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360 Camera Reviews

Insta360 ONE review (updated April 2, 2018) with tutorial, sample photos and videos, and comparison

Insta360 ONE v 3.0 March 2018 update
Insta360 ONE v 3.0 March 2018 update

UPDATE: On March 20, 2018, Insta360 released an update to the Insta360 ONE that made huge improvements, particularly to stabilization, but also to workflow.  Check out my incredible Flowstate stabilization demo!

Insta360 ONE Flowstate stabilization tests
Insta360 ONE Flowstate stabilization tests

The Insta360 ONE is one of the rare 360 cameras that has actually had an impact on the way I shoot.  Out of the forty-one 360 cameras I’ve owned so far, it is among the best 360 cameras I’ve used because of how useful the features are.  In this review, I will explain not only its features and specifications but why they matter to shooters, whether they are beginners, intermediate shooters, or advanced users.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Specifications
Compatibility
Build quality and design
Key features
Insta360 ONE improved stabilization (Jan. 2018)
Insta360 ONE v 3.0: March 2018 update with major improvements
FlowState stabilization tests .
How to use Insta360 ONE: shooting
How to use Insta360 ONE: workflow tutorial
Log mode tutorial
Image quality and samples
Comparison with Rylo and other 360 cameras .
Insta360 ONE strengths and weaknesses
Discounts; where to buy

4/3/18 update: Flowstate stabilization demo 3/20/18 update: March 2018 update with major improvements
1/15/18 update: stabilization improvement.
1/4/18 update: Bluetooth remote demo and where to find it
12/23/17 update: stabilization improvement
12/4/17 update:
Android adapter now available for preorder
– Added more info about shooting options, including the dedicated Bluetooth remote (with advantages noted), and a generic remote
Originally published: September 21, 2017.

There are many 360 cameras on the market today, and they are constantly trying to outdo each other in terms of specifications, whether in photo resolution, video resolution, or any of the other traditional metrics for comparing 360 cameras.  The Insta360 ONE is different because it tries to stand out from its competitors with special features that help users hit the ground running with 360, even if they’ve never shot with 360 before.

This is not to say that the Insta360 ONE is only a beginner’s camera – on the contrary, it also has features for intermediate and advanced users.  And it also excels on more conventional criteria.

Here is a video review of the Insta360 ONE (based on the original firmware — there will be a new video based on the new firmware in a couple of weeks):

I’ve been using the Insta360 ONE consistently since September 2017.  I would say that the dynamic range and low light performance are among its strengths.  And even though there are now a few cameras that feature the “overcapture” style video, Insta360 ONE’s FreeCapture is the best implementation of it thus far.

SPECIFICATIONS

Lensestwo fisheye lenses
Field of viewfully spherical
Aperturef/2.2
Sensorstwo 1/2.3-inch Sony CMOS sensors
Processorsunspecified Ambarella processor
Photo resolution6912 x 3456 in JPEG or DNG raw
Video resolution3840 x 1920, 30fps
2560 x 1280 @ 60fps 2048 x 512 @ 120fps
mp4 (log mode available)
Live streaming resolution:3840 x 1920
Compatible with YouTube, Facebook, Periscope / Twitter, Weibo
Shutter speed:1/4000 to 60 seconds
ISO:100 to 3200 (up to 6400 for video)
Stabilization:6-axis gyro-based image stabilization
Connector:1/4-20 tripod connector
Storage:one Micro SD up to 128GB (8GB included)
Working humidity:30% to 80%
Temperature:14F - 113F (-14C to 45C)
Waterproof:No (waterproof housing accessory available)
Connectivity:MFI-certified lightning connector
Bluetooth LE 4.0
Compatibility:iPhone X
iPhone 8 / 8 plus
iPhone 7 / plus
iPhone 6s / 6s plus
iPhone 6 / 6 plus
iPhone SE
iPad Pro (10.5 in, 9.7 in)
iPad mini 4
iPad Air 2
Android version shipping December 15, 2017
Dimensions:96 x 36.5 x 25 mm
Weight:82g
Battery:70 mins.; not removable; USB charging
Other features:Intervalometer
Freecast (live streaming with changeable perspective)
Time lapse mode
Bullet time

– includes combination hard case cover, handle and mini stand (similar to LG 360 Cam)
– optional waterproof case

Insta360 ONE
Insta360 ONE

Insta360 ONE Compatibility

Officially, the ONE is compatible with the following iOS devices: iPhone 7/7 plus, iPhone 6s/6s plus, iPhone 6/6 plus, iPhone SE, iPad Pro(10.5-inch), iPad Pro(9.7-inch), iPad Pro(12.9-inch), iPad mini4, iPad Air 2.  However, I’ve also been able to use the ONE with an iPhone 5S, although the app seems to crash often.  It might work with iPod Touch 6th Generation which has an M8 processor, the same as the iPhone 6.

While the iPhone 6 will work with the ONE, it won’t export photos or videos in full resolution.  However, I have been able to export at full resolution with the iPhone SE and iPad Air 2.

Regarding Android compatibility, Insta360 began shipping an Android version on December 15, 2017. It is actually the same camera, except that it will have an adapter (available for Micro USB or USB Type C).  This means that if you have both Android and iOS devices (e.g. Android phone and iPad), you’ll be able to use the Insta360 ONE with both devices.

The adapter isn’t a simple lightning to Micro USB adapter, but a specially designed adapter that will protect your phone and the ONE:

insta360 one android
insta360 one android

The Android version will cost slightly more than the iOS version ($329 vs. $299) because of the adapter.  If you already have an Insta360 ONE, you can purchase the adapter separately ($29), either for USB Type C or Micro USB.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN

The Insta360 ONE is small and compact.  It weighs about the same as a Nano.  Although it is mostly plastic, it looks well made and thoughtfully designed.  For example, the shutter was placed on the side, along the stitch line, so that when you press the shutter, your finger will be less prominent in the shot.

I also like that the lightning connector is retractable.  There’s a slide / switch which causes the lightning connector to pop out.  One concern is that the lightning connector seems to have an internal cable, and I wonder whether, with repeated bending over time, the cable will become loose.

One of my favorite features is the cover, probably inspired by the LG 360 Cam’s cover.  The ONE’s cover is multipurpose and can be used as a lens cap, hard case for the camera, a mini handle, or as a stand for either the camera or for a phone, with or without a camera attached.  (I like to use put the phone horizontally for maximum stability.)  The ONE can be connected to a USB for charging or data transfer while covered with the case.  To protect the ONE’s lenses, I like to keep it with the cover as much as possible, such as when attaching the ONE to a stand, removing it only at the last minute.  Please note that when using the case as a mini handle for the ONE, it is being held only by friction and not a locking mechanism (as with the LG 360 Cam).

There are some things that I think could have been better.  First, the tripod hole appears to be made of plastic instead of metal.  Second, it is very easy to accidentally turn on the ONE, even with the cover.  Third, it is very hard to insert or remove a micro SD card if you have short nails.  Fourth, because the ONE’s micro USB port is beside the lightning connector, you can’t connect to Micro USB (or charging) when the ONE is attached to a phone (unless you use a lightning extension adapter).

Insta360 ONE
Insta360 ONE

Key Features in the Real World

Here are the key features of the Insta360 ONE and how well they work “in real life”:

1. Hybrid smartphone 360 camera: the ONE can be used in three ways. It can be used as a standalone 360 camera, a 360 camera controlled wirelessly via Bluetooth, or as a smartphone 360 camera accessory. The ONE’s direct connection via lightning port makes it very easy to share photos and videos.  It also provides a reliable connection to a phone for live streaming, while also allowing the phone’s Wi-Fi to be used for the stream.

Regarding the wireless control, it’s easy to establish (you don’t even need to enter a password or go through pairing) but the range is quite short — perhaps 15 feet or so, and primarily within line of sight.  I should also add that there’s no live view for the wireless mode.

2. Image stabilization – stability and invisibility.  The ONE has built-in image stabilization, which can keep the horizon level regardless of how the ONE is actually positioned.  Besides making the videos look much better, this also makes it possible to position the ONE in-line with a monopod or selfie stick to make the monopod disappear, creating the illusion of an invisible flying camera.

In the real world, I found that the stabilization works quite well.  Videos are stabilized automatically and immediately when you review them and when you export videos.  It even works for live streaming.  However, one issue is that after a couple of minutes, the stabilization will drift horizontally. (For comparison, there is also drifting with the  Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere but not with the Garmin Virb 360.)  The stabilization effect can be toggled on or off, and for longer videos, you may need to turn it off to avoid the drifting.

3.  Freecapture – shoot first, point later.  This lets you pull a full HD video from a 360 video.  While many 360 video editors can do that, FreeCapture is unique because of how you create the non-360 video: after recording a 360 video, you hold your smartphone as if you are shooting a video with the smartphone.  Here is a sample video created entirely within Freecapture:

Freecapture has several benefits: first, it helps you visualize the video better.  Second, because the resulting video was shot ‘handheld,’ then it looks more natural compared to a non-360 video from another software that uses mouse movements or keyframing.  Third, this is a more natural and familiar way of shooting for first-time users.  Fourth, FreeCapture shortens your workflow because you don’t have to stitch the 360 video beforehand.  You can simply go from the unstitched INSV file directly to a Freecapture non-360 video.

Tip: consider using a swivel chair to make your FreeCapture movies look smoother.

4. Smart Track – follow a subject around the 360 video.  Smart Track is an additional feature that works with FreeCapture.  When enabled, you can place a box over your subject or other target in the 360 video.  When you press ‘record,’  the app will generate a non-360 video with the subject being followed.  Tip: the tracking rectangle need not be placed in the middle.  It can for example be positioned  on the left third, or right third.

I found that Smart Track is reasonably accurate for tracking a subject.  However, if the subject makes a sudden unexpected movement, Smart Track will lose tracking over the subject.

5. Bullet Time.  This lets you swing the ONE around you while recording a high-speed video.  This is arguably the effect that made the ONE famous thanks to an ad campaign that showed its capabilities.  It lets you shoot in high speed 120fps (240fps interpolated), and because the ONE has stabilization, you won’t need to use a Centriphone or other stabilizer for the ONE.  At the same time, unlike the normal stabilization mode that is locked toward a particular compass direction, the stabilization for Bullet Time keeps the view oriented toward the user.

In the real world, Bullet Time does work pretty much as advertised.  Insta360 even provides you with an accessory string that attaches to the tripod hole of the ONE.   My concern with this feature is that you would need to bring around the string accessory, and you’ll need a lot of space to use it safely.  I prefer my bullet time method which uses a swivel mount together with a selfie stick because it’s easier to bring and somewhat safer (insofar as you can swing the camera at lower speed, and it won’t drop even when it slows down).

6. Manual exposure for photos and videos.  Insta360 ONE is one of the very few 360 cameras that have total exposure control — manual exposure, ISO priority, shutter priority, with shutter speeds as slow as 60 seconds and as high as 1/4000.  Moreover, there is manual control even for videos — a rare feature among consumer 360 cameras.

7. Excellent live streaming capabilities.  Insta360 ONE is an excellent camera for live streaming.  First, it has a direct connection to the phone for greater speed and reliability.  Second, your phone can use Wi-Fi for live streaming, instead of using it to connect to the camera (as in the case of the Garmin Virb 360 for example).  Third, the ONE’s live stream is stabilized.  This makes the video look better but more importantly, it also conserves bandwidth.  Fourth, the ONE has the option to live stream in tiny planet mode (FreeCast), a unique feature that AFAIK is found only in Insta360 cameras thus far.

8. In-camera editing features (see below under Workflow).  The Insta360 ONE app has many editing options such as making tiny planet versions of your photo or video, or adding stickers.

9. Bluetooth remote accessory.  Insta360 ONE has a dedicated remote accessory (sold with a selfie stick as a kit).  What is unique about the accessory is that after you pair the Bluetooth remote once, they will automatically pair simply by turning them on.  This means you just turn on the Insta360 ONE, turn on the Bluetooth remote, and within a few seconds, the Bluetooth remote will be able to control the ONE, without the need to press any buttons, go through the app, or use any menus.  The accessory can trigger the shutter for photos and videos, but not the special triple-click function.  For more info, see How to Use Insta360 ONE.

Insta360 ONE sample photo
Insta360 ONE sample photo

Insta360 ONE improved stabilization (Jan. 2018)

Insta360 announced that the Insta360 ONE’s image stabilization would be improved via a firmware and app update.   Insta360’s CEO JK Liu showed me an amazing new demo of the upcoming stabilization update:

For this demo, the Insta360 ONE was attached to a harness on a dog running in a park!  The demo was inspired by a similar video posted by Rylo, which has become an overnight sensation for its class-leading image stabilization.  The new stabilization demo seems to show that the ONE’s stabilization will be similar to and at least on par with Rylo’s stabilization performance.

Insta360 ONE stabilization improvement backstory
Insta360 ONE stabilization improvement backstory
Besides the impressive stabilization performance, what else is interesting about this upgrade is the backstory behind it.  In December, I posted about Rylo’s stabilization. Mr. Liu saw my Facebook post and found the demos impressive.   Here’s what he said: “Their stabilization is really impressive and makes me reconsider how good a gyroscopic stabilization can be.  Fortunately, the hardware side is not much different.  I think we have a chance to achieve the same result based on the software side improvements.”

And just four days later voila … Insta360 has been able to improve the stabilization.  Take note that they had also been working on a major release for Insta360 Pro at the same time (it was released yesterday).  Some people think I’m unfairly biased in favor of Insta360, or that I even work for them (no I don’t) but objectively speaking, this responsiveness and rapid development pace is nothing short of remarkable.  The other thing to note here is that Insta360 was honest about its competitor’s strength — and learned from it.  (By contrast, many companies will resist criticism and deny that their product needs improvement, insisting that it is already perfect, and thus they don’t improve.)

Insta360 ONE v 3.0: March 2018 Update with Major Improvements

Insta360 released a major update that brought many improvements and some new features to the Insta360 ONE.  The improvements are so significant that many people assumed that Insta360 was releasing a new camera.   In many ways, it does feel as if it’s a new version of Insta360 ONE. even if it’s ‘just’ an update to the existing Insta360 ONE.  Here’s a video demonstrating the improvements:

Here is a list of the improvements:

1. FlowState stabilization

Insta360 ONE had pretty good stabilization but now has phenomenal stabilization, approximately equal to that of the best-in-class stabilization in the Rylo.  As the teaser video showed, it is even capable of stabilizing a video shot from a camera mounted on a dog running at full speed.  As promised, I ran some stabilization tests to see just how effective Flowstate is.

BTW, here are some of the tools I used for the tests!

Telesin selfie stick
RC car I used (sale price)
RC car I used (regular price)

See my detailed review of the Insta360 One here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN5YWVmrERE

And in case you’re wondering, here is a comparison between FlowState stabilization and a phone with a DJI Osmo gimbal:

2. Multiview

Insta360 ONE now has multiview, which was first featured on Insta360 Nano S.  With MultiView, you can shoot a 360 video and present it as  a non-360 video with an overlay showing a second point of view at the same time.  This feature is useful for showing reactions for example.  Unlike the Nano S, the MultiView in the ONE can only show up to two points of view whereas the Nano S can show up to three views.

Multiview is also usable in live streaming mode (FreeCast).

3. Improved Smart Track

Insta360 ONE’s Smart Track is now more effective and can track faster movements (see the butterfly tracking in this video):

To use it, tap on the subject, and hold for a couple of seconds.  In the popup overlay, select Smart Track.  The app will then begin to track your chosen subject.

4. Pivot Point

Pivot Point is essentially keyframing, with a more intuitive interface.  You simply frame the view that you want, press and hold the screen, and select Pivot Point to establish a keyframe.  You can keyframe not just horizontal movements but vertical movements as well (such as ‘looking up’).

5. View Finder

View Finder is Insta360’s term for a FreeCapture mode where the user controls the FreeCapture perspective by moving the phone like a camera.  Compared to Pivot Point, View Finder results in a more organic and natural camera movement.  A further benefit of View Finder is that it is stabilized, unlike for example GoPro Fusion’s OverCapture where moving the phone will capture even the camera shake from holding the phone.

6. Hyperlapse

Insta360 ONE’s FreeCapture mode now includes a hyperlapse of up to 8X speed.  The user can switch at will between 1X, 2X, 4X or 8X speed, instead of using the same speed for the entire video.

7. Improved image quality

The new firmware improved image quality by making images appear brighter, and improving shadow detail without significant decrease in highlight detail.

Here is a sample with the previous firmware:

Here is a sample with the new firmware, showing improved detail in the shadows.  At the same time, the clouds still have plenty of detail.

See also a “real world” sample from the Insta360 ONE below under samples.  See also my updated comparison with the Rylo.

To get the update, you need to update both the firmware (v 2.0 or above) and the new app (v 3.0.0). In addition, you have to use the new app for stitching photos and videos (you can’t just use Insta360 Studio). The updated app is available only for iOS for now, but will be coming to Android as well. Insta360’s representative did not provide an ETA for the Android update.

I’m working on a video to show the new features.  I’ll post the video here as soon as possible.

How to use Insta360 ONE: shooting

There are several ways to shoot with the Insta360 ONE:

1.  As a standalone 360 camera. The Insta360 ONE has only one button but it can be used to take a photo, video, or start the intervalometer or other shots.  To take a photo, you press the button once.  To take a video, you double-click the button.  To stop recording, press the button again.  To activate the special function, you triple-click the button.  By default, the special function is the self-timer photo mode, but it can also be changed to the Bullet Time mode, or Interval Shooting mode in the app Settings.

2. Standalone 360 camera controlled wirelessly with your phone.  The Insta360 ONE can be controlled wirelessly with your phone via Bluetooth.  Simply turn on the ONE, launch the app, and click on the camera icon.  In the shooting screen, tap on the Bluetooth icon to the left of the shutter.   Select your camera on the next screen and tap Confirm.

Once connected, your phone has all the shooting modes and exposure controls available.  There is no live preview, but if you take a photo, it will send a low-res equirectangular preview to give you a rough idea of what you captured.

3.  Standalone 360 camera controlled wirelessly with a dedicated Bluetooth remote.  Insta360 has a dedicated Bluetooth remote for the ONE.  This is the fastest way to control the ONE wirelessly. To pair the remote with the ONE, you need to go to the Settings in the app and look for the option to pair the remote.  When paired, the remote will stop blinking. After the remote is paired with the ONE, the camera and the remote can reconnect automatically even without a phone. You simply turn on the camera, turn on the remote, and they will reconnect.  The larger button is for photos while the smaller button is for videos.  Triple-click is not available. Here is a video tutorial:

As I mentioned in the video, the remote is out of stock as of January 4, 2018. However, I found a 3rd party remote that does work (almost all other remotes don’t work).  Here is another one (remote only, no selfie stick) that looks the same so it might also work but I haven’t tried it.

4.  360 camera attached to your smartphone.  The ONE can be attached to your phone. The advantage of this method is that it allows a live preview.  As with the wireless smartphone control mode, you have all the shooting options and settings available for this mode, in addition to live preview.

5.  Smartphone 360 camera triggered wirelessly via generic Bluetooth remote.  When the ONE is attached to a smartphone, it can be triggered wirelessly with a generic Bluetooth remote.

How to use Insta360 ONE: Workflow Tutorial

I believe workflow is a very important consideration for a 360 camera, and can sometimes be even more important than image quality.  If the workflow is horrible, then you are not likely to use the camera despite other features it may have.

Fortunately, the Insta360 ONE’s workflow is pretty easy and is similar to the workflow for the Insta360 Nano.  Photos and videos captured on the ONE are stored in its memory card as INSP (photo) or INSV (video) files.  The files are unstitched but when viewed in the Insta360 apps, they will look fully stitched during review.

To share a photo or video, you must export it from the Insta360 ONE smartphone app or Insta360 Studio desktop software.  If you use the app, viewing a photo automatically downloads a copy of the photo from the memory card to the app, visible even after the ONE is disconnected.  However, for videos, the app won’t automatically keep a copy.

When you tap on a photo or a video, you will have several editing options such as applying a beautifying filter (to smoothen wrinkles) or Instagram-style filters.  You can also place stickers that will be automatically warped to appear proportional wherever you put them in the photo or video.  The edits are nondestructive and fully reversible, so don’t be afraid to experiment.  You can also change the perspective (e.g. to tiny planet, etc.) and take a snapshot of your creation.  Tip: try flipping your phone to landscape view to change the composition.

Insta360 ONE tiny planet sample
Insta360 ONE tiny planet sample

After editing the photos or videos, tap on the Share icon.  You can choose your preferred social media such as Facebook or YouTube, or you can choose album to export to your camera roll (from which you can upload the photo or video to your preferred sharing platform).  If you choose Facebook or YouTube, you’ll also have the option of converting the photo or video to a tiny planet, and there are tiny planet animation presets with interesting transitions.

Log mode tutorial

Insta360 ONE has a log mode for video, to maximize dynamic range.  In summary, you can download a LUT for Insta360 Pro and use it for Insta360 ONE.  Here is a tutorial on how to use it:

Image quality; sample photos and videos

handheld Insta360 ONE sample low light photo with auto exposure settings
handheld Insta360 ONE sample low light photo with auto exposure settings

Here are some sample 360 photos (based on the 1.14 firmware).  They are unedited to give you an accurate representation of what you would get straight out of the camera.  However, please note that one of the strengths of the Insta360 ONE is that you can shoot and stitch in Raw DNG format, which gives you more latitude for exposure, white balance, and other adjustments compared to JPEG.

Here is a sample video montage (based on the 1.14 firmware) in a variety of lighting conditions.

Here is a sample 360 video from the new version of the Insta360 ONE (v 1.16 firmware), showing its dynamic range and cleaner shadows:

Comparison with Rylo and other 360 cameras

The Insta360 ONE compares well with other 360 consumer cameras. I compared it with the new firmware against several 360 cameras but I want to focus in particular on the Rylo, because that’s one of the cameras with which it is frequently compared. Here are 100% crop comparisons between the Insta360 ONE v 1.16.8 and Rylo high quality mode, using the Ultimate 360 Camera Comparison Tool.  First let’s compare the midtones, then highlights, then shadows, and finally their overall image quality.

Midtones:

In this 100% crop from both the Insta360 ONE and Rylo in identical ambient lighting conditions, we can see that the Rylo seems to look a slightly more detailed in well-lit areas, such as the bush to the right of the shed.  On the other hand, in darker areas such as the door to the shed, or even the siding of the shed, the Insta360 ONE has more detail.  For this reason, I would say that overall, they have similar levels of detail in the midtones (note further that these are 100% crops, much more magnified compared to normal viewing sizes).

Highlights:

Insta360 ONE vs Rylo - highlight range
Insta360 ONE vs Rylo – highlight range

In the highlight range, the Insta360 ONE has noticeably less detail than Rylo.  It seems that the Insta360 One chose an exposure that is maybe half a stop brighter.   This is a change compared to the Insta360 ONE previous firmware version, which used a very conservative exposure algorithm.  I therefore compared the previous Insta360 ONE firmware with the Rylo, and in this comparison, Insta360 ONE actually shows more highlight detail than Rylo:

Insta360 ONE previous 1.14 firmware vs Rylo - highlight detail comparison
Insta360 ONE previous 1.14 firmware vs Rylo – highlight detail comparison

This implies that the new firmware’s more aggressive exposure did lead to some loss in highlight detail, but if you want to dial down the exposure with the new firware, you can probably end up with more highlight detail than the Rylo.  But this doesn’t mean it’s always better to use a more conservative exposure like that of the previous Insta360 ONE firmware or of the Rylo.  As you’ll see below, that approach has significant tradeoffs.

Shadows:

Even before the Insta360 ONE’s March 2018 update, the Insta360 ONE already had noticeably more shadow detail than Rylo:

Insta360 One old vs Rylo - shadow detail
Insta360 One old vs Rylo – shadow detail

With the March 2018’s brighter exposure, the Insta360 ONE’s shadow detail blows the Rylo away:

insta360 ONE vs rylo: shadow
Insta360 ONE new firmware vs Rylo: shadow detail

This is what I meant by the tradeoff with a more conservative exposure.  For me, I favor the new firmware’s exposure that prioritizes midtones.  I think it is a better approach for small sensors, which don’t have much exposure latitude.  Using a conservative exposure, only to raise midtones in post, will result in more noise.  And with clipped blacks like the Rylo’s, some details can actually be irrecoverable.

Insta360 One vs Rylo overall
Insta360 One vs Rylo overall

Overall, taking the detail and dynamic range in the midtones, highlights and shadows into account, I would say the Insta360 ONE has greater overall dynamic range, and moreover, has better exposure control.  Not only can you control exposure compensation, but in video mode, you can specify the ISO and shutter speed.  This means that you can use a more conservative exposure on the Insta360 ONE if you wanted to e.g. by applying a -0.3 or -0.5EV adjustment.  On the Rylo, there are no exposure controls, therefore you’re stuck with its conservative exposure and high contrast tone curve that clips blacks very early.

For this reason, given that they now have very similar stabilization, I rated the Insta360 ONE video as 8.6 — ‘noticeably better’ than Rylo’s video (rated 8.4), but still within the range that reasonable people could disagree and see them both as being equal or the Rylo being somehow better.  Incidentally, the Garmin Virb 360 has similar image quality to the Rylo, and so you’ll find similar differences between the Insta360 ONE and Virb:

Insta360 one vs Garmin Virb 360
Closeup comparison of videos from Insta360 One (left) vs Garmin Virb 360 (right)

You can see how the updated Insta360 ONE compares with some other cameras here:

Overall, the Insta360 ONE has very good photo and video quality.  Although I find its 360 photos just a bit less detailed than Xiaomi toward the edges of the lens, it has one of the best dynamic range for a 360 camera in its class, and is unique in having the ability to shoot and stitch in Raw DNG format.

For video quality, it is on par with the Theta V and Xiaomi, and better than the Virb 360 or Rylo.  It has very good performance in low light as well. It also has better stabilization than all other 360 cameras other than the Rylo (the Insta360 ONE and Rylo seem to have similarly superb stabilization — I’m going to compare their stabilization and post the results here).

Insta360 ONE strengths and weaknesses; 360 Camera Ranking

Here are a list of the Insta360 ONE’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to photo, video, and usability, including a score for each category.  Use the score to see its current ranking on the 360 Camera Ranking chart.  Please do not simply add the plusses and minuses — rather, you should review the list of strengths and weaknesses to determine how well the ONE fares in that aspect, because some strengths may be very important to you while some weaknesses might not be.

Photo: 8.8

+ very good detail
+ good stitching (when photo is calibrated and optical flow stitching is used)
+ very good dynamic range
+ excellent sharpness near the center of the lens
+ very good low light performance
+ Adobe DNG raw shooting option
+ DNG raw stitching
+ manual exposure mode
+ 60 second exposure
+ almost no chromatic aberration
– prone to flare (contrast reduction)
– In low light, LED light sources can lead to horizontal lines.
– softer near the stitch line

Video quality: 8.6

+ excellent image stabilization (similar to best-in-class)
+ excellent 4K video quality
+ 4K live streaming
+ Freecast (tiny planet / Freecapture style live streaming option)
+ live stream has stabilization
+ very good dynamic range
+ excellent sharpness near the center of the lens
+ log mode increases highlight range
+ manual exposure mode
– audio is clear but mono only

Usability: 9.0

+ Freecapture (stabilized View Finder, and Pivot Point keyframing)
+ Multiview
+ Smart Tracking
+ Bullet Time
+ excellent image stabilization makes it easy to shoot
+ waterproof external housing accessory
+ live streaming uses direct connection to phone; can use Wi-Fi for streaming
+ Bluetooth remote accessory can automatically pair with the Insta360 ONE without needing an app
+ intervalometer
+ simple and easy workflow on mobile and desktop
+ reasonably priced
– no live preview in wireless mode
– Micro SD cards need to be formatted with ExFAT on desktop (thanks to Mike Boening for the tip!)
– mediocre battery life; can’t use spare battery
– plastic tripod hole

Discounts; where to buy

Insta360 ONE is available on Amazon (Link #1 or Link #2) or from GearBest (March 20, 2018: use the code 360RumorsOne to get a special price of $269).

  • 8.8/10
    Photo - 8.8/10
  • 8.6/10
    Video - 8.6/10
  • 9.0/10
    Usability - 9.0/10

About the author

Mic Ty

78 Comments

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  • Hi Mic.

    Great review as usual.

    Incredible that this camera suffers from the same horizontal drifting problem when gyro is on. Do you think this can be solved with a firmware update?

    Also I wonder if the horrible softness near the stitching area is an app problem. Have you tried to stitch an INSTA360 ONE photo with other software?

    Thank you very much.

  • @Michael TY the tutorial is comprehensive and resourceful as always. Now I still opts more for camera A as I have seen so many fine photos with it whereas B just started and may be everyone is still playing with the gimmicks. Your linked post pointed out that B has drifting after longer video recording. A has it too and the users said to turn gyro off. My Theta experience (sweet and shallow in pixel) is start and shoot, Theta apps will right it up. So camera A could not do it and B cannot for long? Although I seldom take 360 video (difficult to share and store), I would appreciate a zero effort flow. I can accept a low DR video as long as it is clear reasonably, but hardly if I need to fiddle long hours on desktop. If camera A can also meet the take video and stitch upright easy, I certainly will buy it as camera B cists 100 USD more and photo quality not remarkably win over A. I still have 1 month to decide as I am trying to replace dead battery of Theta and the delivery of Li-50b battery and testing takes time. Wish that breathtaking photos by B could hit us to draw a fairer comparison.

    • Thanks iamme! I think they are both good choices. Xiaomi does have higher photo quality but to get the best out of it takes a few tricks and workarounds such as using Hugin. Check out the Mi Sphere group on Facebook: facebook.com/groups/mijia360cam

    • Hi Reyner! The specifications don’t say that it has Wi-Fi so I believe it is not possible, unless you connect it to a phone and then use a second phone to connect to it.

    • Nope, you just have BT connectivity, which is very limiting. You have no live preview and you can’t donwload photos or videos to your mobile unless you phisically plug the camera in .
      Also remote functions are handled by BT, which means the range is very limited.
      I find this is this camera’s main weak point.

  • Well done review.

    Freecapture might be useful. But I’m wondering about the resolution of the resulting video. I can’t believe it will be anywhere near as good as a regular 1080 camera. Do you have some samples?

    Bullet time seems gimmicky. But I think it’s generated a lot of sales from people who might not normally consider a 360 camera. The poor tripod mount that you describe may have these cameras being flung all over the place during bullet time use.

    Too bad about the “mediocre” battery life.

    Adobe DNG raw is a plus especially for more advanced users.

    • Hi Bill. Thanks for your question. I’ve updated the article to include a sample of a FreeCapture video. But to answer your question, it won’t be as good as a regular 1080p camera I think. It’s more a matter of convenience and flexibility in composition.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Great Mic!
    I was thinking if 360 cameras will replace the conventional cameras in a near future.. because we already could take normal photos from 360 photos.. and now free capture just come to definetely stay here haha…
    Nice review!

    • Hi Ramon! I think 360 cameras will definitely be more common in the future, although I don’t think they will be more common than non-360. We’ll see!

  • Hi Mic! Thanks again for a very deep and accurate review (as usual)!!!!! I wonder if you have tested the Flat/Log option for real – I mean shot with the cam in Log mode and then color corrected the video? Because I can see traces of “oversharpening” in the logfiles they’ve uploaded to YouTube (looks like if you throw a “normal” video into a editor and just change gamma, sharpness and brightness…that can also, of course, be caused by YouTube when uploading the video) I think it will be a big thing and a “press the buy-button” for me if it really shoot videos in true flat mode.

      • Hi Svend, that’s one of the issues. I think the photo quality is also quite good but not as good as Xiaomi. There are other issues which I listed in the strengths and weaknesses.
        Best regards,
        Mic

    • Hi Douglas. I will try to do a battery run-down test to find out. But so far, after I take some videos, I can see the battery level is reduced noticeably.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • I just received mine today and first thing off the bat, the SD cards I have (Lexar, Samsung, and Sandisk) doesn’t work!!

    What cards are you using Mike?

  • Had the camera for about 3 weeks now. Image quality is very good, but has some severe limitations.

    1. lack of WiFi connectivity. This means tha if you wnat to place the camera somewhere and trigger shooting with you mobile you can rely only on bluetooth, which has a very limited range. I started having “weak bt signal” messages at 2 meters distance and no obstacles beetween me and the camera. Losing contact with your camera also means that you won’t be able to abjust manual controls like ISO or exposure.

    2. lack of preview. BT-only connectivity is too slow to provide image preview, not even lo-res. So if you need to have a preview f what you’re shooting forget it. And you can’t even download the videos to your phone unless you plug it in through the lightning connector: this is a rela bummer because it also means you have to remove the camera from your tripod.

    3. app upside down. App is designed to work with the camera plugged in; this means the bottom part of your iPhone becomes the top part. This is ok when you have the camera plugged in, but not ok when you’re using the app as a remote for your camera. The guys at Insta should flip the interface when the app used as a remote without the camera plugged in.

    4. standalone controls. You can only set controls for when the camera is used in standalone mode (shooting delay, raw shooting, etc. ) if the camera is plugged into you phone.

    5. raw shooting. The camera can take raw stills and video in log formats. Unfortunately Insta Studio can’t process these files and the company gives no advice on how you could process these files… Not that useful so far…..

    Besides that video quality is very good, even in harsh conditions with fast moving subjects. Stabilization is simply amazing and no overheating issues (understood Samsung ?)

  • Hi Mic,

    I just bought it and planned to replace my LG360. A little bit disappointed after using it for a day. The image quality is superior, but there are few points that disappointed me.

    1. No liveview (even LG360 does!)
    2. No GPS info can integrated on the photo if not physically connect to the phone when taking the photo.
    3. The app cannot use landscape mode to review the photo/video…

    Hope insta360 could keep update and improve it make it better.

    • hi Stanley. Congrats on getting the Insta360 ONE.
      1. Re live view, connect the phone to the camera to get live view.
      2. GPS info – true, it has to be attached to the phone.
      3. yes this is a good point.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Just Received my Android version of the 360 one. Thus far it’s a 300 dollar paperweight. There’s nothing more annoying than getting a brand new product and having to do a firmware update before you can do anything else. Firm ware update done, I have put the Insta one into it’s Android Adaptor and it’s fits fine but god knows what kind of pin they have going from the adapter to the phone. It ovalish and maybe a bit larger than an android pin but it certainly wont fit into my phone or the other 2 I tried. I am guess that I can plug my android cord from the computer to the Insta One and pull down the photos as a work around but my goal was to pull these panoramic photos directly into my VR Maker software on the phone. Frankly as is, I’d be more likely to purchase another brand unless the adapter is fixed.

    • Hi Steven. It seems you received the USB Type C version of the adapter, while you have a phone that has the older Micro USB. You need to order the Micro USB version of the adapter. Best regards, Mic

      • Thank for yor the education. A couple of months back I signed up for a service VR Maker. They send me a free 720 degree add on lens and a Rotator. I was so happy until I found out my phone didn’t have a gyroscope. I went out an purchased a new LG X Charge and fired up the VR Maker. After about 4 or photos the VR Software will lock up. I added DMD Panorma do my phone and it works great. I really wanted to get away from shooting 6 or 7 photos to have a 360 so I waited and waited and waited for the Insta 360 One with the Android adapter. First off, I can’t say I’m thrilled to have a flimsy plastic adapter that can easily get lost while the Apple people simple plug it in. Second, I paid more for my Android version. Feeling a little disappointed from photo one. All that said it is my intent to use it remotely so the adapter isn’t that big a deal but getting the photos onto my phone should not become a 3 step process. I again am willing to buy yet another phone (no I don’t want an I phone) but when I go looking for phones with USB they are still few and far between. I went on the Cricket site and the only one they have is a Galaxy S6. Seriously if I had wanted to add a 600 dollar phone to the mix I would have just skipped all this and bought the Theta. I think at this point to call the micro an old style connector might be a little overkill. I would suspect that despite all the tech stories saying it’s coming it’s coming that it’s still not really here. I will be surprised if Insta360 makes two versions and if so shouldn’t they have put the on the website. It was a slow boat from China, I can’t believe this is going to have a happy ending. Thanks for listening.

  • Hi Mic, need help…
    untill now I buyed 3 remote controls, but doesn’t work…
    One of them is the same as yours in video, from Amazon. Do have an idea?

    Thanks
    Robert

    • Hi Robert. Did you buy the remote that i posted in the link? Because that’s the remote that worked for me. Best regards, Mic

      • Thanks Mic,
        Yes the same, but I had to order it from amazon.de, amazon.us doesn‘t deliever to germany.
        Perhaps insta360 offer its own, then I will order this.
        Best regards
        Robert

  • U mentioned: “Second, your phone can use Wi-Fi for live streaming, instead of using it to connect to the camera (as in the case of the Garmin Virb 360 for example).” So how do we do that?

    • Hi Osama. In the One app’s main shooting screen, tap on the 360 live streaming mode (beside the photo and video). Tap on the facebook logo to authorize facebook or switch to your preferred social media. Press shutter to begin the livestream. That’s all there is to it! 😀

        • Hi Osama. If you follow the steps I described, and your phone is connected to Wi-Fi (not LTE), then you will be using Wi-Fi for live streaming. Best regards, Mic

    • Hi Michael. Stabilization is for both photo and video, although for photo it is usually not perfect. You can use hugin or theta converter to make it perfectly level.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mic,

    Great article 🙋‍♂️
    A quick question; where can I buy a tripod suitable for the Insta360 One?
    I believe the base is quite narrow so it remains invisible.

    Kind regards
    Clive

  • Hi Mic,

    Thank you so much for your useful reviews and advices. your website is great and one of the best for 360 video!
    I just bought an Insta360-One, made firmware and app updates and I am a bit disapointed using it with Windows or Android (without adapter). Freecapture is missing, options are very limited. Did I made a mistake buying the Insta too early?
    Thank you for your feedback

  • In case you want to update the article, I bought the other untested Bluetooth remote you linked, tried it, and it definitely did NOT work with the Insta360 One. (Worth the $5 to test) I’ve now ordered the other one that includes a selfie stick.

    • thanks Jeff! I really appreciate your sharing that info. I’ll specify in the article that the other untested one doesn’t work.

      best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mic,
    Thanks for the review.
    So after updating last firmware you can’t stitch photo or video if you have an Android phone? There is no more stitching workflow through desktop app? In that case, I think ETA for Android update should be a priority.

    • Hi Pablo. If you update the firmware you can still stitch on Android or desktop, but it won’t have FlowState stabilization. Just regular stabilization. This is what they told me, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’ll test later.

      Best regards,
      Mic

        • Thanks Pablo. The update from yesterday is only a minor update. It is not the big update for Android. The new app will mention FlowState.
          Best regards,
          Mic

  • Hello Mic,

    After the firmware update, would you recommend the Insta360 One over the GoPo Fusion?

    I have the Fusion but am struggling with the Fusion Studio 1.1, I cannot render any of the videos on my laptop while I am on holiday, which I find frustrating. It is an i7, 16GB RAM with 51GB SSD. The Insta360 looks way easier to edit, especially with the firmware update.

    Can you edit in the same way (freecapture, flowstate stabilization, multiview, etc.) with the Fusion Studio? I don’t have Adobe Premiere either which is a pain.

    • Hi Shailesh! Your laptop seems ok except that it doesnt have a dedicated graphics card. Can you try shorter clips with the Fusion, and also render as h264 4k instead of 5.2k. You could also try turning off d warp.

      If those work, you can use insta360 studio to make overcapture videos with keyframing. Also, try magix movie edit pro plus 2018. It can be used for freecapture and to do your own multiview. Here is a tutorial https://youtu.be/mpfzBjJXPdg

      If none of those suggestions work then i guess you cant really use fusion. You could try yi 360 vr which has better image quality than insta360 one but is very slow to stitch. Or you could try insta360 one which has less image quality but has many features. Pls note the march 2018 update is only on ios for now. No eta yet for android.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Hi Mic,

        Managed to render on my home PC, not the laptop. The clips look good and I have had to render them in H.264 to import them into Insta360 Studio (the others come out in mov and I couldn’t import them).

        I’ve managed to key frame one video, put some transitions in, preview it and it looks good, but when I try to export, I get a 0Kb file. I’ve tried lots of different settings, lowering the bitrate, exporting to different drive from the source clip, tested the hardware rendering and everything seems fine. Any idea why I am getting a 0kb file?

        The clip is less than a minute long, I can’t see why it wouldn’t export.

        • Just tested the preview mode and the screen just flashes with green bits and does not preview, so I think this is the issue.

          My CPU is i7-5820K @ 3.30GHz, 32GB RAM, NVMe Samsung MZVPV512 Hard drive, Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB graphics card.

          I’ll see if their support can help me.

  • Does the app gps tag the exif in the images?

    Theta does- every shot, from iphone GPS

    gear 2016 only tags the GPS coordinates of when the camera and phone were most recently connected via bluetooth for the whole session *(unless using street view app, at lower resolution and loss of some shooting options)

    Can’t find the words “gps” in connection with this camera at all

    • Hi Marke! The Insta360 ONE doesn’t appear to have gps tags whether or not it is connected to a smartphone. I can suggest to insta360 to add this feature.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mic,

    Thank you for the very informative review and tutorial.

    I checked the link on the blue tooth remote that you used on your video, but the link is no longer available. I was wondering if you can share the brand/model that you have or perhaps provide an updated link where it can be purchased.

    Also, do you have recommendations on the water proof case? Have you used one?

    Thank you and more power!

  • hi,
    I was checking image quality. In image 6 and 8 half part is extremely good and sharp whereas half part is blurry, not sharp or noisy. For example in image 6 the area of bar is clear sharp but image on your side where light was low, image is clearly very less sharp and heavily denoised or effect which happens when we remove noise from low light images. You can also observe it in image 8. Is it just me or you also noticed it?
    Two cameras are using same ISO exposure settings or each camera has different settings according to luminosity levels of scenes?

    • Hi imme! That is a very good observation! True, in those images, one lens is clearer than the other. It is not optics because in the other images, both lenses are just as clear. I will submit this issue to Insta360! Thank you very much!
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Hi Mic,
        🙂 Your reviews are amazing and I was about to go for my first 360 video cam but observed this issue. Is there any way we can see exif for each camera? I feel your side was darker and raised ISO values on camera facing you to balance out things….maybe..

        Can we shoot with manual settings like focus, exposure, iso etc?

  • Hi, i’m french photographer, shooting 360° with my RSLD camera and a panoramic head but i’de like to bought a mini 360° camera for “everyday life”.
    But as a “pro”, i’m looking to conserve a good quality on picture. My first choise is the Gropro Fusion, but the prise let me down, so my second choice was th Misphere but i saw that’s the insta 360 was able to shoot raw files.
    I’m lookin to get a sample a a raw file but i didn’t found it.
    Could you tell me was sort of RAW is ?
    Is it 2 circular image or a stitched equirectangular ?
    i’ve got verry good softwares for stitching so get 2 circular files is not a problem.
    Thank’s in advance
    Jerome

    • Salut, Jerome! Yes Insta360 One can shoot AND stitch in raw.
      When you shoot in raw, it is actually JPEG + Raw. You get both the INSP file (which converts to JPG) and the raw file in DNG.
      Straight out of the camera, the DNG file is double fisheye, but if you import it into Insta360 Studio (the desktop app), Studio can stitch the DNG into an equirectangular DNG file.
      So you can choose either double fisheye or equirectangular.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mic, thank you so much for the in depth review. Your original Insta360 video is what convinced me to buy this camera. While I’ve been really happy with its performance so far, there are a few things I’m struggling with which Insta360 support have not been helpful with at all, and I was really hoping you could help me out.

    In your original video, exporting video to facebook, etc. gave you the option to make the video a ‘tiny planet’ video under a tab labeled ‘animations’. In my version of the Insta360 ONE iPhone app (3.0.1), I cannot find this feature anywhere! When exporting, then going to the ‘360 Video’ tab, you are able to pinch the video all the way out until it becomes a tiny planet, but when you export, it just stays as a normal 360 video, without the tiny planet feature.

    I want to be able to create a flat tiny planet video from within my iPhone, that I can then share instantly to Instagram, etc. Have you found where this feature is located? If so, would you mind helping me out? I’d really appreciate it. Your reviews and help on the Insta360 have been indispensable to me!

    Thanks and hope to hear back from you soon,
    Max

    • Thanks Max! The option to create an animation is still available for 360 photos (not 360 videos). If you share to Facebook, you can see there is an option to share as multivew, 360 photo, or animation. If you choose animation and you share it, it will appear in your camera roll or gallery. If you only want the animation and don’t want to actually share it, choose “only me”.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Ty for all ur video, i end up getting the insta360 full bundle from apple store (i’ll do an unbox in cantonese/english)

    I have a question is that, is it possible to take pictures while taking videos? if not how would i proceed to do this?

    I guess the remote is very handy if i do use the selfie stick?

    • Hi TonyK! Congrats on getting the full bundle!
      You can’t take photos while taking videos, but when you are viewing a video, you can take frame grabs.
      The remote is not absolutely necessary, but yes it is very handy!
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • ok the remote and the adapter arrived, the remote is amazing, but the adapter……………. really disappointed

        i had to remove my shell case to use it on my note 8 (and it doesn’t fit perfectly since the USB-C port isn’t located in the middle and it didn’t even work for my v20 for some reason i’ll test it out a little more

        btw you said u use an OTG extender for the adapter for your S8+ how does that setup work?

        • Hi Tony! Congrats on getting the One! When I use an OTG extender, it feels “wobbly”. I’ve also tried using just the adapter that’s included with the phone to connect it to an OTG cable (if you just want to download, etc.).

          The case I use on my S8+ is the Otterbox Commuter which on the Samsung is very easy to remove, while also offering very good protection (and it’s also surprisingly affordable considering it’s an otterbox…) It also makes it convenient to use your phone with a Gear VR https://amzn.to/2Hi7tZ7

          Best regards,
          Mic

  • Can the Apple version connect directly with an Android version via Bluetooth? I have Sony XZ Premium and it sees nought. Also, can it be used independently in horizontal mode?

    • do you mean when the insta360 one is in ios mode? bluetooth shooting works on ios and android, but you gonna swap modes (it will prompt you)

      I haven’t bought the adapter yet for android as i don’t know if it will handle my note 8/lg v20 with a shell case (since i don’t see anyone doing a review with android phone with an case on while using an adapter), atm i’m only playing around on ios mode on my ipad

      • Hi Tony! My worry with using it with a USB C extender without removing your shell case is that the camera might get knocked off. But it should work as long as it is an OTG extender. I was able to use an OTG usb cable to connect the One to my Android phone (S8+).

        Best regards,
        Mic

        • i ordered the adapter from it’s taobao official shop, surprisingly they gave me a picture that shows the gap between is 1cm, so as long as your phone width is 1cm and the usb-c is exactly right in the middle the adapter should fit in nicely, i’ll take some pictures with it once it arrives with the remote in a few days

  • Hi mic! You are doing a great job in this web! I want to buy the Insta 360 One for making long live streamings with and android phone but I have a doubt about the battery life of the camera and the phone.

    You know if is there any way to externally power both? The Insta 360 One can be powered by the USB port, there is no problem, but the phone can’t be powered through the USB port because is used by the adapter to connect the camera, right? So, is there any way to power the phone? Any type of micro usb hub or double adapter? The battery of the phine could last a few hours and I plan to make long live streamings… Any idea please?! Thanks!!