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Garmin’s New VIRB Ultra 30: Eurobike Edition Mini-Review

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Update: My In-Depth Review is up! Check it out by clicking here.

Today, Garmin released their newest action, the VIRB Ultra 30. This 4K action cam is capable of rivaling the GoPro Hero4 series, as well as the rumored specs on the upcoming GoPro Hero5 units.

What’s new:

It’s got a ton of new features aside from the noted 4K capabilities, they include:

– Added 4K/30&24fps & 2.7K/30&60fps recording options
– Slow-mo modes up to 240fps at 720p, and 120fps at 1080p
– Added burst up to 60 frames over 2 seconds for photos
– Added very granular photo and video manual settings options (i.e. exposure, white balance, etc…)
– Added full color touchscreen to back of unit
– Added framing overlays onto touch screen live view (i.e. rule of thirds, etc…)
– Added overexposure displays onto touch screen live view (to see if exposure is washed out)
– Separate waterproof case from camera, leaving naked camera virtually identical to GoPro Hero4 Black/Silver size
– New hardshell case still allows clear audio and touchscreen to work when camera is in it
– New hardshell case also allows wind-reduction and sound underwater
– Added a new ‘frame/skeleton’ style case as an option
– Added YouTube Live Streaming (iOS only)
– Added ability to playback via Miracast to TV’s in your house wirelessly
– New VIRB Edit multi-cam support (i.e. picture in picture) with multiple VIRB’s
– New VIRB Edit apps support higher resolution footage now (i.e. 4K)
– New Travelapse mode: Like a timelapse mode, but distance triggered vs time-triggered
– Voice controls for photo, video, highlights (‘OK Garmin, take a picture’)
– Added image stabilization in-camera up to 1440p (reduces shake)
– Actually works with some 3rd party gimbals now
– Samples and records internal sensor data at up to 100 times a second (100 Hz) for overlay later, and GPS data at 10 Hz
– Ability to save/export settings to share with multiple cameras

In a nutshell, it mirrors the hardware specs of the GoPro Hero4 Black from a resolution standpoint, but it exceeds them handily when you talk about aspects such as GPS, accelerometers, live streaming, and so on.  Basically, anything software-focused the Garmin takes the cake on (today anyway).

Below is an example of the new overlays, while also using the new overexposure display options.  The areas highlighted in red indicates overexposure.  Meanwhile, I have it set on travelapse mode as noted at the bottom left.

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Now, I have an *awesome* in-depth review for you with tons of amazing footage – footage attached to drones in Ibiza, paragliding in the Alps, driving the coastline of the south of France, and riding in Paris to name a few.  It’s probably one of my coolest in-depth reviews in a while based on a lot of time with the camera(s).  In fact, this recent video shot underwater was actually filmed on the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 – including the impressive audio bits underwater.  Same goes for many of my Strava activity shots over the last while.

DCIM\104_VIRB\VIRB0017. DCIM\109_VIRB\VIRB0077-

Basically, I’ve got videos out the wazoo to publish/upload.  The first one is now up though – and here’s a look at the GoPro Hero4 vs the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 (which includes a great overview of all the new VIRB Ultra 30 features):

But alas, my WiFi here at Eurobike is the pinnacle of crap.  Well, it was great, and then thousands of people descended on this little village for the day and it went down the crapper like a bout of food poisoning.  So unfortunately you’ll have to wait a wee bit longer, probably later tonight European time for the pipes to unclog (Update: Slowly but surely getting things up, but it’s very slow going for the 20GB+ of footage I have to upload.)

The Skinny:

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Overall, the two paragraph summary of my pending review (until the interwebs cooperate) is that I’m really impressed.  This is clearly Garmin’s best action cam release to date, and to me it says they finally ‘got it’.  I’d go as far as saying it’s the best fitness/outdoor product they’ve released this year, if not in the last two years (I can’t think any further beyond that).  While I gave them a hard time last year with what I viewed as a flop on the VIRB X/XE action cams, this time they definitely got it right.  As one who has repeatedly said that they’d have to pry my GoPro Hero4 Silver out of my cold dead hands, I’m pretty much happy to give that up and make the $499 VIRB Ultra 30 my day-to-day action cam.  Well, at least until I see what the Hero5 looks like.

Hang tight and I’ll put a note out as soon as all my in-depth review goodness posts!  Also, stay tuned to YouTube, because as soon as my VIRB related videos upload there, I’ll let them be listed as live (though, it currently says 4 days).  And, later this evening for an evening ride I’ll try out the live streaming while riding piece via my phone, following my DCR Live Stream session I’ve got planned.

Note that the unit is shipping effective immediately from Amazon, who has a 30-day exclusive for the camera within the US (I don’t know about other countries yet).  Whether or not it’ll be widely available isn’t clear, but as of this writing there were units in stock and people were buying them for next day delivery.

…oh, and sorry for the delay!

77 Comments

  1. BartW

    Hope the WiFi will improve fast (for this and other reviews coming up).
    I guess this is the same reason the hands up with the Forerunner 35 (official released) is not there yet?

    • No, the FR35 was a last second change of dates (apparently changed last night), so I haven’t touched it yet. Later today I will, but realistically won’t post till tomorrow at earliest.

    • Robin

      I’m interested in the Forerunner 35, at this stage (I’ll need to convince my wife to take my 25 though….). My key questions are whether it has 1 second recording, and whether or not vibration alerts work for all notifications (the announcement on the Garmin website says “Vibration alerts can also be set up for incoming calls, text, emails and calendar events……”). Thanks

    • Will check on those items in morning.

    • Robin

      Awesome, thanks.

    • Mike Richie

      Got to say, for only $50 less then the vivoactive HR, it is a lot less watch. No color, no touchscreen, no barometric altimeter, no compass, no waypoints, no GLONASS, no additional sports (swim, golf, paddle sports, skiing, etc.), no watch faces, no variable data fields and most important, as far as I can tell, no Connect IQ so you can’t ever add anything. It’s not even a lot smaller (10 gms less and only .05 inch thinner). Maybe at $150 it would compete against the new Fitbit (and with GPS), but at $199, I don’t get it.

    • Yeah. It’s a weird price.

    • Robin

      Pricing is all relative to people’s ability to afford the device. An extra $50 (or $100 in my case) might too much for someone to pay.

      Regarding other sports, the announcements states “in addition to running, the Forerunner 35 features multiple sport profiles including indoor running, walking, cycling and cardio activities to help users meet their fitness goals on and off the pavement.”

      Those other sports might not be as fully featured as on the Vivoactive, but they might be good enough for the price bracket.

    • Richard Stanford

      Thanks, looking forward to it. It may replace my annoying TomTom for a quick grab-and-go-run gadget.

      ps: If you see them, let them know to copy Garmin more. I shouldn’t have to wait to start timing my run until their box has found its signal :)

  2. Luke

    New Forerunner 35 as well Ray?

  3. Fantastic. Battery life? (one of the worst things about XE)

    • randy

      But the good thing is that you can connect an external power source very easy. This was the reason why I bought (a week ago….) XE.

    • not really practical when it’s mounted on the front of my helmet.

    • randy

      Most of powerful headlights have a battery pack on a cable as well, so it should not be a big problem. Anyway I like more a video from a chest mounted camera.

  4. Steve

    What size and weight, pls?

    • Victor

      Weight
      Without Battery: 66g
      With Battery: 88g
      With Battery In Waterproof Housing: 155g With Battery In Cage Housing: 106g

      Size (HxWxD)
      Bare Camera: 43.1 x 57.5 x 20.4mm
      In Waterproof Housing: 57.7 x 79.0 x 33.5mm In Cage Housing: 51.2 x 62.0 x 29.8mm

      link to www8.garmin.com

  5. Francis Paulin

    #1 Does it support charging via USB while in use?
    #2 Is there some sort of skeleton case that would allow mounting while being connected to a power source?

    • H

      #1 – You can plug it in while in use, probably won’t increase the battery level.
      #2 – They have a skeleton case with a lens cap.

  6. Goncalo

    Voice controls are awesome! If it works well in the water (for surfing), I can finally stop worrying about start recording when a wave comes. Ray, maybe you could add one more sport to your portfolio and try catch some waves with the new Virb in the cold waves of Hossegor :)

  7. fiatlux

    Interesting, when I was about to replace my very old Gopro HD by a Yi 4K.

    I might still go for the Yi given the prices difference – I don’t really need built-in GPS as I already have numerous Forerunner watches I could use (Garmin’s VIRB Edit software happily merges any video with GPS logs).

    Any plan to review the Yi 4K?

  8. John

    Any integration yet with their Varia radar unit?

    The ability to automatically turn on a camera when the radar picks up a car approaching too fast or too close, seems like such an obvious feature for a company that is already shipping all the requisite components…

  9. Adam

    Please tell me the battery life has improved over my poorly showing XE?

  10. Edoardo

    Hi Ray, are you going to review the new Yi 4K action cam? It is one of the cheapest action cam using a real 4K sensor and looks like a pretty solid product. Thank you!

  11. Sean Ormerod

    I already run to many GPS devices on a ride so would prefer the feature I think Polar is going to have to just share some sort of marker to better align the video and GPS data?
    The screen isn’t much good all the time so a off feature would be nice so less battery used.

    The form factor of a Hero with the larger battery on back is best for long rides/events paired with the data sync would be huge.

  12. Ken

    Noooo! I want the review NOW; stoopit Wi-Fi. :-(

    Couple of advance questions you’ll hopefully have answered for later:
    Actually works with some 3rd party gimbals now – Feiyu Tech wearable gimbal among them?
    New VIRB Edit multi-cam support (i.e. picture in picture) with multiple VIRB’s – does this include VIRB Elite’s?
    Battery life/external battery options?

    Thanks!

  13. Ray, Clever training didn’t have the Virb Ultra 30 on their website, so I ordered from your Amazon link. You will get a few pennies and I will have a new toy tomorrow.

  14. Luca

    does it have night time lapse ?
    shutter time is from … to … ?

    • Victor

      Time Lapse: Night. Capture a series of photos with extended exposures in low lighting
      Exposure Time: Auto, 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60s

      Check out the full specs at Garmin.com
      link to www8.garmin.com

    • So the night timelapse on video mode (you have photo mode too) is really solid when you crank down the ISO in Pro Mode. In fact, I even did a night driving timelapse the other night, really darn impressive for low-light performance.

  15. Lukman Nurhakim

    I dont care about most of the other features when the basics are not prioritized.

    – Battery life needs to be at least 4 hrs.
    – It is NOT AERO.

    • Why 4 hours?

      And why’s it not aero? Have you tested it? You might want to start here… link to dcrainmaker.com

      As noted in that testing, despite the Sony cams ‘looking’ more aero, they actually weren’t.

    • Kevin C

      I agree 100% on the battery life. I usually don’t plan ahead for anything bad/interesting to happen on a ride, so I really need a camera that I can just turn on and leave on for the entirety of a ride. I consider 4 hours to be a minimum.

  16. gingerneil

    Ant+ or BT sensor integration for heart rate etc?

    • John

      Garmin is ANT+ only for sensor data.

      They only use Bluetooth for Garmin-to-smartphone communication.

    • randy

      BT is for headphones (not only for Mic as in previous version) and for car OBD2 interface. For communication with a smartphone is only WiFi.

  17. Byron Poland

    Amazon has it for $50 off right now as a lightning deal.

  18. Greg

    Are you sure the image stabilization will work on 1440p? Garmin’s page only shows 1080p/60 (footnote #4). link to buy.garmin.com

  19. Robert Floyd

    I’m interested in mounting in my Airdog. I’m guessing you will cover that in the full depth review.

    • Yup, I’ve got a full video covering how I did the drone pieces. But it wasn’t actually with an Airdog. The problem with the Airdog mounting is that the backplate of the gimbal has the GoPro pin connector, which the VIRB lacks. So it gets all wonky there. Then the case is a bit different size, so it doesn’t fit there either.

      You could use electrical tape and wrap it around a few times, but..well…that’s sucky.

      What I did was took an older Phantom 2 with a H3-3D gimbal, and used some Garmin quarter-turn mount rubber bands (but lobster claw bands would work too). That worked surprisingly well and I got really pretty footage out of it.

      I also tried below a Phantom 4, by repurposing the P4 camera protector cover (and attaching a sticky mount), but that resulted in wonky vibrations that even EIS mode couldn’t fix. Not a surprise of course, and really sketchy in terms of falling off.

      Of course, obviously you could do non-gimbal setups on older Phantoms with just a simple GoPro mount…but that’s no fun.

  20. Robert Floyd

    Is there a real altimeter this time?

  21. Nick

    I didn’t know GPS could be juiced up with more hz. What does something like the Fenix 3 or Edge 1000 have? What does this help with? Thanks!

    • Victor

      Their refresh rate is 1 Hz. The improvement on this aspect is very relevant. For reference, I have an automotive GPS lap timer with 1/100 second accuracy with the same 10 Hz rate as the VIRB Ultra. Motorsporst enthusiasts rejoyce!

  22. Tommy Haywood

    I wish someone would build a camera with the specs I want for a safety cam.

    Prioritise battery life (4 hours+)
    Proper looping video (SD card never fills up)

    I want a camera that can act as a safety camera on my bike. The fly cameras are the closest to this but the 6 has no wireless connectivity and the 12 includes a light and is too pricey

    • John

      The Ultra 30 supports looping, with a configurable duration. It doesn’t automatically stop the video based on incident detection (which would be a great feature-add since G-Metrix already records G-force) but does have an auto-pause setting when you stop moving. Plus they sell the Varia Radar unit which detects cars approaching from behind. They already have all the hardware pieces in place, but so far they haven’t seemed to be able to connect the dots.

      The chief complaint I had with my Fly6 is that it was such a complete pain-in-the-arse to update the date and time, each and every time it was powered up. Literally, remove the Fly6 from the bike, bring it in the house, connect to a computer with a USB cable, modify the config.txt file on the micro-SD card with whatever the current date happens to be, eject the drive, restart the unit, then put it back on the bike. Every. Single. Time. Otherwise the video files pick up the old date or reset back to January of 2014 if you entered the date format wrong. Just what you need in a safety device, random timestamps on the video files… In contrast, I set the date and time of my Session4 via the GoPro app on my phone, which takes seconds. Even better, the VIRB units auto configure date and time directly from the GPS signal.

  23. KingArt

    I bought many action cameras over the past decade. It’s always good to see a new Action Camera coming out but this time, I am NOT buying the Garmin Virb Ultra 30.

    Deal Breakers for me:
    – NO Charging while inside waterproof case.
    Battery life for action cameras are always a problem especially while snowboarding. The cold weather will reduce the capacity of the battery by a big percentage. The battery level will increase after you warm the camera up. I carry a USB Battery bank with me and keep the Garmin VIRB XE charged while being mounted on my helmet. Perfect solution. I DON’T have to open the waterproof case to change the batteries where snow will get inside the camera and fog up the lens. Also very hard to do that with gloves on. That’s what the GoPro is like. But Now the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 has become EXACTLY like the GoPro! The Battery compartment and USB charging port is almost identical to GoPro 4.

    Very Disappointed… I would wait for GoPro 5.

    • Helmut

      People are different. Nothing is a show stopper for me. I never swim in the water for over one hour or doing things I need to record below 15°C. To cold.

    • Andy Chan

      I’m surprised at your comment re gloves. The biggest selling point of Garmin is you can always feel the switch even if you are wearing the thickest glove.

    • KingArt

      I meant the Gopro style battery compartment makes it very hard to replace the batteries while you are on the slope (I go off piste high up the mountains and deep in the woods). That’s why the original VirbXE’s charging cable was attractive to me. I could keep it charged while recording.

      Too bad!

  24. Axel

    “But alas, my WiFi here at Eurobike is the pinnacle of crap.”…welcome to Germany, where the cars are faster than the internet…:)

  25. Mike King

    Agree with many that ability connect battery extender while in use is a major problem. I use mine for sailing and the ability to put a camera at the top of a mast, have a USB batter pack attached directly and taped out of the way would give me the ability to leave the camara on and control it via WiFi.

    I’m assuming with this one that if you have a WiFi and GPS on then the battery life is going to be pretty woeful (and it can get cold). The main downside with the XE is that is doesn’t have the wide angle lens that the GP4 does which limits the view.

  26. sos47

    thanks Ray! There is a cage for Roadbike mounting (i think).

    link to buy.garmin.com

    Would be interesting if this cage&cam resists normal rain…

    Is it possible to use a Fenix 3 as a remote control?

    • Yeah, the frame/cage is awesome. Been my favorite mount by far. Better designed than the GoPro one in terms of getting camera in/out. The cage doesn’t really resist any liquid though, so I’d be hesitant about usage in heavy rain (I’ve used it in light/brief rain).

      No problems with with Fenix3 as remote.

  27. DavidM

    Ray, would you say its worth the difference between the VIRB ELITE now selling at $150 or less?

    • Personally, yes, I’d pay $150 more for this over the VIRB Elite.

      (As an update, I’m approximately 0% further on uploading videos than I was two days ago. It’s horrible. I can get up pictures relatively easily, but I think they throttle video uploads. It takes about 8 hours per 1GB of video uploads to YouTube. Right now I have about 25GB of videos included in the review to upload. On the bright side, I get home tomorrow night. :))

  28. Karl

    Great review, thanks. Any news/rumors from Garmin when the Live Stream feature will be supported for Android aswell?

  29. John

    FYI, the Ultra 30 videos are starting to crop-up (pun intended) on Ray’s YouTube channel, along with the videos from the Facebook Live streams.

  30. Bill

    Does the Garmin Virb Ultra synch with the Edge 1000? Can you start/stop recording, takes pictures from the Edge?

    • George

      I can confirm that the Virb Ultra 30 can be controlled by the Edge 1000.

      I tried it with my Fenix 3 HR as well.

      I will pair my power meter and HR monitor tomorrow and see how well they work on an actual ride Monday morning.

      I recited the Virb yesterday but didn’t have time to set it up before riding with my daughters MTB team this morning.

  31. Schlave

    Ray, how are night stills? Any way to correct for fisheye distortion in the virb desktop app? Thinking of using this as a camera on the go as well

    • If you crank down the ISO level (to 400), night stills on a tripod can be very good. Else, they’re super-noisy.

      I don’t remember off-hand for a way to fix distortion in the desktop app, however, you can do some of it within the camera itself.

  32. Byron

    Any idea what the 3 pins on the bottom of the unit are for? Maybe hope for a case with charging.

  33. Matthew Locker

    Thanks again Ray for keeping us upto date.

    I read somewhere about picture in picture with the new camera software. Will this work with the older virb elite camera as well. This would be the deal maker for me.

  34. Just as a general FYI to folks that may have missed it…my in-depth review was published a day or so ago here: link to dcrainmaker.com

    I’ll be closing the comments section on this interim/preview post as I usually do, simply to keep things tidy. Feel free to continue any discussions over on that post. Thanks!