Insta360 One R Review: An Action Camera With a Twist


The Insta360 One R debuted in February 2020 and was touted as an all-in-one modular action camera that can transform from a 4K wide-angle camera into a 360 camera – or even into a one-inch camera with an ultra-wide Leica lens.

From left to right: The Insta360 Core Module attached to the 4K Mod, the 360 Mod, and the One-Inch Leica Mod.

The Insta360 One R is supposed to be the ultimate action camera alternative to GoPro models and the DJI Osmo Action. But how does this camera hold up in practice, and does it deliver on its promise of being the ultimate all-in-one action camera?

Read this Insta360 One R review to find out!

Recent firmware updates

When the Insta360 One R first came out, some initial reviewers reported technical problems with the camera, such as bugs and low external microphone sound quality. Fortunately, Insta360 responded very quickly to these problems by issuing several firmware updates. A recent firmware update (version 1.2.13) came out in September 2020 and fixed many of these issues.

So if you read a previous negative review of the Insta360 One R, it’s worth revisiting the camera, since improvements have been made over the past few months.

How the Insta360 One R works

Unlike other action cameras, the Insta360 One R is made of 3 pieces: the Core Module with a touchscreen live view display, the camera module, and an 1190 mAh lithium-ion battery base that holds the two Mods together.

The Camera Module can be swapped out for one of three different options: the 5.7K 360 Mod (7.2mm focal length, f/2.0), a 4K wide-angle Mod (16.4mm focal length, f/2.8), or a One-Inch Mod (14.4mm focal length, f/3.2). The touchscreen block can also be attached to the screen facing forward or backward, which is useful for vlogging situations.

The camera’s battery base can be charged via a USB-C cable. It takes roughly 65 minutes to charge fully. You can also get an optional double battery base hub for faster charging. Battery life is rated at about 70 minutes while shooting at 4K/60p. There’s a single micro-USB card slot, and the camera accepts memory cards up to 256 GB.

Which Mods should you get?

There are several different ways to purchase the Insta360 One R.

The Insta360 One R Twin Edition is the most popular option, as it comes with both the 5.7K 360 Mod and the 4K wide-angle Mod. If you want to add the One-Inch Mod, you can purchase it separately to add to your Twin Edition set.

Alternatively, you can buy the Insta360 One R 1-inch edition if you don’t want the extra two Mods. In practice, I found the 360 Mod and the One-Inch Mod to be the most used of the three.

Photo and video capabilities

Like most action cameras on the market, the Insta360 One R can shoot both videos and photos (JPEG and DNG format). The recent September firmware update introduced PureShot, a new AI-powered shooting mode for creating HDR-like photos when editing images via the Insta360 smartphone app.

But while the photo modes on the Insta360 One R are good, the camera excels at video.

Insta360 One R review
Image taken with the Insta360 One R and the 4K Mod before Pure Shot was added.
Insta360 One R sample image
Image taken with the Insta360 One R and the 4K mod after Pure Shot was added.

Note that image quality and resolution depend on which Mod you use. The 4K wide-angle Mod is equivalent to 16.4mm at f/2.8. It produces 12-megapixel photos, as well as videos at up to 4K/60p, plus high-definition slow motion at 1080p and 200fps.

The Dual-Lens 360 Mod is equivalent to 7.2mm at f/2.0. It produces 18.4-megapixel photos, as well as videos at up to 5.7K/30p, though it can also shoot 100fps at 3K.

The One-Inch Leica Mod uses a 14.4mm equivalent wide-angle lens. It can shoot at up to 5K/30p, as well as 4K/60p.

Insta360 One R sample photo
Taken with the Insta360 One R using the Leica One-Inch Mod.

Compact size, but…

Despite there being many pieces to this camera, it is very compact when it is assembled. The size and weight of the Insta360 One R is comparable to your average action camera.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks to the modular nature of this camera.

First, it takes time to take the camera apart if you ever need to swap out the lens or rearrange the position of the touchscreen.

Second, although there is a nice rubber protective sleeve for the 360 Mod, no carrying case for the camera Mods is included, so you’ll have to come up with your own solution.

Action-ready

Since the Insta360 One R is an action camera, it is waterproof up to five meters and can withstand most rugged conditions, though you’ll want to make sure that your Mods are tightly snapped together and assembled in the included mounting bracket before throwing it in the water.

For those wanting to dive even deeper, there’s an optional Dive Case that lets you submerge the camera at up to 60 meters.

Speaking of the bracket:

You’ll have to use it if you want to add a GoPro-like connection point for sticking the camera on a handle or tripod. No tripod or GoPro mount is built into the camera itself.

Insta360 One R sample photo
Sample image taken with the Insta360 One R and the 4K Mod.

Usability

The Insta360 One R can be controlled via the Core Mod’s touchscreen display, or by connecting to the Insta360 smartphone app via Bluetooth. I found the touchscreen display to be the fastest and easiest way to control the camera.

Touchscreen responsiveness is excellent, but the menu differs from that of other action cameras and is not the most intuitive. That said, it’s easy to use once you learn where all of the features are.

Digital lenses for “zooming”

One of the best features of the Insta360 One R is the ability to use built-in digital lenses. You can choose from ultra-wide, wide, linear, and a narrow field of view when shooting both photos and videos. This adds some flexibility to the otherwise fixed lens on the Camera Mod.

Ability to add an external mic

The internal microphones on the Insta360 One R are okay, but there is a lot of noise when you are moving with the camera. If you plan to vlog with this camera and/or want the very best sound, using an external microphone is your best option.

Like other action cameras on the market, the Insta360 One R does not have a built-in mic jack, but you can add one by purchasing a mic jack adapter. This tiny adapter does not add much bulk or weight to the camera, though it can be easy to misplace. Using an adapter lets you add an external microphone such as a shotgun mic or a wireless mic to enhance sound.

When using an external mic, there’s a handy icon that appears on the camera’s display to verify that the mic is connected. Early reviews reported that external mic levels were too low, but that problem has been corrected as of the September 2020 firmware update.

Image quality and color

Considering that this is a first-generation camera, the image quality for both videos and photos is impressive.

However, as mentioned previously, the Insta360 One R is a video camera first, and that’s where its strengths are concentrated. You can shoot in a flat video mode and apply your own LUT or color grading in post-production. Or you can choose from a color profile built into the camera. New in the recent firmware update is a Vivid color profile, as well as AquaVision, which uses AI to color-correct video shot underwater.

Related to video quality, the Insta360 One R now records video as a .MP4 file as a default. This makes it easier to edit the videos in your video editing software of choice. Prior to the September firmware update, the camera only recorded in a proprietary .INSV video file, which could only be read by the Insta360 Studio app.

Video stabilization

The Insta360 One R provides silky-smooth video footage via FlowState Stabilization, meaning you don’t need to use a gimbal with this camera.

Just note that the stabilization is added in post-production. This means that you must import the video footage into the Insta360 Studio app to enable stabilization, and then export it into your video editing software of choice. This extra step can be a workflow hurdle if you prefer using a single application to edit your videos.

On the plus side, Insta360 has released updates that allow you to add stabilization via Adobe Premiere or Final Cut X. In my experience with Final Cut X, this integration is laggy and not quite usable, but that will likely be fixed in a future firmware update.

Insta360 One R
Sample photo taken with the Insta360 One R and the 360 Mod.

Use it as a webcam

Also new as of the September firmware update:

The Insta360 One R can be used as a webcam when connected to a Mac or PC. In this work-from-home age of Zoom calls and FaceTime, this is a pretty cool feature, especially since the webcam can be used with the 360 Mod to show a split-screen effect of your surroundings.

When using the 4K wide-angle Mod, the webcam also has an automatic face-tracking effect that can follow you as you move around a room. These features are best demonstrated in video format, but they add an extra layer of fun to otherwise monotonous webcam experiences.

Zero bugs

During my month of vigorously using the Insta360 One R, I was pleased to experience no bugs or glitches when using the camera. It was very responsive and did exactly what I asked it to with no delays or problems. While I might’ve just gotten lucky, this was a welcome seamless experience, given the bugs that tend to be present in other action cameras (e.g., GoPro).

High quality and affordable optional hardware

In addition to the camera Mods, there are lots of useful Insta360 One R accessories that may be worth buying, depending on how you plan to use the camera. The fast-charging hub or boosted battery is a good add-on to ensure that you have enough power for a full day of shooting. Also, the Invisible Selfie Stick is handy, not only for shooting 360 videos, but also for regular use as a handgrip or selfie stick.

There are also dive cases for the 4K Mod and the 360 Mod to dive even deeper (up to 60 meters), rugged lens protectors for the 360 Mod lenses, and an aerial Mod to add the Insta360 One R to a drone.

A few drawbacks

Like any other camera, the Insta360 One R comes with a few drawbacks to consider:

If you need a mount, you must use the Insta360 One R in a case

The Insta360 One R must be placed in a mounting bracket to use it with a tripod. This can be cumbersome when trying to place the One-Inch Mod in the bracket and doing a lens Mod change.

(Here’s a quick tip for working with the One-Inch Mod: Unscrew the lens to get it to fit!)

Certain features are only unlocked when editing in the app

The Insta360 One R can shoot time lapses, star lapses, and can even use a cool feature called Bullet Time that produces a drone-like circling effect on a subject. There are also some creative video editing effects that can be applied to videos in post-production. However, the resulting videos cannot be previewed on the camera. You must use either the Insta360 phone app or the Insta360 Studio app to get the desired effects.

This can be a drawback if you would rather use your own editing software of choice and not deal with an intermediary step.

Insta360 One R desktop editing program
Insta360 Studio desktop editing program

An uncertain future

Even though the Insta360 One R isn’t even a year old, it’s still fair to question its future. Will this first-generation camera get an update? If so, what’s the timeline, and will the update take full advantage of the modular camera setup?

Ideally, you could reuse certain Mods and not have to buy them again when a newer version comes out. But since this is a first-gen camera, it’s hard to say what direction the company will go in.

Insta360 One R Review: Conclusion

Future speculation aside, the Insta360 One R delivers on its promise of being a unique, all-in-one action camera.

The ability to go from a wide-angle lens to a 360 lens using the same camera is extremely convenient, and other action camera companies should take note.

You can purchase the Insta360 One R here for just under $500 USD.

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