I’d been riding with a GoPro Hero camera since shortly after the introduction of their early standard definition model in 2008. The clunky boxy design is readily identifiable, yet I still frequently run into people who ask me what that goofy thing mounted on the end of my stick is.
GoPro invented the market for low-cost consumer “action” cameras and remains the market leader. These shockproof, waterproof cameras are meant for use in action sports.
Other good action cameras exist — the now struggling Contour with integrated GPS is perhaps the most popular for cyclists after the various models of GoPro Hero cameras. UK based Drift has their HD Ghost camera. Sony, JVC and other more mainstream digital products makers have introduced their own models of action cameras with varying levels of success.
Over the past few months, companies normally identified with sporting goods have entered this crowded market with action cameras of their own.
Garmin’s Virb action camera (MSRP $299) features all of the goodies you’d expect in any action camera released today: 1080p HD video, durability, water resistance, a variety of mounts, a USB rechargeable battery good for up to three hours of video, and a high frame rate for slow motion video.
Anybody who’s familiar with GoPro’s sucky user interface will love that the Virb includes a decent UI, complete with a full color preview screen and an on-off button that can be used with a gloved hand. Other handy features include digital image stabilization, smartphone remote control, and and mounts with interlocking joints (read “teeth”) instead of the slipping tension mounts used by GoPro.
The feature everybody’s talking about is ANT+ wireless connectivity to control your phone wireless from your Garmin / ANT+ compatible device. You can start and stop your phone from your handlebar mounted gizmo, even if the Garmin Virb is mounted on your helmet, your chainstay, or wherever.
Finally, GPS and other telemetry data can be automatically overlaid into your video to show a visual representation of your route, speed, cadence, and power without the use of third party software such as Dashware.
Acquaintances who now have the Virb after years of using GoPro’s cameras tell me they love this camera. Here’s the promotional video from Garmin to show you what you can expect.
Shimano Action Camera
The big news today is Shimano’s announcement of their CM-100 Sport Camera.
Like the Garmin Virb, this camera features ANT+ connectivity. Shimano says this camera will also interoperate with their Di2 system; Bike Radar speculates this is to integrate gearing data into the video recordings.
The big differentiating feature for this camera in my opinion: it’s waterproof to 10 meters for two hours without the optional housing. Other goodies: f2.0 lens aperture for superior low light video and photography, super HD video of up to 2528×1422 pixels, auto image rotation for a proper “landscape” horizontal video orientation no matter how your camera is mounted.
The only provided mount is an adhesive flat surface mount, but this camera mount appears like it could work with GoPro’s large collection of mounting systems. The sample movies shot with this camera includes shooting from what seems to be underneath the bottom bracket. I might have to try that myself sometime if I can figure out how to mount a camera there without snagging the derailleur cables.
Coming May with MSRP $299.