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Insta360 ONE vs. Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere photo and video comparison

Insta360 ONE vs Xiaomi Mijia MI SPHERE 360 photo and video comparison
Insta360 ONE vs Xiaomi Mijia MI SPHERE 360 photo and video comparison

I’m not yet done with my Insta360 ONE preliminary review but in the meantime, I wanted to compare the photo and video quality between the Insta360 ONE and the Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere, which until now has been widely regarded as having the best photo and video quality for consumer 360 cameras (up to around $350 or less) as of August 2017.  Can the Insta360 ONE provide better image quality?

In this comparison, I’m only looking at the photo and video quality of these cameras.   I’m not comparing any of the myriad of other factors such as workflow, features, or any other factors.  Instead, I will address those other factors in my preliminary review of the Insta360 ONE. For Xiaomi, I used Android app version 1.6.5 for both the photo and the video.    For Insta360 ONE, I stitched the photos and videos using Insta360 Studio v 2.10.3 with optical flow.

For the first time, I’m going to make this a blind test to try to minimize bias. Don’t worry, I will disclose the identity of the samples in the summary.

Insta360 ONE and Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere 360 Photo Comparison

Here is a 360 photo comparison. I uploaded samples from both cameras to Kuula.co.  You can switch between the two cameras by clicking on the arrow keys or on the dots on the bottom of the frame.  If you click on “Info” you will see one is labeled “Camera A” and the other is labeled “Camera B.”

Here are my observations:

Exposure: although I can’t see the EXIF data, both cameras have very similar exposure.

Resolution:

resolution comparison
resolution comparison (Camera A on left column, Camera B on right column)

In the middle of the lens, Camera A and Camera B are very similar, although Camera B looks slightly sharper (possibly due to sharpening in JPG processing), but near the edge of the lens, Camera A is far sharper than Camera B (here, I used the nadir as an example).  Overall, I prefer Camera A’s resolution for its better overall performance and more consistent sharpness throughout the frame.

Dynamic range:

Dynamic range comparison
Dynamic range comparison (Camera A vs Camera B)

Camera A and B seem to capture similar highlight range, however, for the shadow range, Camera A is significantly better — it has much less noise, and much greater detail.  As an aside, this area near the stitch line once again shows Camera A is sharper near the edge of the lens, as you can see for example in the wall’s texture.

Chromatic aberration:

chromatic aberration comparison
chromatic aberration comparison

Camera A has some chromatic aberration / purple fringing, while Camera B has almost none.

Stitching quality:

stitching quality comparison (top: Camera A; bottom: Camera B)
stitching quality comparison (top: Camera A; bottom: Camera B)

Both cameras have reasonable stitching — the stitching appears unobtrusive in both cases, although upon close examination, you can see some stitching errors (in this case, doubling).  Camera B has slightly better stitching in that it has more consistent exposure across the stitch line than Camera A (Camera B has a slight yellow tint on the stitch line).

Colors and white balance: the colors of Camera A seem more accurate when I compare it with what I actually see.  On the other hand, Camera B’s slightly warm white balance and rich colors might be subjectively more pleasing to some people.

Flare resistance: not tested here.

Insta360 ONE and Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere 360 Video Comparison

I also compared 360 videos between the two cameras, using Windows 10 Movies & TV for playback.  For reference, I uploaded 360 videos from both cameras to a YouTube playlist.  You can click on the upper left corner to select Camera A or Camera B, or you can switch between the samples by clicking on the chapter search buttons beside the play button. For the cropped comparisons, Camera A is on the left, while Camera B is on the right.

Resolution:

360 video resolution comparison
360 video resolution comparison

This time, Camera B has noticeably more detail in the middle of the lens, while Camera A has more detail near the edge of the lens, although the resolution gap for the edge of the lens is much smaller compared to the gap between their 360 photos.  Camera B also looks better for smaller details — look at the tops of the trees and the distant power line here:

360 video comparison - resolution
360 video comparison – resolution

Dynamic range:

360 video dynamic range comparison
360 video dynamic range comparison

Camera A and B appear to have similar highlight range.  For shadow range, Camera A has much less noise while having as much, or more detail.  On the other hand, for deep shadows, Camera A appears blocked (blacks are crushed) whereas there is still a little bit of detail in Camera B.  I would say however that due to the noise in the shadow area, Camera A again has better overall dynamic range (because of the better shadow range).  But see the summary / conclusion below.

Chromatic aberration: not surprisingly, it’s the same story as for photos, although Camera A’s purple fringing in its videos is less noticeable compared to its photos (due to the lower resolution of video).

360 video comparison - chromatic aberration
360 video comparison – chromatic aberration

Stitching quality:

360 video stitching comparison
360 video stitching comparison

This time for some reason, there is a more noticeable discrepancy in the stitching quality between Camera A and B.  Camera A appears to have better stitching that is less obtrusive in this sample.  Please see the notes in the summary.

Colors and white balance: as with the 360 photo, Camera A seemed more accurate to me compared with the actual scene, although Camera B’s colors are also pleasant.

Flare resistance: again, I didn’t test flare resistance in this sample.

Summary / Conclusion

Based on what you’ve seen so far, do you have a preference?  And did you figure out which is which? Insta360 ONE is Camera B.  One thing I did not mention above is that with Xiaomi (Camera A), some vertical straight lines become wavy.  This is a known issue which I’ve mentioned in my Xiaomi review, but I didn’t mention it above because it would have been a dead giveaway that Camera A is Xiaomi. In any case, the Insta360 ONE does not have a waviness issue.

Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere waviness issue
Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere waviness issue

For Xiaomi, the workaround has been to use a third party stitcher such as Hugin, in which case there would be no waviness, but this makes the workflow harder (again, workflow is something I will address for the ONE in its review).  This is something else you may want to consider.

360 photos

To summarize, for 360 photos, Insta360 ONE and Xiaomi are similar but Xiaomi has better sharpness toward the edge of the lens and better shadow range.  The Xiaomi’s disadvantages for 360 photos are chromatic aberration and the waviness issue.

360 videos

For 360 videos, the Insta360 ONE has better detail near the middle of the lens (particularly with smaller details and more distant objects), while Xiaomi has more detail toward the edge of the lens.  This is probably because the ONE has a higher video resolution while the Xiaomi has better overall optics.  Overall, for 360 videos, I would say ONE has slightly better overall detail compared to Xiaomi.

For video dynamic range with default settings, Xiaomi has better shadow range (its shadow area is noticeably less noisy, while also having slightly more detail).  However, Insta360 ONE has a log mode that DOES increase dynamic range.  Take a look:

Insta360 ONE log mode has better dynamic range
Insta360 ONE log mode has better dynamic range

These videos were taken just seconds apart and you can see from the shadows that they were taken with identical ambient lighting.  However, you can see from the point where highlights are clipped that the log mode was able to capture significantly more highlight range than the normal video mode – I estimate by as much as 1 stop.  Therefore, you can shoot in log mode with +1EV exposure compensation to decrease the noise in the shadows, as long as you don’t mind additional editing required for log.

As for stitching, I plan to do more experiments to figure out the best settings for a smooth stitch with Insta360 ONE.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is only a photo and video quality comparison, and there are many other factors for choosing a 360 camera such as its workflow and its features.  I will discuss those in my forthcoming review of the ONE.  In the meantime, Insta360 ONE is $299 MSRP although due to high demand, it is sometimes sold above that.  Check here for the latest availability and price for the ONE.  Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere is currently around $207 to $230.  Check here for the best current price.

About the author

Mic Ty

32 Comments

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  • Hmmmm, at first I was going to say the Xiaomi beats the Insta360 in all regards, but you’re comparing SOOC shots and the Insta360 offers more post processing options with DNG in theory.

    When comparing SOOC shots, the Xiaomi is clearly the winner. I just got my Insta360 One last night and I am still struggling with the DNG workflow and the bugs and little annoyances I run into. :/

    • Thanks Sascha. I tried DNG as well and I found it difficult to make it look better (resolution and DR) than the in-cam JPG without looking strange. But yes, the potential is there.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Great work, enjoyed your mi sphere work and information. I ordered the mi based on your and others high regard for its quality of video but especially photos so am glad it stacks up well. I’m an Android user and this also greatly effected my choice and not waiting for possible vaporware or long delays like Kodak. Thanks and will be using many of your posts to help get the best results from the mi.

  • +Mic Ty Thank you very much for all effort doing this comparison – wich I think was of great interest for us all.
    So, the images and videos between the Xiaomi and the Insta360Oneare quite the same quality as I understand it, And both cameras are about the same price. So no big difference there…
    Then for me I would like to hear/read/see how the stabilization works between the two (and I presume the Insta360One will be the winner).
    It is a very important thing to me…alltough I usually use a monopod with legs or my DIY invisible stick shooting 360 videos and then it’s no need for the stabilization.
    But when walking around the stabilizer is very important. I took a walk around my hotel in Crete (one week holiday) a few days ago, and the stabilizer on the Xiaomi “failed” in the way of working perfectly horisontaly and keeping the level but not vertical (e.g. going down stears). Very annoying – but maby because I had the Xiaomi in an angle out from the side of my body.
    In additon the Insta360One’s got the slow motion and the bullet time that I don’t care about (how many times do you do the Bullet time or shoot in slowmo)…BUT I find the smart tracking and the coming waterproof case very exciting.
    So, I can’t wait for your final review of the Insta360One wich I find very interesting even if I still hope that the Yi360Cam will fullfill my wet dreams of a perfect consumer 360 cam 😉

    • Thanks Ulf! Yes I’m also looking forward to the release of the Yi 360 VR. If it does have stabilization as that rep told you then maybe it will take the crown!

      Re Xiaomi failing stabilization, you need to give it at least 5 seconds after turning on before you start recording, and you must first keep it vertical when it starts recording, and only after recording can you move it to non-vertical position

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Brilliant website, Mic! You’re doing a great job running it! I was in a position to choose between new Theta V, new Insta360 One and Virb 360. For me quality is the most important factor. I chose Virb 360. Why? Quality-wise Virb 360 + Mistika VR workflow are still untouchable. I am surprised that there is not much more talk about Virb 360 and what it can do combined with Mistika. Anyone that want best 360° video quality at a still reasonable and somewhat acceptable price should choose Virb 360 + Mistika VR. That combo killed the game.

    • Thank you very much 360ninja! I really appreciate it! Yes I’m a fan of the Virb as well! As for being untouchable, it had the best video quality for consumer 360 cameras until this month. I will post a comparison against Insta360 ONE, Theta V and Yi 360 VR. We’ll see if it can keep its crown 😀

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hey buddy, can you make your background of your website a dark 18% grey or something closer to black please, its very hard to see anything when it comes to trying to compare quality when the super bright white background blows our your eyeballs 🙁

    🙂 all is good, looking forward to your findings, which you’ll know you’ll have to do all over again in a few weeks time though don’t you haha :p

    • Tony have you tried Chrome and then applied the high contrast extension and/or dark theme? That might be what you’re looking for, and it will affect all sites, not just 360r.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • yes actually i do run that.. have you tried it on your website though ? anyhow – thats off the point.. anytime a website asks users to actually look into the quality of the images, that website should be aware of the fact that the super bright white background throws off the eyeballs.. 🙂 you know what i mean yeah

  • Great job Michael! I think I’ll buy Xiaomi (my 3rd 360 camera actually) – any affiliate link you may want us to click and convert from?
    Been using Gear 360 for over a year and published a lot to street view and recently several “virtual tours” (most recent example (https://goo.gl/maps/AkSqVreDEYH2 ) : and IMHO there is little progress in the overall quality of images from 360 consumer cameras with Kodak turning out to be a biggest dissapointment.

    • Thank you very much Jacob! I appreciate your support! The best price for the Xiaomi is currently $207 afaik https://goo.gl/u69dWo If that link doesn’t work anymore, you can try the other links here: https://goo.gl/5kpJmc

      Re Gear 360, when I compared it to the Xiaomi, the Xiaomi came out a little bit better on both photo and video, so I think you will be pleased.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Watching the 360 photos I notice a huge difference between Xiaomi and Insta360. The grass, wall, person part of the pics reveals that Mi Sphere has more detail. It is like Insta360 ONE was out of focus.

    • Hi Jose. Yes for photos, the Xiaomi has a significant advantage in areas close to the stitch line, and it also has better shadow range than the Xiaomi.

      As for the ONE being out of focus, if you look at the raw samples they posted, that is what it looks like. Near the stitch line, it appears out of focus.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Thanks for your reply Mic. Do you think is a software issue that can be solved with other stitching app or a hardware issue due to the lens configuration?

  • I liked the Xiaomi better when I looked at the photos but changed my mind when I watched the videos. The quality is almost identical but I find the Insta360 One more convincing.

      • Thank you for this comparison.

        What I did not find in any tests is the Audio Quality. I also want to use my Xiaomi to record Bands playing loud music in Bars. To record at low light conditions the Xiaomi seems to be pretty well. Buis there any possibility to compare the audio quality of the videos – especially also for lour music (Metal-Bands…).
        Thanks a lot!, Stefan

        • Hi Moesi. As far as I can tell, Insta360 ONE records audio in mono only. If audio quality is important, your best alternative is probably Ricoh Theta V which has amazing in-camera audio AND has external mic jack AND has a 360 surround mic accessory that sounds pro-grade (to my ears).

          Best regards,
          Mic

  • XIAOMI is a very good piece of hardware, but some firmware bugs and especially the minimal software makes the post-production process difficult, especially for videos. I haven’t the INSTA360 (yet), but its software feels much better…

    • Hi Giorgio. i can confirm that the insta360 ONE’s software is less buggy than Xiaomi. There are fewer random issues like the waviness bug.

  • On paper the Insta One looks like the king but in real life … well, I’m having several doubts especially the stitching and the AWE between the two fish eye images. The auto ISO only reaches 800 but the spec. states 6,400. Yeah, not good I think. Even for movies it’s awkward to push the shutter button twice or three times for bullet time.
    It actually states the resolution is 24MP but after seeing the sample images posted here and elsewhere I don’t feel so and I’m wondering how this 24MP number is reached?
    The upside is that the shake reduction works very well and smart tracking is pretty cool.

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