The first modular action camera impresses on ease of use
Have you tried a 360 camera yet? Filming everything around you to create an immersive video for a virtual reality headset might sound like a niche hobby, and in many ways, it is. However, there are plenty of ways you can convert 360° photos and videos into regular widescreen format for sharing on social media. Cue the Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition from Shenzhen-based Insta360, the first modular action camera that lets you swap effortlessly between a GoPro – like 4K action camera and a 360° shooter. What’s more, it can be used underwater, and Insta360 is already saying that an upgraded lens and drone module will be available, which suggests that further accessories and upgrades are ahead.
For anyone who thinks they might damage parts of their action camera or doesn’t want to have to upgrade to a new model every year just to get the latest resolutions, the Insta 360 ONE R is also a neat concept.
Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition: design
In the box there are six parts to the Insta360 ONE R. At its core is a tiny square processor, which snaps to one of the two similarly-sized lenses, either the 4K module (which is has a protective glass shield on it) or the 360º module (which has two fisheye lenses, and separate snap-on lens protectors). Whatever lens array you select, the two modules then snap onto a bright red battery module.
You’re then good to go, although there are a few other accessories to know about; a wraparound case that gives the whole product some extra stability, and which also allows it to be attached to an included ‘invisible’ selfie stick. Wherever you wave it, Insta360’s software removes it from the finished photos or video.
Weighing no more than 150g when assembled, the Insta360 ONE R’s design proves its masterstroke. However, it would be better if the battery module itself had a tripod thread rather than having to always rely on the snap-on case, which is a bit fiddly to fit and remove.
All that aside, the Insta360 ONE R’s masterstroke is that its processor has a tiny 3.25-inch touchscreen that gives the user a real-time preview even when filming in 360º. No other consumer camera does that, and it makes it much easier to compose a video.
Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition: features
The Insta360 ONE R offers the best resolutions in both of the formats it dabbles in. For filming in straightforward 4K resolution, as you would with a GoPro, its f2.8 aperture wide-angle lens record in 4K at 60 frames per second. A small caveat here is that it’s six-axis gyroscope-powered Image stabilization feature – something called FlowState, which makes everything look super silky smooth – works best at 4K at 30 frames per second. That lens also allows a whopping 200 frames per second on full HD quality, which enables a powerful slo-mo option. Swap to its dual-lens 360° module and you get to f2.0 aperture fisheye lenses that together capture in 5.7K. That might seem like a lot, but when spread through 360º, it produces a fairly low-resolution video. All video is captured in 100mbps bitrate with H.265 encoding.
A key feature is Deep Track, which turns the Insta360 ONE R into an automatic cameraman that follows a subject of your choice. There’s also a Starlapse mode to capture time-lapses of the night sky. What’s more, the app’s extensive editing features (such as FlashCut auto-editing) can be done over WiFi without ever downloading the footage to a smartphone. You can even talk to the Insta360 ONE R using simple commands like “start recording”.
Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition: performance
The Insta360 ONE R is super simple to use, with the lenses snapping together smoothly. However, it can be tricky to do with two hands while on the go; you need a flat surface, or at least a few pockets, while you set-up the lens you want to use.
For photos, the Insta360 ONE R has an extensive HDR process for contrasty images and also lets you output stills in its Color Plus mode. For video, 4K excels, and even does well in low-light, though it’s Insta360’s signature FlowState stabilization that really impresses. It helps make video super-smooth, though the fisheye lenses on the 360º module are further apart than they perhaps should be, which does cause a visible stitching line between the two spherical videos.
Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition: conclusion
Easy, if slightly fiddly to use when out in the field, the Insta360 ONE R is a revolutionary concept for the action camera market. Though most users will probably rely on the excellent 4K module, having a snap-on 360º module in a pocket ready to go is exciting. There’s no GPS or live streaming, but the FlowState stabilization is effective. What’s more, the concept of a modular action camera is about to get better with the introduction later in 2020 of a Leica-designed, pro-grade one-inch wide-angle lens module that will capture 5.3K video and 19MP photos. Also in the works is a double-size battery base and a mounting system for drones, which begs the question: why buy a new action camera when you can just add a module?