If you’re planning your next holiday or just want to capture content on the move, an action camera is a must-buy. Compact and easy to mount, action cameras give you a perspective mirrorless or DSLRs camera just can’t.
Prices and specs vary, from the no-name products you’ll see on Amazon all the way to this, the Insta360 system. Designed to offer both 360-degree footage from a dual-lens module as well as crisp, standard 5K footage from a wide-angle lens, the Insta360 wants to cater to all your video needs. Is it any good, and should you pay the price of two GoPros for it? Keep reading to find out.
What did we test?
Insta360 sets itself apart from the competition by offering a system rather than a single camera. It’s a modular setup; interchangeable lens cubes snap into a screen/memory module, and then both of those snap on to a battery pack. It might sound fiddly, but the Insta360 method comes with some clear advantages.
Its mix-and-match ethos means you can buy the bits you need – but we tested the Ultimate edition, which includes the best of the best. On top of that, we also tried it with the Motorcycle mount pack, to see how it faired when used with two-wheels. For a bike-centric review of the Insta360 system, head over to MCN.
Open one box and you’ll find a Leica-badged 5.3K wide-angle camera, a dual-lens 360-degree camera, two batteries, a memory module and a 32GB MicroSD card. In addition to the hardware, there’s also an ‘invisible’ selfie-stick and frame included – both of which play nicely with GoPro-style mounting points.
Build quality and durability
The Insta360’s vibrant colour scheme sets it apart from the competition, but its intuitive system approach is what makes it truly unique. Our Ultimate edition came with two separate lens modules, and we’ll talk about them separately, below.
The Leica-branded 1-inch module is designed for high-quality wide video, and therefore feature a single large lens and lens cover that can be easily unscrewed. And despite its toy-like proportions, it’s reassuringly tough.
The 360-degree unit uses consists of a pair of fish-eye lens back-to-back, and it’s much smaller than the wide-angle unit. It also comes with a rubber case to prevent scratches when on the move.
As for the modular system? It’s more solid than you’d think; components can be joined and removed without too much effort, but everything clicks together with a reassuring click. What’s more, a latch system connects the battery unit to everything else, so each part is connected in more than one place.
Those gaps don’t harm its weatherproof credentials too much either; the system is waterproof to five metres.
The accessories, a key part of any action camera, are equally robust. The selfie-stick, as well as all the other clasps and cradles, feel bulletproof.
Performance and specs
The 5.3K wide-angle lens is incredibly sharp and delivered clear and accurate footage both in sunny and low-light conditions – partly thanks to its 1-inch sensor. When fixed to a helmet, selfie-stick or harness, it delivers a wide view that crams in everything you’d hope for. More importantly, image quality is sharp, though colours are more neutral than you’d find from a GoPro. Sound is serviceable, though we’d direct you to a separate mic module if it’s a focus.
Specs for both lens modules can be found below.
5.3K 1-inch wide-angle lens
Next to a GoPro Hero or Osmo Action, the Insta360’s dual-lens camera is a total game-changer. Pair it with the invisible selfie stick – which disappears from the footage – mount it in the right place, and you’ll get an incredibly novel viewpoint.
Both lens stitch together to generate seamless footage that you can relive and even look around in. It opens new content opportunities, new recording styles – and it’s pretty spooky.
The key to directing your 360 footage, and stabilising it, is the Insta360 app. It’s not bad on the whole, although less intuitive than GoPro’s offering; the end result is impressive. What’s more, Insta360’s FlowState stabilization keeps things calm, without taking away much from your footage.
With an asking price north of £700, the Insta360 Ultimate edition set isn’t cheap, but it gives you an unparalleled range of options and effects. If you want to spend less, we’d go for the 360 dual-lens and a cheaper wide-angle lens for results that should be comparable. That’ll cost closer to £500, which is very good value compared to the competition.
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Curtis Moldrich has worked in the technology sector for several years, reviewing and testing the best audio gear, laptops and gadgets at titles including The Telegraph, Mixmag and Expert Reviews.
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