Can’t choose between a 4K action camera and a 360º shooter? So why not have both? That’s the thinking behind the Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition, a modular action camera that combines the two biggest trends in consumer videography.
The ONE R is a neat idea in every sense. It’s lightweight and pocket-sized, and yet has a unique look and feel to it. It comes in four parts that neatly interlock; a processor module complete with touchscreen (44g), a dual-lens module for 360º (51g), a 4K-capable module (43g) and a 1190mAh battery base (34g) that joins them all together. Do that and you can have a 4K set-up weighing just 121g with a few extra grams in your pocket if you want to swap quickly to 360º.
Insta360 ONE R: specifications
The ONE R Twin Edition has much more going for it than being super lightweight. For starters, it outputs video using the H.265 codec, and also in the ProRes422 lossless format. Both lenses capture in RAW as well as JPG, and in up to 100mpbs video bitrate. It even has a real-time histogram on the small screen.
It’s also waterproof, despite that clever modular design. It’s able to go underwater to a depth of 5 m/16.4 feet if positioned inside its mounting bracket. As well as making watertight a few nooks and crannies that could otherwise let in water, this tough plastic mounting bracket also adds some extra stability to the modular device. Not that it needs it since the basic interlocking modules don’t wobble or come apart easily. A dedicated Dive Case is also available that that goes down to 60m/196ft.
That mounting bracket also makes it possible to use the device with an ‘invisible’ selfie stick, which is also included in the package but is processed-out of finished images and video.
The two lens modules impress on specs. The 4K Wide Angle Mod is a f/2.0, 16.4mm focal length (35mm equivalent) lens that can snap photos in 12 MP (4:3) and 8MP (16:9) and shoot video in 4K 60fps. It also manages 200fps in full HD, allowing 8x slow-mo footage. Meanwhile, the Dual-Lens 360º Mod is standard Insta360 fare, with its two f/2.8, 7.2mm (35mm equivalent) lenses that together capture everything in 5.7K 30fps.
As a bonus, at some point soon there will be a unique additional lens module available. A wide-angle module co-engineered with Leica and sold as the Insta360 ONE R 1-Inch Edition ($549.99/£456), inside will be a 1-inch sensor capable of shooting 5.3K video at 30fps and 19MP photos through a f/3.2 lens.
Also available are , a 2,380mAh Boosted Battery Case, a 3D Mount for capturing stereoscopic footage, and an External Mic Adaptor (USB-Type C to 3.5mm) for pairing with an external mic such as RODE Wireless Go. Talking of audio, the Insta 360 ONE R captures it using two microphones, and you can also record audio wirelessly using the onboard mics of Apple AirPods.
Although the Insta 360 ONE R has no GPS sensors inside, to overlay a heads-up display of key data onto your videos means buying a dedicated GPS Smart Remote from Insta360, or via an Apple Watch.
Insta360 ONE R: key features
There are various new innovations for Insta360 on the ONE R Twin Edition, such as Color Plus, HDR video and Night Shot, while long-standing features like the six-axis gyroscope FlowState stabilization are present again.
Also here are Auto Frame (AI image recognition that finds and frames where the action is in a live 360º video), Auto TimeShift (a reframed hyperlapse format found in the app’s ‘stories’ section), FlashCut auto-editing (AI image recognition that cuts and combines footage to form a basis for editing), pose detection (an AI-powered subject-tracking algorithm called), Deep Track (select a subject to track and keep in the centre of the frame) and Starlapse (for long exposure night sky shots).
The ONE R Twin Edition also boasts download-free editing so you can edit footage on a phone without downloading it first.
However, to do so successfully you’ll need one of the latest iPhones (iPhone 11/11 Pro/11 Pro Max, iPhone XS/XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8/8 Plus), or a high-end Android camera phones (Huawei Mate20, Huawei P30, Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung S9, S9+, Note9 and newer) to edit videos without suffering from long lags and freeze-ups.
Insta360 ONE R: build and handling
In our initial test we were impressed by how easy the modules snapped together, and how stable they feel once they've been pushed onto the battery module. Not only do they fit together so easily, but the processor/touchscreen can be turned through 180º and snapped into place so that the subject can see what's going on. That ‘selfie mode’ will prove useful for anyone doing a piece to camera.
The main drawback of that touchscreen is its very small size. In fact, it's presented in a 4x3 format measuring just 24 mm on all sides. However, while the 4K module is in place, it's possible to double tap on the tiny screen to zoom in. It works very quickly with no lag. Ditto the user interface, which in our test proved to be lightning fast and, thankfully, extremely easy to navigate despite the plethora of complex features offered.
It’s easy to connect-up the ONE R Twin Edition to a smartphone hosting the all-new Insta360 One R app, with the app finding the camera quickly and putting a live preview on the phone.
When out and about, the 360º module is protected by a U-shaped silicon hood when off the camera and by two snap-on lens caps when on the camera, which is good thinking.
Battery life is about an hour, so serious users are advised to invest in the Boosted Battery Base, particularly since the editing process really saps that battery, and that of a connected smartphone.
Photo and video performance
The versatility of having 360º as well as 4K at your disposal is great, and both lenses here – the 360º and the 4K – are of excellent quality. The audio is good too, although it’s worth using the ‘background noise reduction’ options is you’re filming in a windy place.
The detail in 4K is excellent, though it’s worth engaging ColorPlus modes to extract a little more saturation from some rather muted raw footage. Ditto photos; the color in HDR photos is highly impressive.
Although 360º footage is adequate, those two fisheye lenses are ranged further apart than usual, and it occasionally shows in visible stitching lines on 360º footage. We therefore conclude that despite it outputting in H.265 and in ProRes422, this is not aimed at pro-videographers, but general users – and with plenty of features that vloggers, in particular, will love.
Sample 4K video from Insta360 One R - 360 video reframed to Full HD with FlowState and Noise Reduction turned on
Comparison 4K video from Insta360 One R - 360 video reframed to Full HD without FlowState and Noise Reduction turned off
Insta360 ONE R verdict
Is the Insta 360 ONE R really a pro-grade device? Most pro-videographers will want separate devices for shooting the same scenes in both formats. Besides, the 5.7K capture by the Insta 360 ONE R isn’t really enough for hi-res re-framing; we’re going to have to wait for the arrival of consumer-grade 8K or even 16K 360º cameras for that.
However, there’s a lot to like about the Insta 360 ONE R for general users, and particularly for vloggers. Its versatile design is excellent, as are its HDR photos, the detail in 4K video, and the super-smooth FlowState stabilization across all formats. However, the ability to turn the touchscreen through 180º to face the subject – complete with invisible selfie stick – makes the Insta 360 ONE R a brilliant device for vloggers who want to film on-the-go. Paired with the FlowState stabilization, the results are excellent, and allow the user to bridge the gap between 4K and 360º in style.