Insta360 has gone traditional. The Ace Pro is a feature-packed action camera that doesn’t rock the boat.
With a new sensor and removable battery, the Ace Pro is surely set to become Insta360’s flagship vlogging and lifestyle camera. The action camera market has some fierce competition, though, and it needs to stand apart from the rest.
Insta360 has also released a smaller sibling – the Ace. The baby version doesn’t have any input from Leica, has a 54% smaller sensor, and it shoots up to 6K instead of 8K.
- About 130 Mb/s bitrate for 4K footage, 8-bit recording.
- Fast charging.
- Pause recording option.
- “Clarity Zoom” punch in.
- “Pure View” low light mode.
- Can be used as a webcam.
- 16mm equivalent focal length.
- HDR video up to 30 frames a second.
This new camera seems out of place. Insta360 has always had a habit of creating unusual cameras, with interesting and quirky features. The Ace feels like any other action camera. I’m a bit surprised to see it, given the history of oddities that comes before it.
The closest Insta360 has come to making a standard action camera like GoPro or DJI was with their R lineup. The R series is modular. From a regular action camera, to their flagship 360 camera.
Insta360 appears confident that they can elbow out competition with specs. The sensor is about 45% bigger than GoPro’s Hero 12 Black – 1/1.3’’ versus 1/1.9’’. This is the same size sensor as DJI’s OSMO Action 4, but Insta360’s pushing an 8K resolution out of theirs.
This resolution wasn’t available for testing, however it did enable something more useful. When shooting in 4K, the “Clarity Zoom” 2x punch-in option remains in 4K. I’ve never felt comfortable cropping in with an action camera before. It pushes the Ace Pro beyond action camera territory, especially with the tighter 16mm equivalent focal length.
The bigger sensor is pulling a lot of weight with an 8K resolution, so you’d expect low light to take a hit. Fortunately, Insta360 has a new chip in this thing that de-noises before the footage is encoded. They call it “Pure View” mode, and it’s actually not bad. You’ll take a hit on dynamic range, and I feel like it errs towards lifting shadows, but it’s certainly better than Insta360’s previous low-light abilities.
Speaking of the faster processing, the regular video mode shoots in HDR up to 30p. I like the look, especially since the camera only shoots 8-bit footage. Previously Insta360’s “Boost 4K” module for the RS had a separate HDR mode that worked pretty well. So, having this baked into the regular footage is a welcome addition.
The Ace Pro is no slouch. Its sizable sensor and software tricks are what make this camera shine. However, the quality-of-life features are what consumers should care about.
A large flip-out screen gives the user a greater connection to the shot. The HDR-as-standard feature will push regular people towards effortlessly pleasing footage. It’s snappy and fun, which is what an action camera ought to be.
There’s a question every potential user is going to have to ask themselves: how much action do you need from your camera?
I still really like Insta360’s less serious GO 3 that I reviewed earlier this year. It’s got the fun twist that Insta360 is known for – it’s a camera the size of your thumb. It doesn’t shoot 4K, but the feeling is there, and the quality is remarkable for its size.
The Ace Pro feels like it’s more than the bigger sibling here. It’s in a class of its own, even though it’s only $50 more than the GO 3.
Is it a GoPro killer? I’m not sure. Firstly, it’s not cheap, sitting $50 above the GoPro HERO12 Black. Secondly, GoPro has a long history of community support and trust, effectively creating the action camera industry.
On paper, the Ace Pro is a step above. I had no overheating issues or lagging menus when testing it. It’s a big leap forward for low-light shooting, and its AI auto-editing features are consumer friendly.
I’m not sure customers will be attracted to the Ace Pro’s specs alone. 8K resolution isn’t useful for most, especially when utilizing a tiny action camera sensor. The in-app AI features are easy to gloss over. The HDR feature can’t go past 30 frames a second, and without 10-bit recording, high frame rate users will take a hit on dynamic range.
Insta360 is entering into a hotly contested market that also competes with the phone in your pocket. I’m quite interested to see how consumers react to this spec heavy beast over spring and summer.