Insta360 promised a camera smaller than your thumb, but with unique capabilities. Have they delivered?
This new camera isn’t like anything Insta360 has made before. In fact, it’s not even a 360 camera. It’s got the heart of a regular action camera, in that it’s sort of waterproof and is designed to fit anywhere. Think of Snap’s glasses, Google’s Clip, and a GoPro mixed into one.
Without getting into much more, here are the specs:
- f/2.1 super wide lens (180 degrees)
- 8 GB built in storage
- “FlowState” software stabilization
- Shoots video, timelapse, hyperlapse, slow motion
- Up to 30 seconds video recording at a time
- Up to 30 minutes hyperlase recording at a time
- Video records at 2,720x2,720, exports from app at 1080p
- Slow motion video records/exports 1,600x900 pixels at 100 fps
- Video recorded at 40 Mbps, exported at 30 Mbps
- Images captured at 3,040x3,040
- OK microphone, nothing unusual
- $200 for the camera, case, and mounting accessories.
To activate the camera ,you press down on the face: what’s actually happening is that you’re pressing the button on the rear. Pressing once records for 30 seconds, twice for a hyperlapse, three times for 100 fps slow motion, and long-press to snap a photo.
It takes a little getting used to, and while you can pair your smartphone via Bluetooth and see the settings laid out, the point of this camera is to be quick and discreet, which is aided by the accessories that come in the box.
Insta360 show off all the accessories better than I can in their promo video.
Just like any action camera, getting creative with mounting is a make or break. I think Insta360 has done a decent job on day one here, made easy by the fact that the Go is like a super strong fridge magnet. Here’s how you can fix it to things:
- 1/4"-20 screw mount for tripods
- Magnetic necklace
- Magnetic clip
- Regular magnet with a sticky back
- 1/4"-20 screw mount with a sticky back
There’s a decent amount of room for creativity here. My favorites were definitely the laziest though, like the magnetic necklace. The magnetic bond is definitely strong enough to withstand most jumping around, running, and so on.
The “FlowState” stabilization is all done in the app, surely aided by metadata from the camera. It’s incredibly smooth, so you don’t have to worry if the camera is perfectly mounted or steady. Unfortunately, the shutter speed slows down in low light, which leads to artifacts, but that’s something I’d expect. There’s an option to remove grain from your footage as you export, but grain isn’t really the issue.
The form factor is the most interesting part. Side by side with some AirPods, you’ll see they’re strikingly similar. That’s the best trick the Go delivers: it’s easy to carry around in your pocket.
The case is quite a bit bigger than the camera, because it holds the battery and the link between the camera and your smartphone/computer. In my opinion, there are pros and cons to how they’ve created this. What’s great is that it’s amazingly portable and provides enough juice to keep filming for the day (200 30-second clips, or about an hour and a half).
However, I'm not a massive fan of the lightning connector sticking out. The rubber guard isn’t held on by anything more than friction, and I’d be afraid of snapping the connector off. Also, the clear plastic cover over the camera pops on and off. It’s a tad finicky when compared to something as smooth as Apple’s AirPods. Nonetheless, these are pretty frivolous concerns.
The other issue is that while the camera is tiny, the case is nearly the same size as a GoPro, the obvious competitor. I think the Go is extremely portable, but not significantly more portable than a GoPro. When you start shooting, there’s no question which is the smaller option. It’s pretty easy to grab a quick shot and then put the camera in your pocket.
You can technically plug the Insta360 Go into a computer via USB, and you will be able to see the files. However, they’re unprocessed, use an unfriendly codec wrapper, and will need to be converted if you want to edit them like a pro.
The iOS/Android app is the way to go. Obviously, Insta360 is eyeing up iPhone users because of the built-in lightning connector and the delayed release of the Android app. This is the best way to cut up and export your footage.
The process is easy. Here are the steps:
- Plug the Insta360 into your smartphone.
- View your clips.
- Select which you want to import.
- Either manually edit, or let the app’s presets take over and edit with AI scene recognition.
- Export and share.
The automatic scene recognition is pretty great: it’s called “FlashCut.” I didn’t get enough time to shoot with the camera to really see the benefit of this, but the idea is that you can shoot all day and have an edit in less than a few minutes. It catches human moments like smiling or pointing, alongside transportation, food, and other objects. It’s also able to recognize when your hyperlapses move forward, and use those moments as a transition. Pretty clever!
Of course, you can come in and manually edit these auto-cuts, adjust exposure, color balance, add filters, text, and music. Annoyingly, you can’t crop in on a shot. As a result, everything you shoot will be super-wide. Personally, I would take a hit on resolution if I was able to crop in a little bit on some shots.
The app also allows you to change the camera’s settings, like how long it records for and remapping button control via a Bluetooth connection. There’s no live preview available.
Two examples of FlashCut making a video for me. If I did more than have a beer and commute, this would be a little more exciting.
Is It a Good Action Cam?
Yeah, I think it is. In fact, I’d recommend this over any other action cam on the market. Why? Because most people don’t need an action camera, and this one is very easy to use.
GoPro has become a marketing company more than a tech company, and they’re selling an adventurous lifestyle that most of us will never aspire to. There are shots that you need an action camera for: surfing, jumping out of a plane, mountain biking. But then, often, we just want to record our everyday lives, which can be done on a smartphone.
I think if you wanted an action camera, the Insta360 Go is the tamer option that you’d be happy to have. It’s not too expensive and it’s not obtrusive. Perfect for a vacation or Instagram story. Remember when Google created the Clip? It’s a little bit like that, but with a lot more control.
The magnetic mounts are strong, but not strong enough to trust with action sports. You can definitely go for a run, but I wouldn’t trust it on a rollercoaster. For anything extreme, you’ll need a proper action camera.
What I Like
- The size is unbeatable.
- It comes with all the needed accessories.
- It’s easy to export landscape, square, and portrait videos.
- Easy to fix it on your shirt and forget about it.
- Super stable shots.
What I Don’t Like
- Takes time to learn how to operate its single button.
- I wish it had a pre-roll recording option, so you never miss the action.
- Can’t crop when editing in the app.
- It’s geared towards the iPhone, with an Android app coming soon (but the lightning connector will still protrude on the case).
- Not great in low light (expected).
You can pre-order the Insta360 Go here, for $199.99.