Garmin Camera has HD Recording, GPS, Altimeter, Heart-Rate Function...

Garmin Camera has HD Recording, GPS, Altimeter, Heart-Rate Function…

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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.

VIRB next to iPhone (for size comparison)

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.

See more images and an interview with Garmin on Page 2 of this report

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.

Studio shot: VIRB and VIRB Elite cameras

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).

Waterproof and ready to record out of the box

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

See more images and an interview with Garmin on Page 2 of this report

Stephen Regenold
Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.