A GoPro camera in the wrong hands is one of the most effective seasickness-machines the world have ever seen. Garmin market their flagship action camera Virb XE with built in stabilization. Could the Garmin cam be the GoPro killer?
The shop Maritim Båtutstyr lent us a Garmin Virb XE for a test, so a big thanks goes to them. As the price is similar to GoPro Hero 4 silver, we decided to test the cameras side by side for easy comparison of stabilization, image quality, battery life and ease of use.
The Garmin Virb XE is integrated in a water proof casing and does not require any additional housing like the GoPro. Compared to the Hero4 in a housing, it is only slightly bigger. While the GoPro standard housing is waterproof to 40 meters (dive housing 60 meters), the Garmin is waterproof to 50 meters.
The majority of action camera users on land have mounted the camera somewhere and does not need a LCD screen. As underwater photographers and filmmakers we find the LCD screen essential for framing the shoot. The flat lens in front of the fisheye lens reduces the field of view underwater, so you don´t get the whole world in the shoot as you often do on dry land. While the Hero4 has an integrated LCD screen the Garmin does not have this feature.
Field of view
The widest field of view for the Garmin is slightly smaller than for the GoPro. This is a disadvantage in conditions with reduced visibility as during the test.
Both cameras where set to 1080HD resolution, 30 frames pr second and Wide field of view. While the GoPro can film in 4K quality, the Garmin stops at 1080 HD and 60 frames pr second.
The Garmin has a built-in stabilization. Our expectations were high to this feature. The movies on the Garmin turned out to only be slightly more stable than for the GoPro Hero4, but you need to study the footage carefully to tell the difference. We assume that the different is more noticeable on action shots on land.
The GoPro Hero 4 is superior in image quality. This specially applies to the underwater footage. The colours are nicer, the image are sharper and it is not so grainy. The Garmin has one great advantage, and that is when you film just above the water level. The droplets magically run´s of very quickly and there are hardly any droplets on the front glas which can ruin the scene.
The GoPro Hero 4 Silver has a built in LCD screen, so we have set the camera to automatically turn of if not used within 300 seconds. The Garmin camera was on for the hole dive. The GPS function was turned off. Even without the LCD screen, the Garmin was out of battery during the dive. The GoPro still had some juice left. A good feature for the Garmin camera is that it actually comes with two batteries. Additional batteries have to be purchased separately for the GoPro. But it doesn´t help with a spare battery underwater…
Ease of use
As action cameras both cameras are of course easy to use. The Garmin camera requires the fewest pushes of buttons to take pictures. It is only to press the picture button/OK button while filming or as long as the camera is on. For the GoPro, you need to change mode from film to photo to be able to take pictures.
The Garmin is easier to charge as you don´t have to open the casing to connect the charging cable.
From an underwater photographer and filmmaker perspective it is obviously that the GoPro Hero 4 Silver is the best alternative. The Garmin has so many features that is not required underwater, for instance, GPS, G-force measurement, speed and elevation. The camera can be connected to an incredible range of Garmin instruments. If you measure all your adrenaline activities in numbers, then I´m sure you will find a fantastic companion in the Garmin Virb XE.
The Garmin slogan “without data, it´s just video” says it all about where the Garmin team has put their effort. “Just video” can be fantastic if the camera delivers the best image quality and is exactly what we are looking for. That’s why the GoPro Hero 4 Silver won our test.
Check out the following video for comparison clips
The following video show some general test footage on what the Garmin Verb XE can do underwater.