Action Cameras

Garmin Virb Ultra 30 Review

garmin virb ultra 30 review

Prior to the release of GoPro Hero 5 Black and Sony FDR-X3000, Garmin unveiled what was then the most advanced action camera. With 4K capture capability, electronic image stabilization, and hands free operation via voice command, Garmin Virb Ultra 30 changed the entire game plan in the higher end market of action camera. Now that two of the aforementioned competitors are already up for grab, it doesn’t mean this action camera has lost its foothold. If anything, it only makes the competition much stiffer for Garmin Virb Ultra 30. Those who ever had an unpleasant experience with either GoPro and Sony might take the jump and switch to Garmin.

What's Hot
  • Reliable waterproof case
  • 4K and other high speed recordings
  • Loads of in-camera sensors
  • Improved digital image stabilization
  • Comprehensive connectivity options
  • Intuitive and simple controls
  • Live streaming to YouTube via smartphone app
  • Voice control
  • Overlays data on video
What's Not
  • 4K mode limited in features
  • Slow USB 2 interface
  • Waterproof case is bulky
 

Garmin Virb Ultra 30 Design

Do you know why so many manufacturers design their action camera to resemble the boxy rectangular form-factor of GoPro? Because it works. Because people think that’s what an action camera should look like. Probably this is why Garmin alters the design of the Virb Ultra 30 and makes it look more like GoPro. Heck, it’s even compatible with any GoPro-style mounts too, though you have to pop it into the protective housing in order for it to be mounted. The rear panel is a home for 1.75-inch LCD touchscreen. It’s smaller than GoPro Hero 5 Black but an improvement from the previous Virb camera. The camera itself is not waterproof, but Garmin has made it possible to keep the touchscreen functional even when enclosed within its external case.

Garmin Virb Ultra 30 Key Features

Not many action cameras offer a convenient voice control and Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is one of them. To use it, you simply have to say “Okay Garmin” and follow it with whatever task you want the camera to do: taking still pictures, recording videos, or even tagging a moment within your footage. The capability to capture Ultra-HD 4K video is definitely a major selling point from this camera, but under the hood, you’ll find so many advanced settings to help you make a more professional looking video. These are like various levels of sharpness, high bit rate mode up to 60mbps, flat color profile, manual exposure and ISO limit adjustment, etc. Last but not least, the camera is built in with G-Metrix. Basically, it’s a suit of sensors that can not only track and collect a bunch of data (from velocity to G-force!) of your activities, but also overlay it on your video to make them more eye catching. Check out the sample below!

Garmin Virb Ultra 30 Performance

This camera comes with a removable 1250mAh battery. The company claims it should give you over 2 hours of recording time, but don’t take their word as it is. If you turn on the GPS along with other sensors, or if you record in high frame rate, such battery will barely last an hour and a half. So, getting a spare battery might be a good idea. As for video quality, it’s safe to say that GoPro Hero 5 Black has the upper hand. However, Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is not bad at all. Shooting in 4K or full HD will give you a vivid and crisp footage; nothing looks soft. The image stabilization works well too in keeping the video steady, although it does slightly reduce the quality. You might see some blurred spots when the shaking becomes more intense.

Conclusion

With built-in G-Metrix, Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is an appealing option for extreme sports enthusiasts. You can show off to people by overlaying all those fancy data on your action videos. The easy and simple operation as well as other convenient features might also attract some casuals. However, you should know that not all of those features can be used when recording in the highest resolution that is 4K. I believe this is something that will be fixed with future firmware updates, though. Overall, Garmin Virb Ultra 30 is a great action camera.

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