Having made its name largely in the 360° sphere with feature-laden cameras like the Insta360 ONE X, Shenzhen, China-based Insta360 is now gunning for GoPro with this, the first modular camera that handles both 360º and 4K video. Waterproof and packed with auto-editing features, does the ONE R’s unique combo of virtual reality-grade video and straightforward widescreen video make it an irresistible investment for videographers?
Unique it may be, but is it easy to swap between 360º and 4K? And are its photos and videos any good?
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INSTA360 ONE R REVIEW: DESIGN AND SETUP
The Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition (US$479.99/UK£365) famously comes with two separate cameras, but it actually arrives in four separate parts; a processor module (complete with touchscreen), a battery base module, a ONE R 4K Wide Angle module and a ONE R Dual-Lens 360 module. You choose which lens you want and attach it to the processor modular, then click them on to the battery base. It’s so, so easy, and it leaves a small module to slip into a pocket.
The 360º lens – two f2.0 fisheye lenses that are pitched a reasonably long way from each other, which could mean stitching problems – ships with a silicon hood that slips on to protect those lenses when the module is in a pocket or bag. The same is not true for the 4K module, but since its f2.8 lens has protective glass across it we’re not worried much about the chance of damage.
However, there’s no denying that one of the chief advantages of having a modular camera is that all of its modules are replaceable if damaged. They’re also upgradeable, which lessons our worry about the small size of the battery module. It’s just 1,190 mAh, though a 2,380 mAh ‘Boosted Battery Base’ will soon be available as an add-on accessory. That’s partly because its 3.25-inch LCD touchscreen is so bright, which when being used outdoors, is a welcome feature.
Remarkably, whether you use the 360º or 4K modular, the Insta360 ONE R is waterproof down to 5m/16ft, although there’s a separate dive case accessory that increases that to 60m/196ft.
At 72W x 46H x 27D (mm), the Insta360 ONE R is slightly longer than your average action cameras. However, the processor and battery base module combine at 78g, with the4K and 360º modules adding 51g and 43g, respectively. That’s a maximum of 129g, though you also need to consider the weight of the case (52g) and the ‘invisible’ selfie stick/monopod (166g), the latter of which is automatically edited-out of footage.
INSTA360 ONE R REVIEW: FEATURES AND USABILITY
That touchscreen on the processor module proves to be a winner; as well as bring bright, it gives you access to a lot of the fine controls. As a bonus, the module is effectively reversible, so you can swap it around through 180º into a ‘selfie’ mode. As well as allowing even 360º live previews while shooting (which makes composing much easier) and instant playback – something you won’t find on any GoPro – there’s an option to have guidelines on the screen. There’s even a histogram so you can monitor brightness levels, which is a first on a consumer-grade shooter like this. Swiping between its Video and Photo modes is a cinch, but we did have a few issues with its tiny size, which can make it difficult to select options. That will depend on how fat your fingers are, but either way, it's right on the limit.
As well as operating the Insta360 ONE R via a smartphone app and checking-out live and instant replays (as well as hosting editing options), it can be operated using voice control, just like GoPro cameras. Useful commands include “start recording” and “stop recording”, but also some niche custom-made controls such as “mark that” if you want to use its ‘Deep Track’ feature, which tracks a subject – likely a person or animal – and keeps them in the centre of the frame.
As has become common on 360° cameras in recent years, the Insta360 ONE R can shoot in wraparound format, only for you to reframe it as a standard widescreen video. In theory, that means as a videographer you won't miss anything, and you later concentrate on wherever the action happened. In practice, 360° cameras don't have enough resolution to do that effectively; the Insta360 ONE R two fisheye lenses together capture a 5.7K panoramic, which might sound like a lot of pixels, but it doesn't leave much to play with. So although the Insta360 ONE R does have Auto Frame, an AI image recognition engine that automatically identifies and frames the action in 360º footage in low resolution, the mere presence of a 4K-capable camera module in the box pretty much overwrites that concept.
However, there are a load of other cutting-edge features, including ‘pose detection’ and an intriguing ’Starlapse’ mode for long exposures at night, though perhaps the most attractive feature for any videographer is that you can edit footage in the app without first downloading from the camera. That saves a lot of time, a lot of battery power, and a lot of space on your phone for what can be enormous video files.
It also captures RAW photo files and captures video in 100mpbs bitrate with H.265 encoding, as well as offering an 8x slo-mo mode.
INSTA360 ONE R REVIEW: SPEC
Dimensions: 72W x 46H x 27D (mm)
360º video: 5.7K at 30 fps
Widescreen video: 4K at 60 fps
Conventional video: 4000x3000 at 30fps (4:3), 3840x2160 at 60fps, (16:9)
Photo: Spherical: 12MP (4:3), 9MP (16:9)
Modular lenses: 4K Wide Angle Mod, Dual-Lens 360 Mod
Audio: Stereo audio/via external mic (via the USB-Type C to 3.5mm adapter) incl. Apple AirPods
Connectivity: Wifi, Bluetooth
SoC: not made public
Battery: 1190mAH Lithium-Ion
TimeWarp: 2x, 5x, 10x, 15x, 30x recording speeds
Time-lapse: 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 second and 1, 2, 5 and 30 minute intervals
Touchscreen: 3.25-inch LCD
Waterproofing: 5m without a case
GPS: data overlays via GPS Smart Remote/Apple Watch
Voice control: Yes
Stabilisation: FlowState (4K at 30fps)
Live Streaming: via a firmware update later in 2020
INSTA360 ONE R REVIEW: VIDEO AND STILLS
The Insta360 ONE R is hugely versatile, allowing you to capture in all kinds of different qualities. The highest qualities are 5.7K at 30fps on the 360º module and 4K at 60fps on the 4K module.
However, like on all 360º cameras we’ve ever seen, the image stitching is noticeable, perhaps a little more so on this camera than most because the two 360 lenses are arranged rather a long way from each other, so there is a big gap for the processing software to fill. That can mean visible join lines in parts of 360º video footage.
As we already mentioned, although this camera’s 360° video footage is in the 5.7 K resolution, we don't think that's enough for using as a basis to create regular widescreen video footage. Unfortunately, that's going to have to wait until 360° cameras reach 8K and even 16K resolution. Besides, this package contains an excellent 4K module to capture in widescreen.
For 360º, Insta360’s six-axis gyroscope-powered FlowState image stabilisation software works wonders, making everything super-smooth, though it works best at the 4K 30fps setting. FlowState, together with that invisible selfie stick, works wonders if you put the processor module into ‘selfie mode’ – just by physically moving it through 180º – and talk to the camera while you walk along. Seriously vloggers will love the Insta360 ONE R.
There are a number of fun features such as Auto TimeShift (which creates a hyperlapse) and an effective Deep Track mode. Meanwhile, the app’s FlashCut auto-editing – AI image recognition that auto-edits footage – works well as a basis for further tweaks.
Everything – including theInsta360 ONE R’s decent-looking HDR photos – can be edited into ‘little planet’, ‘crystal ball’ and a lot of other kinds of photos for sharing in non-360º environments.
As a bonus, audio can be captured either through the camera itself, or via the (often superior) microphones on ‘true wireless’ earphones, such as Apple AirPods.
INSTA360 ONE R REVIEW: IMAGE SAMPLES
INSTA360 ONE R REVIEW: VIDEO SAMPLES
INSTA360 ONE R: VERDICT
Just as GoPro has launched its Fusion in the 360º market, now Insta360 presents its first 4K-capable product – and it’s a particularly clever camera that brings the modular concept to videography for the first time.
Although it’s got a lot of pro-level features, most serious videographers will prefer to use separate rigs for capturing in both 4K and 360°. As such, the Insta360 ONE R is best judged as a consumer camera that will be easier to both upgrade and fix if any one module gets broken.
We also know that a wide-angle module co-engineered with Leica, complete with a 1-inch sensor capable of shooting 5.3K video at 30fps (and 19MP photos) through a f3.2 lens, will soon be available. Perhaps more modules will, too, such as a bigger battery and an 8K-capable 360º lens.
For now, it's easy and quick to swap between 4K and 360°, and both modules are well-made enough to survive the outdoors, and even underwater. The selfie stick works really well, disappearing from any of the finished footage without you having to do anything, and there are a load of fun features and easy to use editing features in the app to make life with their Insta360 ONE R pretty simple.
However, at its core, the Insta360 ONE R captures pretty reliably good footage in both 4K and 360, with the proviso that the stitching line between the two fisheye lenses on 360 footage is sometimes visible.
If you want to shoot in 4K and have the option to swap to 360º without having to invest in two separate cameras, the Insta360 ONE R is a unique and likeable concept that’s worth investing in.