£349 One year warranty, up to 64GB Class 10 Micro SD, 175 grams. 2000mAh lithium-ion battery; life: three hours. Field of view at 1080p ‘Wide, Medium and Narrow’ (approx 150˚ to 90˚). Single shot, photoburst or timelapse, 16mp stills
Out of the box, you’ll be impressed with the solid, chunky feel of the VIRB’s rugged, rubberised body, which is waterproof. The included mounting hardware is really robust, with curved and flat stick-on mounts using a strong, notched, screw fitting that locks in a variety of angles.
The screen is LCD with no backlight; it saves power by using ambient light to show an image. Consequently, it’s not the easiest to see unless you’ve got good light, but it does an adequate job for function selection, framing and footage review.
The really great thing about the VIRB is the no-nonsense slide switch for recording. Even from being switched off, you can start recording just by sliding the switch. No doubts ever about if it’s recording. If that’s not foolproof enough, you can even set it to start when the unit detects it’s moving. The controls are easy to use and the menus logical to navigate.
Being Garmin, the Elite version of the VIRB includes a GPS, accelerometer and altimeter. These, combined with the free VIRB-edit software that’s available to camera purchasers, make it easy to create videos with flight data displayed on-screen.
The VIRB iOS and Android app is very easy to use, and provides a big-screen view for framing purposes, although you can’t see what’s going on in front of the camera once you’ve started recording. The VIRB can also be controlled using other compatible Garmin products like the D2 pilot watch.
Using factory settings, the video results from the VIRB are excellent, with great clarity and accurate reproduction of colours. Turning through a range of lighting conditions, the dynamic range of the sensor copes very well from strong shade to bright sun, with minimal loss of detail.
On the sound front, the built-in microphone deals well with cabin noise, although if you want to record from an external mic source, you need an optional lead.
After half-an-hour of use, the power level indicator suggested about 15% of the battery capacity had been used.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use action cam that you can take out of the box, insert a memory card into, and go flying with, then in my opinion the best we’ve tested is the Garmin VIRB Elite. A rugged unit that needs no extra casing to be waterproof and a powerful, long lasting battery, it produced superb quality footage. The sliding switch makes it easy to start recording, whilst the built-in GPS provides the ability to log and overlay GPS data. – Ed Hicks