Garmin Virb vs GoPro: A Product Comparison – Which is Better?

garmin virb vs gopro comparison

In the age of ever-present technology, more and more people want to record every moment of their lives. The ability to have a continuous record, a constant vlog, if you will, of your life and every adventure you embark upon is an amazing thing. However, it hasn't always been that way. There was a time when taking a photo took up to about seven minutes. These early cameras evolved quickly. Once the novelty wore off, we realized how photography could help us chronical our lives. Now we are faced with much more menial questions Garmin Virb vs GoPro, which one is better?

The invention of cell phones and the addition of cell phone cameras soon allowed us to take unlimited photos and videos and to edit those photos and videos. It seemed the old-fashioned camera would become obsolete. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. The camera has simply reinvented itself, once again, to accommodate what the 21st-century user wants. One of those reinventions is the action camera.

Garmin and GoPro are just two of many companies who make action cameras. In this article, we’ll look at the Garmin VIRB vs GoPro Hero5. First, however, let's look at what makes an action camera different from what we might call a "regular" camera.

Advancements in Camera Technology

Right now, the market supports five popular types of camera. There are a few other kinds that are used less frequently, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the five most common.

camera lens

They are as follows:

  • SLR
  • DSLR
  • Mobile phone camera
  • Compact DSLR
  • Bridge
  • Action 

The SLR, or the single lens reflex camera, was the standard way to take pictures for most of the 20th century. Although many advancements were made in shutter speed and automation, as well as an aperture and types of lenses, the basics of how an SLR takes photos remained the same for more than 100 years. At the end of the 20th century, we saw the introduction of the DSLR or the digital camera. Standard SLR cameras had already become readily available to the average person, but the film still had to be developed by a professional.

The cost of purchasing film and developing photos limited the amount of the photos the average person could take. However, with the invention of the DSLR, or digital single lens reflex camera, you can take as many photos as the camera can store on its internal memory card. This could potentially be thousands rather than 24 - 36 exposures for a roll of film. DSLR cameras can look nearly identical to SLRs, using many of the same lenses and features, or they can be sold as a compact DSLR. These smaller, easy-to-use cameras virtually replaced DSLRs for the average end-user in the late 20th century. 

Since the end of the 20th century, we’ve seen even more advancements in photo and video technology. The compact DSLR got smaller and smaller until, inevitably, it became part of the mobile phone. Most mobile phones now boast cameras that take equal or better pictures than the top of the line DSLR on the market. The average user made another shift in their buying habits and nearly stopped purchasing stand-alone cameras. There is a still a niche market for those who want to dabble in photography, spawning something called the bridge camera.

This is a smaller DSLR with a retractable lens and fewer features than a standard camera, but it still has the capability to take a lot of high-quality pictures. They are great for someone who would like to break into professional photography and want a more affordable camera. Professionals continue to use the SLR or the DSLR with interchangeable lenses and all the features.

We’ve seen a return to the appreciation of photography as an art form in the last decade or so, as well as an uptick in users who want to film life’s adventures but don’t want to keep replacing phones they drop off of mountains or into oceans. For those users, another option was born. Some say it was also a product of the film industry where filmmakers often need to get complicated aerial or underwater shots. As movie cameras got smaller and yet better, and average people demanded that they be able to film high-quality videos themselves, the action camera was born.

What Is an Action Camera?

What is an action camera? It’s a camera that will perform consistently in all kinds of weather, can stand up to a lot of wear and tear, and will take high-quality photos and videos without a lot of manipulation. It’s rugged and yet takes fine photos. An action camera can be strapped onto your head while skydiving or biking or mountain climbing. Most can dive several meters underwater and can withstand being dropped, bounced, and even rolled over. The action camera has opened up a new world of possibilities for both professional filmmakers and for the average person who wants to document every part of their life.

sport

They also provide a unique perspective, often going where cameras have not gone before. Since action cameras can be worn on the body and still maintain focus, you can film almost anywhere. They can also be mounted to a pole in order to get shots up high or can be slid into small spaces to get shots where most cameras, and humans, can’t go. Drones now have action cameras mounted to them, allowing people to film from angles never before possible. An action camera is versatile too, and if you love to go out and make life into an adventure, it’s a must-have item.

GoPro HERO5 Black - Waterproof Digital Action Camera for Travel with...
  • Stunning 4K video and 12MP photos in Single, Burst and Time Lapse modes Charger not included
  • Durable by design, HERO5 Black is waterproof to 33ft (10m) without a housing
  • Additional GoPro HERO5 Black Features + Benefits below on item page Time Lapse Photo Intervals: 05, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, 60...

Benefits of Using Action Cameras

There are many benefits to using an action camera as opposed to a mobile phone, DSLR or SLR. The following is a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, list:

  • Better stability
  • Optimized for video
  • Can be used in any environment
  • No tripod needed
  • Can be worn
  • More compact
  • Lightweight
  • Utilize GPS

Most Popular Action Cameras


Specifications and Features - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5

Two of the most popular actions cameras on the market right now are the Garmin VIRB and the GoPro HERO series. These two cameras consistently exceed expectations and have excellent consumer feedback. They are packed with features, and each has its own benefits. If you are considering purchasing an action camera, these are both excellent choices. In order to help you decide which camera will best fit your needs, we will look at both products, comparing their pros, cons, and how they each meet consumer needs differently. In our comparison of the Garmin VIRB vs GoPro, we will start with Garmin.

Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 Action Camera
  • ULTRA HD VIDEO - Crystal clear 4K/30fps footage, 1080p/120fps, or slow motion capability at 720p/240fps
  • G-METRIX - Built-in GPS and external sensors with connectivity to Garmin devices to capture performance data like speed,...
  • LCD COLOR TOUCHSCREEN - 1.75-inch display is easy to operate; fully functional in and out of waterproof case

Let’s begin by looking at the technical specifications of the Garmin. This is what the product offers:

Battery

2hr 15mins of 1080p video at 30fps with Rechargeable 1250 mAh

Image Sensor

1/2.3" Backside-Illuminated 12 Mega-pixel CMOS

Storage

Micro SD (Up to 128 GB with microSD card)

Display

1.75” LCD Touchscreen

Dimensions

57.5×45.9×31.3mm/2.3×1.8×1.2″

Remote Control

Yes

Weight

89g

Frame Rates

420p 300fps; 720p 240/120/60/30fps; 1080p 120/90/60/48/30/24fps; 2.7K 60/48/30/24fps; 4K 30/24fps

Connectivity & Ports

Wi-Fi, 2.4 GHz ANT+® HDMI 1.4, Bluetooth and Mini-USB

Recording Format

MP4format with H.264 codec

Photo Resolution

12MP

Loop Recording

YES

These are some additional features offered by the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30:

Raw Photo 

N/A

Electronic Image Stabilization

Up to 2.7K

Highest Burst Mode

60fps

Record Individual Mic Tracks

N/A

Voice Control

YES

Connectivity to Sport/Auto/Boat Sensors

YES

Accelerometer/Gyro/Altimeter/Compass

YES

GPS

YES

Waterproof

40m (with case)

External Auto-Sync Mic/Remote

N/A

Drone Connection Option

YES (not ideal)

Gimbal Option

YES

Uses GoPro Mount Accessories

YES

Mobile App

YES

Desktop Apps

YES

Cloud Sync Solution

N/A

GoPro - HERO5 Black 4K Action Camera - Black
  • Stunning 4K video and 12MP photos. In Single, Burst, and Time Lapse modes
  • RAW photos provide the most flexibility when using advanced photo editing software. WDR photo mode captures both added...
  • Fine-tune exposure settings with simple on-screen Exposure Control

Alternatively, let’s look at the specifications for the GoPro HERO5:

Battery

1hr 45mins of 1080p video at 30fps with Removable 1220 mAh

Image Sensor

1/2.3"12 Mega-pixel CMOS Sensor 

Storage

Micro SD (up to 128G) 

Display

2” LCD Touchscreen

Dimensions

62×44.6×32.7mm / 2.4×1.75×1.3″

Remote Control

Yes

Weight

117g

Frame Rates

720p 240/120/60/50fps; 1080p 120/90/80/60/50/48/30/25/24fps; 1440p 80/60/50/48/30/25/24fps; 2.7K 60/50/48/30/25/24 fps; 4K 30/25/24fps

Connectivity & Ports

Wi-Fi, Micro HDMI Port, Bluetooth and USB-C Port

Recording Format

MP4/MOV format with H.264 codec

Photo Resolution

12MP

Loop Recording

YES

These are the additional features for the GoPro HERO5:

Raw Photo 

YES

Electronic Image Stabilization

Up to 2.7K

Highest Burst Mode

YES

Record Individual Mic Tracks

N/A

Voice Control

N/A 

Connectivity to Sport/Auto/Boat Sensors

Gyro/Accel

Accelerometer/Gyro/Altimeter/Compass

YES (GEOTAG ONLY)

GPS

YES

Waterproof

YES

External Auto-Sync Mic/Remote

YES 

Drone Connection Option

YES

Gimbal Option

YES

Uses GoPro Mount Accessories

YES

Mobile App

YES

Desktop Apps

YES

Cloud Sync Solution

YES

Direct Comparison - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5

Now that we’ve established the specifications and features of each product, let’s compare some of the key functions to determine which is the better product. Or, which product would best suit your needs. Everyone who is in the market for an action camera is looking to use it in a slightly different way. This comparison will help you make the right purchase for your situation.

Camera Design - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


Although both cameras are similar in their general appearance, they have some essential design differences. The GoPro is very simple and can be operated in all types of weather and underwater. It is approximately 6x3x4cm in size and weighs about 117g. It’s slightly lighter than the Garmin, which weighs in at 155g. The Garmin measures roughly 7x3x5cm. The Garmin is heavier, but it has a completely waterproof enclosure that allows you to take it to a depth of 40 meters. Because of this superior protection from the elements, between the Garmin VIRB vs GoPro, the GoPro is the better design.

Resolution - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


Both cameras are pretty evenly matched when it comes to Resolution. Both offer 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. Garmin uses a more established, proven processor so that it might have a slight advantage. For the most part, however, they are evenly matched in this category.

GPS - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


When it comes to GPS, Garmin is clearly ahead of the curve in this area. The company specializes in GPS devices, so their action camera has the most features in this category. The GoPro is able to capture movement and location data, but the Garmin does all of that and more. It can store a variety of fitness data. It’s also linked to a broader network of GPS and fitness tracking systems. Garmin uses the ANT systems to store and transfer your data. The ANT system is a USB disk that you plug into your home computer. Any time your Garmin is near the ANT stick, your data will automatically be downloaded. This feature puts Garmin ahead of GoPro in the GPS category.

Data Transfer - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


When you need to get your data off of your action camera, you need a solid system for doing so. Again, Garmin uses the ANT system to store and transfer data. As we stated, when using ANT, your data will automatically be transferred to your computer when your device is in range. At this point, GoPro doesn’t have a compatible service, but they are introducing an auto cloud-based backup that may outshine the Garmin in the future. For now, Garmin wins the data transfer category.

Voice Activation - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


Both the Garmin and the GoPro offer voice activation at this time. The commands are slightly different, so there is a learning curve with each device. However, they are equally matched in quality when it comes to voice activation. Examples of Garmin's recognized voice commands are, "Start recording," "Stop recording," "Remember that," "Take a picture," "Enable Wi-Fi," and "Disable Wi-Fi." GoPro has similar commands; however, they all begin with "GoPro."

Price - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


At this point, the Garmin product is more expensive than the comparable GoPro model. However, the new GoPro models are more in line with the Garmin price point. The Garmin retails for anywhere between $350 and $450. The GoPro HERO5 starts at about $250, while the newer HERO6 and HERO7 models retail for around $350.

Accessories - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5


In order to get the most out of your action camera, you'll want to purchase accessories that suit your favorite activities. While both brands offer accessories for their products, GoPro clearly wins this category. The Garmin offers a gimble/tripod as well as a bike mount for filming while you ride. The GoPro, however, has a wide variety of possible accessories. There are also generic or off-brand accessories that will work with the product. Accessories include a head-mount, a vest for wearing the camera, a handheld mount, a floating mount, a wrist grip, a suction cup mount, a variety of carrying cases and safety cases for the camera itself.

Which Is Better? - Garmin VIRB vs GoPro HERO5

Overall, the Garmin scores better when it comes to features. The ANT system is excellent and unmatched, the GPS capabilities are superb, and the resolution is excellent. However, the GoPro tends to be the more popular option. The design of the GoPro is smaller, lighter, and it can stand up to more weather and water. For this reason, the GoPro is the overall winner.

It’s great for athletes, families, kids, actors, and virtually anyone who wants a sturdy camera with which to make a high-quality video. For serious runners, however, or others who want to rigorously track their fitness data, the Garmin may be the better option. The ANT system can’t be beaten for storing fitness and motion data.

cameras

image source: dcrainmaker.com

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the right action camera for you will depend on what you need from the device. If you are looking to film your family’s white water rafting trip, you may prefer the GoPro HERO5. It will hold up from the ocean floor (up to 40 meters) to the tops of mountains. You will get clear video and crisp shots every time. However, if you are more interested in keeping up with all the specs from your last marathon, go with the Garmin VIRB.

Overall, use this article to go over the specifications and features for each camera before you make a purchase. It’s also a good idea to visit a store and try them out. Sometimes, the feel of the camera in your hands tells you everything you need to know. Both the Garmin and the GoPro are excellent products, so the best action camera is going to the one that best meets your needs. Once you’ve selected a camera, get out there and take some great shots!

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