Insta360 One is a very interesting 360° camera concept. On my blog I focused on 360° action cams and didn’t cover the cameras you plug in your smartphones, as I want to use the cameras mounted and without phone. Insta360 One combines these two worlds as you can use the cam without phone, even within an underwater case, or plug it into your phone to get additional features.
So why could this be the future of action cameras? It’s not just taking a 360° video, it’s having 360° video information available for editing! Here comes the feature “Free Capture” into play. You setup Insta360 One and record your video, no need to change angels during recording. Afterwards you frame your shot for a traditional video. So you can decide later which of your footage is suited better: Pointing the camera forward to e.g. see the road or backwards to e.g. see the driver.
There’s also a second feature benefiting from 360° video information available: image stabilization. Usually a camera would record a frame lower than the sensor space, so there’s additional information to stabilise you shot. With a 360° video all image information is available, the camera just needs to stabilise the footage grabbing the info from the gyro sensor – no gimbal needed!
Insta360 One Specs
Sensor & Processor
Insta360 One holds two 1/2.3″ Sony CMOS sensors and an Ambarella processor (currently I’m not sure which type is used).
There are 2 lenses have an aperture of f/2.2 offering a full 360° spherical view.
Video Resolution & Frame Rate:
- 3840 x 1920 – 30fps
- 2560 x 1280 – 60fps
- 2048 x 512 – 120fps – bullet time, more on that in the functions section.
Livestreaming is available up to 4K 3840 x 1920 and is compatible with YouTube, Facebook, Periscope, Twitter and Weibo.
Supported video formats are insv, mp4, LOG.
Electronic Image Stabilization
Insta360 One offers 6-axis gyro-based image stabilization. The gyro is collecting data on camera movement which is used to electronically correct the image to stabilise it. The great advantage of 360° cameras is that all the image information from around the camera is available and just needs to be levelled.
Max. photo resolution is 24MP (6912 x 3456) available formats are .jpg, RAW (DNG) and insp.
Insta360 One doesn’t hold a display, you can change settings and preview the image on your phone, either connected directly or wirelessly.
The camera holds a built-in 820 mAh battery which lasts for approx. 70 min of video recording.
microSD cards class U3 are required, max. 128 GB cards are supported.
Connectivity & Ports:
Insta360 One can be remote controlled via Bluetooth, but there is no live preview. The cam is not equipped with wifi, to transfer your videos/photos to your phone you have to plug it in.
The camera offers a microUSB port for charging.
On the bottom of the camera is a 1/4″ standard photo tripod thread for mounting.
The currently available iOS version features a fold out Apple Lightning plug to connect. Supported devices are iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPhone 6 s/6 s Plus, iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPad Pro(10.5-inch), iPad Pro (9,7-inch), iPad Pro (12,9-inch), iPad Air 2.
There is no Android version available, but an adapter with either microUSB or USB-C connector for your phone.
Software / App
The Insta360 One app is available for iOS and Android. Insta360 Studio and Insta360 Player desktop software is available for Windows and Mac.
Dimensions & Weight:
Dimensions: 96 x 36,5 x 25 mm (LxWxH)
The standard packaging contains the camera, a fishline (for bullet time effect), a micro USB cable, lens cleaning cloth and manual. The included hard cover of the camera can also be used as a stand.
Optional accessories by Insta360 include:
- Android Adapter – microUSB or USB-C adapter
- Underwater Case
- Invisible Selfie Stick
- Bluetooth Remote
- Insta360 Store: 13 USD – Amazon: n/a
- Bullet Time Bundle – Selfie Stick and Handle
Retailer / Price Comparison
- Insta360 Website: 299.00 USD
- Gearbest: 268.00 USD – Coupon Code: 360CAMERAI
- Banggood: 342.99 USD
- TomTop: 299.00 USD
- Geekbuying: n/a
Body & Functions
Front- and backside of Insta360 One hold a small LED to indicate recording. On top of the camera is one button which acts as power button and shutter. Under the small hole on the other side sits the microphone. On the bottom of the camera there is the Apple Lighting plug that pops out, the micro USB port for charging and a small reset button. One side features the microSD card slot and the standard 1/4″ photo tripod thread. The other side holds a small speaker.
3 Main Operation Modes
You can use Insta360 One without being connected wirelessly or plugged into your phone. Therefore the button on top is used for different operations. When you press it once, while the camera is in standby, it takes a photo and the LED flashes. Press it twice to start / stop video recording, the LED stays solid green during recording. There are different settings when pressing the button 3 times, which you can select in the app beforehand: Time-lapse video, Self-timer (3, 5 & 10 sec.), Bullet Time or Time-lapse photo.
When you connect Insta360 One and your phone via bluetooth you can change the settings and remote control the camera. Unfortunately there is no live preview image on your phone. After a photo is taken you can see it in low resolution on your screen, to see the full resolution image you have plug the camera into your smartphone.
Besides your smartphone there is also a bluetooth shutter available to take photos/videos remotely.
If Insta360 One is plugged into your phone you can access all the settings as well as photos and videos recorded on the microSD card. A live view preview is available and you can take photos and record videos using the shutter button on your display. Livestreaming is only available when Insta360 One is plugged in.
Same also when plugged it, you can trigger photos and start/stop videos with a bluetooth remote controller.
Electronic Image Stabilisation – FlowState Stabilization
As already mention one of the great features of this camera is electronic image stabilization. How do traditional cameras handle EIS? The take a framing a bit smaller than the actual sensor capability and use the additional information to level the video with the data they gain from sensors. Now with 360° cameras the image information from all around the camera is available and the firmware can level the video. In March 2018 Insta360 publish a firmware update and brought their stabilisation to a new level. They call it FlowState Stabilization and it works awesomely well, you really don’t need a gimbal to get smooth videos in 360° or traditional!
SmartTrack follows any subject to give you a classic-sized video (non 360) where they’re always center-frame as you move around the camera.
With free capture you record a 360° video, so you got all angles needed. Later on you edit a non-360 video on your phone by choosing the best angle. You can pan/tilt around your recording to get the best shot and share it immediately from your phone to your social media channels. This is a feature GoPro is very keen on and featured in detail at every GoPro Fusion presentation. They call it Over Capture.
Remember the epic bullet time effect from “The Matrix” movie? Insta360 One has a feature to achieve this effect. You just have to swing around Insta360 One around yourself and it creates a 240fps (= 8x slow motion) clip. The camera itself records 2048 x 512 at 120fps and the clip is interpolated to 240fps.
Invisible Selfie Stick
Insta360 created a special selfie stick which is invisible to Insta360 One. It seems like the camera is flying aside you.
The App is an essential part with 360° cameras and their features. Beforehand Insta360 one app works really great when compared to Xiaomi Mijia 360 MiSphere app e.g. The handling, image/video processing and features are strongly related to a good working app. As mentioned there are 2 operation modes: either plugged into a smartphone or wireless.
Wireless use (Bluetooth)
If there’s one thing that bothers me with the app, it’s the fact that there is no live preview when controlling the camera wirelessly. It’s not that big of a deal as the camera records a 360° image, but still it would be nice to check framing and some details. Besides that you can change the settings of the camera for photo and video (incl. Timer, Exposure, White Balance, RAW, Resolution,…) and for Time-lapse or interval shooting the desired shooting time and frame interval. After taking a photo (via button on screen or volume button of the phone) you can see a very low res preview. To access the full resolution photo you have to connect phone and camera.
When you connect camera and phone you see several more options. On the bottom there are 3 main categories: Explorer where you can access the photo platform of Insta360 and check out photos from other users. Album where you can see your own photos and videos. You can download them onto your phone for editing. RAW photos are greyed out and can’t be downloaded. And there is the settings section where you can do basic settings of the camera. It is also important to check the settings before using the camera without connecting as you can select options when double or tripple-tabbing the shutter button. You can also link your social accounts (Facebook, Youtube, Weibo,…) to upload your photos and videos. When pressing the photo button you access the live preview where you can change camera settings.
When you plug your camera into your smartphone and browse your album to open up a photo it is automatically downloaded to your phone. RAW photos can’t be displayed nor downloaded. You need to edit them on a computer (See Insta360Studio Software). On top, next to the date and time the photo was taken, you can see two icons. First one is for sharing to several social media platforms. You can enter your login data in the general settings of the app. After selecting a platform (Facebook shown below) you have several options according to this platform. You can choose a style: Multiview, which is little planet e.g., 360° picture or animation. Picture description which will be posted, can be added here and you can define where it should be posted: Your timeline, your Facebook Page or into a Facebook group. The settings next to it offer a few general selections such as gyro (for viewing) if you prefer that rather than scrolling with your finger. You can optimise stitching which will give you a bit better result or select waterproof case stich when the camera was placed inside the case.
On the bottom you have some more editing features like applying filters (similar to Instagram), sticker or SnapShot which is basically a screenshot without data displayed.
When you download you video to your phone you first have some basic options for editing (icons on top). You can apply filters, change the playback speed, trim your videos and – a great option – add music to your videos. Below you can see the timeline of your video. Next item on top is the button for sharing to several social media platforms, similar to photo screen (not shown). Also similar to sharing photos you have different options for each platform like sharing a FixFrame video (e.g. traditional 16:9) or a 360° video. You can add a video description & tags – super convenient sharing process overall! Last icon in the top row is for settings. You can turn on/off stabilization, add the Insta360 Logo to your recordings, optimise stitching or clear all FreeCapture settings. The icon on the lower right side is for screen in screen video where you can display two sections of your video. You can adapt the format in several ways.
The FreeCapture settings also include Smart Tracking. Press onto the video for a bit and 3 options appear on the screen: ViewFinder, Pivot Point and SmartTrack:
- Viewfinder: using this feature will display a traditional 16:9 video and works similar to a viewfinder on a camera. You can press the record button and move your phone. The motion will be tracked and the part you see will be exported into a traditional 16:9 video. You can also zoom out for a little planet or angel view video.
- Pivot Point: is pretty similar to setting key points in an animation. Choose your desired point and section of the view and set a pivot point. Move along on your timeline as long you wish the transition should last, change the section and set the next pivot point. The app will generate a video and include the transition from one point to the next.
- SmartTrack: If you want yourself or an object centred in the shot simply choose the image section and activate SmartTrack. A yellow circle will appear around the marked spot and the video plays along with the object (or yourself) beeing tracked. You can stop it if you only wish to activate it for a port of the video.
In the timeline on the bottom you can see all FreeCapture settings. You can click them, change or remove them as you like. Or simply preview the video with your changes. After you are finished you can share the video or render ti your camera roll on your phone.
Insta360Studio Workflow (Desktop Software)
Currently FlowState Stabilisation is not available within the Desktop Software. As I expect some changes with the new software update, I’ll add that info later. Basically you have similar options, but a bit less than in the app. On the other side it might be easier for you to stich photos/videos with faster processor, especially if you do additional edition with a photo or video editing software.
If you are into 360° videos or photos (e.g. for real estate photos, POV,…) Insta360 One is a great camera that provides a super fast workflow. Capture, also as standalone solution or wireless controlled, and then plug it into your phone for super fast transfer, editing and sharing. No need to transfer the data via wifi which takes some time and can be bothersome as I experienced with competitor cameras. The app is a great support and constantly updated, that’s an important factor.
The future of action cameras? Well, depends on what you are recording. I think 360° photos and videos are a bit overused. They show very interesting content on one side of the photo/video, but a total useless content on the backside. You can do that with a traditional camera. Picture yourself somewhere in football stadium, race track, concert,…: You are watching the game/race/concert facing forward, only a max. 180° of your field of view is interesting to watch. You don’t constantly look backwards at the other spectators, maybe now and then a bit. A traditional video makes more sense, you are the director, show your viewers the interesting parts. Choose 360° videos only for situations when the viewer really has a benefit of looking around himself like in the race car’s driver seat, mounted on a helmet of a player, on stage to let them enjoy the view.
So is it still interesting? Yes! As it also offers you new possibilities for traditional videos. You have the 360° video information, so stabilization is a lot better for traditional videos, you don’t need a gimbal. You can choose the field of view after recording, that’s great especially when you action cam is mounted and you can’t access it during recording. E.g. you are in a roller coaster. Afterwards you can choose either to show the track (forward facing view) and then switch to the reaction of the riders. You don’t have to do that during recording. And that’s why Insta360 One is such a great option. You can do a 360° video if it’s interesting or a traditional video with more possibilities than a traditional camera.
RAW photo option
Livestream (various platforms)
Free Capture – reframe your video after recording
Bullet Time – great effect
Stunning Image Stabilisation – no gimbal needed
Waterproof case – use in tough situations
Super fast file transfer when plugged into your phone
No live preview wirelessly
Built-in battery – can’t use spare battery
Flimsy phone connector
Here’s a comparison chart of different 360° cameras:
|Insta360 One||Xiaomi Mijia||GoPro Fusion||YI 360 VR||Ricoh Theta V||Gear 360 (2016)||Gear 360 (2017)|
|Sensor||2x Sony Sensor||2x 16 MP Sensor|
Sony IMX 206
|2x ?||2x 12 MP Sensor|
Sony IMX 377
|2 x 12 MP Sensor||2x 15 MP Sensor||2x 8.4 MP Sensor|
|Processor||Ambarella||Ambarella A12||?||Ambarella H2V95||?||DRIMe5s||DRIMe5s|
|max. 360° Video Resolution||3840 x 1920 (30fps)||3456 x 1728 (30 fps)||5228 x 2624 (30fps)||5760 x 2880 (30fps)||3840 x 1920 (30fps)||3840 x 1920 (30fps)||4096 x 2048 (24fps)|
|Live Stream||3840 x 1920 (30fps)||n/a||?||3.840 x 1.920 (30fps)|
|max. Photo Resolution||6912 x 3456|
|6912 x 3456|
|approx. 6000 x 3000|
|5760 x 2880|
|5376 x 2688|
|7776 x 3888|
|5472 x 2736
|Display||no display||no display||data display||data display||no display||data display||data display|
|1350 mAh||1160 mAh|
(can connect to Smartphone via plug)
|5m without case||no||underwater case||IP53|
|Dimension||96 x 36,5 x 25 mm||78 x 67.40 x 24 mm||73 x 75 x 39mm||102 x 53.2 x 29.6 mm||130,6 x 45,2 x 22,9 mm||56.3 x 66.7 x 60.1 mm||100.6 x 46.3 x 45.1 mm|
|Weight||83 g||108,3 g||200g||170g||121g||152 g||130 g|
|Price||Amazon: $299.00||Gearbest: 265.99 USD||Amazon: $699.00||Amazon: $399.99||Amazon: $396.95||Amazon: $68.00||Amazon: $115.00|
Retailer / Price Comparison
- Insta360 Website: 299.00 USD
- Gearbest: 269.00 USD – Coupon Code: 360CAMERAI
- Banggood: 342.99 USD
- TomTop: 299.00 USD
- Geekbuying: n/a