Here at Evans Cycles, we like to test the kit that we sell – so I was really pleased when Garmin sent me a Virb Elite to play with.
The Basics of the Garmin Virb
The Garmin Virb Elite is the new(ish) kid on the block in the world of action video. The Virb records 1080p HD video, has a battery that lasts up to 3 hours, and comes with multiple attachments so you can mount it where you like.
On the Virb Elite, you can choose between 1080p@30fps (frames per second), 960p@48fps, 720p@30 and 60fps, 848×480@120fps. To videographer types I’m sure that will all make perfect sense, apparently the faster the action, you faster you want to record frames per second. If you’re anything like me, you just want to see how it works- so don’t worry – the video is below.
On top of all that, you can shoot individual photographs, and use features such as image stabilization and lens distortion correction to ensure good quality footage.
The unit weights 177 grams, including the battery, and it is entirely waterproof, with a rubber cover which protects the USB port which is used to upload video and charge the unit.
What’s unique about the Virb?
The Virb has its own very special unique selling point – it uses GPS to track your location, and other metrics that cyclists like to monitor: heart rate, cadence, speed, and location. That means that when you share your video, you can also show off how fast you were riding, how quickly you were pedalling, and how hard you were working.
The Virb also has built in WiFi, so you can connect it to your phone, and you can use ANT+ to link it to an Edge computer and control the Virb without touching the buttons on the camera.
Setting up the Virb
You can mount the Virb on your handlebars, or on your helmet. It comes on a sturdy mount, which I found didn’t rock or wobble, which is a personal bugbear on any handlebar mounted item (it goes back to a light that used to clatter over any uneven road):
The viewfinder allows you to see what is being recorded, and also to watch footage back, too:
The Dashboard on the Elite also shows you all the traditional metrics you would have on a Garmin computer, with average speed, current speed, and heart rate if you’re using a monitor all displayed.
The video quality
The video footage was good quality – here’s a little clip, which also gives you a glimpse into some of Surrey’s flooding, if you’re not local.
Do bear in mind that to share video on YouTube, the resolution is reduced, so we can see a better quality version on our own software:
Uploading to Garmin Virb Edit for GPS data
To display GPS data, you need to download Garmin Virb Edit, for free. This is where I started experiencing a couple of issues.
Downloading the programme was very easy – I hit this button, ran the download – and all seemed well:
However, after a few minutes, I was faced with the message of death: “Cannot Display Video”. A little Google searching implied that some people had encountered issues using Garmin Virb with windows 8, which is what I was using. Garmin claim this issue has now been fixed with a recent software update, but it certainly wasn’t working for me.
I expect this issue could be resolved with a call to Garmin Support, but I went for the simpler option of installing Garmin Virb Edit onto my machine at work, which runs Windows 7.
This allowed me to play videos, edit them, overlay GPS data, and add music if I wanted. GPS overlays could display whichever data I wanted, and I could choose from a selection of configurations:
I chose heart rate and speed, and enjoyed tracking the changes from flat riding:
To what happened when I rode some hill reps:
I could use the software to track my ride on a map, and could select everything from whether units were displayed in miles of kilometres, and I could pick between Google Maps and Bing maps to display my position.
Editing videos was simple, with the capability to trim clips to include only the material I wanted:
Once I’d finished playing, I could then export files to my computer, or upload directly to YouTube.
You can also add a map tracker, but to do this you need to connect the Virb Edit software to the internet, which I couldn’t do from my PC – but it looks like this:
I’ve seen this utilised really well in crit races, where you can see where riders are slowing, speeding up, and at what point of the lap they are at when changes take place:
The verdict on the Garmin Virb Elite
The Garmin Virb Elite produces great video quality, and the unit itself seems robust, and having tested it in heavy rain I can confirm it is waterproof. The mount impressed me, and I liked the array of options available for where to store the camera during my ride. The upload procedure was fairly simple, once the software was working, but the issues I had with Windows8 were frustrating.
Once in use, the Garmin Virb Edit software was simple to use, and there were lots of features I didn’t get around to playing with, such as the ability to add music, and change background colours.
The real selling point of the Virb is the ability to display data – so if sharing information with your friends in a visual representation is your thing, the Virb will be up your street.