There are a lot of great things about the GoPro cameras: they are small and offer high resolutions and high frame rates. They’re versatile, highly water-resistant, and are essentially the worldwide standard, used by mountain bikers, dogs, military special ops, and countless groups in between. The action camera accessory market has also adapted to GoPro, in the same way that accessory and gizmo companies have adapted to iPhone, providing a deep well of accessories for almost any which way you want to mount your camera.
But, this summer, I got to try out a new action camera, the Insta360 One R, and since using it, I’m hard pressed to go back to a GoPro.
Our tech editor Gerow recently tested the Insta360 One X2 camera, a very compact 360° camera by the same brand, which trades features for a smaller size. If you’re looking for Insta360’s flagship camera, which is also a serious alternative to a GoPro, then keep reading.
The Insta360 One R includes a 360° lens that can record in 5.7K and a wide-angle lens that can record in 4K. The camera has it’s own FlowState stabilization technology, voice control, an HDR photo mode, and other unique features like Hyperlapse, Point to Track, and Night Shot.
With the 4K wide angle lens, the One R is capable of 4K at 24/25/30FPS. Dropping it down to 2.7K gets up to 100FPS, and the One R has 60, 120, and 200FPS at 1080P.
With the 360° lens, you get up to 30FPS at 5.7K, 50FPS at 4K, and 100FPS at 3K. These lenses are interchangeable on the same camera and the swap only takes about 30 seconds.
The Insta360 One R camera records in its own .insv format, which requires the Insta360 studio, either on phone or desktop. Files can be exported and pulled into Adobe Premiere or whatever if you’re incorporating that clip into another video.
The camera weighs 121g, can run for about 70 minutes at 4K, according to Insta360, works with MicroSD cards, and charges with a USB-C. The 4K edition sells for $300 and the 360 edition sells for $450 (check Insta360.com and Amazon for prices and options), while the twin edition including both lenses sells for $30 more.
The Insta360 One R is noticeably larger and weightier than the GoPro Hero 7 Black, which I have. It’s about the size of the new Hero 10, though the Insta360 One R is slightly lighter weight. The One R feels very solid in the hands, and though it’s a three-piece camera, there’s hardly any play between the parts.
The lenses can be swapped out very easily, and done on the trail without worrying about too much dust infection, though you obviously want to be careful. For most of my testing, I mounted the Insta360 One R on a chest harness — the camera uses the same Bi-dent style of mounts as a GoPro.
Using selfie sticks, extensions, and everything else is where the possibilities grow with the One R. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s pretty incredible what you can do with this camera if you’re willing to put some thought and planning into it.
Now, if you’re trying to take an overhead video or use it from an extended position, it’s best to position the camera flat on the extension so that the pole or stick doesn’t show up in the video. This is also the downside to using the 360 lens on the chest harness. Your arms, on both sides of the frame, can start to look a little weird or glitchy, but you can always just use the 4K wide lens, although the 360 lens does seem to bring smoother video and can give it a gimbal-like feel through turns over the fixed lens.
As a dead-on POV camera, the Insta360 One R is excellent. The color and dynamic range right out of the camera certainly beats my Hero 7. I can’t say how it compares to the Hero10 because I haven’t used that camera yet, but the 4K wide lens and the 360 lens are both great.
The colors are vibrant on the One R, and the backgrounds have a ton of detail. The 360 lens creates an even more dramatic image with its wide lens.
My first time using the camera yielded surprising stability, color, and angles that are easily tweaked for however you want to post process it. Most people are throwing their videos on Instagram or Youtube — and I’d say it’s more likely to end up on Instagram, because if you’re like me, you have more followers there and what’s the point of making a video if you’re only going to watch it on your own camera screen later?
With the 360 lens, camera shake is nearly gone. It loses some stability in low light, but the stabilization is still pretty good and the camera does a great job of exposing the footage so it’s bright enough. Transitions from dark to light are also quick and seamless.
The 4K wide lens is great too, and the FlowState stabilization smooths out the shakes and bumps so that they are almost unnoticeable.
Battery life has been a non-issue for me. While I have run down GoPro batteries very easily, the Insta360 One R battery has been impressive, even with the 360 lens, lasting plenty long to capture what I need on trail rides. Most people will want to pack an extra memory card before a second battery.
The battery is actually located in the base on this camera and you can buy extras for $30, or a Boosted base that’s double the size for $50. Insta360 also makes a slew of accessories for all of their cameras.
The camera interface has been seamless. It can be a little tricky trying to tap on some of the smaller icons, but overall there’s no lag or stuttering. The screen is fast and the settings are easy and quick to navigate.
Where users might get flustered is in the editing and exporting phase of the camera, although once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad.
If you have the Insta360 app on your phone, you can easily connect to the camera via Wifi, upload, edit, and export your videos. With the 360°, .insv videos, the hardest thing about editing them is figuring out where you want the lens pointed. During post-processing, you can use keyframes to mark where the camera is pointed. You can then adjust scale and color and change where the camera is pointed throughout the video, using the entirety of the 360 lens.
The cool thing is that you can easily adjust the aspect ratio in post-processing. I found that the vertical orientation is nice if you’re only planning on posting the video to Instagram.
Audio isn’t the best on the Insta360 and one area where the GoPro probably wins, although you can use a mic adapter and wire up an external microphone pretty easily.
Insta360 One R – Closing thoughts
There are a lot of reasons to shop for a GoPro, like accessory support, its reputation as a great quality action camera, and the fact that a lot of the action cameras that have come out over time just haven’t been able to compete.
The Insta360 One R gives action cam filmers a reason to consider other options and for plenty of reasons, but succinctly summed up, it’s very competitive. The price is competitive, the recording quality is competitive and in some cases better. It’s adaptable with different lenses, and the battery life is solid. Those are enough reasons to call the Insta360 not only competitive, but a leading action cam.
- Price: $479.99 (Twin Edition)
- Available at Amazon
- Smooth POV video
- Great stabilization and color
- The sky is the limit with the 360° lens
Pros and cons of the Insta 360 One R action camera
- Audio isn’t the best
- Some stitching issues with 360° lens
I’d be interested in seeing footage from a helmet-mounted camera, as that would give more options in choosing POV. Or would that be too heavy for a MTB helmet?