Duke OIT in conjunction with the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) continues its search for innovative 360 cameras with our recent DDI-funded purchase of the Garmin VIRB® 360. At $799.00, the VIRB was a chunk of change, but so far has proved to be worth it. This solid prosumer camera takes a big step forward in combining high quality (4k+) video together with the ease of use that has proved elusive for many of the previous contenders. Garmin has a huge investment in the sports and fitness sector, and as such has taken steps to integrate activity data with camera footage that athletes and outdoor enthusiasts will welcome. To break it in, I had a lot of fun taking the unit on a hike down to the local creek where I promptly plunked it under two feet of water (it’s rated for 10m). It didn’t disappoint–the quality of the footage was much better than any of the five or so 360 cameras I’ve tested so far, and the local fish were intrigued.
The setup and pairing process for the camera via the GarminVIRB® iOS app was intuitive and worked without a lot of fussing, which was a relief after my struggles with other cameras like the Nikon KeyMission 360. I had it out of the box and running in just a few minutes. The iOS app can control the camera and function as its viewfinder. There is a little bit of lag, which I didn’t find too distracting. I immediately liked the big red button on the side of the camera that kicks off a recording even if the unit is powered down. If you need to act fast, you won’t have to worry about hitting the right buttons or seeing the correct combination of flashing lights to let you know you’re recording.
We are lucky that our boss happens to be a semi-professional race car driver and enjoys helping us test our toys. We didn’t miss the opportunity to try the unit out at the track. One nice thing about the VIRB 360 is that it uses standard GoPro mounts, and he used this one to attach the camera to the top of the car. There are some surfaces, like brushed aluminum that it won’t grip, but it will lock like the jaws of death onto glass or painted steel, even at 120+mph. Below is some footage he shot and exported using Garmin’s editing software. He’s added a few data overlays, including speed, G’s, and a course map with real time location tracking. There are many more types of data that you can integrate with this camera and include with exported footage. We didn’t have an opportunity to grab an external mic to pair with the camera, so pardon the wind noise. Next time, we’ll try for audio from inside the cab.
Here is a summary of some of the pluses that stand out to us:
- High quality–5.7k/30fps
- Simple pairing
- Simple start/stop using the big side button
- Voice activated commands (start, stop, take photo)
- Overlay data such as speed, elevation, g-force, and heart rate, and export them as 360-degree augmented reality using bundled editing software
- Use it with standard GoPro mounts
- Waterproof to 10m
- Shock resistant body
- 4 built in microphones capture spatial audio
Some areas for improvement:
- Built in stitching needs improvement–makes a bit of a mess in areas between the lenses that is most noticeable at the zenith and nadir of the shot. Hopefully a future firmware update will help with this. On-device stitching only up to 4K/30fps
- Battery life was very short. You’ll definitely need to have more than one battery. On the plus side, the camera will work with no battery installed if attached to to a USB port. However, we found that you can’t charge the battery and use the camera simultaneously with the camera connected to USB.
- We had problems with bugginess of the editing software and numerous crashes, and some features are still in beta