Insta360 One RS Review: A modular action camera that can capture literally everything
When you think of action cameras — those small, cube-shaped wide-angle cameras that extreme sports enthusiasts attach on top of their helmets, shoulder, backpacks, and more — the first brand that comes to mind is probably GoPro. But in recent years, GoPro has seen major competition from Insta360, the Chinese upstart brand best known for its highly popular 360-degree cameras. Insta360’s latest product, the One RS is a camera that can transform from a standard action camera to a 360-degree camera via modularity. The concept is original, the hardware well-built, but perhaps more than anything, it’s the brilliant software features that make Insta360 cameras (not just the One RS) so much fun to use.
About this review: Instas360 sent me a One RS Twin Edition to review in early March. Insta360 did not have input in this review.
Insta360 One RS: Pricing and Availability
Insta360 One RS is a modular camera whose pieces can be sold separately or in various combinations. The most common package will be the $549 “Twin Edition,” which includes the core, battery base, and both 4K action lens and 360 camera lenses, along with a mounting bracket. There’s also a $299 “4K Edition” that includes all of the above but omits the 360 lens (which means you’re essentially buying only an action camera); and a $549 “1-inch Edition” that includes the core, battery base and a Leica-branded action lens with a 1-inch sensor.
All of these packages are available for order now on Insta360’s website or Amazon.
Design and Hardware
The Insta360 One RS consists of three parts:
- A core that houses an undisclosed processor, a 1.5-inch screen, microphone, MicroSD card slot, and USB-C port
- A 1,445 mAh battery base
- The camera lens (there are three options)
The trio of lens options includes a 4K wide-angle action lens (officially named 4K Boost lens) that can shoot an equivalent of 16mm focal length; a 360 lens (consisting of two 5.7K fisheye lens each with 180-degree FoV); and a Leica-branded wide-angle 1-inch sensor (this is essentially a superior version of the 4K Boost Lens with a larger sensor that takes in more light).
Insta360 will sell all of the above parts separately as well as in packages that include either just one or a combination of lenses. I tested the “Twin Edition,” which includes the 4K Boost lens and 360 lens, along with a mounting bracket.
All of these parts connect via pin slots (similar to those in 80s/90s Nintendo cartridges) and snap into place with ease. Once connected, the whole kit feels sturdy, as if it’s one piece. When properly connected, the One RS is actually rated IPX8 for water resistance up to 16 feet underwater.
When connected, the Insta360 One RS weighs 121g (4.3oz) and measures 70.1 x 49.1 x 32.6mm. This is a bit bigger and heavier than a standalone action camera like the GoPro Hero 10 Black and DJI Action.
The core features two physical buttons for power and shutter; slots for USB-C and Micro-SD card (both covered by a water-proof flap; a microphone; and a 1.5-inch LCD screen that supports touch and swipes, to navigate through the camera’s UI. Users can directly control the camera by interacting with the touchscreen, or via the Insta360 companion app on their phone. I will talk more about the app in the software section. The screen also serves as a viewfinder, and due to its modular nature, it can be positioned on the same side as the lens (for selfies and vlogs) or on the opposite side (for capturing footage in front of the user).
The 4K Boost lens can snap 48MP still photos or record video up to 4K/60fps under normal mode or 6K/24fps in an anamorphic-like ultra wide-screen mode. The 360 lens, meanwhile, can record 360-degree video up to 5.7K at 30fps, or a lower resolution at up to 100fps.
The 1,445 mAh battery base allows the Insta360 One RS to shoot for around 70 minutes on a single charge.
The One RS, being cube-shaped, can obviously stand up right on surfaces on its own, but most users will want to pair it with a mounting bracket, which is included with the Twin Edition. It’s a quick-release bracket, meaning a press of a button will open a flap through which the Insta360 One RS will slide in and out. The bottom of the mount has a quarter-inch thread, which is the widely used standard for selfie sticks, tripod mounts, etc.
Using the Insta360 One RS
With a built-in mic and a touchscreen that allows easy navigation to all shooting modes, the Insta360 One RS is almost ready to begin filming out of the box — it just needs a MicroSD card, which is a separate purchase. Once that is taken care of, the Insta360 One RS can operate independently as a standalone camera without ever needing a smartphone. You can preview the scene with the built-in screen, record with the press of a button, review the footage captured on the screen and transfer files over to a computer via the MicroSD card.
However, pairing the Insta360 One RS with a smartphone via the Insta360 companion app (available on iOS and Android) make the experience far easier. You get a much larger screen to preview and review footage, for example. The app also offers advanced camera settings like tweaking exposure and white balance, and perhaps most useful of all, you can control the Insta360 One RS remotely with the phone. You don’t have to touch the camera itself to change shooting modes or begin recording. I will talk about the Insta360 app more in the software section right after this one.
With the 4K Boost lens, the One RS is a fairly typical action camera, meaning it captures a sweeping field-of-view with everything in focus. There’s optical stabilization inside the lens, but Insta360’s software stabilization is excellent too, as footage comes out mostly stable and smooth even when I’m walking, riding a bicycle, or running full speed. Because of the ultra-wide 16mm focal length, I can hold the One RS with my hands, arm extended, and still get my entire head and shoulder in the frame for vlogs. Adding a selfie stick obviously helps matters and make for a wider framing that shows not just me, but my background. The internal mic does a decent job capturing my voice, and Insta360’s software will automatically apply a de-noising algorithm to remove background sounds — although this leaves my voice sounding digitalized.
Below is a collection of 4K Boost lens footage, captured in daytime and nighttime. Notice how the stabilization is really good even as I’m running full speed. Dynamic range is excellent during the daytime footage too. At night, obviously, video quality takes a hit, with noticeable noise.
Switch to the 360 lens and the Insta360 One RS can capture 360-degree footage up to 5.7K. Like almost all 360 cameras, the footage here is just two 180-degree super fisheye videos stitched together, and Insta360’s software does a good job of hiding the stitch line. This shouldn’t be a surprise, because 360 cameras are ultimately Insta360’s main claim to fame. Its standalone 360 camera, the One X2, is widely considered the best consumer-grade 360 camera on the market. The 360 lens in the One RS is actually identical to the One X2’s lens, so you’re getting the exact same 360-degree footage.
While 360-degree videos can be viewed with a VR headset or on YouTube, I prefer to reframe 360-degree videos into a conventional video for uploading to Instagram. To that end, Insta360 built this creative software trick that lets me pan around an existing 360-degree footage, set framing as I see fit, and then render a regular video with those camera movements. Below is a sample: this was a 360 video I reframed to make it look like there was a cameraman panning around the band (I’m on drums, by the way). In reality, the camera was just stationary in the middle of the band room. Notice the audio, while not amazing, can be considered good, considering audio is being captured by the One RS’ built-in microphone.
Below are more reframed 360 samples, mostly shot at night. While Hong Kong at night is still pretty well lit, it is still considered a low light situation, and the footage remains mostly noise-free.
You’ll notice in some angles of the above video it looks like the camera is floating above me as if it’s mounted on a drone. It wasn’t. The One RS was, in fact, just connected to an extended selfie stick. Insta360’s software automatically erases the selfie stick from the scene. In the stills below, you can see my arms extended, holding something that has been digitally erased.
With both lenses, the Insta360 One RS can shoot videos in time-lapse at varying speeds, as well as slow-motion (up to 8x slowed down speed). For 360 videos, the Insta360 One R’s footage is as crisp as any competing consumer-grade 360 cameras, while 4K action cam footage is good, but bested by the GoPro Hero 10 which can shoot 4K/120fps.
Insta360 One RS: Software
But it’s the software that really makes the difference. Insta360 has both the aforementioned mobile app for iOS and Android and desktop software for Windows and Mac. To be honest, the mobile app is often easier and more intuitive to use, but the desktop software is needed to render 6K wide-screen footage. I have been using Insta360 products for years and have used the mobile app 99.9% of the time.
The mobile app connects to the One RS wirelessly via a few taps — however, this process is much faster on the iOS app than on the Android app (we’re talking 10 seconds vs up to a minute). Once connected, both versions of the app have the same interface.
Within the app, we can directly see the camera’s viewfinder on the mobile screen, control the camera directly in the app, as well as make edits to footage already shot. The editing suite is quite impressive for a free mobile app — you don’t just get to trim length, switch aspect ratio (16:9, 9:16, 1:1) and render the video to your phone’s storage, you can also apply beauty filters that enlarge eyes or brighten skin (ugh). Color temperature, contrast, overall brightness can be tweaked too, but there’s also a one-stop “Color Plus” button that uses AI to apply tweaks automatically. I find that it works well for the most part.
For 4K Boost lens footage, the editing is straightforward, almost as if you’re fixing up any normal smartphone footage. With 360 footage, however, there are a lot of things we can do, including the aforementioned reframing of a 360 video into a normal video. We can frame the video using our fingers to pinch and swipe through the footage, or by tagging pivot points at which the camera moves.
The above gif is heavily compressed, but in the below screenshots, you can see that the 5.7K 360 footage looks reasonably sharp even when zoomed in. This means 360 footage captured by the Insta360 offers a very diverse playing field. I can zoom all the way out to a tiny planet-like shot, or pull all the way to examine details of the scenery around me.
Who should buy the Insta360 One RS?
The Twin Edition’s $549 price tag seems like a high price at first glance, but when you consider that you’re getting a high-quality 4K action camera and a 360 camera, the price is justifiable. A GoPro Hero 10 alone costs $500; a standalone 360 camera from GoPro costs $400.
As mentioned, I think the Insta360’s software is superior to competing DJI and GoPro products I’ve tested, especially the reframing feature. To be honest, I often feel like I don’t take full advantage of the Insta360 360 cameras because I’m just using them to walk around streets, or the occasional bike ride. Insta360’s 360 lenses are highly popular for those who participate in extreme outdoor activities like skydiving, dirt bike riding, among others. When I see that footage (often shared by Insta30’s Instagram account), I am left in awe.
If you are an outdoor adventurer and want a versatile camera that can capture literally everything in the scene, the Insta360 One RS is one of the best options out there. If you don’t need either the 360 lens or the action lens, there are cheaper packages that shave about $100 off the price tag.