When the VIRB 360 was first released around 6 months ago I reviewed it, and I wasn’t overly impressed. Sure, it could shoot excellent quality 360 video, the best I’ve ever seen in fact (under $1000); but there were way too many bugs, the app was a nightmare to use and you had to go through a lot of manual editing to get the best quality video.
6 months later a lot has changed, Garmin have released dozen of software updates and the cameras features have been expanded. So much has changed that I thought it justified another full review, because it’s almost a completely different camera to when I first used it.
The VIRB had a rough start, but after 6 months worth of software updates it's become one of my favourite 360 cameras.
- Excellent 5.7K 360 video looks amazing
- VIRB Edit software free and user friendly
- Hyperframe Mode adds new way to use 360 video
- Good software stabilization
- Huge range of sensors and data
- App can still be a bit slow
- Photo quality doesn't match video
- Sensors can sometimes not function properly
Garmin VIRB 360 6 Month Review
|Features||Garmin VIRB 360|
|Video Resolution||5.7K @ 30fps|
|Photo Resolution||15 Megapixels|
|Number of Lenses||2|
|360 Live Stream||4K @ 30 fps (Apple Only)|
|Waterproof||Yes, up to 10m|
|Memory||MicroSD up to 128GB (officially, also accepts 258GB)|
|Battery||1 Hour continuous video on full charge|
|Compatibility||Android and Apple smartphones|
|Other Features||Stabilization software, data overlay and augmented reality, Gyroscope, Accelrometer, 360 Audio|
|Where to Buy||Amazon|
In the Box
I’m going to keep this section brief, as obviously nothing has changed in terms of the design and what you get in the box, just take a look at the pictures for a general idea. What I will say is that the design is very rugged, clearly designed for use in the field and has at least some protection from bumps and knocks.
I’ve dropped mine a few times with no visible damage, but I think I’ve been lucky. Those two huge lenses are still quite vulnerable and if they took a direct hit I think they would break. I’ve found the GoPro adaptor useful as I still had some accessories, and the tripod adaptor is sturdy. After 6 months all of the accessories included with the camera work well and are still used regularly, the build quality of both the camera and its accessories is high.
The Camera – Design
The Camera – Sensors
One of the things that drew me to the VIRB 360 was the large number of sensors it has packed into its tiny frame, including a Barometric Altimeter, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass and GPS. These sensors work individually and together to create a wide range of data sets. Anything from barometric pressure, to vertical acceleration is measured and it can even create a mini map of where you’ve been as you use it.
But what’s the point of all this data? For a start you can use it to create overlays on your video which displays the data like the HUD of a fighter jet.
There are dozen of different styles and designs for what Garmin calls G-Metrix. I think it looks pretty goo,d when it works.
In my first review, I had trouble getting this to work at all because the camera would stop recording or the data simply wouldn’t be there. 6 months on I still get issues with some data not being available with no explanation why, but it’s far less common and usually happens for only one of the sensors.
Creating this effect is still very easy, and can be done either on the App or the VIRB Edit software. I’ve sound the PC software the provide more control and options though, so I only use that. I do find that sometimes, even if the data is available, it doesn’t show up in the visual effects, which can be annoying. Overall this is an awesome feature and much improved over the past 6 months, but not expect it to work 100% of the time.
The VIRB 360 is first and foremost a video camera, and that’s what I’ve used it as. It can take photos, but the options are limited, high quality 360 video is what this camera is designed for. The various video modes are as follows:
- 360° at 4K
- Front lens only at HD
- Rear lens only at HD
- RAW 360 video at 5.7K
- RAW Timelase at 5K
- 360° Timelapse 4K
The mode I now use exclusively is the RAW 360 at 5.7K, this produces by far the highest quality video rendering the other options defunct. The 5K timelapse mode is also very good. Shooting in 5.7K is a fairly recent development however, because when I first got the VIRB 6 months ago using the 5.7K mode was cumbersome and required significant editing time.
The Biggest Upgrade: Auto-Stitching 5.7K
A headline feature of the Garmin VIRB 360 was its ability to shoot 5.7K 360 video; this was a very exciting feature to me and meant the VIRB stood out from the many other cheaper 360 cameras that could only shoot 4K or below. The primary issue with this, and what turned out to be the most frustrating aspect of the device, was that the software provided with the camera could not stitch it together. This meant you had to find a program which could stitch your 5.7K video and work out a way to do it successfully. For me this was too much of a task for what was supposed to be an easy to use action camera, so I set the video mode to 4K and forgot about it.
Mercifully Garmin eventually released an update to its VIRB Edit desktop software and it can now automatically stitch your 5.7K video into a 360 video without you having to do anything other than connect the device. This is a huge improvement and meant I could finally take advantage of the very high video resolution. Take a look at some examples and comparisons:
The 5.7K videos are very large and take a long time to stitch and render, so you may want to use 4K if you are not too concerned with video quality but just want a decent looking video to stitch and edit quickly. 4K 360 video from this camera still looks great.
Here is a breakdown of all the various video modes and the size video they produce:
|5.7K RAW||5760×2880 / 30fps @ 120Mbps|
|5K RAW||2496×2496 (2 files) / 30fps @100Mbps|
|4K||3840×2160 / 30fps @ 80Mbps|
|3.5K||1760×1760 (2 files) / 60fps|
|HD||1920×1080 / 120fps @ 50Mbps|
|HD||1920×1080 / 60fps @ 40Mbps|
|Timelapse||4K and 5K Resolutions. Intervals of 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60s|
One of the first issues I encountered with the VIRB is finding a micro SD card that would work with it. I was hugely frustrated when even what I consider to be a pretty fast Micro SD would not work and the camera would only record for a few seconds a a time.
My recommended SD card for the VIRB 360 is the SanDisk Extreme, which has a high enough write speed.
Even with this card the video occasionally stops after a few minutes when shooting in 5.7K, but this happens rarely.
More VIRB 360 Example Videos
Here is a mix of time lapse and normal speed 4K 360 footage from the VIRB 360. This was shot in optimal lighting conditions using the tripod that came with the camera. The time lapse looks decent, if a bit too fast. I set the interval at 2 seconds, but I think 5 produces a better time lapse effect. The normal speed video is clear and the colors are true to reality.
The VIRB 360 easily beats the much cheaper Gear 360 in this comparison, but that’s hardly a surprise.
The above video was shot before the latest updates and it did not turn out particularly well, although still better than most low light 360 videos. A firmware update has added a low light mode which significantly improves the quality of video shot with little light. for an example see the low light comparison video I posed earlier.
Video Quality Conclusions
The VIRB 360 shoots the best 360 video out of the 10+ I’ve used or owned. The 5.7K mode is capable of creating stunning video that look very close to High Definition, something lacking in 4K 360 cameras. The camera performs best in well lit areas or outdoors on a clear day, however it can still handle low light relatively well.
The VIRB has some competition in the newly released GoPro Fusion, which can shoot 5.2K 360 video, but as far as I’m concerned the VIRB is the camera to get if you want the best looking 360 video.
New Video Mode: Hyperframe
About 4 months after the VIRB 360 was released, Garmin announced a whole new way of using it. Their Hyperframe editing mode allows you to create smooth panning standard video by manipulating 360 video. This is achieved in the VIRB Edit software and looks something like this:
The effect is really cool and is, in my opinion, the future of 360 cameras. Hyperframe allows to create video that would otherwise require multiple cameras, or at least require you to move the camera yourself multiple times, but because the camera shoots in 360, you can just select wherever you want it to focus after you’ve finished filming.
It’s actually reasonably easy to make a Hyperframe video in the VIRB Edit program, but you’ll need some interesting footage to make it worth while.
Like I mentioned before, the VIRB 360 is a video camera first and foremost. I havne’t actually used the camera to take many photos as I have other cameras that can do that. The photo quality is average, but will look fine when posed on social media. Updates to the software have added a low light mode and generally improved the quality of the images.
You won’t want to get this camera if you’re most interested in photography, but it’s good enough to supplement it’s awesome video features.
The VIRB App was one of the most frustrating I’ve ever used when it first came out. It’s improved a lot, but is still a bit slow. In the first few weeks of using the camera I was bombarded with error messages every time I used the camera and it refused to connect.
After a few updates the stability of the app has imporved a lot, but to be honest I try and use it as little as possible. I tend to only connect to the app when I need to preview the image. You can chance most settings manually and there is little point in keeping it connected because it drains both the camera and you phones battery.
I’ve mentioned VIRB Edit a few times now, and it really is a great supplement for the VIRB, in fact it’s one of the best editing programs for 360 video period. Best of all, it’s free!
When you plug in your camera via USB, the VIRB Edit will automatically detect and import your new files; you can then create videos using the clips you’ve just imported.
This is also where you can stabilize your video using several options. Stabilization is extremely important for 360 video and the VIRB is one of the best. It has 4 options, each of which will produce a different effect but all will remove unwanted vibrations.
Livestream: The VIRB 360 can livestream to Facebook and YouTube in 360, however you can only do so via on iOS app. As I have a Samsung phone I was not able to test it.
Waterproof: Here is a very short video I managed to take before it cut out due to memory card issues. I haven’t’ actually had a chance to use the camera underwater yet, but beware that 360 videos are very difficult to get right underwater and most look horrible. The waterproof feature is likely more for use in snow or extremely humid conditions, but it will survive a dip in the pool too.
VIRB 360 6 Month Review
When I first reviewed this camera I found it hard to recommend it, despite it having the potential to be one of the best 360 cameras ever. That potential has now been fulfilled, mostly. It’s still not the perfect camera and there are still some issues with software stability, but the improvement is immense.
This is my go to 360 camera if I want the best video quality possible, and I think that will remain the case for sometimes to come.
Should you buy the VIRB 360?
If you want the 360 action camera that can shoot the highest quality 360 video possible, then yes. You’ll have to part with $800 for the privileged, making the VIRB the most expensive consumer 360 camera ever, but the huge amount of features make it a worthwhile investment.
Where to buy the VIRB 360
I’d recommend buying the VIRB from Amazon, mostly due to their very quick delivery and good returns policy.