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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Garmin Has Two New Action Cams

Garmin has 2 new action cams to compete with GoPro's offerings. They are indeed interesting having a more video camera like shape and some cool features.The VIRB and VIRB Elite will go on sale in September, priced at $300 and $400. What does an extra $100 get you ? The VIRB Elite model has with an accelerometer, high-sensitivity GPS, an altimeter, and built-in Wi-Fi. Data such as location, speed, elevation, and heart rate (monitor not included) can be recorded while shooting and optionally overlaid on the video. Sounds great for athletic training, bad for everyone else.  SInce the Elite version has built-in Wi-Fi, it can stream live video using Garmin’s mobile app for iOS and Android  running on your smartphone. The apps also function  as a remote control to turn the camera on and off.

Another plus is that both cameras have digital image stabilization and lens distortion correction which I'll assume is an option to turn on or off. Yet another good thing : A built in 1.4-inch transvective display uses sunlight to help illuminate the screen and save on battery life. Nice not to have to spend extra for a screen, especially if its even modestly viewable in daylight.

Now a big minus :  they are only waterproof  to 1 meter for 30 minutes.  To me thats pretty sad and just asking for trouble. Drop it into the deep end of a pool and the camera may be toast. They should really improve this. While I don't take my cameras to 150ft under water, its pretty easy to get them down to 10 or 20 ft for most users. I guess we'll have to find out if these housings are a little better than rated or not.

Something thats going to make GoPro sweat : recording time of up to  three hours of 1080p video on a single battery charge. If you have a Hero3 you know its a power hog and easily eats a batter in 1hr, 2hrs using an external battery pak. This for me has been a big weakness in an otherwise great product. 

Image quality ? well Garmin has a demo video on their site and image quality looks good. The black levels are all too high though. Not sure if this is from the camera or who ever edited / graded this wasn't on their game. Also whats weird is that some of the video looks really good - sharp and clean while others look soft. Not sure what that is about. Perhaps the camera has a bunch of modes and who ever was using it used one of the lower res modes, or recompressed the footage after shooting. I suspect the camera probably makes really nice pix.

Worth keeping your eye on once they start shipping in sept.