Garmin VIRB XE is bad

Look at this sequence in fast mode.

It becomes too dark regularly.
I always had that problem.

Is this a camera failure or normal ? Should I, and how to contact Garmin ?

If there was a good Mapillary action cam, I would have bought it a long time ago.

It is hard to say for sure. One thing that is certain is, that such a cloud cover with the sun above usually gives images that are too dark on the grund because the sky is actually very brightly lit.

First, try to see if you may have changed a setting named exposure compensation or something in that order. I don’t know if the camera has it, but you can use it to say, that the images must always be exposed darker or brighter than what is measured. If it is set to very dark, the few properly lit images may be the accident.

Next, have to upgraded to the latest firmware?

Can you reproduce it on a day with no clouds? Such a cloudy day is a huge challenge for the exposure, because there is soo much light in the sky. Perhaps the camera just handles this badly.

What about just running the camera in a room with constant light (i.e. no windows or in door at night).

If you can reproduce it in constant light conditions, it is definately the camera. If you cannot, perhaps vibrations can cause something?

Please report back.

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I would try pointing the camera downward somewhat, so that the sky is no more than the top 30% of the photo. If that helps, then the problem is indeed the exposure.

Pondered your message while going over pics taken during a cycle ride and walk : those pics, with a still camera, show excellent detail in the darker shadow tones, but for example white streetname signs can be washed out, as are the clouds : exactly the opposite of your action cam.

Looking at it from a design engineer’s point of view, would be guided by different aspects for a ‘Digital Still Camera’ (the one which will be used intermittently for short exposures), and for an action camera which may be on for longer periods -even hours at a time- and aimed at rather brightly lit scenes - surf, snow, (reflections of) the sun.

When the sun shines on the lens, and thus on the sensor, you’d have the same effect as with a ‘brandglas’ (Dutch word for a lens which focusses the sun’s rays on a minute area in order to heat that spot with the effect that -if its combustible- it’ll eventually catch fire).

Another effect is that allowing a relatively large amount of energy (light is energy, think of solar panels) on to a small sensor for an extended period of time will heat the thing up, and accellerate chemical decay of the light sensitive elements.

From the design point of view would minimise the amount of light reaching the sensor, thus take the brightest area as the basis for the exposure : that’d be the sky, which in all your pics seems well-exposed.

How to work around this? Find that aiming the camera somewhat down - say with the horizon at 1/3 from the upper edge - can be sufficient to get the camera to lighten up, as it were.

You might also search for what the Garmin manual refers to as EV-bias (and perhaps EV-lock) : please do try out and experiment, as Garmin’s manuals are at times short on relevant detail.

Hope this helps, looking forward to your report on the results,


The problem is - unfortunately - known to me.
On the Waypoint (Garmin) forum I have posted something about this subject, including some photos and Mapillary sequences.

About Garmin Virb XE:

  • [+] reliable, mechanical quality, waterproof, video is oké.
  • [-] missing functionality (auto stop, distance lapse), impossible to operate when travelling by foot or car (bicycle is ok), bad image quality, useless display, two bugs, operation in general, instruction manual.

See: VIRB XE Time-Lapse Photos - Hèt WayPoint GPS Forum


So I lowered the angle. The front wheel of my bicycle becomes visible. And traffic signs behind the corner become less visible.
Maybe it is a bit better. It is hard to say. Along trees it still may become very dark.

Suburbia Hove and Mortsel =

Brugge inner city on a sunny day =

Rural Putte and Beerzel =

I know there is no solution. I am not into testing but into complaining.
I still look for the best place to crucify Garmin until they give my money back.

I am the recordholder of bad pictures. It must be one million by now.
They do not hurt the eye, they can be used, but they are not nice to watch.

Especially when looking at the middle sequence, the sunny day, I think there is something wrong with the camera.Often the white balance is wrong. Both exposure and white balance changes very suddenly from one picture to the next, both for the good and the bad. It is not even like the settings are locked for some time - they just changes.

Mapillary is a good example. One images is pretty good (perhaps slightly over exposed) but the next looks like you have put on sun glasses. There is nothing to justify this sudden change and the dark images are wrong.

I have a Garmin Virb and it produces much better images than this one.

The issues might be solved by a firmware update.

If you are not in contact with Garmin, I think you should get it.

In my link above I am referring to bad image quality (exposure) as well. Including samples.
See: VIRB XE Time-Lapse Photos - Hèt WayPoint GPS Forum

Exposure is set (not for a fact but just my impression) for 32 images in batch. As a result 32 images are oké, 32 images are overexposed, 32 images are underexposed and than 32 images are again oké. See my link above.
However: not always!
However: leaving a tunnel will first produce 3 white images (3 seconds), but than Garmin will correct exposure.
Also I have seen sequences where all images were underexposed for 2-3 eV. Also in my link.
But also: I did not notice during my first 600.000 images. I used to be happy…
Also: it might (hypothesis) make a difference (CPU usage) if GPS is On or Off.
Travelling by car or by foot GPS is On, on bicycle it is Off (to save power). GPS using GPSMAP 64 is superior to VIRB. I’m experimenting now, but review will have to wait for another week or two.
Also interval might make a difference but again: not conclusive.

Professional Settings (eV Lock, White Balance, eV Bias) only applies to video mode.
“Light boost” (video only) is misleading: only image size is reduced to handle low light conditions. Same applies to 1 or 2 images per second.

Does not seem to have any knowledge about Mapillary.
Garmin Firmware updates are in general related to bug fixes. New features or enhancements are rare.
My firmware: Virb XE software 4.30 (October 20, 2015). Which is most recent.

Garmin Netherlands: “If you want this level of professional images (…) you should buy Garmin VIRB 360”. No thanks!

You could call it an action camera for indoor studio use.
A class action maybe as against Volkswagen.

I have seen your camera go from good images to bad, so even if it only evaluates every Nth image, it can still evaluate badly.
With exiftool (or others) you can try to list the exposure time for many images and see if it is locked for many images. I would not be surprised if it changes.

My gut feeling is that either your camera is bad or there is a bug that only shows during time lapse.

At the current point I would try to contact Garmin support in USA.
If it does not help, seel the camera. Most people use it for video anyway, so someone else will rpobably be happy. It is a loss for you to sell it and buy something new again, but you will get a working camera.

I do not see THE Mapillary camera coming in the next years.
Now I wait for an action camera with Galileo reception.

Selling is easy, although I do think my vendor should make me an offer…

But than next question: what to buy?
GoPro Hero6?
Nice feature: select exposure area!

Oké, but main adventage VIRB XE: waterproof external power.
Which is not possible for GoPro without a waterproof case.
But I just found this link. Available since oktober 2017:

And waterproof!

Try to get the vendor to make an offer. It cannot hurt.

What to buy. I really like my Garmin Virb Elite. But it is only splash proof and not with a power cable. But I don’t need that. A water proof case often blurs the picture a bit (or some times a lot).

As @filipc says, there is no perfect camera, but if you need one you have to get the best available.

Still people will read the Mapillary help and buy a bad camera.

I am not sure if the model in general is bad or it is this specific item. Usually Garmin makes good cameras and I would like to see more failures before I judge an entire series.

Mine is BAD too…

I did some more reviewing.
If you do not take more than 1 photo every 2 seconds (time lapse photo), VIRB XE is oké.
Also: video mode is oké.

But if you make 1 image per second or 1 image per 0.5 second:

  • Image size is reduced from 4 MB to 2 MB. Undocumented feature. Not in specs.
  • Exposure is set for a sequence of images.
    1 image per 2 seconds (or less): every picture is exposed correctly.
    1 image per 1 second: exposure is set for 4 images in batch. Undocumented feature. Not in specs.
    1 image per 0.5 second: exposure is set for 30-40 images in batch. Undocumented feature. Not in specs.
    If exposure is set for a batch of photo’s than ALL

If exposure is set for a batch of images then all images have exact identical exposure, f.i.:
F_Number = f/2,8 and Shutter speed=1/4347 s.

  • images in dark environment will be too dark. Dark environment also applies to daylight and clouded sky. In good lighting conditions (sunny preferably) this will not be much of a problem.
  • exposure will be either correct/over/under exposed
  • white balance will be not correct (huge differences)

I have contacted my Garmin vendor:

  • It’s “normal” for a camera of this type to not set exposure for each individual photo. VIRB XE cannot handle the load.
  • Professional settings (that would resolve the issue by set to “fixed exposure”) do not apply to Photo’s (video only), which is also “normal” and “oke”.
  • I’m (almost) the only user using VIRB XE for Mapillary. So I’m an exception and not relevant.
  • The way I use VIRB for Mapillary is “improper”, VIRB XE is not designed for this level of professional usage.
  • Garmin will not update VIRB XE for Mapillary, since Mapillary is a “niche market”. Garmin VIRB XE is designed for making a video during a ski tour. Not for me… not for Mapillary…
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Has anyone seen one success ?

has there been any firmware updates since that have fixed any of the problems with this camera?

im using a gopro 5 session at the moment but having to figure out and adjust the offset time for each sequence is too time consuming so im looking for something better

You can try an older Virb Elite or a newer (and presumably powerful enough to be able to control exposure) Elite 30, the latter being overpriced into oblivion.
There are gps-enabled gopros, but no compass on those