The Garmin Virb 360 camera is one of the best 360 cameras on the market. It is packed full of amazing features and has video up to 5.7k resolution. I personally think it is one of the best 360 cameras on the market if you must have stabilization. Stabilization is easily the best feature on this camera and I would highly recommend you to use that for every video you take and plan on sharing on social networks.
Garmin Virb 360 Camera Review
In this review we will be going over every feature that is possible with the Garmin Virb 360 camera. Included below will be an overview of the Mobile App and every feature included, the Garmin Virb Edit software package and how to use it, various lens modes and the resulting photo and video quality, stabilization using Garmin Virb Edit Software, stitching of RAW images and video, various examples of photos and video, battery life and other battery tests, errors and issues I experienced, and much much more.
The Garmin Virb 360 is Garmin’s first attempt at a 360 degree camera. They have had many action cameras in the past and have created a good name for their camera brand. The Garmin Virb 360 is yet another great product from Garmin.
The camera fits in a neat little box that has everything you need to get started. The box is similar sized to most of the 360 cameras out in the marketplace. Nikon Keymission 360 probably has one of the largest boxes, the Garmin Virb 360 is easily less than half the size.
Included in the box are a mini tripod, battery, wrist band, two different clip mounts for a 1/4 tripod as well as the typical GoPro mount to use as an action camera. There is not a microSD card included, so make sure to go and purchase a very fast and quality microSD Card. One of the issues I have encountered is that using a cheap microSD card would actually crash the camera and cause many issues.
The Garmin Virb 360 camera has the battery opening at the bottom of the camera. Not the ideal location for the battery especially if you want to attach an external battery mount for the camera. But Garmin does have another attachment for that specifically, so you can purchase that through Garmin if you need that.
Garmin Virb 360 Design
The Design of the Garmin Virb 360 camera is very well done. It is extremely easy to use and figure out for a complete newbie to 360 cameras. It looks very similar to the Nikon Keymission 360 camera.
On the side of the camera is the on / off slider for recording video. I especially like this design because it is very difficult to accidentally turn on and off the video camera. You have to slide and click it into place, which is very nice. One thing that I hated about the Nikon Keymission 360 camera was that the video record button and photograph button were too easily clicked to turn on and off. Sadly I have many images and video of my camera bags because it would get bumped while moving around.
On the other side of the camera is the location of the micro SD card slot, video mini hdmi port and the micro USB port. To export images on the micro SD card you can plug in the USB port directly into your computer and can transfer files over. This is actually the easiest way to import data into the Garmin Virb Edit software package that does all sorts of post production and editing features.
On the top of the camera we can see the main three buttons that are used for most of the functionality of the physical camera. The button on the farthest left is used for powering on and off the camera, as well as navigating through the camera options and features. The middle button is for selecting options and features to turn on and off as well as taking a photo with the camera. You can set up a timer so that you can click the middle button and walk away to hide and get out of the 360 panoramic photo being taken. Last but not least is the farthest to the right button, this is mostly used just to navigate through the options and features in the camera.
Above the buttons we can see the large LCD screen that displays everything for us. Here we can see what lens mode we have selected, whether the photo or video mode is on, if timelapse is activated, the WiFi connection, blue tooth connection and overall battery life. The Garmin Virb 360 camera has one of the largest and easiest to use LCD display and buttons.
The Garmin Virb 360 camera has many different lens modes that you can choose from. Each one has their own specific usages. Most 360 cameras have the ability to turn on or off each fisheye lens, but the Garmin Virb 360 camera has the ability to shoot in a ‘RAW’ mode as well which enables you to get unstitched images and video.
The Garmin Virb 360 camera has many different lens modes that you can choose from. Depending on what you plan on shooting you have many options. The 360 mode is the standard mode that you will most likely be using. This will automatically stitch everything for you in the camera making your life a lot easier. The quality of the images are pretty good as seen in the Kuula collection seen below.
You can also use each fisheye lens as a wide view camera on each side. The front only or rear only are the two options for using the single wide view lens mode similar to what a GoPro camera does. Example below.
Lastly there is RAW mode, which is very useful if you want to get as much pre and post editing ability for both your photos and video. Using RAW mode will give you the most pixels and higher quality for both images and video.
What this lens mode does is pretty much turn off the auto stitching capabilities on the Garmin Virb 360 camera. This way if you want to get the most pixels out of photographs and video you can manual stitch it later in any software of your choosing. There are many third party stitching software that you can use to stitch together RAW images and video. If you want to learn how to do this yourself, check out my tutorial for manually stitching images using Autopano.
There are many different RAW modes depending on what exactly you are trying to do. You can use all of the features combined with the RAW mode.
RAW mode is the only way to get anywhere close to 5.7k video quality that Garmin Virb 360 was advertised to be able to do. Sadly though, you can only get close to 5.2k video quality after manually stitching together the video.
Manually stitching photos will also give you a random pixel size when completed with the manual stitch. Because you get to decide what part of the photograph to use, you could end up with more or less pixels than an automatically stitched image from the camera. One good thing about manually stitching images together is that you can adjust the horizon and any other pre-processing edits before exporting out the fully stitched image. This can be very useful when using the travel lapse option for photography because depending on where the camera is located at, you might have to adjust the horizon so it looks straight and can be manipulated much easier in a 360 degree viewer.
If you are interested in learning how to manual stitch photos and video, make sure to check out my Stitching Tutorial with Autopano Pro.
Every 360 camera that I test, I make sure to run it through many different photo quality tests. For all of my tests I do not change any settings or configurations, it is all directly out of the box. First I test low light photos with various amounts of lighting (low, medium, high). Then I go to a local park to test a few other specific locations to get as many different lighting, colors and scenery to compare with.
Low Light Photos
When comparing the Garmin Virb 360 right out of the box, it’s low light photography quality is worst than many cameras. The Ricoh Theta S, Nikon Keymission 360 and Samsung Gear 360 2017 cameras all have better quality low light photos. Below are a few panoramic photo examples of low, medium and high amounts of light being taken on the Garmin Virb 360 camera.
The only cameras that the Garmin Virb 360 beat with my low light photo test was the LG 360 Cam and Insta360 Air. Take a look at all my other Kuula low light photographs for comparison.
The quality of the panoramic images of the Garmin Virb 360 camera are pretty good. Not the best out of all the 360 cameras that are out there in the market, but it is acceptable resolution. If your main reason for using a 360 camera is for taking 360 panoramic images, there are many other cheaper and better choices out there. But, it is still decent quality. Click on the image below to view a collection of the Garmin Virb 360 panoramic images.
Low Light Video
The auto stitched videos that come from the Garmin Virb 360 camera are pretty good. Below is a collection of multiple videos that show the quality of the 360 camera.
Garmin Virb Edit Software
One of the main reasons to purchase this camera comes from the ability to stabilize the video footage in post production using the Garmin Virb Edit Software. The software is actually free and can be downloaded and used by anyone even if you did not purchase the Garmin Virb 360 camera itself.
I do go over the Garmin Virb Edit Software Tutorial in a full hands on overview and tutorial that goes over every small detail of the software package. Definitely check it out if you want to be a pro at using the post production software.
As I said before, stabilization is the best feature of the camera in my opinion. I also go over the Stabilization Tutorial on how to use all the stabilization features. Make sure to check that out to use all the techniques correctly.
Garmin Stabilization Test
Like most post production software packages you have a lot of nice features to use.
Trimming left or right of the video helps create the perfect segments to then later add transitions between multiple clips. You have many options in the Garmin Virb Edit software including flipping a clip horizontally, trim left, trim right, split a clip in half and many more.
Transitions are always a nice touch, and you get a decent amount of them to select to use. You can choose none, slide left, slide right, slide up, slide down and the last choice is cross fade. Each one is a nice touch to your video.
Another amazing feature of the Garmin Virb Edit Software is that you can add fancy augmented overlays to display the speed, map location, altitude, jump distance and much more on top of the 360 video.
By using the sensors on the Garmin Virb 360 camera you can import all the data into Garmin Virb Edit Software and be able to add gauges, create templates and change the colors of the appearance.
There are so many different data types that you can display on the screen using these gauges. Here is a list of just some of the things you can display : distance, elevation, grade, vertical speed, recorded speed, pace, acceleration, braking, hang time, jump height, jump distance, jump number, duration, circuit shape and much much more.
If you are interested in more of the full functionality of the Garmin Virb Edit Software, I would recommend checking out the Garmin Virb Edit Software Tutorial as well as the Stabilization Tutorial for a walkthrough of all functionality.
Currently (6/23) the Android mobile app is rated a 3.4 which is typically decent, but not great. The camera and mobile app are still pretty new, so as both firmware and software versions progress, the app will hopefully have a better rating in the near future.
Description of App on Google Play (6/23)
Connect and control all your Garmin VIRB cameras with the VIRB app, which now supports VIRB 360! Quickly playback, edit, and share directly from your mobile device.**
Also, has playback and video editing support for Drive Assist 51, Dash Cam 45/55/65W, and GDR E530/E530Z/E560/S550!
• VIRB 360 support – Easily view and edit 360 videos, add 4K spherical Stabilization, watch footage in VR Mode and add Augmented Reality G-Metrix™ data overlays*
• Frame your shot – See what your camera sees with live viewfinder
• Remote control – Full remote control of camera functions and settings
• Browse Content – Playback recorded videos and photos
• Edit Your Videos – Trim a clip, adjust playback speed, add G-Metrix™ overlays and music
• Highlight Detection – Find the most interesting parts of the video quickly using highlights in editor timeline
• Share Your Content – Push photos and videos to sharing services
• Manage Your Files – Browse and delete files on your microSD card
• Multi-Camera – View, control and access up to 8 VIRB action cameras simultaneously when VIRBs are in Multi-Cam mode, or many more when connected to a wireless router.
• Locate Camera – Use the app to help find your lost VIRB
• App is compatible with VIRB 360, VIRB Ultra 30, Dash Cam 45/55/65W, GDR E530/E530Z/E560/S550, Drive Assist 51, VIRB X, VIRB XE, and VIRB Elite cameras only
Visit virb.garmin.com to learn more about VIRB.
* Available with VIRB 360
**Playback and editing features not available on VIRB Elite.
Mobile App Hands On Overview
So the first thing I have noticed while downloading the mobile app, is that you must be connected to the camera to use it. Depending on the full functionality of the mobile application, this could be good or bad. From my other experiences with 360 camera mobile apps, they usually let you open the mobile app and display the latest images that you transferred over or shared inside of the app. Also, you typically can adjust some settings in the mobile app, see the recent updates, and other features in the mobile app without connecting to a camera.
Mobile App Features
The Garmin Virb 360 Mobile App is packed full of features, I will be going over most features as well as issues I have experienced while using the Mobile App.
Having the ability to record video in multiple ways is a really nice option. First you can select either the front or the back camera lens to use for video recording, if you might have damaged one lens you can at least use the lens mode to switch the lens to use and keep recording HD quality video with one. Obviously the main choice is going to be the default 360 degrees, after all it is one of the newest 360 cameras out there so why not use the cameras full potential. Lastly, you can select RAW format.
RAW format allows you to record the video it its natural format and the cameras software will not automatically stitch together the two fisheye videos for you. This way you can do a lot of different post production effects and potentially get a higher resolution is you have better post production stitching software.
The locate camera feature is a pretty interesting option that not many 360 cameras have. If you typically lose your phone or belongings this might be a great feature for youself. The locate camera alerts the camera that it is currently lost and will start beeping, blinking and vibrating to help you find it.
Obviously the wifi must be able to connect to the camera and it must have some battery life available to do this. But, overall it is a neat feature typically not seen.
The Garmin Virb 360 has four microphones in the camera. You have the ability to turn all the microphones off, only use the rear microphone or the default which is spatial.
Spatial is really nice because it gives you that ability to add immersion into your 360 degree videos. When importing a Garmin Virb video into post production software like Premiere Pro CC, the audio will be recognized and imported as spacial audio as you can see in the image below.
You can then edit each audio track to do whatever you want. Having spacial audio is a really nice feature because you can then use it to your advantage when trying to direct the viewers attention to make sure they follow your 360 videos story.
I have not tested the full functionality of the both Near and Far options for the stitch distance, but I would think you would want to change this if you are in close quarters of objects or moving things. The default is Far and the stitching has been pretty good, occasionally you can see a stitch error or two but not that bad.
One feature on the Garmin that I really like is the ability to do time lapse with photos and not just video. Most 360 cameras only have the time lapse feature for the video, so you get a shot every couple seconds combined into a video, but if I wanted to collect images every 5-10 seconds for Google Street View I couldn’t set up my camera to do that automatically for me. So I do enjoy that feature and I will be testing it out later to see how well the time lapse photo capture works and if the images look good while I am walking around or not.
Time Lapse Photography
This option is what most people are used to, just the basic photo time lapse capturing an image at an interval that you set. The options for time interval is 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60 seconds. Pretty simple and just works the way most people expect.
With the extended option, you have a lot more additional features that you get to set.
First, you get to set the interval and the set time can go from 1 to 999 minutes.
Next you will select the duration mode, which you have two options : Custom and Continuous.
Continuous will just keep going forever until you run out of batteries or manually turn it off. Switching to Custom will give us an additional option called duration.
The duration option enables us to select how long we want the time lapse to go for before it automatically stops. The duration of time is set in hour increments from 1 – 999 hours.
Lastly, we can then set the start time of the time lapse, either manual or scheduled.
Manual is started by yourself by pressing the button on the mobile application. Scheduled allows you to schedule the start at anytime like an alarm clock.
Time Lapse Overview
So I very much like the enhanced feature set of the time lapse for both video and photography. I especially like the time lapse for photography because you can use it for Google Street View as well as for a custom photography time lapse. Having all the images for the time lapse enables you to do as much post production editing and filtering of the images. Otherwise, you can always go the time lapse video route and set up the interval times and get one single video at the end of the night. I plan on doing many different tests for each.
Time Lapse Example
One of my favorite modes of the Time lapse options is the Travel Lapse for photos. This way if you enjoy uploading images to Google Street View you can do so extremely easily. I will be creating a tutorial on how to efficiently use travel lapse photography option to easily upload and share to Google Street View later in the near future.
Mobile App Testing and Issues
Testing with Pixel XL (Android 7.1.2)
When you get disconnected or an error happens, the mobile app doesn’t tell you. So you just keep on trying to use the app and get very confused as to why nothing is working. If there is an error or you get disconnected the app should immediately let the user know they are no longer connected and prompt them to connect to the device again. I spent 5 – 10 min inside of the app trying to figure out why I could not use the app just because there was a connection issue or a random error.
Here are the few problems I experienced. In the shooting mode, I am having issues switching from video, time-lapse or any of the options. The loading animation triggers when I select the arrow to change the video shooting mode, but nothing happens. Maybe it is an error? Clicking the take photo button has no feedback noise or message. Just a button animation that you clicked it, which I find very strange. You would think you would want like a camera noise to go off when you try to take a picture. It looks like there was a connection issue and crashed my Garmin Virb 360 camera, I had to take out the battery to turn it off and back on.
Connecting to the Garmin Virb 360 camera is pretty tough, I have successfully kept a connection only 1 out of 3 times so far. It have so many issues in connecting to my Google Android Pixel XL. My phones specs are as followed; Android version : 7.1.2, phone type : Pixel XL, app build version : 126.96.36.199
I know the Nikon KeyMission 360 had issues with it’s mobile app and camera, but I thought no one could be as bad as them. But hold onto that thought, because Garmin has entered the race and is slowly catching up to the awful user experience and awful mobile app development.
Because I am a Mobile App developer, I have a lot of phones lying around. I am going to try my Nexus 5, iPhone 5, a few other Android phones and lastly the iPhone 6s to see if I get better results than my Google Pixel XL.
Testing with Nexus 5 (Android 6.0.1)
The Garmin Virb 360 connects almost instantly when using the Nexus 5 compared to the Pixel XL, which is strange because it is an older phone with an older version of Android on it. It still occasionally causes infinite load animations and will crash the app once in a while. But, it actually works compared to the Pixel XL
Testing with iPhone 5 (iOS : 10.3.2 , App Version 4.0.1)
Surprisingly after testing the Garmin Virb App with the iPhone5 I had no issues. I could use all of the options and features without any freezing, infinite load screens or crashing the camera itself.
Battery specs: Rechargeable Li-ion battery rated at 3.8V, 1250 mAh, 7Wh
I directly took the battery out of the box and it took 1.5 hours to charge the battery to full using a typical phone charger in an outlet. I find this to be very long compared to most other 360 cameras that I have tested, not sure if that was just a fluke or if that is going to be the normal charge time when the battery is close to 0%, I will have to test that out in the near future. After testing the camera to around 50% battery life I decided to re-charge it the same way I have been doing it and took about 1h 15 min to fully charge it.
Phone charger is an HTC with input : 100 – 240V / Output 5V 1.5A
I am using a 32 GB SD Card for these tests.
Full battery with : GPS on, sensors on, 4k video auto stitch mode (Default options)
Wifi off to save battery, 4k video auto stitch mode, battery at 100%, using 32 GB SD Card, manual video recording using camera not the mobile app
Estimated max video to be 48m, I am not sure if this is based off of the battery life or if that estimate is from the amount of space left on the SD Card. The SD card has about 30+gb of space on it so we shall see what comes first, battery runs out or we run out of space.
While recording the camera beeped and restarted the recording. I don’t know what exactly it is doing, but once the entire thing gets recording I will take a look at the files to see what it is doing. Well, it stopped and started the video twice and now completely stopped recording and froze. So this is the second time the camera has frozen on me and I can’t turn it off using the power button. I am going to once again remove the battery because it will not turn off or record any video or accept any button inputs. So far, the experience with this device has been pretty bad.
Going to do the same as the first test, this time the estimated video time is 40min, which makes sense because it took some juice after failing multiple times above. Let’s try it again and see what happens. This time the video recorded 1 second and restarted two times before I turned off the video recording.
Solution found : So I decided to replace my SD card and it seems to have fixed the problem for now. I will re-try the manual video test and see if there are any more issues.
Why doesn’t the Garmin actually display an error and let you know there is a problem? At least on the GoPro Omni Rig it will let you know there is an ‘Array Error’ or ‘SD Card Full’ or ‘SD Card Missing’ and you then know something is wrong. There seems to be a pattern that I have experienced on the Mobile App as well as the Garmin camera, they don’t display errors or any information that will help you figure out the problem. How stupid is that?
After replacing the SD Card I finally got it working and figured out I can get about 45 min of 4k video before I ran out of space on the 32 GB SD card.
Test # 3
This time I decided to use a 64 GB microSD card to see how long of a video I can record before running out of space or before the battery gets to 0%. As shown above I can get about 45min of 4k video before it fills up the 32 GB microSD card, so I am sure the 64 GB card will outlast the battery vs space. It looks like the Garmin Virb 360 camera saves videos in chunks of 30 minutes. After my test, the Garmin Virb 360 camera ran out of battery power and the result was that it recorded three video files. The video files where of lengths : 30:02, 30:02 and 2:44 which total around 62 minutes of footage (37.79 GB) to drain the battery from 100% to 0%.
The above test found out that we can get about an estimated 60 minutes worth of auto stitched 4k footage. So I want to see how long the battery will last for 5.7k unstitched RAW video footage. I will update this once I get a result from my testing. The results of the test are video chunks of 30:02, 30:02, 2:51 making a total of 62 minutes and 55 seconds (47.44 GB) before reaching 0% on the battery.
So it looks like you can get around 1 hour of video footage with either 4k auto stitch or on RAW 5.7k mode.
After doing multiple tests on recharging the battery from 0 – 100% it seems like it can take anywhere from 1 hour 45 minutes – 2 hours to fully re-charge the battery. This will also change depending on what type of AC charger you are using.
One of my SD Cards was not compatible or didn’t behave well with the Garmin Virb. I was having so many issues with the Garmin Virb 360 camera and luckily had multiple SD cards and tried to swap them out to see if that was one of the things causing my camera to crash and act sporadically. It was! So once I started using a 32GB Lexar 1000x SD HC 10 3 SD Card, everything was finally working.
Mobile App Crashing
While using my Pixel XL phone on the latest Android OS, I only experienced crash after crash when trying to connect and use the camera through the Virb Mobile App. Nothing would work correctly, changing any options in the mobile app would crash the connection, it would just display the loading animation forever. Luckily I have multiple phones and tried an older Nexus 5 phone using Android OS6.0.1. Using the Nexus 5 I experienced a lot less errors, I still got the occasional crash and the occasional infinite load animation. I could set up a shot or two and re-use the same configuration over and over. But, if you decided to test every single option that the Garmin Virb 360 has available, at one point or time it will crash and screw everything up. Devices used : Pixel XL on Android 7.1.2, Nexus 5 on Android 6.0.1 both using Mobile App build version : 188.8.131.52 and lastly my iPhone 5 Mobile App without any errors.
Time Lapse options using Camera manually
For some reason when I try to manually set up on the camera either the photography time lapse option or the video time lapse option, it always ends up crashing the camera. Every time manually starting the process crashes the Garmin Virb 360 camera and it turns itself off. So the only way for me to actually turn on the time lapse process is getting lucky and doing it in the mobile app. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But at least I have a much higher chance than the 100% fail rate of manually starting the time lapse on the camera itself. The Garmin Virb 360 camera software firmware I am currently on is version 2.50
Importing GMetrix .fit files manually
After taking a few videos, I wanted to test out the auto stabilization features of the Virb Edit software package that is included by Garmin. So I went to the park and walked, jogged, hopped up and down some stairs so I can see how good the stabilization is. Well, opening up and importing the video files went just fine. Selected the stabilization feature and clicked on find files on computer, selected the files and said ‘use log’ and the application crashed. Crashed every time I tried to use a .fit file to use for stabilization, so now I can’t use one of the most important features this camera has. Using Version 5.1.0 of Virb Edit on Mac OS X El Capitan.
Stabilizing Video On Parallels Windows Virtual Machine
For many reasons I also have Windows 10 on my Macbook pro and was curious to see if the Virb Edit for Windows 10 would actually work on my Parallels windows virtual machine software. It installed correctly and seemed to work, but the user interface was pretty ugly and wasn’t responsive most of the time. Also, I couldn’t figure out how to import and set up the stabilization using the GMetrix .fit files like I did on the Mac OS version of the software. I eventually gave up and went back to using the Mac OS version.
Garmin Virb 360 – My Thoughts
Overall my first thoughts were that the Garmin Virb 360 was pushed out into the marketplace full of bugs and errors throughout the entire package. The firmware on the camera had issues, the Mobile App had a ton of issues and even the Garmin Virb Edit Software had multiple issues. After many updates and newer released versions of all the three above, it finally is a more solid 360 camera. Just remember that first adopters typically get a bunch of problems until the software matures and the updates start rolling out. That aside, I do like the Garmin Virb 360 camera.
Now, after many updates later it is easily one of my favorite 360 cameras. Why? Well the photo quality is decent, nothing abnormally amazing in the photo quality department. The video quality is pretty good, which also auto stitches internally so that is nice. But easily the best feature of the entire camera is the ability to stabilize the video footage using the Garmin Virb Edit software. My second favorite feature is the Travel Lapse time lapse option for both photography as well as video. If you are a big Google Street View person, this is easily the best feature for you. Why? Well, you can attach the Garmin Virb 360 Camera to your car and it will capture a new photo based on how far you have moved from the last taken photo. Because the Garmin Virb 360 camera has a GPS in the camera, it is very easy to track where you have gone and how far.
So if you are an outdoorsy person who enjoys action type activities you will love the stabilization features. Or if you are a Google Street View fan, you will also love this camera. In my opinion those are the two main features of the Garmin Virb 360 camera.