Insta360 One Review with 360 videos & photos

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After using the Samsung Gear 360 for about half a year, maybe a little longer, I was convinced that 360 technology had a long way to go before it would be readily available to consumers & prosumers (ie. me, when it comes to 360 video).  And sadly, I had pretty much stopped using my Samsung.  It was far too time consuming to run the footage through Adobe After Effects just to stitch the footage together.  Around that time, I saw a blog post by Philip Bloom on an 8K 360 camera by Insta360... this I had to take a see!  The Insta360 Pro is truly an impressive 360 camera, but it's priced just outside my 360 camera price range at $3500 - just kidding, that's way out of my price range for a camera I'm just going to play around with!  But, as I was looking through the Insta360 website I noticed a new camera for pre-order - the Insta360 One.  All the specs looked about on par with the Samsung Gear 360, but with iPhone support, and for only $300.    

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My favorite thing - It's so mobile (aka iPhone) friendly

The Insta360 One has been very easy to use with my iPhone so far, especially compared to the Samsung Gear 360, which didn't work with any Apple products at all.  For videos and photos alike, it's worked as easily as plugging the 360 camera into your phone with the built-in lightning cable and pressing record.  The video or photo can be viewed within a few seconds on your iPhone and uploaded to social straight from the app - except YouTube, which exports the video to your phone and then you have to upload from your camera roll (currently, at the time of posting, this mobile feature doesn't work... I believe YouTube recently updated how it uploads 360 video files so Insta360 might just need a few days to keep up from the mobile end of things... it works fine exporting through the desktop app though).  Because of it's ease of use, I highly recommend it to anybody looking for a fun 360 camera that performs decently well without the pressure of doing a professional 360 job (although the photos could be considered professional quality, the video is no where near professional quality, as expected for $300).  The mobile app also includes several features that I wouldn't have expected, like an automatic stitching optimizer (that works really well!) and a gyro corrector, which has really came in handy a few times when the camera was recording a bit sideways.

It's easy to modify 360 files on the desktop app

The Insta360 ecosystem also includes a Mac desktop app that is super easy to use and includes a few more advanced features than the mobile app, like an advanced stitching optimizer and a higher bitrate export.  

The biggest downside to the Insta360 One - Resolution

The downside of this 360 camera is honestly the same as most 360 cameras in this price range - while most of them boast 4K UHD video quality, that's actually the resolution you would experience if you were watching the video in it's equirectangular projection, which is a flat image that occurs after stitching the 180° footage together but before it's converted into spherical (also known as immersive) video.  

Insta360 One - equirectangular projection of 4K 360 footage

Insta360 One - spherical video (effectively 960p resolution)

After converting the footage to spherical video, the resolution is divided by 4 – so it's actually a resolution of around 720p HD (and is that even really considered HD anymore...?).  This is why the Insta360 Pro is $3500 though.  At an 8K resolution (again, that's the resolution of the equirectangular projection), it can deliver a 1080p effective resolution once it's converted to spherical video.  1080p is what we are used to viewing currently, although with the updates in YouTube and Vimeo over the last two years, 4K UHD is becoming more and more common.  Imagine how high the 360 camera resolutions will have to go in order to keep up... probably something like 16K in order to deliver a decent 4K 360 experience!  Here's a good read on 360 resolution.

It works as a standalone camera too

Operating the camera when it isn't attached to an iPhone is pretty easy too - everything is controlled by one button on the side.  Press once to power on.  Then press once to take a picture. Press twice in a row to take a video.  Press three times to initiate a custom command, like bullet time, time-lapse video, and 60fps 1280p video.  This button is customizable through settings in the iPhone app when the camera is plugged in.  You can also choose whether to take a JPEG photo or RAW+JPEG.

Here are a couple of examples of some 360 videos and photos that I've taken with the Insta360 One.

 

This next video is a BTS on one of my shoots.  My original reason for wanting to get a 360 camera was to post some novelty behind the scenes videos.  For this one, I used a clamp mount by Impact and mounted it to the top handle of my Freefly Movi M5.  

Final thoughts

I would highly recommend the Insta360 One to anybody wanting to get started in the 360 video/photo world.  Regardless of any previous experience in the video or photo world, this camera ready to go out of the box and so easy to use.  The ease of use and mobile friendliness, especially with Apple products, is my favorite thing about this 360 camera.  My least favorite thing is the 4K resolution for video as it's just not enough... but I understand for $300, I'm asking a lot.  I would happily pay twice that for enough resolution to produce 1080p spherical videos.