Insta360 ONE R
from $300 | Insta360
The Insta360 One R is a modular action and 360 camera that snaps together like Lego bricks. It allows users to choose between three cameras or mods, depending on the most important features. A ‘1-Inch Edition’ ($550) uses a large 1″-type sensor, features a Leica-branded lens, and captures 5.3K video and 19MP images, a ‘360 Edition’ ($430) captures 5.7K spherical video, and a ‘4K Edition’ ($300) includes a 12MP sensor that shoots 4K video. The first option is somewhat unique, given that most action cameras have smaller sensors.
To use any of the cameras, one connects them to a second cube-shaped unit Insta360 calls the core module, which includes an LCD touchscreen, buttons and ports. The camera + core combo then snaps onto a battery base for operation.
|The Insta360 One R has a modular design that snaps together. Left to right: The core module with touchscreen, the 1-Inch camera module, the battery base, and the 360 camera module.|
For users who want multiple camera units, Insta360 sells various combination packages up to, and including, the Trio Edition, which includes all three cameras for $780. Additionally, there are all manner of use case-specific accessories such as a motorcycle kit, an expedition kit, a snow kit and more.
Key specifications (shared)
- Reversible touchscreen
- Raw and JPEG photos
- HDR, Night Shot, and Time-lapse
- H.264/H.265 video codecs (100 Mbps)
- FlowState image stabilization
- Waterproof to 5m (16.4ft)
- USB-C charging
- 1″-type sensor
- 14mm equiv. F3.2 lens
- Video: 5.3K/30p, 4K/60p, 2.7K/60p, HD/120p
- Photo: 19MP resolution
- Dual-7.2mm equiv. F2.0 lenses
- Video: 5.7K/30p, 4K/50p, 3K/100p
- Photo: 18MP resolution (2:1 aspect ratio)
- 16.4mm equiv. F2.8 lens
- Video: 4K/30p (4000×3000), 4K/60p, 2.7K/100p, HD/200p
- Photo: 12MP resolution
For this review I mostly focused on the 1-Inch Edition with some additional comments about the 360 Edition.
The Insta360 One R’s modular system clicks together easily and is made up of a battery, a lens mod and the core module. There’s a micro SD card slot and a USB-C port for charging on the side of the core module. Physical controls sit on top of the touchscreen and include a power button and a record button—all other settings are changed through the touchscreen or the app.
|The Insta360 One R assembled with the 1-Inch module, core module and battery base (L), along with the 360 module (R).|
Before you start shooting, you’ll need to connect the camera to the Insta360 app, which is done through the camera’s Wi-Fi. The process is fast and easy, and the app doesn’t have any trouble remembering the camera between uses. Inside the app, you can view footage from the SD card, save files to your phone for easy sharing, access tutorials, change camera settings and edit footage.
One neat feature: the core module can be attached in either direction, allowing you to place the screen at the back of the camera or facing forward (useful for selfie mode).
|The touchscreen on the Insta360 One R can be attached facing either the front or the back of the camera.|
If you’ve set the Insta360 One R up on a tripod and are looking to capture video footage or a time-lapse, working through the app, rather than the tiny touchscreen, will be ideal for most users.
Although the modular system feels sturdy when it’s all clicked together, the CPU that powers the camera seemed to have issues from the start; every time I turned the camera on, it struggled to recognize that the micro SD card was in the camera.
What it’s like to use
Although the modular system clicks together easily and feels substantial, it quickly became clear that not all components are sturdy. Within a few days of using it, the door covering the Micro SD slot and USB-C port snapped off. Without the cover, the camera had an easier time recognizing that a Micro SD card was inside the camera, but the missing cover also meant the camera wasn’t waterproof either. (Update: Insta360 informs us that re-seating the door on the camera in this situation should still ensure a watertight seal to 5M.)
|The One R is generally well-built, but it didn’t take long for the cover for the Micro SD slot and USB-C port to break off.|
The menu system is difficult to navigate quickly. The touchscreen isn’t particularly responsive, the user interface isn’t intuitive, and changing settings requires a fair amount of work. However, once you’ve worked through the menus and configured the camera to your liking it’s simple to use—just hit the big record button on the top to shoot stills or to start recording video. During my time with the camera, Insta360 released two firmware updates, so with any luck, the user experience will continue to improve.
The 1″-type sensor is somewhat unique, given that most action cameras have smaller sensors.
For video shooting, you’ll likely want to use the Insta360 all-purpose tripod or the selfie-stick. The camera includes Insta360’s FlowState image stabilization, and you can shoot without it and still get stable footage, but I found it more comfortable to have a grip to hold onto while shooting.
Using the all-purpose tripod or the selfie-stick also helps give you a wider view of a scene—especially important if you are shooting with the dual-lens 360 mod and looking to avoid unattractive under the chin angles. For shooting stills, I found that I preferred to just carry the camera in-hand; it’s quite small, which makes it ideal for street photography.
|The 1-Inch module is small enough to keep in your pocket for street photography.|
Although the camera has the ability to shoot Raw photos, there’s a noticeable lag time between hitting the record button and the photo being saved to the card. The JPEG images on the 1-Inch mod produced file sizes that averaged around 6 MB without any noticeable lag.
I also had a chance to test the 360 mod. Although the One R is aimed at enthusiasts, I think the 360 mod could be used as an interesting creative tool by professionals for capturing BTS footage or unique perspectives at large events like trade shows, festivals, or parades—whenever those high-density events come back. The 360 mod can also be used as a webcam, although its behavior can be a bit unpredictable; it’s intriguing tech considering the increased demand for quality live streaming content.
The camera is quite small, which makes it ideal for street photography.
If you’re shooting 360 video and not live streaming, you can use the app to do things like reframe your footage, add music, create a multi-view and make color and exposure adjustments. Within the app, you can also export footage to platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
I took the the One R’s dual-lens 360 camera on a drive through Brooklyn to see how it performed on New York’s potholed streets.
The camera hides itself in 360 footage, but there will usually be some distortion of the user’s hands when the footage is stitched together, not an uncommon problem with these sorts of devices. The app makes the process of shooting and editing in 360 a lot easier, but it’s also your only option—you won’t be able to do anything with the 360 files without running them through the Insta360 app first.
The camera is capable of continuous recording as long as you have power and available card capacity to continue recording. However, footage will be segmented into files. When shooting 5K/30p, 4K/50p or 3K/100p the camera will start a new file after 30 minutes. When recording 4K/30p, it will start a new file after 90 minutes.
The battery is rated at 1190mAh, but if you are shooting a lot of video, that will get used up quickly. For example, when I filmed the band in the video (below) I started with a full charge, but found the battery in the red zone after filming a 30-minute set. It’s possible to power the camera via USB while it’s running, but that’s not always the most convenient arrangement for what is essentially an action camera.
Image and Video Quality
Although the UI on the Insta360 One R leaves something to be desired, I was impressed by the quality of the footage that this camera could capture.
I used the One R’s 1-Inch mod to capture this band in difficult lighting.
On the video side of things, I enjoyed setting it up as a BTS camera. The preamps were good enough to capture decent audio during a band’s livestream performance, and the 1″-type sensor on the 1-Inch Edition made for visuals that held up even in a difficult lighting situation. During my time using the 1-inch module, I didn’t notice any issues with rolling shutter.
I also used the 1-Inch Edition to capture BTS footage during a portrait shoot. The wide 14.4mm (equiv.) lens made it easy to capture the entire studio set up in a single frame while keeping the camera close by. Although you can pull footage directly off of the cards, it seems best to use the app to process it. Luckily, there’s an option in the app to restore footage back to its original capture state, so the process remains non-destructive.
I captured this behind the scenes time-lapse of a photoshoot using the 1-Inch Edition. The wide lens made it easy to capture the entire studio space.
360 video has to be processed inside the app and can be exported at 3K, 4K or 5.7K, or for a much faster export at 960P. Keep in mind that 360 footage may appear strange if you view it outside of the Insta 360 app, but once you upload it to a platform that can handle 360 video (like YouTube), you’ll be able to view the scene in 360. Although the camera can shoot and process 5.7K video, once you upload the footage to a platform like YouTube, it will be viewable as 4K.
On the stills side, the Insta360 One R does a very nice job—the wide 14.4mm lens on the 1-Inch mod provides an almost fisheye view. (Note: if you don’t love the fisheye view, a lens correction can be enabled in the app.) I loved the vibrant colors that I got while shooting with the Insta360 One R. Its small size makes it useful for discrete street photography as well.
Who’s it for?
If you can get past the clumsiness of the Insta360 One R’s user interface and menu system, it’s a versatile tool for content creators. The build quality is generally good, but we wish the microSD card slot’s door had been sturdier. Swapping out camera modules was easy to do.
We’re hopeful that future firmware upgrades will make the menu and touchscreen on the camera easier to use. Ultimately, the video footage and stills that we were able to create with the Insta360 One R were quite good. The 360 module has some interesting creative capabilities, and we liked the wide-angle on the 1-Inch module. The mic quality was good enough to clearly capture audio during a live performance too. At $550 for the 1-Inch module, it’s certainly not the cheapest action cam on the market, but it does have one of the nicer lenses, and if you invest in the other mods, it’s a very versatile tool.
What we like:
- Modular system is flexible and versatile
- 1″-type sensor on an action camera is unique
- Well-designed app
- Good in difficult lighting situations (for an action camera)
What we’d like to see improved:
- Micro SD/USB-C cover breaks easily
- Menu system is difficult to navigate quickly
- Limited battery life