Insta360 One RS review: The best of both worlds?

Insta360 One RS review: The best of both worlds?

(Pocket-lint) – When the Insta360 One R launched in 2020, it was a camera unlike any we’d seen before. The clever modular design meant that it could be used as a 360-degree camera or as an action camera by simply clicking on a different lens module. Now, a couple of years later, Insta360 is looking to refine its formula with the introduction of the One RS.

This new camera improves upon its predecessor in numerous ways, but it also manages to maintain module compatibility with the previous generation. So, if you want to upgrade the battery but keep using your old One R lens modules, that’s no problem. Backwards compatibility is a rare trait in the action camera realm so we’re very pleased to see it here.

Our quick take

For anyone who wants both an action camera and a 360 camera, the Insta360 One RS offers unmatched value. The Twin Edition as tested here comes in at little more than the GoPro Hero 10’s suggested price – and you’re essentially getting a GoPro Max equivalent thrown into the deal. Beyond the price, there’s also the fact that it’s one less camera to pack for your next getaway, which is a huge benefit in itself.

When it comes to pure image and audio fidelity, GoPro still has the edge (except for with stills), but with the Insta360 One RS, it would seem that the gap is narrowing. We think most people will be extremely pleased with the vibrant and stable footage produced by this clever little camera.

For owners of the original Insta360 One R, we doubt you’ll feel much urgency to upgrade. That said, we applaud the way Insta360 has approached the upgrade path, allowing those already invested to purchase the new 4K Boost lens alone or the battery, core and mount to continue using their old lenses. 

The Insta360 One RS is a solid choice for anyone in the market for an action camera (or 360 camera), and if the support for the system continues – as it seems it will – it’s only set to get better and better.

Insta360 One RS review: The best of both worlds?

Insta360 One RS

4.5 stars – Pocket-lint recommended

For

  • Modular 2-in-1 design – action cam and 360 cam in one
  • Significant upgrades from the previous generation
  • Great software experience
  • Backwards compatibility
Against

  • Audio quality doesn’t quite keep up with the competition
  • Grainy image in low-light conditions
  • Screen is super small
  • No advance to 360 lens

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What’s new?

  • New processor, improved stabilisation, faster Wi-Fi transfers, an additional microphone
  • Redesigned mounting bracket: Quick release, built-in windproof mic cover
  • 1,445mAh battery capacity with 1-hour charging
  • New 4K Boost lens module

A lot has been updated compared to the first generation. In fact, the only part that is completely unchanged is the 360-degree lens module included in the twin-edition set. Even so, the 360 lens still works fantastically and can take advantage of some of the improvements that are found elsewhere in the system.

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The star of the show is the new 4K Boost lens module that features a large 1/2-inch image sensor and a 16mm (equivalent) f/2.4 lens. The new lens module shoots photos at up to 48-megapixels and creates more detailed 4K videos than the last generation. In addition, it adds a new Active HDR video mode and 6K widescreen shooting for ultra-high-definition videos.

The new One RS core has a beefier processor onboard to boost its in-camera stabilisation capabilities. It also adds an additional microphone to improve audio. The One RS battery looks very similar to its predecessor but manages to squeeze in an extra 21 per cent of capacity, which should alleviate most battery concerns whilst out and about.

As we mentioned before, Insta360 has ensured backwards compatibility with One R modules, so if a One R user wants to purchase the new 4K Boost lens module alone, it will work with the One R Core and battery. In that case, you’d lose out on things like the improved in-camera stabilisation but you’d still be able to take 48MP photos and use Active HDR.

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All of the features of the original Insta360 One R have also made their way over to the newer RS model, including some really cool integrations like the ability to pair the camera with Apple AirPods earphones and an Apple Watch app that can be used to control the camera remotely.

Sizing it up

  • Weight: 125.9g with 4K boost lens / 124.4g with 360 lens
  • Approximate dimensions: 57 x 78 x 29 mm

The Insta360 One RS is almost the exact same size as the GoPro Hero 9 and 10, which is handy when it comes to third-party mount compatibility – as it means you’ll rarely run into any kind of clearance issues. The included mounting bracket is compatible with the GoPro ecosystem and features the usual two-pronged mounting system.

Speaking of the mounting bracket, it’s important to note that the camera needs to be inserted into the bracket in order to be waterproof. Thankfully, it’s very quick and easy to insert or remove the camera thanks to the new quick-release design.

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The One RS, with the 4K Boost lens and in its mounting bracket, weighs in at 160.5g total; roughly the same as our Hero 9 Black. It’s significantly lighter without the bracket, but we imagine it’ll spend most of its time mounted to something. Both in and out of the mount, the camera feels solid and well-built, which is no easy feat for a modular device. 

When comparing the Hero 9 and One RS side by side, one thing that immediately jumps out is how small the screen is on Insta360’s model. In fact, it’s smaller than the front-facing screen on the Hero 9. There’s no way around this, due to the modular design, but it’s certainly a shortcoming. Despite the small size, we didn’t have too much trouble using it as a touchscreen and it’s plenty responsive – but if you want to see any semblance of detail, you might need to get a magnifying glass out.

Videos, photos and audio

  • Up to 4K 60fps video / to 6K 2.35:1 / to 5.7K 360 video
  • Slow-motion up to 100fps at 2.7K / 200fps at 1080p
  • Up to 48-megapixel photos

The videos produced by the One RS are bright and vibrant with plenty of detail. The 4K Boost lens produces an image quality that is up there with the best from GoPro, but it differs in a few ways. First up, while the 4K Boost lens is fairly wide, it can’t quite match the field of view of GoPro’s SuperView or the DJI Action 2‘s ultra-wide field-of-view.

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Secondly, the One RS has a tendency to lift shadows, which produces a brighter-looking image overall and is very pleasing in good lighting, but it won’t hold up to as much post-processing as the competition. In lower-light situations, we see the same thing occurring: the image looks brighter but it is also noticeably grainer than the image from a comparable GoPro.

With these little cameras, stabilisation is one of the most important features – and we’re happy to report that the in-camera FlowState stabilisation does a superb job of keeping things steady. It’s up there with the best on the market and is only further improved if you choose to add it in post using Insta360 Studio.

The One RS differentiates itself by offering a few features that aren’t found on competing cameras. In addition to the modularity feature, there’s Active HDR video and 6K Widescreen.

We struggled to see a use-case for the 6K widescreen mode. The field of view is so narrow that it’s useless for most action-camera scenarios and the fixed focus lens means that you’ll struggle to make anything look particularly cinematic, despite the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The resolution is impressive, though, so maybe it could be used for a landscape shot every now and then.

The Active HDR mode produces pleasing images that manage to retain detail in highlights and shadows whilst keeping the overall image punchy and vibrant. It’s by no means a game-changer, but it’s a nice tool to have in your bag of tricks, especially if you come across particularly challenging lighting conditions.

In our experience, action cameras aren’t used for photos all that often, but if you choose to snap pics on the One RS we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, as the 48-megapixel results are sharp and detailed. When compared side by side with photos from the Hero 9 Black, there’s no competition, the Insta360 has miles more detail – but that should come as no surprise with over double the resolution at its disposal. 

We won’t go into too much detail on the 360 lens mod, since it is unchanged from the last generation, but the user experience is excellent from start to finish. It’s easy to review your clips on the camera’s touchscreen and the compact form-factor makes it much nicer to use than the GoPro Fusion of yore. Stitching is solid, even in difficult lighting, and it’s easy to tweak in the app if required. Top marks all around.

Audio quality from the One RS’s built-in microphones is decent – but it’s not going to blow you away. Even with the added windproofing of the new mounting bracket, the camera struggles with wind noise. The quality is there and it is plenty detailed, but it has a tendency toward higher frequencies and produces a less pleasant sound than the GoPro straight out of the camera.

That said, Insta360 sells a very affordable external mic adapter and the camera can also pair with Apple AirPods to be used as a wireless microphone – so those seeking higher quality audio have a wealth of options to choose from.

Desktop software and app experience

  • Insta360 app on iOS and Android
  • Insta360 Studio on PC and Mac
  • Adobe Premiere Pro integration

We found the software experience with the Insta360 One RS to be intuitive. The software ran smoothly and rarely had any hiccups on both our Android phone and desktop Windows PC. We’re glad to see that all the major platforms are covered, too, so chances are you’ll have at least one device to run the software on.

Videos shot with the 360 lens module will require processing via the software, so you’ll quickly become acquainted if you shoot a lot of 360 videos. We love the deep-track feature that allows you to select a subject and have AI (artificial intelligence) automatically reframe the video to keep them front and centre. This is one of those features that’s easy to imagine going wrong but it worked flawlessly throughout our testing. The ability to quickly render 360 videos in a variety of aspect ratios is a wonderful feature too, meaning you can render the same clip for Instagram and YouTube in a matter of minutes.

For the 4K Boost module, the software is less crucial, but if you film in Post stabilisation mode on the camera then it will unlock a wider variety of field-of-view options as well horizon-locking stabilisation. We really enjoy the flexibility afforded by shooting in this mode – and unless you’re wanting to avoid the editing process entirely, we’d recommend shooting in it the majority of the time.

To recap

The One RS further improves upon Insta360’s already capable camera system. It allows users to capture impressive videos, photos and 360-degree footage, all from a lightweight and compact package. While it may not beat the flagship GoPro models when it comes to pure image quality, it makes up for it in convenience and user experience.

Writing by Luke Baker.