Product Reviews

Insta360 One R: The Modular Action Cam That Does Everything (and More)

James Bruce 24-01-2020
Our verdict of the Insta360 One R Twin Edition:
If you're only going to take one camera, make it the One R. An innovative modular design, AI editing and the best quality footage yet make this a must-buy for action camera and 360 fans.
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Having perfected the art of affordable and feature-packed 360 and VR180 cameras, Insta360 is taking on the action cam market. As expected, they’ve blown away expectations with a unique modular design that doesn’t compromise on price or features. Meet the Insta360 One R; an adaptive camera with AI software that makes editing a breeze. We’ve had our hands on the Twin Edition for a few weeks, so here’s what we think of it.

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Action Cam? 360? Why Not Both!

As well as the best image quality Insta360 has made yet in an affordable and rugged package, the main selling point of the One R is that you don’t need to choose between taking a 360 camera or 4K action cam: you can have both.

insta360 one r with action cam mod
Standard 4K action cam mode, with preview screen on rear.

Swapping out the different mods takes less than 30 seconds, even when it’s all bundled up in the rugged case.

insta360 one r with dual lens mod
Dual-lens mod equipped for 360 shooting

Not only that, but if you want to use the action cam for vlogging, you can flip the screen module around to see a live preview. The preview screen also works for 360 shooting, so you can check exposure and such before recording.

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insta360 one r with vlog mode
Reverse the screen module when used with the 4K mod for use when vlogging

What’s In The Box?

In the Insta360 One R Twin Edition you’ll find:

  • Battery base
  • Camera module with touchscreen
  • Dual-lens 360 mod with lens cover
  • Reversible 4K wide-angle action cam mod
  • Case with standard 2-to-3 mounting point
  • Tripod thread adaptor

Available separately, you can also purchase additional lens guards for the 360-mod (pictured below), and an invisible selfie stick. The 4K action cam mod doesn’t require additional protection. There are additional modules to be released at a later date.

Insta360 One R: The Modular Action Cam That Does Everything (and More) insta360 one r 360 lens protector

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Note: we were given prototype hardware to review, and you may notice small differences to the final production device from that in the photos here. 

Insta360 One R Specifications

  • 4K Action cam: f2.8 16.4mm equivalent. Up to 3840 x 2860 (4k) @60FPS with motion smoothing. HDR drops this down to 30FPS.
  • Dual-lens 360 mod: f2.0 7.2mm equivalent. Max 5.7K resolution @ 30FPS; 4K@50FPS; 3K @100FPS.
  • 1190mAh battery; 65 min charging time (USB-C).
  • Waterproof to 5m (deeper with a dive case available later)
  • Dimensions: 72 x 48 x 32.4mm (with 4K mod, 360 is slightly thicker at 43mm)

New and Notable Features

If you’re familiar with the Insta360 range, you’ll already know some of the amazing features offered when shooting with the dual-lens mod. These include the ability to add dynamic timeshifting, hyper lapses, and reframing. You also don’t need to perform any stitching, as this is all handled on camera. These features alone are stunning in their own right, but the One R adds even more.

Point to track, with voice commands. When using the 360 mod, simply point the camera (as indicated by the small triangle above the viewing screen) at your subject, and say “mark that”. The software will follow the subject and intelligently pick them back up if they move out of view. Voice commands also extend to starting and stopping recording when used with any lens.

Flashcut is the new AI editing helper, available on both the desktop and mobile app. The beauty of shooting in 360 is that you don’t need to think about framing shots beforehand; just shoot everything and frame later. But what if you want a compilation of the best bits? Simple: just let Flashcut identify shots automatically, then choose the ones you want to use. The AI identifies features like animals, people, buildings, then saves them for use in Stories. Flashcut works with all the lens mods, but you’ll get the best results from the 360 lens since it has more footage to choose from.

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Insta360 One R: The Modular Action Cam That Does Everything (and More) insta360 one r autocut

Stories is something we first saw on the Insta360 Go; a set of video templates that picks your best shots and edits them into a short video, set to music, with each clip matched on the beat.

Starlapse. My favorite feature so far, Starlapse is a new long-exposure interval shooting mode. Despite terrible internet, rural living has its perks: we’re situated on the edge of the Bodmin Moor dark sky zone, so weather permitting, we have a stunning view of the night sky.

It’s really simple to shoot a Starlapse video: just set up the One R with the dual-lens 360 mod outdoors, plug in an external power bank just in case, and choose the Starlapse preset from the menu. After importing the footage and choosing the Starlapse story mode, you can choose the ideal viewing angle, enable or disable star trails, and a 30 second clip set to music will be output. Stunning. Sadly, I forgot to turn off the power LED, which made its way into this clip. As soon as it stops raining, I’ll have another shot!

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GPS and Stats Dashboard. When connected to your mobile device or the optional GPS remote control, you can enable a stats dashboard on your footage.

Insta360 One-R Video Quality

If the video quality was substandard, nothing else would matter. Thankfully, it’s incredible. Featuring an updated FlowState Stabilization algorithm, it’s also the smoothest yet. Check out the review video, which was almost entirely shot on the One R.

The 4K action cam mod is crystal clear and silky smooth at 60FPS. It’s good enough that I’m seriously considering shooting most videos on this rather than my DSLR. Like any small sensor though, it’ll perform best in well-lit scenes.

In low-light, 4K video is predictably bad; no amount of processing can help there.

Insta360 One R: The Modular Action Cam That Does Everything (and More) insta360 one r night video screengrab
A still screen from 4K video shot in low light.

Photos are much better, but for video output you’ll need to invest in the one-inch mod instead.

Insta360 One R: The Modular Action Cam That Does Everything (and More) insta360 one r night photo
Bracketed exposures mean night time photos are crystal clear (shot in the exact same conditions as the video still from above)

The 360 dual-lens mod shoots in 5.7K, though the best output you’ll get from that is 1080p once you’ve selected the desired angle. Stitching is generally good, but some anomalies are still present, particularly if the sun is bright enough to cause lens flares. For social posts and other HD output, the quality is fine. It’s the features offered by 360 shooting that you’re really after.

The Future of One-R

As a modular design, what you see here isn’t everything Insta360 has planned.

Releasing in February is the 1-inch mod, engineered with Leica. Featuring a larger wide-angle lens and a one-inch image sensor, the module will offer an unparalleled 5.3K resolution action cam with great low-light performance (though the full resolution will only be available at 30FPS).

insta360 1-inch mod

A larger battery pack is also planned (double the capacity, with built-in tripod mount), as well as a VR180 adaptor for the dual-lens 360 mod to shoot stereoscopic scenes.

The One-R is truly shaping up to be one camera to rule them all, and I’m excited to see what else might come in the future.

Perfect For Vlogging

As well as the preview screen, the One-R adds some key audio features that make it perfect for vlogging. With a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor, you can add a wireless LAV mic, or attach a hot-shoe adaptor for use with a shotgun mic. There’s also the option to wireless pair your AirPods if you’re traveling light, and use those as audio input.

The intuitive app then makes it easy to process your shots into a hyper-lapse or story template, without complex editing software. It’s never been easier to produce compelling video content of your adventures, without a computer.

Who Should Buy the Insta360 One R?

Many attempts to offer one device that performs multiple purposes have failed. They are inevitably a jack of all trades, master of none. Not so with the modular Insta360 One R: it’s a master of everything it does, without being twice the price of competitors.

By purchasing directly from Insta360, you can create your own bundle with the exact accessories and modules you need, and remove those you don’t. The Twin Edition package (as reviewed), with 4K and 360 mod, costs under $500. The Expert edition, which swaps out the stand 4K action cam mod for the 1-inch mod, rises to $750.

The clever features are demanding, however. AI editing requires a powerful mobile device with a separate Neural Processing Unit (NPU). My iPhone X is equipped with a first-generation NPU, and even that at times felt painfully slow to analyze long clips. If you have anything less powerful than an iPhone X, you’ll be left wanting to upgrade. The app is compatible with Apple A11 chips and better; while on the Android side, you’ll need at least a Snapdragon 845, Kirin 980, or Exynos 9810.

If you’re not interested in the modular aspect or 360 shooting, and you’re happy with just 4K, a dedicated device may serve you better and allow for redundancy. If you were take a single camera on your epic adventure, only to have it stolen or lost, you’d be up the proverbial creek without any camera to document your lack of paddle. That said, being able to replace parts of the camera if they fail, or incrementally upgrade them is a tremendously useful feature, even if you aren’t interested in 360 shooting.

For the super lazy among us who don’t want the hassle of dealing with action cam mounts or spend more than 5 minutes putting together a video, the Insta360 GO Insta360 GO: The Only Action Cam You'll Ever Need Read More may be more suitable. It’s a tiny little stabilized camera that can be worn on a pendant (or mounted anywhere, in fact), and used discreetly to capture those important moments with a single tap.

You could also consider the Insta360 ONE X.

Enter the Competition!

Insta360 One R Twin Edition Giveaway

Related topics: Action Camera, Filmmaking, MakeUseOf Giveaway, Record Video, Short Films, Slow-Motion Video.

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  1. Cindy
    February 25, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Hi, may I know when will the winner for the giveaway be announced and where can we view it? Thanks!

    • James Bruce
      February 26, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Good point Cindy, I'm afraid it's been a hectic week and I completely forgot! I've run it now, you can see the winner in the widget above. Thanks!

  2. alex
    February 3, 2020 at 3:35 am

    sorry throwaway twitter accounts are not allowed? WTF? You mean my twitter account that is 10 years old this June and I have over 2600 tweets? that's a throwaway account???

    • James Bruce
      February 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

      Sorry Alex, the algorithm that Gleam uses to figure out what constitutes a throwaway account is understandably a secret - we don't know why it happens either. But if you only enter competitions and have very few "real" tweets, that seems to trigger it.

  3. Man Bahadur Rai
    January 25, 2020 at 1:15 am

    This is great device with great specifications.