- Video quality is really good + works for 360 and linear footage
- In-camera stitching works great + HyperFrame Director Mode is pretty amazing
- Compatible with tripods and many Garmin/GoPro mounts
- Water resistant down to 10 meters w/o external housing unit
- Easy to use with helpful editing software (Android, iOS, PC, Mac)
- Very expensive
- Lens scratches easily
- Somewhat big and heavy
- Battery life is still tough on these types of cameras
The Garmin VIRB 360 is a for sure a big step forward in the spherical camera space. It’s Garmin’s first 360 camera and is the best one on the market as of this post.
Garmin did a killer job on the VIRB 360. In terms of full spherical cameras, it is probably the most desirable unit out there right now. Of course, the GoPro Fusion is coming out soon and we will review that as well, but so far, the VIRB 360 is the one to go with. Here are the main things that you need to know about it.
We like the hardware of the VIRB 360 Hardware
The VIRB 360 is slightly larger and heavier than a standard GoPro, however, we think it’s impressively compact given what this camera can do. Actual size dimensions are 39.0 × 59.3 × 69.8mm (H x W x D) and the weight is 160g. It’s also water resistant down to 10 meters without an external housing it. That means the four microphones that wrap the camera will not be covered by a case and it just makes using the VIRB 360 extra convenient. Additionally, it has a sunlight-readable display and several physical buttons for changing settings, etc. The display does not allow you preview your shots or see previously recorded media, but it does make using the camera crazy easy.
Moving on the to the bottom of the camera, the VIRB 360 requires a proprietary mount, but from there it is compatible with most tripods, which is great. Also, in the box, you get a Garmin mount that allows the VIRB 360 to work with prior Garmin accessories (it also works with most GoPro chest mounts, head mounts, suction cups, etc.). Big fans of the fact that its compatible with many other accessories and mounts.
The VIRB 360 takes a MicroSD card for storage, however, you’ll need a newer, faster memory card than you’re probably used to. Here’s an Amazon link to the one we’re using right now. It works just fine. The VIRB charges via MicroUSB, has an HDMI-Out port, and has a detachable battery so you can swap one in if your current battery dies. Battery size is 1250mAh.
Speaking of battery life, expect somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour of battery life with the VIRB. Closer to 30 minutes if you’re fiddling with it a lot and have all of the sensors and features running. Closer to an hour if you leave it recording and don’t mess with it. We think this is actually pretty decent battery life for a 360 camera. These things take a lot of energy to run and it’s actually quite impressive that you can go close to an hour without needing to charge it again.
VIRB 360 records impressive video quality
The headlines for this camera say spherical video up to 5.7k at 30 frames per second. That’s true. You can record at insane clarity, however, 5.7k and 5k are primarily intended for professionals using the VIRB. The camera actually will not stitch that footage together so you’ll have two different files (one being a fish eye shot) on the MicroSD card. You’ll need professional, 3rd-party software to stitch the footage together.
The average consumer will be recording at 4k 30 frames per second and this footage will be stitched together in the camera so you do not require 3rd-party software to view it. In fact, Garmin has a mobile app (iOS/Android) and desktop app (PC/Mac) that allows you to view your footage and interact with it in full spherical model. Here’s the kicker with the VIRB though. If you want to record some shots in 360, you can obviously do that, but if you want traditional, linear footage, you can do that as well. In the settings for this camera you can swap between RAW footage (5k), 360 (4k), and front/back lens (1080p). This is very clever and means that you don’t require two cameras when you’re out filming. On top of this, Garmin allows you to manually (if you want) adjust things like the ISO, white balance, sharpness, and more, which is really nice to see. GoPro calls this feature ProTune and has it on most of their newer cameras.
Garmin also allows certain shots to be stabilized (everything stitched in-camera). The feature works ok, but not nearly as good as a gimbal does. As an FYI, the VIRB 360 is not compatible with any stabilizer gimbals to my knowledge at this point. Anyways, the Garmin-provided stabilization actually happens in video playback so it’s not proper optical image stabilization. Better than nothing and glad to have it, but I need to figure out how to jerry rig a stabilizer gimbal for this.
Stitching is a contentious topic with 360 cameras
When VR cameras first came out you could definitely see the seams (or stitches) that combines your videos. Most modern 360 cameras, however, are pretty good at this now and the VIRB 360 is no exception. The stitching is great and you can even choose between near and far stitching depending on where you subjects are in the frame. That’s really neat. The one drawback though, is that if you’re in near mode, some of the far stitching isn’t perfect and vice versa. Still, very good overall.
Here’s one of our 360 videos that shows the stitching and video quality of the VIRB.
Photos and more
The VIRB also records time lapse and photos in full 360. Timelapse video is available in 4K and 5K resolutions at intervals of 2/5/10/30/60s. Photos, on the other hand can, be taken up to 15MP and that is stitched. There’s also 3MP for standard photos.
As previously mentioned, Garmin makes an iOS and Android app as well as a desktop app for the VIRB 360. The VIRB software allows you to preview shots, see previously recorded footage, edit shots, and make settings adjustments. The software is very easy to use.
Other features of VIRB 360
The camera sports Wi-Fi (for mobile app), ANT+ (for external sensors), Bluetooth (for microphones and headsets), and NFC (for pairing) as well as an accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope, compass, GPS, and GLONASS for all of which help bring you G-Metrix. Not familiar with G-Metrix? Essentially, the camera, using these built-in sensors as well as any connected external sensors (HRMs, etc.) will record information about what you’re doing—think speed, distance, elevation, and route for cycling or g-force for pilots. Garmin will then take this data and overlay it on your footage in the form of graphs, charts, and gauges so your viewers can see more about what you’re doing. This is not to be understated. This is really freaking awesome. The graphics are all customizable and really help to elevate the footage. Of course, you can switch certain sensors off it you want, but we think the G-Metrix concept is pretty darn neat. Here’s a complete list of camera-collected stats:
- Relative Elevation
- Jump Metrics: Hang Time, Jump Height, Jump Distance, Rotations in Air, Jump Count
- Vertical Speed
- GPS Coordinates
- Track Shape and Position
Here’s a demo of what the G-Metrix feature looks like on an exported video. This video was edited and uploaded to YouTube via the VIRB desktop software. As you can see, there are gauges, graphs, and charts that you can add to your footage and you can place them anywhere that you’d like within the video. Garmin even has templates that make it mindlessly easy to add G-Metrix.
September 2017 Updates
Garmin released some huge features for the VIRB 360 in late September 2017. Previously you needed 3rd party software to stitch together RAW 5K footage. Now you can do that directly within the VIRB Edit software. Additionally, Garmin added increased video image fidelity, long photo exposures, and a new mode for bust photos, among other items. They also launched a GarminVR app for Samsung Gear VR and Daydream View.
But by far the biggest update that Garmin made is adding a HyperFrame Director Mode, which will blow your mind. There’s a video below that demonstrates this new feature, but the basic premise is that you can create completely new pans, transitions, and fields of view for your videos. The idea is that as the director of the footage, you can lead viewers along a story as you want it to be framed. You can even create the ‘tiny planet’ shots directly from the Garmin software. Really neat stuff.
Final thoughts on Garmin’s first 360 VR camera
We really like it. It would be nice to have higher frame rates and other resolutions, but it’s hard to ask for anything more at the moment. Battery life is ok. Stitching is pretty good. G-Metrix are really neat. The one major drawback is price point. The VIRB 360 has an MSRP of $800! Insane. We expect that to come down somewhat in the future. Here’s the link to check out the VIRB 360 at CleverTraining.com. As an FYI, shipping is free and they do not charge sales tax outside of Florida so you can probably save some cash that way given the price of this camera.