Garmin’s all-new VIRB 360 is without doubt the nav giant’s latest poster child as far as action cameras go. But that doesn’t mean its feature-rich older sibling, the VIRB Ultra 30, deserves to be relegated to the junk heap of old, redundant tech – it’s still one amazing action camera! As far as stand-out features go, this tiny camera’s ability to shoot eye-popping 4K resolution action at 30 frames/second still keeps it seriously on top of the pile. Just as importantly, its 1.75-inch rear colour touchscreen makes scrolling through menus to configure it just the way you like a breeze – even when it’s safely stashed inside its rugged, protective case that’s waterproof down to 40 metres. This means you don’t have to fiddle with the VIRB Mobile app on your phone to set things up while having some raucous outdoor fun – although you can, if you want. And when it comes to operating the VIRB Ultra 30, things couldn’t be any easier. The camera’s user interface is excellent, featuring simple, colourful icons that show you exactly where you need to go.
That said, there is so much more this pragmatic, tough little shooter can do. Here are five outstanding features of the VIRB Ultra 30 action camera that you probably don’t know about:
1. The ability to overlay sports metrics
You know exactly what you went through to capture your eye-catching footage. But somehow the excitement of the moment just doesn’t seem, well, that impressive when viewed after the fact. In situations like this you need to spice things up – and the easiest way to do that is by adding some real-time sports metrics to your video.
The VIRB Ultra 30 comes packed with sensors that can tell you all sorts of interesting stuff. Inside its tiny housing Garmin somehow managed to squeeze in a GPS (location), barometer (elevation), accelerometer (force and motion), gyroscope (rotation) and compass (bearing). And the good news is data from all these sensors can be overlaid directly onto your video during the editing process. Examples include speed, pace, altitude, g-force, hang time, jump height and distance, rotations in air, lap times – and a whole lot more.
Here’s how it works: While recording video, the camera simultaneously writes G-Metrix data (as Garmin likes to call it) to a sidecar file. This file is then seamlessly imported, along with the video, into the VIRB Edit desktop app on your computer, or the VIRB Mobile app on your smartphone (iOS and Android). Once there, the proprietary editing suit provides you with a number of options for displaying G-Metrix data, with many presets based on activity type to help make life easier.
Even better, as this fully-featured action camera also includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity options, it can pair with dozens of other external sensors that the company either makes or works with. These options include heart rate monitors, cycling sensors (for cadence and power), OBD2 ports (for vehicle engine data), flight computers (to provide pitch and roll) and boat computers (for must-have stats like course over ground and wind speed).
2. 3-axis electronic image stabilisation
Pulling adrenaline-fuelled stunts on a mountain bike makes for some pretty dramatic action. That said, nothing detracts viewers from enjoying what you got up to more than shaky camera footage. Fortunately, the VIRB Ultra 30 features 3-axis electronic image stabilization to help keep your antics looking nice and smooth. It works by cropping a portion of higher resolution images down in size a bit to remove any eye-jarring, erratic movements and vibrations. Because of this, it can’t stabilise 4K footage, only up to 1440p and 2.7K (as these resolutions are lower) – which is still darn good!
3. Voice control
Having to physically push buttons to activate your action camera can be problematic, especially when both hands are gainfully employed keeping you from wiping out on a gnarly trail! That’s why Garmin included voice control when kitting out the VIRB Ultra 30. Simply say “Okay Garmin” and this action camera is put on standby, ready for your upcoming command.
Voice command options are as follows:
- “Take a photo”: Takes a photo using the photo settings you have configured
- “Start recording”: Starts video recording using the settings you have configured
- “Stop recording”: Stops recording your video
- “Remember that”: Marks a highlight in your video that the editing software will notice later
Each time you say ‘OK Garmin”, a little LED lights up briefly on the camera to let you know it got the message. It’ll then blink again when it hears the second part of the command (for example: “Remember that”). Generally speaking, it works pretty well – especially when you’re not moving too fast or situated too far away from the camera. However, if you are riding fast, excessive wind noise can make it hard for the camera to register what you’re saying. In situations like this, you can also control the camera with either a Garmin Edge unit (for bikes), one of the nav giant’s sportswatches or the action camera’s dedicated remote control. It’s also worth noting that these options work over distances of up to 100 metres, or much further than your voice can carry.
4. Control multiple cameras
Just because you’re travelling light and don’t have a big production crew to back you up, doesn’t mean you have to settle for amateur-looking footage. You can control multiple cameras from either a smartphone via the free VIRB Mobile app, an ANT+ device or Garmin’s dedicated VIRB remote controller. First, you have to select one VIRB Ultra 30 as the main camera (the rest are then designated extended cameras). Then, when you start recording or take photos on the main camera, the extended cameras start recording or take photos at the same time. Basically, what this great features does is allow you to record a single event from multiple angles and look like a serious pro.
5. Live streaming to YouTube
Capturing your own brand of hare-brained action is a huge amount of fun, but if no-one significant gets to see it what’s the point? Fortunately, the VIRB Ultra 30 also supports Live Streaming to YouTube – a feature that’s bound to make you famous… if you’re crazy enough! That said, this great feature is only available on Apple devices (sorry Android users).
To set Live Streaming up you first need to pair your smartphone to a camera via Wi-Fi, and then access the “Broadcast” option on the VIRB mobile app (which then uses your Google account to authenticate you with YouTube). With that out of the way, you can then set things the way you like in the app, along with all the relevant YouTube live stream details. Once that’s done, all you need do is hit the start button and begin your live stream experience. – (c) 2017 NavWorld