Given Insta360’s product release history, I was expecting another great innovation on their impressive Insta360 ONE X product. A powerful 360-degree camera, the Insta360 ONE X instantly became a consumer favorite after it was launched at CES 2019. While there were rumblings of a modular camera, it felt, to me, more likely that the company would rather iterate on its ONE X with improved specs, longer battery life, and lighter form factor. Instead, Insta360 provided a ground-breaking and market redefining product: the Insta360 ONE R.
The reason why I didn’t necessarily believe the rumors was that it felt impossible. Interchangeable lenses are part and parcel of what makes DSLRs so attractive, but the necessarily small form factor of 360-degree and action cameras gives little space to do so. Additionally, how would a 2-lens system need for 360-degree capture work in an interchangeable system?
With its modular design, Insta360 ONE R gives the flexibility of an interchangeable system while maintaining the small form factor. Each module is a cube. One lens and one “core” (the camera’s operating system) attach to each other, with lens swapping fairly quick. Even the core could work in multiple orientations, the screen facing either front or back.
In my hands-on, working with the modules was extremely intuitive, simple and secure. After a minute of worrying if I would break the camera, I quickly learned how to change out the 4K wide angle lens with the 360-degree lens with the 1-inch sensor lens. Although detaching the units was simple, it was all secured by a base unit. Rather than feeling like 3 parts, the whole unit felt as sturdy as any other action camera on the market. And even with the ability to mix and match lenses, it has an industry standard waterproofing to 5m.
It was cool that one camera could both have a 360-degree and 4K wide angle lens, but the 1-inch sensor was the most exciting new addition. Able to capture video in 5.3K at 30FPS, the larger sensor means that the Insta360 ONE R can capture content with more information that its competitors. Test images provided by Insta360 showcased an incredible difference in dynamic range, better for both casual and professional consumers. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test out images for ourselves.
While we could play with the dynamic change in form factor, we weren’t able to test out some of the impressive software features available on the convention floor. However, they are worth highlighting because they showcase just how much advanced technology is packed in the small body:
- FlowState Stabilization, Insta360’s proprietary stabilization technology, and voice control make triumphant returns on the ONE R.
- Timeshift and hyperlapse also make their return but have many more use cases now given the ability to use the camera more for action shots.
- Night Shot mode enhances night shooting, a serious improvement from what’s available on the market.
- Autofocus is greatly improved and deep tracking continues to focus on subjects even when they flit in and out of line of sight.
- Better color science straight out of the camera allows for easy and immediate use of images and videos and a new video codec (H.265) captures scenes in much more detail than before.
In the end, what matters most is if the camera can shoot great images and works well for the content you want to create. CES is obviously not a viable place to test the full capabilities of a 360-degree action camera – we can’t wait to get our hands on a unit to add it to our camera kit – but what Insta360 provided was the opportunity to see realized potential. We were able to use the interchangeable lens system, see how it would work, and realize that the ONE R isn’t just one camera, but many. Specs and comparison images demonstrate the actual improvements in image and video quality. Truly, the Insta360 ONE R is revolutionary, redefining what small action-cameras can and should be. Insta360 has always pushed itself to bring the most innovative tech to the consumer; with the Insta360 ONE R, the rest of the industry is challenged to do the same.