Garmin announced the brand new VIRB X and XE cameras today. While they can’t compete (yet) with GoPro and Sony on resolution and framerate, they are packed with features that other action camera companies completely ignore.
The new VIRBs start off with a completely new form factor. They adopt a more GoPro-like, rectangular shape, rather than the previous elongated form. We don’t know exact dimensions yet. But, the camera body, without any additional case, is waterproof to 50 meters (164 feet).
The VIRB XE will be capable of shooting 1080p/60fps and 1440p/30fps. That’s not up there with GoPro or Sony, which can both shoot 4k/30fps, but it’s an improvement over the previously limited 1080p/30fps. Garmin also adds digital image stabilization to the VIRB XE, which GoPro lacks, and a “pro mode” for professionals who want to apply their own color correction in post-production. The VIRB X, however, does not get a resolution boost, image stabilization, or pro mode.
But, where the VIRB cameras eat everyone else’s cake: integration. Both cameras come with built-in accelerometers, gyroscopes, and GPS for speed and location readings. They also feature Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+ compatibility for connecting to your smartphone or – and here’s the cool part – powermeters and smart watches. The system, Garmin calls it G-Metrix™, tracks all of the data – speed, power, position, elevation, G-force, etc. – in real time and the data can be inserted into your video edits with a click of the mouse. The list of data you can track via the cameras themselves or connected Garmin devices borders on ridiculous:
- Heart Rate*
- Bike Speed*
- Pedaling Cadence*
- Vehicle Speed
- Engine RPM*
- Engine Fuel Rate*
- Track Shape*
*requires another device
- Water Depth*
- Apparent Wind Angle*
- Apparent Wind Speed*
- True Wind Speed*
- Tempe™: Temperature*
- Heart Rate Strap: Heart Rate*
- Aircraft Velocity*
- Aircraft Altitude*
- Track Angle/Heading*
The same devices that can provide the VIRB with data can also act as remote controls. You can monitor and control the VIRB camera with the optional VIRB remote, smart devices, portable Garmin navigation devices, wearables, chartplotters, aviation decks, and even other VIRB cameras.
Also cool, the VIRBs both feature a dedicated photo button that’s always active – even during video shots. The new VIRBs will shoot up to 30fps at 12 megapixels. Or, you can slow things way down and shoot extended time lapse photos. The VIRB will go to sleep between shots to extend battery life. While shooting video, you can set the camera to automatically capture stills at intervals up to 120 seconds.
You’ll be able to pick up the new VIRB cameras this summer. The VIRB XE, marketed to professionals, will retail for $399 and the X, for us regular folk, will come in at $299. The connectivity and features are awesome, but we wish the optics would catch up with GoPro and Sony.