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summer worsley

Summer Worsley
PADI Instructor & Writer

PRODUCT REVIEW

Insta360 ONE R Action Camera Review

Insta360 prides itself on innovative and creative tools that have helped create a new niche inside the action camera market. Established in 2014, the company was quickly propelled to the forefront of the industry and has become a world leader in 360-degree video cams with quality products such as the Insta360 One X.

Building on this success, Insta360 introduced the world to the ONE R, an ambitious offering featuring a modular platform that allows users to easily switch between camera types.

A range of options is available when purchasing the ONE R, which we’ll go into later. For this review, we’re going to focus on the Twin Edition, which features the 4K wide-angle shooter and 360-degree cam options.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Reasons to buy

  • Modular design
  • Robust and sturdy
  • Easy to switch between 4K wide-angle and 360-degree mods
  • Excellent video and photo quality
  • Competitively priced
  • Great stabilization
  • The touchscreen is responsive, even when wearing gloves

Reasons NOT to buy

  • The additional cost of having to purchase three housings
  • Not the best camera for still photos due to the stiff shutter button
  • Time-lag when writing to the SD card
  • Slightly annoying that videos taken with the 360 mod need to be converted in the app to a more usable format

Insta360 ONE R Versus GoPro Hero 8

As the Insta360 ONE R is not only a 360 action cam, but also a standard action camera, it’s worth comparing to the GoPro Hero 8. We obviously can’t compare the ONE R’s 360 degree aspects as this is non-existent on the Hero 8, so let’s focus on how the 4K wide-angle matches up to its GoPro equivalent.

The GoPro feels more solid in the hand which could be down to the modular design of the ONE R. Looking at the waterproof measures, the O-rings on the Insta360 seem quite flimsy and it does make you wonder whether they will protect the camera’s components. On the other hand, GoPro has taken additional measures that give the impression of being more waterproof.

Saying that, as divers, we’re not going to be using either camera without a housing. The housings for both cameras are sturdy and look very similar. It’s therefore surprising that there’s such a difference in price. The Insta360 housing for the wide-angle is around 50 percent more expensive than the GoPro version.

There are many areas where both cameras are similar in performance, including stabilization. The ONE R has a slight edge when it comes to battery life managing 70 minutes on a full charge compared to the Hero 8’s 50 minutes.

Where the two offerings differ is image quality. The ONE R captures better detail in good lighting at 4K resolution and shoots videos with significantly lifted shadows which brings out more detail in the darker area of images. This is vital when filming at depth as it gives you more to play with when editing your footage.

Colors can appear more vibrant with the GoPro but, as we all edit these things anyway, this is not really a huge win. Add the Leica lens–sold separately–and the One R is clearly superior. And the Insta360’s excellent editing software allows you to really get the most out of your images.

The whole Insta360 ecosystem incorporates an artificial intelligence to assist video capture and to deliver quick, edited presentations with impressive effects that are ready for upload within 5-10 minutes. Included in this the person tracking feature, which when used with the 360 module ensures your subject always stays perfectly framed.

The ONE R and the Hero 8 both have stiff shutter buttons and neither are ideal for taking still shots as the camera tends to move when taking the photo. To get around this, we used the burst mode, taking 30 quick-fire shots in a second. Here’s where there’s a very noticeable drawback. It may only take a second to take 30 photos, but it can take 30 seconds or more to write the footage to the SD card. That’s more than half a minute when your camera is out of action meaning you could miss the shark that’s just darted past you. It’s a problem for both the Insta360 and the GoPro and one that we hope is addressed for future models.

With regard to price, the GoPro is cheaper than the Twin Edition. But in reality, the Hero 8 doesn’t even compete with the ONE R if you’re looking for a 360-degree camera. For that, you’d need to look at also purchasing the GoPro Max. Financially, it’s a no brainer with the Insta360 coming in well below just the Max alone.

Our overall conclusion is that if you’re after a “throw in the bag and head out on the road” action camera, the GoPro Hero 8 may have the edge. But if you’re after the ability to also take 360 shots and have a choice of format, you can’t go wrong with the Insta360 ONE R.

See the complete list of the best Underwater Cameras here!

Insta360 ONE R Underwater

Insta360 ONE R Action Camera Review: Key Specifications

  • Temperature rating: -4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 Celsius)
  • White balance modes: Auto, 2700K, 4000K, 5000K, 6500K
  • Modules: 1 x 5.7K 360-degree and 1 x wide-angle 4K
  • Battery: 1190mAh rechargeable
  • Display: 1.3-inch (3.3 centimeter) square
  • Shooting modes: Standard, HDR, Burst, Interval photos, Night Shot, PureShot
  • Depth Rating: 16.5 feet (5 meters)
  • Housings: Purchased separately
  • Stabilization: 6-axis Gyroscope
  • Connectivity: Wifi, Bluetooth, USB-C port
  • 4K wide angle
  • Photo resolution: 4000 x 3000 (4:3), 4000 x 2250 (16:9)
  • Photo format: JPEG, RAW
  • Multiple video resolution options
  • Video format: insv, mp4
  • Weight: (121 grams)
  • Dimensions: 72mm x 48mm x 32.4mm
  • 360 degree
  • Photo resolution: 6080 x 3040 (2:1)
  • Photo format: insp, RAW
  • Multiple video resolution options
  • Video format: insv
  • Weight: (130.5 grams)
  • Dimensions: 72mm x 48mm x 43mm

Where to Buy:

  • Amazon with worldwide shipping

What You Need to Know About the Insta360 ONE R

Now we know how it stacks up to the GoPro Hero 8, here’s the low-down on some of the Insta360 ONE R’s main features.

Modular Design

Let’s start with the basics. Insta360 has designed the ONE R as a modular platform. On the surface, it looks much like a typical action camera. But that’s where the similarity ends. It’s made up of three components: the battery base, a touchscreen, and the swappable camera module.

Our worry was that a modular design would make to camera bulky or feel like it would fall apart at any moment. This is definitely not the case. It’s only slightly larger than a standard action camera and once the touchscreen and the camera mod are clipped into the battery, the whole thing is surprisingly sturdy.

The Twin Edition comes with the 4K wide-angle and the dual-lens 360 modules. Switching between the two takes around 20 seconds to unclip the battery, pull off the mod, and slot the other in. The only drawback to the modular design is that, as a diver, you need to decide which type of camera you want with you beforehand as you obviously can’t make this swap underwater.

Display

Navigating the interface and composing shots is done on a 1.3-inch (3.3 centimeter) square touchscreen. This is pretty small and fiddly to use, even for photographers with tiny fingers. It’s something that Insta360 needs to look at for future models, especially when you add in the fact that the preview becomes even smaller when shooting a 16:9 aspect video.

Size aside, the display is very clear and the gestures used to access menu options and shooting modes are similar to most action cameras. Once you know what each swipe does, the Insta360 ONE R is extremely easy to use. The learning curve here is rather steep if you’ve never handled a touch-screen action camera before, but tech-savvy operators won’t struggle. Your grandfather, or even your parents, on the other hand, might find it difficult.

Shooting Modes

There are plenty of cool shooting modes to keep even advanced photographers happy. You have the option of taking HDR and non-HDR photos, slo-mo, and time-lapse. The nifty star-lapse mode automatically adjusts exposure settings to capture the night sky. We also appreciate the color plus function which automatically color grades footage.

Our personal favorite is the subject-tracking mode, called deep track, which can be activated when shooting with the 360 mod. Tap on the subject of your video and the ONE R’s tracking algorithm keeps it locked in the center of the frame. Even when something obscures the line of view, the tracking picks your subject up again as soon as it reappears.

Insta360 ONE R Shooting Modes

Video and Picture Quality

The 4K wide-angle mod takes photos using an f/2.8 lens on a 12-megapixel sensor. Videos can be Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 at 60 frames per second (fps) or full-senor 4000 x 3000 at 30 fps. The 360 mod uses an f/2.0 lens which is slightly brighter. Videos are 5,760 pixels wide and stills come in at 18.4 megapixels.

Both mods provide excellent detail and vivid colors and the auto exposure setting performs well, only requiring an occasional adjustment in editing. Stitching was also impressive with the 360 mod.

When using the 360 mod, footage records as an .insv file. This is due to the Insta360 having to record both normal and 360 footage. In order to view the file in any of the usual editing programs, you need to first open it in the Insta360 app and then export it as a more convenient file. This extra step can seem a hassle but because Insta360’s app and editing software have everything needed to get the most out of your footage, exporting it is definitely worth it.

Stabilization

Insta360 really focused on the ONE R’s stabilization, improving on the ONE X with FlowState 2.0 technology. This basically means the directional locking and horizontal leveling features are impressive, leading to clearer, less jumpy images.

Insta360 ONE R Mounted

Add-ons

What’s in the box when you receive the ONE R Twin Edition is plenty for most photographers to start taking great photos and videos straightaway. However, there are a few add-ons that are definitely worth mentioning.

One-Inch Sensor Module

Insta360 formed a collaboration with renowned camera manufacturer Leica to develop the one-inch sensor module. This high-end camera module can be purchased separately and swapped into the ONE R. It produces better image quality, clearer details, and improved shots in low-light situations, which are amazingly impressive in our opinion.

In fact, it has four times the light-sensitive surface area of the GoPro Hero 8’s sensor. It’s well worth investing in this mod if you are serious about underwater photography as the picture quality is unparalleled in the action camera category.

Waterproof Housing

A camera that’s waterproof to just 16.3 feet (5 meters) is not very useful for divers. So, as with many action cameras, an underwater housing will need to be bought separately. The good news is that the housings do their job — you can dive to 98.4 feet (30 meters) for the 360-degree camera and 196 feet (60 meters) for the wide-angle camera.

The bad news is that you have to buy three different housings if you go with the Twin Edition: one for the wide-angle mod and two for the 360 mod (including a battery housing). Here we start to see how the added expenses can start to hurt your wallet. Our advice is to go all-in if you can afford it, but to decide beforehand what you really need (and what can wait) if you’re on a stricter budget.

Invisible Selfie Stick

No access to a drone? No problem. Get yourself an Insta360 invisible selfie stick. When using the 360 mod, the selfie stick is automatically edited out of footage, whatever angle it’s shot from. It’s a nifty little add-on with supreme novelty value and we had a lot of fun playing with it! It works really well both on land and underwater.

Insta360 ONE R Invisible Selfie Stick

Various Purchase Options

As mentioned previously, the Insta360 ONE R can be purchased in different variations. The cheapest option is the ONE R 4K Edition which comes with just the wide-angle module and is priced well below the GoPro Hero 8. Each of the other modules (360 and one-inch sensor) can also be purchased as standalone cameras.

However, if you’re looking for an action camera with the ability to turn into a 360-degree camera, the Twin Edition is the one you want. There is also plenty of different options with handy add-ons depending on your sport of choice, including a motorcycle kit and an expedition kit.

Insta360’s After Sales and Servicing Support

Whichever option you purchase, each Insta360 ONE R comes with a one-year limited warranty starting from the day you receive the product. During the warranty period, if your camera develops a defect due to faulty workmanship or materials, Insta360 will repair or replace the product free of charge.

Customer services or technical support will initially attempt to diagnose and resolve the problem via telephone, online chat, or email. You may be advised to send the product to the company or take your camera for repairs at a designated Insta360 repair center.

Always keep your ONE R’s firmware, app, and editing software up-to-date. There are rolling updates that can be found here and Insta360’s website is also great for finding tutorial videos and instructions, including how to get the most out of the editing software suite.

Insta360 ONE R Parts and Guides

Summary

The Insta360 ONE R breaks the mold when it comes to 360 cameras and we think it gives the GoPro a run for its money when it comes to the best action camera on the market. There are plenty of pluses to this resilient and versatile camera, and we think it’s a great pick for divers who also like to explore on land.

What We Like

  • Modular design
  • Robust and sturdy
  • Easy to switch between 4K wide-angle and 360-degree mods
  • Excellent video and photo quality
  • Competitively priced
  • Great stabilization
  • The touchscreen is responsive, even when wearing gloves
  • Variety of shooting modes
  • Subject tracker
  • Extensive app
  • User-friendly editing app
  • Ability to purchase the Leica one-inch sensor mod for even better photos
  • Fun to use

What We Don’t Like

  • The additional cost of having to purchase three housings
  • Not the best camera for still photos due to the stiff shutter button
  • Time-lag when writing to the SD card
  • Slightly annoying that videos taken with the 360 mod need to be converted in the app to a more usable format
  • Small display, but that’s what you get if you want a compact camera!
  • Some customers have mentioned a small amount of water entering the housing when first used. This is not something we noticed, but bear this in mind and remember to check your housing in the rinse tank before you enter the water!

Buy This Underwater Camera If:

If you’re looking for a 360 camera, or are deliberating between an action camera and a 360 camera, you can’t go wrong with the Insta360 ONE R. It’s an excellent option that gives you the best of both worlds.

GoPro has been at the forefront of action cameras for so long that it’s hard to imagine any brand taking its place. However, to get wide-angle and 360-degree shots, customers need to purchase two separate cameras costing almost twice the price of the ONE R. GoPro is going to have to seriously up its game to compete with Insta360, in our opinion.

The ONE R offers great-quality videos, an extensive app, and it’s simply a joy to use. Our advice is to go with the Twin Edition which is only slightly more expensive than the 360 Edition alone. If you’re after the sharpest quality footage possible from an action camera, then definitely invest in the one-inch sensor mod.

Have you used the Insta360ONE R? If so, leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

See the complete list of the best Underwater Cameras here!

Where to Buy:

  • Amazon with worldwide shipping

Where to Buy:

  • Amazon with worldwide shipping

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