In recent years action cameras have come and gone but few have posed a real challenge to the dominance of the Go Pro Hero series. The Go Pro’s market share dominance may, however, be under threat by the new offering from Garmin in the form of it’s VIRB camera.
According to Garmin’s web site, the VIRB boasts:-
1080p HD video recording with 16 megapixel CMOS image processor
Chroma display: color, high-resolution; easier control of setup, playback and adjustments
Long-lasting rechargeable lithium-ion battery, record up to 3 hours at 1080p
Rugged, durable, waterproof (IPX7¹) with an aerodynamic design
One of the most attractive features of the VIRB is the built in Garmin GPS unit which records the camera location in an offline mode.
With all of these impressive features, we thought we would run off the top of the range VIRB Elite against the Go Pro Hero 3+ Black to see which performed better in the HAB environment. We did two test flights across the UK and the results were surprising to say the least.
Date: 25/03/2014 Launch 5:45am Landing: 7:58am
Launch site: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-3.9664361,511m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en
Tanygrisiau, Vale of Ffestiniog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd LL41 3TW
Landing Site: https://email@example.com,-4.2371323,1706m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en
Balloon: 800g Cosmoprene
Equipment: Go Pro Hero 3+ Black, Garmin VIRB, SPOT Messenger, SPOT Gen 3, SKYPROBE flight computer
Picture 1 – Just before launch
Picture 2 Just after launch
Picture 4 Just before balloon burst
In the first flight the Go Pro Hero 3+Black (with bacpac), running at 1080 video at 24 fps, ran for 2hours 56 min, about 20 minutes longer than the VIRB (1080p 30fps) which ran for 2 hours and 36 minutes. The quality of the video was mixed with the Hero giving a better image prior to launch. The VIRB give a more pleasing image just after launch, and both cameras giving a similarly pleasing image mid way through the ascent and at burst.
Date: 27/05/2014 Launch 12:38 am
Equipment: Go Pro Hero 3+ Black, Garmin VIRB, SPOT Messenger, SPOT Gen 3,Cattrack, art work by Rachel Mathewson
Camera performance: Go Pro Hero 3+Black plus bacpac :- 126 minutes approx
Garmin VIRB:- in excess of 121 minutes but last file became corrupt. No GPS recorded.
The results are shown in this short film put together by Whitestone Media
The footage from the Go Pro Hero 3+ was sharper and more pleasing than the Garmin VIRB though the difference in the quality was not great.
All in all I found that the Garmin VIRB held it’s own against the Go Pro Hero3+ Black, with instances where is offered a more pleasing image. The Garmin VIRB also offered the function of GPS logging, as well as many of the functions offered by the Go Pro Hero 3+ Black. The Black does however offer the higher resolution modes, though these are hard to make use of in the context of high altitude ballooning. Both cameras were very simple to use, though the one push button of the VIRB had the edge over the Hero 3+ Black.