It’s not your imagination that the hands-free camera market seems to have gotten crowded, and maybe to have lost a bit of luster. Super ultra mega brand GoPro has seen its stock drop from more than $43 a share a year ago to around $14 now. But just because we all have cameras doesn’t mean there isn’t room for serious innovation in a category that’s seemed primed for a new player to shake things up. Is that player Garmin? Maybe, cause the Swiss brand with a big presence in Kanas has just rolled out a sweet new model called the Virb Ultra 30.

Why so sweet? Well, it shoots UltraHD 4K resolution, but at this point that should be standard. No, beyond that, the Virb Ultra 30 has internal three-axis stabilization to smooth out your footage…and it also has voice controls, a la Siri or Alexa…and it has some live streaming capabilities. And it has a different shape, one that looks strikingly like the GoPro Hero4.

The image stabilization works digitally, as Sony’s system does, rather than optically, by cropping, so you only get it up to 1080p, but still, it’s 4K at 60fps and that’s something that’ll make life easier in post and on the eyes, even it does cut battery life in half.

The voice commands work similar to other digital assistants. You say “Okay, Garmin” to get its attention, then tell it to start recording, stop recording, take a picture, tag a moment, etc. Officially, it only understands English, but is reported to be 50-50 at comprehending Bro.

Live streaming is via iPhone-connected app to YouTube. At this point, it’s iPhone only, no Android products. It has a color touch screen, GPS with data overlay on the image, and comes with a waterproof case. We haven’t gotten our hands on it yet, but Wired did and their conclusion was that it’s “right up on the top shelf with the Hero4 Black…but with the Virb, you just get much more for the same money. The voice commands, the superior mic, the touchscreen, and the cornucopia of sensors and stats all add up to a better camera. In fact, after five years of testing action cameras I can say that this is the best one I’ve ever used.”

Oh, and the kicker? It’s compatible with GoPro mounts.

$500 | BUY

VIRB Ultra 30, black and dive case, UNITED STATESe


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