A normal camera cannot track altitude and speed. GPS has been done, but not by a dedicated GPS brand. Oh, and did we mention the heart-rate recording feature?
In what looks to be a major entry into the helmet/action camera world, today Garmin announced its VIRB and VIRB Elite.
The tiny (6.26 oz.) cameras record at the HD standard 1080p and have a color display on top for playback and control. They start at $299.99 and come to market next month.
It comes fully waterproof and ready to take bumps, no case required. The company rates it to be fine for 30 minutes a meter down in a pool or whitewater creek.
The VIRB’s screen is readable in bright sun. It uses ambient light instead of a battery-draining backlight to illuminate. Sunlight shines on the screen and makes it brighter not more dim.
We were most impressed by the camera’s divergent feature set: As noted, there are sensors in the camera to track motion and physical stats in a half-dozen ways, including an accelerometer, GPS, altimeter, and heart-rate reader (strap required).
The data can sync on screen with recorded footage from a BASE jump (high heart rate, plunging altitude) or a deep wilderness camp (GPS waypoint saved for future trip).
WiFi and Ant+ signals offer wireless transfer of footage or data. Or, a user can control a camera via a different Garmin device like its Fenix sports watch or a bike-mounted Edge 810 computer display.
Another neat option: A Ski Mode on the VIRB Elite model recognizes via its sensors the difference between going downhill and going up the ski lift. The camera turns on when a skier starts downhill, and it turns off when he or she hits the lift, no hand control required.
For stills, the camera captures 16-megapixel photos. It has a burst mode and time-lapse features.
Garmin notes it is marketing to people involved in “action sports to family vacations.” With a unique feature set the cameras will likely turn heads when they ship to stores next month (September, 2013).
The VIRB will cost $299.99 for the normal version and $399.99 for the sensor-equipped VIRB Elite.
We caught up with Garmin’s Maddie Estrada (see next page) for a few quick questions on the VIRB and its place in Garmin’s growing catalog of products made for the outdoors. —Stephen Regenold