Equipment: Action Cam Garmin Virb Elite vs. GoPro

I have been using the GoPro for a couple of years on my motorbike. I used it to video travels and a couple of rallyes I participated in. I loved it but on my last travel around the Adria I lost it (that sticker was not that well fixed on the motorbike as I thought).

So in preparation for this trip I was thinking about getting a new one. There are some things you cannot capture on a photo and I like to have some recordings of rides.

I was looking around and found the Garmin Virb Elite. Christy bought one and my friend Thomas loaned me his GoPro for the trip (thanks at this point to Thomas).

So during this trip we could compare them very well and I want to share my experience here. Not in terms of the technical data, that is something you can find elsewhere in the internet, but in terms of practical usability.

First of all:

Recording while motorbiking is really nice. Especially when travelling. Very often we just put the cameras on because the road is nice, there is a little nice village we pass through or because there is an interesting riding sequence. We film basically for two main reasons:

  1. the situation is better captured in motion
  2. we don’t want to stop to take a picture (sounds stupid, but you can not always stop)

 

It is great to see these movies at a later point, integrate it into a “slide-show”(sorry, I grew up in the analog world) and it is great for memories. It shows the world (that means friends and family) how we saw the places when riding.

 

Now as for the comparison there is not much to say about the quality. The Garmin is a lot more up to date than the Hero model I use on this trip, so there is no fair comparison. This thread should more be about the handling.

 

Battery

The GoPro’s batterie is a lot worse than the Garmin. When the camera is on (not filming) and filming once in a while, it does not last a whole riding day (max 6h that is on our travel so far). The Garmin has a powersaver and even though it contains a GPS device, Christy rarely ran out of battery when she had it fully powered up the night before. She is filming a lot more than I am, since I knew of the power problem before. And even if I shut down the camera completely for most of the time, the battery is always empty at some point.

There is one really cool thing worth mentioning: If you happen to use a Gamin Montana Navigation (highly recommended for bikers who also do some offroading because you can also use tracks e.g. from http://www.wikiloc.com ) you can SWITCH batteries. Virb and Montana use the same batteries. Since the Montana is will be constantly charged by the bike, you always have a fully charged “spare batterie”.

This may also be the case for other Garmin GPS, you will have to check yourself for other models though.

GPS

The Garmin Virb elite comes with an integrated GPS. That is a really nice feature for bikers. It shows the position where something was filmed (very cool on long distance travels) and shows the speed (that’s more a play thing, I wouldn’t know where this is overly interesting, but nice to have). The GoPro does not have this feature to my knowledge (maybe as an add-on device, I haven’t checked).

Waterproofness

Both devices are waterproof (at least as far as motorbikers are concerned, you cant dive with the Garmin (out of the box, there is special equipment), but you could with the GoPro.

Since you wont see anything in rain anyway (the spray on the camera lens makes a blurry image) this is only important for motorbikers so that they don’t have to stop to dismount the camera every time a little drizzle surprises them.

The Garmin is a one-unit waterproof thing. The GoPro is a non-waterproof unit that has a waterproof housing. This housing is a lot more waterproof than the Garmin (as I said, you can dive with it). That has no advantage for motorbikers, but a huge disadvantage: it condenses when temperature is falling or the air pressure changes (e.g. when climbing a mountain pass).

I had a couple of great rides filmed with the GoPro and when I wanted to see the video in the evening I had to find out that the whole scene is pretty foggy.

 

Use

Both systems have diverse mounting equipment available. So you can mount them in all kind of positions on the bike.

I like the 3M stickers that both of the have even though one came off and I lost my GoPro. That was certainly my own fault, there was nothing wrong with the sticker I cleaned the surface not well enough. But still you kind of lose confident a little bit.

There is one thing that always bothered me on the GoPro (and every motorbiker I know): turning camera ON and OFF is the same button. The camera makes a little beep when turned on and beeps 3 times when turned off. Additionally there is a little LED blinking while filming. That just doesn’t work on a bike. You don’t hear the beep very well, and the LED is not visible enough on bright days.

So many of my videos start with me looking in the mirror to check whether the camera is on. I also had it, that I didn’t press hard enough one time and from that time on, I was filming everything that was boring (including me making a short “pit-stop” at some remote tree, maybe not so boring after all) and not filming the interesting stuff.

Garmin has a slider button. You always know if the camera is on or off. You can feel it, even with thick gloves.

This slider wakes the camera up from the stand-by and starts recording. That’s perfect and saves battery as well.

Screen

The Garmin has a little screen, so you can check what you are actually filming. That is especially handy when mounting somewhere where you want part of the motorbike being in the image.

The GoPro has a mount-on screen, but as far as i know it is not waterproof anymore.

 

SO, my advice:

The GoPro as the godfather of action-cams is good for a lot of things, but not for motorbikers.

My recommodation is clearly the Garmin Virb Elite. It has everything that a motorbiker wants on his/her action cam.

 

Short overview:

GoPro disadvantages:

Use (on/off button is a nightmare)

Lens gets foggy

No GPS

Battery

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