Garmin Fights for a Slice of the Action Pie with VIRB Ultra 30

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30Credit: Garmin
"GoPro" and "action camera" are practically synonymous, but this noble effort from Garmin brings solid stabilization to the fight.

It's hard to shake the feeling that if you get an action cam that isn't a GoPro, you've missed the boat; it's a market owned largely by a single company that has done a very, very good job at associating itself with a specific use case. "GoPro" has 35,000,000 YouTube results, while "action camera" on its own has only 1.6 million. However, the competition isn't sleeping, and with the new VIRB Ultra 30, Garmin is making a very serious case for considering their new model.

This stabilization is a big thing to consider if you are ready to add an action camera to your arsenal.

The biggest feature is 3-axis optical image stabilization. It only works up to 1080p, but that makes sense since it needs to be able to move the "image" around on the sensor to stabilize. Sony's action camera offering has had a form of digital stabilization for a while that used image cropping, but this superior system should maintain proper 1080p image quality while also smoothing out bumpy shots. Like all image stabilization systems, it can't work magic, but early tests show a real improvement in moving camera shots. Since this is a camera designed to be moved, strapped to a forehead, or a bicycle, or a shark fin, this stabilization is a big thing to consider if you are ready to add an action camera to your arsenal.

Garmin's addition of voice control will be welcomed by all users, but I can see it being especially exciting for filmmakers. The camera can roll and cut via audible cue, like Siri, useful for saving disk space or turning the camera on while about to do an amazing motorcycle stunt. While you can usually control roll and cut with the remote app on a phone, all the interference on film sets makes that unreliable. I bet we've all been on shoots involving action cameras where an AC had to run around and roll on every GoPro before you rolled on the A camera and got the shot. Being able to shout a roll command—even if you have to move to a few places to do it—will definitely makes things easier.

Germin VIRB Ultra 30 LCD Touch Screen
The LCD Touch Screen on the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 works through the waterproof case.Credit: Germin

Another smart move is the use of a GoPro compatible mount. An action camera is only as good as where you can stick it, and if you already have the GoPro Surf Mount, GoPro Suction Mount, and GoPro Fetch dog mount (which we all have to agree is genius), you're going to be reluctant to switch to a new platform. Especially since, if you are rolling out with a whole bag of action cameras, it's easier to coordinate if they all have the same mount. 

Tech Specs:

  • 1.75" LCD touchscreen useable in waterproof case
  • Voice Control
  • 3-axis optical image stabilization (up to 1080/30fps)
  • 720p streaming to YouTube via iOs
  • iOs/Android app integration
  • 4K/30fps (unstabilized), 1080p/120fps, or slow motion capability at 720p/240fps
  • G-METRIX - Built-in 10hz GPS and external sensors with connectivity to Garmin devices 
  • Capture and display on-screen performance data like speed, elevation, heart rate and G-force
  • 2.4 x 1.2 x 1.6 inches
  • 3.2 ounces
  • ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

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