- Great media quality up to 4K at 30fps
- Image stabilization
- Built-in GPS
- Voice commands
- Mounting system compatible with GoPro
- Not waterproof (need housing unit)
- Poor battery life when all sensors are running
Best action camera from Garmin. Neck and neck with the latest GoPros. Overall, one of the best action cameras on the market.
The VIRB Ultra 30 is Garmin’s best action camera to date—no doubt about that. We’d even go as far as saying it’s a serious competitor with GoPro. It’s a workhorse of a camera, but in all honesty, battery life drags it down. You’re lucky if you get 45 minutes of video time with this guy. Let’s put that aside for now. What else can you expect from the Ultra 30?
Moving on to design, the VIRB is not water resistant out-of-the-box, but with the external housing unit you can submerge it down to 40 meters. We’re not huge fans of housing units, but at least Garmin makes it so the audio kind of passes through the housing unit. The audio does get a little distorted, but it’s better than completely covering the microphone (which, by the way is located on the front of the camera). If you move the camera around a lot, however, you will pick up that noise in the audio, which can become a little annoying. What’s nice though, is that the VIRB is compatible with a lot of GoPro accessories, however, Garmin sells a bunch of their own too.
You also have a full-color, LCD touchscreen on the back of the camera with pretty great software built-in. It’s easy to master and Garmin has made it very intuitive to work with. As an FYI, you can use the touchscreen through the housing unit.
The VIRB also supports voice commands, which work pretty great and have really good range. Also new to the camera is image stabilization. It’s digital stabilization, but it’s still really nice to have. Most handheld gimbals do a better job, but absent one of those you’ll prefer having digital stabilization to nothing.
One big-time kicker with the VIRB is that it has GPS and an accelerometer built-in, which allows you to have G-Metrix. This is where Garmin overlays certain stats, graphs, and charts about your event onto your footage. An example is with cycling you can overlay an elevation chart alongside a map of your route. Also, your speed and even things like heart rate if you pair the camera with external accessories (ANT+ ones). You can even control the camera from various Garmin watches and fitness trackers. We’ve plenty of times used the Fenix 3 to control the VIRB, which is a really nice feature to have. It ends up being pretty convenient.
It also has Wi-Fi to sync with the VIRB mobile app and you get one-touch recording to save battery life. You’re going to want to use this.
As far as media quality, it shoots up to 4K at 30 frames per second (and 2.7k60). You also have the ability to adjust the sharpness, ISO, white balance, etc. It shoots slow mo at 1080p120 and 720p240., which end up looking awesome. You also get a camera mode, burst mode, and time lapse mode.
That’s most of what you can expect from the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30. If you get it, we think you’ll like it, but just be super cognizant of battery life. Solid job Garmin.