The other day, Garmin announced and released their most recent action cam – the VIRB Ultra 30. In summary this 50-million word in-depth review in the most succinct manner possible: Someone at Garmin finally first got it. They created what might possibly best both GoPro’s current and even upcoming offerings. It just took 3+ years.
This new VIRB includes from voice control (‘Ok Garmin, have a picture.’) to 4K video recording, to YouTube live streaming. Not forgetting high end manual photo/video controls, a color touchscreen display that even works in the hard-shell waterproof case, and new travelling time-lapse options. Plus of course all of the usual stuff from days gone by like GPS, ANT+ and Bluetooth sensor support, plus much more. The more you dig in to the camera, the more new features you find.
As noted above, I’ve been on a few versions of the camera, but this review is written predicated on your final production unit. Garmin delivered both that and pre-prod units for evaluation, and like usual, they’ll get back to Garmin shortly. In the event that you found this review useful, you can hit up the links in the bottom of the post to aid the site.
The Executive Summary:
I’ve been using various iterations of the camera for a long time now – and I’ve gotta say this can be a most impressed I’ve been with a Garmin product in a few time. Regular readers will remember I was ‘not impressed’ with the prior VIRB X/XE offering. I felt enjoy it just missed the mark in so many ways regarding being competitive to GoPro units.
Whereas this unit is incredibly competitive to GoPro units, especially in light of last week’s leaks about the upcoming GoPro Hero5. The simplest way to think about the photo/video specs (resolutions) of the unit, is that it’s basically a GoPro Hero4 Black. So it’s got all of the 4K/30fps capabilities, plus the 240fps @ 720p slow-mo options. Essentially, there’s next to nothing that GoPro has in the Hero4 lineup that doesn’t.
However before we dive too deeply, let’s just go with a bulleted set of what’s new and unique/different when compared to past VIRB series cameras.
As you can plainly see, that’s quite the list. In using the cameras, it becomes clear that Garmin is targeting a lot more than just the ‘average consumer’ crowd with this unit. Of course, it’ll be ideal for the common consumer – as being a GoPro is. but there’s also several little features that contain been added which will make it more desirable to production companies. You’ve of course seen that GoPro’s are ubiquitous in TV productions nowadays, such as for example MythBusters. That’s partly because GoPro has added features these companies need to use many cameras and integrate that footage to their workflow.
Regarding Garmin, you see that with features just like the capability to save and share settings across cameras. Now you can simply export out confirmed settings profile and quickly apply that to varied cameras.
Of course, stepping back again to the buyer realm this camera takes aim squarely at GoPro with just about everything Garmin had. Previously Garmin was woefully short on image/video resolution and aspects like size. Plus features just like the insufficient a touch/preview screen. But those dissimilarities evaporate with the VIRB Ultra 30. Now you basically get all of the best value of a GoPro Hero4 Black, but with the features and functions of the Garmin series. Aspects like overlaying your speed, G-forces, and GPS track were all Garmin staples, which ties it together in a neat little package.
If you wanna get yourself a glance at things – the next video summarizes a lot of this entire review in a single tidy little package:
As I said at the start of the quick overview (for all those that want to miss the remaining post), this is essentially the most impressive product I’ve seen out of your company in quite a while. It’s stable and spent some time working well for me personally, while also ticking off all of the check boxes in what I’d like from both a daily, and vacation action cam.
Size & Weight Comparisons:
Now, you could have noticed I also included an in depth size and weight comparison section within the last half of the unboxing video above. So you might want to look into that. It starts at about the 10 minute marker.
Next, looking at sizes, you’ll see that the VIRB Ultra 30 and GoPro Hero4 units are pretty similar within their cases to one another. The VIRB could very well be a smidge wider and a little bit taller as a result of extra button/lever for dedicated photo/video buttons. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t really spot the size if you don’t had them hand and hand.
Then we’ve first got it sans-case. Again, practically a similar thing here. It’s perhaps a millimeter bigger in height/width, but that’s it. Super similar:
And finally the weights. Here you can observe the weights with and without the cases for both units.
The New Stuff:
So there’s boatloads of new stuff, but let’s focus in on what I believe will be the key new pieces (apart from 4K resolutions). Those being voice control, the brand new touchscreen display, and the touchscreen with touch-capable case. There’s other cool things like the video image stabilization, the crazy photography burst modes, additional pro mode options, etc. But I’ll cover those within their respective video/audio sections. Whereas these other activities don’t fit somewhere else, so they’re getting their own section.
Voice Control – OK Garmin: Following in the footsteps of ‘OK Google’ and others, Garmin has added voice control to the VIRB Ultra 30. This enables you to simply speak to it to have a photo, record a video, or record a highlight. You can change this feature on/off as you see fit, nonetheless it works surprisingly well.