where I give my first impressions and if you haven't read that yet, it might be an idea to start with that first. I have posted a link to this at the bottom of this post.









The first thing I would have to say about the Virb is how easy it is to use and set up. The menu system is easy to operate and and screen, although quite small is very usable for navigating the various functions. 

Quite shamefully perhaps I didn't consult the instructions once however I was able to set the Virb to record the video quality I required, linked it to my Garmin Edge 810 bike GPS and was pretty much aware of all the Virb could do without any difficulty. I have to say as someone who owns a GoPro Hero 2 the Virb is quicker to work with and more intuitive in general.

A handlebar mount can be bought separately and this provides a very secure and stable platform. Comparing it to the various mounts of my GoPro in order to achieve a similar setup, leaves the GoPro very much in second place. 









The Virb cradle that holds it in place feels very stable and one can be very confident that once in place it is very secure. I have used it several times over the last few weeks and there have not been any times where the Virb has slipped or been moved out of place. I cannot say that for my GoPro.




The other great thing about the Virb mounts in general is that they take up very little handlebar real estate.






In Part 1 of my review you will have read that it is quite easy to link the Virb to a compatible Garmin device. (A smartphone app which allows this and more advanced functions has been recently released). The set up is really easy and you can stop and start recording as well as take a stills picture from the 810.

Occasionally I have mounted my GoPro to the rear of my Brompton to get a different view of a ride. I can imaging that being able to control the Virb via my Garmin Edge 810 would prove to be very useful.





The display is very clear in daylight. Indoors it is perfectly viewable but it has been designed for outdoor use and it is highly visible even in bright sunlight.





I am sure that Garmin will continue to release various mounts for the Virb as time goes on but the Shoulder harness mount would be top of my list of must haves. Although the handlebar mount is quite excellent, if riding over bumpy surfaces the video will suffer. The shoulder harness mount allows you to mount the Virb very securely on either the left of right shoulder.




Even when riding over bumpy surfaces I found that this harness was a great solution as well as providing an interesting angle to film or take photos from. Again, being able to control the Virb via my Garmin Edge 810 was a bonus. Saying that, the Virbs recording switch is large and easy to reach.

I have seen the footage from a friend with a GoPro Chest Harness and the Virb shoulder harness is again better. The footage says where you want it to be, unlike my friends GoPro harness which after a short time had footage of the camera pointing towards the floor.




The last of the Virb mounts is a helmet strap. This works well and I can imagine skiers, snowboarders, mountaineers and people hurling themselves off mountains or out of aeroplanes loving this!



Okay, so the Virb is pretty good so far. What about the all important image quality. The Virb is also able to take still photos at up to 16MP. It also has an excellent time lapse function where it will take a photo every few seconds at various presets. 

Stills photos from the Virb are of excellent quality. Below you can look at two photos I took this morning at one of the car parks within Richmond Park. On my Mac in iPhoto when I use the zoom function, I can go all the way and still have fairly good detail. It is easily as good if not better than a decent point and shoot camera.

Stills photo 1

Stills photo 2


Video quality is equally as good. I have been very pleased with the results I have obtained. Below you will find a link to my YouTube account where you will be able to watch a short clip of me cycling in Richmond Park. I should have used the shoulder harness as I was on Kojak tyres pumped to 110psi. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the results. 

Richmond Park Clip shot with Virb Elite

The wobble effect, very common on my GoPro is much reduced and I do think that the picture is sharper.

I have actually used the Virb as a hand held video camera and recorded loads of family stuff over the Christmas period - it is that good. You will have to take my word for it as my family don't want to appear on YouTube or this blog. The sound quality is also good and less muffled than my GoPro.

You can edit your videos using a variety of software, PC or Mac but Garmin have a free piece of software you can get via their website called 'Garmin VIRB Edit.' This really is worth a look! The Elite version of the Virb has a build in GPS. This means that when you are recording video footage, if the GPS function is on you can record your position. In addition to this you can view lots of the data recorded, such as speed for example and chart your progress on a map. 

Below you can see this software in action. The ability to see this data and map details is brilliant. If you don't have the Elite version of the Virb, but have a Garmin Edge GPS or similar you can still get all this data overlaid in much the same way. 

To a mere recreational cyclist (until the Brompton World Championships com along that is) it is great fun but I can imagine for the more serious athlete this would be of great use.  Saying that I can imagine looking at for example footage of me cycling up Ditchling Beacon and using the combined data harvested by the Virb to see how I could improve next time. (This might be a good justification for me to use with Mrs Orange if trying to buy my own Virb)!


The Virb Edit Software showing your video clip and map data. The red dot is the start of this particular clip.

Like other editing software you can drape clips to edit further




Another great feature of this software is the way you can easily change how the data is displayed. This can then be overlaid onto your video clip and when exporting to YouTube or other software, this overlay stays. Very clever. 

Default

Classic






The eagerly anticipated smartphone app makes controlling the Virb, especially if you have the camera positioned in awkward locations easy. In fact it makes controlling / setting the camera functions easy too.

Connecting is painless and once connected you have lots of options open to you.

The app searching for your phone

The picture below is of me pointing the Virb and seeing what the camera sees but on my iPhone. It is very clever and there is virtually no lag in seeing the picture.


The view from the Virb via my iPhone


The app also has a vast array of settings and you can alter just about every setting on the Virb. The shots below show the options as you scroll down. From what i can tell the app is quite stable.






As I wrote I have used the Virb extensively over the Christmas period. Video and stills taken at night are excellent. I took Mrs Orange and my daughters to see the Christmas lights quite a number of times and the quality was extremely good. Low light performance is therefore sound. (I wish I had taken it on the Christmas sights and Signature ride now)!

Battery life with the GPS function turned on was constantly about two and half hours. Having used the Virb for sustained periods of several hours I have to report that the lens did not fog up due to the heat produced by the Virb when in use. This phenomena is something that plagues my GoPro. I cannot count the number of times where footage has been rendered next to useless as the lens has fogged over.

So, final thoughts. I have really enjoyed using the Virb and it has been very easy to use. It produces excellent videos and stills and I love the time lapse function. There are two versions of the Virb. Garmin allowed me to test out the Elite version which has the added features of WiFi and GPS. Both are utilised very well. Me on a budget I go for the standard Virb.

Is it better than my GoPro Hero 2...yes. I'd go as far as saying it is better than the newer GoPro's as well. (The Black version is able to record at an incredible quality but I don't have the need for that). The mounting system for the Virb is better - plain and simple. (Saying that you can use your GoPro mounts via an adapter).

The ability to control the Virb by other Garmin products such as the Edge 810 is seamless. The smartphone app further enhances is usability. 

Would I buy one? Yes I would. I cannot tell you how difficult it is going to be to send the Virb back to Garmin UK. In fact I have enjoyed using it so much I have kept it a little longer than I should. Many thanks as always to Simon at Garmin UK!!

Garmin are going to sell loads of these. They haven't just put their toes into the water of action cameras they have dived in and created waves. If I were GoPro, I'd be very worried!

The link to part one of my review can be found below.

Garmin Virb Elite Part 1 - First Impressions

Specification for the Virb Elite listed below:

Dimensions

Unit size (HxWxD): 32 mm x 53 mm x 111 mm
Display size: 1.4" (205 x 148)

Unit weight:           

Without battery and battery door: 4.40 oz
Without battery: 4.79 oz
With battery: 6.26 oz
With battery and cradle: 7.16 oz
With battery, cradle and flat mount assembly: 8.31 oz

Video
           
Image sensor: 16 MP, 1/2.3" CMOS
File Type: .mp4
1080p HD video: 1920 × 1080; 30 fps
960p HD video: 1280 × 960; 30,60 fps 48fps
720p HD video: 1280 × 720; 30,60 fps
WVGA (slow motion): 854 848 × 480; 120,60 fps just 120
Still photo resolution: 16 MP (4664*3496); 12 MP (4664*2632); 8 MP (3264*2448)
Photo burst: 6/s 3/s@16, 5/s@12 or 10/s@8
Photo time lapse (seconds): 0.5,1,2,5,10,30,60

Audio
           
Internal microphone: Yes
External microphone: Optional USB to 3.5 mm stereo mic adapter

Connectivity

Bluetooth®: No
ANT+™ compatible: Yes (remote & sensors)
Interface: USB 2.0
HDMI output: micro HDMI
Wi-Fi: 802.11 bgn

Miscellaneous

GPS: Yes
Temperature range: -15° to 60° C
Memory: microSD™ card (up to 64 GB); card not included
Accelerometer: Yes
Altimeter: Yes
Water resistant: IPX7 (1 m/30 min)
Image stabilization: Yes (digital)
Lens distortion correction: Yes

Battery
           
Battery type: Removable Li-ion
Battery capacity: 2000 mAh

Battery life: 1080p (30 fps); up to 3 hrs


In the Box:

VIRB Elite action camera
Lithium-ion battery
Cradle
Short link
Right angle link
Adapter to popular industry mounts
Flat surface mount
Curved surface mount
Removable flange base
Threaded collar
Knobs (3)
USB cable
Documentation

5 comments:

  1. Hi, if I was in the market for both a GPS device and a camera, would you say this would suffice (ie. would you consider replacing your Edge & Go-Pro). Cheers Paul

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    1. Hello. Thanks for leaving a comment. I'd have to say they are two separate beings - with the VIRB Elite having some GPS functions. If you have a look at my reviews for the Garmin Edge 800, 510 and 810 you will see what functions they offer. I have to say though my 810 does not leave whatever Brompton I take out. This and the other devices mentioned are quite simply brilliant.

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  2. Great review! I have a question about the time lapse function. I have read that the virb uses the time lapse function to create a video but do you still have access to the individual time- apse stills? Thanks.

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  3. Thanks for an excellent review. One question, does the camera and mount shown allow you to fold the s type brompton without having to dismount or repositioning the camera every time?

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    Replies
    1. Might need a little adjusting but yes you should be able to...I was.

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