Review: The Insta360 GO 3 action camera is also a tiny vlogging camera

Jun 27, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Review: The Insta360 GO 3 action camera is also a tiny vlogging camera

Jun 27, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Insta360 has announced its newest teeny tiny wearable action camera, the Insta360 GO 3 (buy here). The camera itself is quite similar to its predecessor but comes with a new case (the “Action Pod”) and significant usability improvements.

The Insta360 GO 3 retains its small form factor, although it is slightly different from the Insta360 GO 2 (buy here) and the original Inst360 GO. But it sports a new mounting system that makes it much easier to slot into your workflow.

YouTube video

I’ve been testing the Insta360 GO 3 for the last couple of weeks and while a lot of specs might not seem that different on paper, it’s been great from a usability standpoint. But let’s start at the beginning.

Insta360 GO 3 Specs

The on-paper specs on the Insta360 GO 3 are pretty similar to those of the Insta360 GO 2. As such, it might not feel like much of an upgrade. However, there are a few obvious benefits, such as increased battery life and capacity and a slight resolution increase to 2.7K. It’s also available in a larger 128GB capacity version.

Note: The below specs are those available from the Insta360 website and Insta360 GO 3 documentation I received at the time of publication. I will update this to fill in the blanks as I can. And, yes, there is some sample video footage from the Insta360 GO 3 at the end of this review!

Insta360 GO 3Insta360 GO 2
35mm equiv. focal length11.24mm11.24mm
Aperturef/2.2f/2.2
Sensor size1/2.3″1/2.3″
White BalanceAuto, 2700K, 4000K, 5000K, 6500K, 7500KAuto 2700K, 4000K, 5000K, 6500K, 7500K
ISOAuto, 100-3200Auto, 100-3200
Shutter speed1/8000-1/30th (video) / 1/8000-120s (Photo)1/8000-1/30th (video) / 1/8000-1s (Photo)
Exposure compensation-4 to +4-4 to +4
Photo modesPhoto, HDR Photo, Interval, StarlapseStandard, Interval, Night Shot, Starlapse, PureShot
Photo file formatINSP, DNG RAWINSP, DNG RAW
Video modesVideo, FreeFrame Video, Timelapse, TimeShift, Slow Motion, Pre-Recording, Loop Recording
Basic stabilisation, Flowstate stabilisation (Pro mode), HDR, Timelapse, TimeShift (Hyperlapse), Slow Motion
Video formatH.264 MP4H.264 MP4
Video bitrateUp to 80MbpsUp to 80Mbps
Video resolutionUp to 2560×1440 @ 50fps / 2720×1440 @ 30fpsUp to 2560×1440 @ 50fps (25fps for HDR)
Onboard storage32GB, 64GB, 128GB32GB, 64GB
Battery Capacity310mAh (Camera) / 1,270mAh (Case)210mAh (Camera) / 1,100mAh (Case)
Run time45 mins (standalone) / 170 mins (in case)30 mins (standalone) / 150 mins (in case)
Charge time (camera)23 mins to 80% / 35mins to 100%23 mins to 80% / 35mins to 100%
Charge time (case)47 mins to 80% / 65 mins to 100%47 mins to 80% / 65 mins to 100%
ConnectivityBLE 5.0, 802.11a/b/g/n/acBLE 5.0, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
IP RatingIPX8 to 5 metres (camera) / IPX4 (case)IPX8 to 4 metres (13ft)
Dimensions (Camera)54.4 x 25.6 x 23.2 mm52.9 x 23.6 x 20.7mm
Weight (Camera)35.5g26.5g
Dimensions (Case)63.5 x 47.6 x 29.5mm (Screen Down) / 63.5 x 86.6 x 29.9mm (Screen up)68.1 x 48.54 x 26.6mm (Closed) / 132.5 x 26.03 x 26.6 (Open)
Weight (Case)96.3g63.5g

As I said, they look pretty similar on paper. The GO 3 also retains features like the screw-on lens filters, but as we go through the rest of this review, you’ll see that the usability upgrades make a big difference.

Insta360 GO 3 – Inside the box & first impressions

The Insta360 GO 3 box contains pretty much everything you’d expect. There’s the Insta360 GO 3 itself, along with the magnetic pendant – and a wedge to adjust the camera angle when using it – the cap mount, and a new mounting base.

The Insta360 GO 3 box contains pretty much everything you'd expect

The Insta360 GO 3 uses a screw-on lens filter, just like the Insta360 GO 2. Fortunately, Insta360 did a good thing here and actually kept the same diameter and thread pitch. So, any of the ND filters you bought for your GO 2 will still work on the GO 3.

Insta360 go 2 and Insta360 go 3 compared

One thing that’s slightly disappointing is that there’s no pouch or bag included with the GO 3. The redesign of the case leaves the Insta360 GO 3 lens exposed. Sure, the lens is protected by the filter, but the filter can still potentially get scratched up in your bag.

I really do love the redesign of the new case, though. I mean, it has a flippy-up LCD for a start. So, you can see what you’re filming without having to whip out your phone. What’s not to love? Except that it doesn’t protect the camera’s lens the way the GO 2 case did.

Insta360 GO 3 case

Insta360 GO 3 Charging, accessories and use

The basic GO 3 camera is quite similar to the GO 2. They both offer a similar small form factor and are targeted toward the same use cases. There is a slight difference in the design that makes the GO 3 incompatible with GO 2 accessories (or at least, most of them).

So, with the GO 3 comes a new range of accessories to replace those you would’ve used with the GO 2. The newly designed accessories offer a much easier mounting workflow.

Insta360 GO 3 mounts

Charging the GO 3 up was as easy as the GO 2. Pop the camera into the case, plug in a USB-C cable and you’re good to go. The USB-C cable charges the case and the case charges the camera.

Insta360 GO 3 charging

The GO 3 offers increased battery life over the GO 3, charging up in about the same amount of time (23 mins to 80% and 35 mins to 100%) but offers about 45 minutes of record time, vs the 25-30 minutes of the GO 2.

Using the camera inside the case extends this to 170 minutes. I haven’t tested it for the full 170 minutes, but after 45 minutes using the camera solo and then another half an hour with the camera in its case, I didn’t run into any overheating issues. This alone is a significant improvement over the GO 2.

When it comes to accessories, the Insta360 GO 3 and GO 2 have slightly different form factors. So, unlike the lens filter, the rest of the accessories for the GO 2 don’t quite fit the GO 3. It’s a teeny tiny bit chunkier. This means new holders, like the cap mount.

Insta360 GO 3 mounting gear

That Insta360 had to redesign the accessories and mounts with the new GO 3 means they’ve taken the opportunity to revamp the mounting system. The GO 2 case simply had a 1/4-20″ socket at the bottom. If you want to mount the GO 2 to anything not magnetic, it was either without the case or just using the 1/4-20″ socket.

With the GO 3, you still have to use the camera without the case sometimes (like in the cap mount), but both the camera and the case utilise another new mounting system. The new mounting system allows you to use the same accessories with the bare camera or inside the case.

One accessory that comes with the camera and utilises the new mounting system is the Pivot Stand. This is a two-part accessory, one with a sticky pad and a 1/4-20″ thread sticking out the top of it and then a sort-of ball head on top with a 1/4-20″ socket in the bottom.

This is much improved over the pivot stand that came with the GO 2, and allows for other mounting options. As the two parts of the Pivot Stand can be disconnected, the top ball head part can screw straight onto the end of the Insta360 Invisible Selfie Stick (buy here) or even a tripod plate.

Insta360 GO 3 selfie stick and plate

There’s also an optional accessory available that converts the new GO 3 mount into a GoPro mount, letting you use it with the array of GoPro mounting systems out there, including head and wrist band mounts, chest mounts, bicycle, and motorcycle mounts, etc.

Insta360 GO 3 stick

You can also use this accessory with the Insta360 Mini 2-in-1 tripod (buy here). This lets you easily use it handheld for vlogging and place it down on the tripod legs when you want to set it down. You can also connect the supplied pivot stand to the Invisible Selfie Stick to have the best of both worlds.

Insta360 GO 3 stick compared to the GO 2

The combo shown in the above photo is a great compact and lightweight option for a day out filming and vlogging. You’re able to switch between the bare camera or the Action Pod case in an instant between both the selfie stick and the mini tripod.

If you want some extra versatility, you could also throw a wireless microphone in your bag. Sure, you can’t plug it into the GO 3, but if you’ve got something that records, like the Wireless GO II or the Comica BoomX-D Pro, you can still sync up in post.

The Insta360 GO 3 Charging Case

Insta360 GO 3 charging case

This is the single biggest change with the Insta360 GO 3 over the GO 2. As well as massive functionality changes, the visual difference is immediately noticeable. It doesn’t fold to encase the camera now, and it also has a flippy-up LCD.

The new case gives the GO 3 more of an action camera style user interface. With the LCD folded down, you’ve got the view on the rear and the lens pointing ahead of you, just like an action camera.

Insta360 GO 3 back screen

But you can also flip the LCD up, stopping it at either 90 degrees to look down on the camera’s view. Handy if you want to shoot from the hip or have your camera down low where looking at the LCD would otherwise be difficult.

It tilts!

And, of course, you can flip the LCD straight up, facing the front, for when you want to vlog or shoot selfies. The flippy-up LCD makes the Insta360 GO 3 a much more versatile camera, capable of shooting in more situations than the Insta360 GO 2.

The LCD is also a touchscreen display that’s pretty responsive. From the display, you can switch modes, adjust exposure and other shooting settings, and enable and disable features like the grid overlay, voice commands, audio processing, sharpness, etc.

Insta360 GO 3 menu

As well as the LCD, you can also get basic controls through the action camera style button layout. You’ve got a power button on the side, along with a quick button for switching modes. On top, you’ve got a shutter button, that will either shoot a photo or start/stop recording video, etc., depending on the mode you’re in.

Insta360 GO 3 quick mode button

The new magnetic mount connector

Aside from the obvious benefits of a case with a flippy-up LCD, this is my single favourite benefit of the GO 3 over the GO 2. The new magnetic mounting system unifies the camera and its accessories to be able to quickly changes things up while shooting.

With both the camera and the case using the same magnetic latched mount, I can quickly swap between using just the camera or using the camera with its case.

While you might think that whenever you want to use this system, it’ll be in its case for maximum battery life, this isn’t always the case. If you’re using a long stick, like the 3-metre-long Insta360 Extended Selfie Stick (buy here), you might want to keep the case handy for monitoring and easy adjustment of settings.

Sure, you can do this with a smartphone too, but using the case is often quicker, easier, and doesn’t drain your smartphone battery. And if your camera’s battery starts getting low, you can always take it off the mount, put it in the case, put the case back on the same mount and carry on shooting while it charges.

The Smartphone and Desktop Apps

There isn’t really much to say here that I didn’t already say in the Insta360 GO 2 review. The app hasn’t changed all that much, and there aren’t really any GO 3-specific features in the app that weren’t there with the GO 2.

The “Pro Video” mode of the GO 2 has been renamed to Freeform Video, but that’s pretty much it. The app doesn’t appear to have gone through the big upgrade it did at the time of the GO 2 release in 2021.

Insta360 GO 3 pro video mode

The Insta360 Studio app for the desktop also hasn’t changed much with the Insta360 GO 3 release. It offers the same features it offered with the GO 2, although the UI of Insta360 Studio 2023 has seen some slight changes and improvements since 2021.

The good news is that other than to activate the Insta360 GO 3 when you first set it up, you don’t really need to use the smartphone or desktop apps again if you don’t want to. The user interface on the flip-up LCD makes it easier to adjust settings and output flat MP4 video straight from the camera that you can import right into your regular video editing software. You also get built-in FlowState stabilisation without having to process the video in an app.

Personally, I’m still a fan of just exporting the footage out with Insta360 Studio (for slight reframes) and then editing in DaVinci Resolve. The only downfall of this technique is the transfer speed.

While 80Mbps (10MB/sec) isn’t a massive amount of bandwidth, it’s only the minimum required to write footage out. It seems that Insta360 wasn’t focusing on boosting this much when you transfer from the camera to your computer. They have a bit, but not much.

Insta360 GO 3 transfer speed

Transfers typically sat around 30-35MB/sec (240-300Mbps) in my experience. This is significantly lower than even cheap SD and microSD cards. If you’ve only shot a few short clips, the transfer isn’t bad. But if you’ve filled a 64GB or 128GB camera, that transfer can take a tediously long time.

Sample footage and audio

The footage from the GO 3 is slightly better than that of the GO 2, although both are very good. In this video, it’s all GO 3 footage, but as soon as we get another break in the rain, I’ll head out to shoot the GO 3 and GO 2 side-by-side for some direct comparison footage and update this review.

YouTube video

I wanted to test the audio on the GO 3 while using the external case, too. It’s still using the two cameras built into the microphone itself (the case doesn’t offer any extras), but I wanted to see how well it picked out my voice against the wind and environment.

So, in the video above, you’ll see a sample of that using the GO 3 as a vlogging camera on the end of the invisible selfie stick. No video or audio post-processing has been done to the video. All the clips were processed in Insta360 Studio, which remained at all its default settings, and then edited together in DaVinci Resolve.

The audio is noticeably improved over that of the GO 2. The Insta360 GO 3 contains two microphones that seem to perform very well. While you can still hear the wind in the samples above, it doesn’t clip as destructively as other cameras out there. It also doesn’t distort my voice much while speaking in the wind, which can still be clearly heard throughout the clip.

It’s still not going to be quite as good as using a dedicated mic like the Rode Wireless GO II (buy here) or Comica BoomX-D Pro (buy here) but unless you’re in extreme weather conditions, it should sound pretty good for most vlogging-type uses.

Conclusions

Although it looks very similar to the GO 2, the GO 3 offers some distinct benefits. The GO 2 was a fantastic camera, but for anything more than sticking it to the pendant, it was a bit of a pain to use sometimes. The camera and case of the GO 3 are both slightly heavier than their predecessor, although it’s not really a noticeable difference in weight in your camera bag or pocket. When you want to pack extremely small and lightweight, the GO 3 is still an excellent option.

The new mounting system of the GO 3 and its case opens up a lot more opportunities and makes it a lot easier to switch things up between tripods, mini tripods, selfie sticks or other mounts thanks to the adapters that turn the camera’s mount into 1/4-20″ or a GoPro style mount. The flippy-up LCD also adds a whole bunch of versatility to the Insta360 GO 3 that its predecessor did not possess.

I still think there are some things that could be improved, given the redesign and the newfound functionality of the GO 3 as a vlogging camera. Now that it’s exposed, a case that keeps the lens covered – so that it’s not going to get scratched or covered in bits rolling around in your backpack – is pretty much an essential item. Not including this feels like something of an oversight.

A microphone adapter for the Action Pod’s USB port for when you’re using the GO 3 in a vlogging sort of situation would also be extremely helpful. Now, such a product might be in Insta360’s plan already. I don’t know. They haven’t told me one way or the other. But, if they can, they should. And if they can’t, it’s definitely something users should want in the GO 4 in a couple of years.

And, of course, the file transfers over USB could definitely be sped up, especially as storage capacity increases.

Overall the Insta360 GO 3 is much improved over the Insta360 GO 2 due to the improved usability of its accessory ecosystem. The GO 2 is still excellent, and I’m sure there will be situations where I’ll keep using mine – because I already 3D printed a bunch of mounts for it to use on RC vehicles – but the GO 3 will be my go-to teeny tiny camera from now on.

Price and availability

The Insta360 GO 3 is available to buy now in three capacities. The 32GB costs $379.99, the 64GB costs $399.99, and the 128GB capacity version costs $429.99.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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