Insta360 has today announced the new Insta360 ONE RS. It’s the follow-up to the company’s popular and modular Insta360 ONE R, released in 2020. It boasts some fancy new upgrades in both the core module as well as the 4K “Boost” module, but is it any good?
I’ve been playing with one for the last couple of weeks, so today we’re going to talk about some of its differences and benefits over its predecessor and take a look at some sample footage from both shot side-by-side to see how it compares. For those who just want the announcement info and the specs, you can check out the announcement article here. For the rest of you, carry on reading.
What’s in the box and what’s new?
Inside the box, the Insta360 ONE RS twin kit comes with pretty much the same things the Insta360 ONE R twin kit did. You’ve got the core module, a 4K video module, a 360° module along with its rubber cover, a battery, a cage, USB cable, manual and stickers.
But there are a few noticeable differences. From a hardware standpoint, a few things have changed. There’s a new core module, there’s a new 4K module (with Active HDR mode) and a newer slightly bigger battery. The 360° module is identical to that of the original Insta360 ONE R.
The bigger battery means that the ONE RS doesn’t fit into the ONE R cages (neither the Insta360 one nor the SmallRig one), so the ONE RS comes with a new cage. They’ve dispensed with the awkward fold-up-the-back-and-clip-over-the-top design that’s plagued action cameras for years and instead gone with a side-loading design similar to the SmallRig cage for the original Insta360 ONE R. The Insta360 cage isn’t metal like the SmallRig one, but that’s not a massive issue.
To confuse you even more, the Insta360 ONE RS will work with the original Insta360 ONE R battery, letting it once again fit inside those original ONE R cages. This is handy if you do have the SmallRig one with the 52mm filter thread on the front and regularly shoot with a circular polarizer filter or a variable ND.
Just like the battery, the core module and the new 4K module are interchangeable and compatible with the old ONE R system. You can use the new core module with the old 4K mod, and you can use your original ONE R core mod with the new Active HDR 4K module that comes with the ONE RS.
Note: Compatibility to use the new 4K Boost module on the original ONE R core is not available just yet. Insta360 says it will be coming in a future firmware update shortly after the launch of the ONE RS.
What makes the new 4K mod so different? Well, it’s a completely new lens unit. It features a newer and higher resolution 1/2″ 48-megapixel sensor, with sharp 4K video at up to 60fps. It brings with it a slightly wider field of view, switching out the ONE R’s 16.4mm equivalent focal length for an even 16mm. The aperture on the new lens is also slightly wider, opening up from the f/2.8 of the original to f/2.4. It’s a minor change, but it should give you about an extra 2/3rds of a stop of brightness, allowing you to shoot in slightly lower lighting conditions.
As well as a slightly wider angle field of view and brighter aperture, the new 4K module also supports Active HDR, which helps to give you a wider dynamic range in high contrast scenes. It will help to prevent you from blowing out those bright skies while trying to get detail in the shadows, although it does have limits, as you’ll see in a couple of shots in the sample footage below. The latter half of the video is with Active HDR enabled.
One big feature with the new 4K module, is that it lets you shoot with a massive 6K (6016 x 2560 pixels) widescreen option. It uses the full width of the sensor and offers a 2.35:1 cinematic aspect ratio rather than the typical 16:9, but it’s larger than 4K in both the vertical and horizontal axes, giving you some options in post for stabilising, scaling, cropping or faking subtle camera movements on a 4K 16:9 timeline in the edit. And you’ll need to do your stabilisation in the edit because there is no stabilisation whatsoever when recording 6K. It’s essentially only usable when shooting from a fixed position like on a tripod or when using an actual gimbal.
Update: Insta360 says that stabilisation is supported for 6K footage in post using the Insta360 smartphone app or using Insta360 Studio on the desktop. I expect that this would probably prove to be more reliable than trying to stabilise it in something like Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve, although I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison yet myself.
On the core module, we’ve also got FlowState stabilisation built right in now. Yes, Insta360’s advanced FlowState stabilisation has come to the camera itself. It’s vastly different from the “Simple” stabilisation of the ONE R. On the sample footage below, FlowState is on the entire time for the ONE RS and Simple stabilisation for the ONE R.
The ONE RS also boasts an additional microphone for crisper audio, 50% faster WiFi, an “Instant Zoom” function that gives you up to a 2.7x digital zoom while recording and a quick menu for easy access to preset shooting modes.
The new cage
One thing Insta360 has done with the ONE RS, which might seem quite minor but is actually a big deal as far as usability goes – which is why it has its own separate section in this review – is that they’ve redesigned the cage that comes supplied with the camera.
The old-style cage that came with the original Insta360 ONE R is of the typical action camera variety that we’ve had for years (except it’s not an underwater dive case, it just adds a GoPro style mount to the bottom). But essentially your camera slots into it, then the back folds up and the whole top acts as a lever to lock everything shut.
The new one, on the other hand, seems to have taken a leaf out of SmaallRig’s book, with a side-loading option. You push a couple of easy quick-release buttons, the whole side flips up and you can slot your camera right in. Then you just push the side down and it clicks right into place.
This style of case is fantastic. In fact, it’s so good that since I got the SmallRig cage for the original ONE R when it was initially released, I haven’t used the Insta360 cages with the ONE R since. I’m not entirely sure where I even stored them away now, it’s been that long since I used them.
Hopefully, like with the ONE R, Insta360 will be releasing another version of this cage that has a cold shoe on top for mounting a microphone. It would’ve been nice to see the cold shoe become standard on action camera cages by now, just for those who need them, but apparently, that’s not happening just yet.
Another benefit of the old SmallRig vlogging cage for the ONE R over the new Insta360 cage for the ONE RS is that it features a 52mm filter slot so you can add a polarizer or ND filter over the lens to bring that sunlight under control. Perhaps we’ll see an updated cage from SmallRig, too, to take the new battery into account, although you can still use it with the new camera if you use the old ONE R battery.
The sample footage
So, here’ the sample footage from the Insta360 ONE RS using the new 4K module (the left side of the video) and the Insta360 ONE R using the old 4K module (the right side of the video). To shoot the two side-by-side, I simply mounted both to a long cold shoe bar on a couple of ball heads and handheld them both with a Manfrotto Pixi mounted underneath for a somewhat realistic handholding experience and then went for a walk through the woods.
It was all shot at 4K UHD resolution and 24fps with auto-exposure. I had no ND filter on either camera, so the frame rates fall wherever they like. Stabilisation is enabled for both cameras throughout, with FlowState on the ONE RS and “Simple” on the ONE R. Active HDR also gets enabled for the second half of the video for the ONE RS. The ONE R has no such feature, so it’s still in its standard mode.
As you can see, there is a massive difference in quality between the two. The colours and contrast on the Insta360 ONE RS in both standard and Active HDR modes are much better than on the original ONE R, which often tended to be slightly warm and yellow, needing more correction in post.
Also very different is the FlowState vs Simple stabilisation between the two cameras. I always felt that the Simple stabilisation in the ONE R was a little too robotic. It holds your camera rock solid if you want to focus on a fixed object, but when you start to move, it feels a little jerky and unnatural as it realises that you’ve actually moved the camera and it’s not just an accidental bump.
FlowState stabilisation built into the new Insta360 ONE RS core module looks and feels far less robotic. It takes out all those little handheld jitters but still gives nicely stabilised footage with a more organic feel that still tells you it’s handheld without looking badly handheld.
Actually using the camera was pretty much the same as using the original ONE R. The menus are virtually identical, as are many of the options. Of course, the ONE RS has a few more that the ONE R doesn’t, but everything works exactly the same way and appears exactly where you’d expect it to.
One thing I will say, though, is that the touchscreen feels much more responsive and things slide around much more smoothly. Whether this is down to a new touchscreen display, a faster processor inside the core or what, I’m not sure, but I’m all for it. While I was a big fan of the original ONE R, the touchscreen was one of my biggest gripes. Now, it’s awesome to use.
There’s not really much else to say about using it. It’s pretty much the same as any other action camera. In fact, when I was using the two side-by-side to shoot the above sample footage, the only thing that reminded me which one was which was the cage each one was in. You’ve got a power button and a start/stop record (or shoot a photo, depending on the mode you’re in) button.
It connects to the Insta360 app on your smartphone the same as the Insta360 ONE R did and because it’s the same app, you get access to all of the same features. And you can still record with FlowState off so that you can apply it yourself in the smartphone app or Insta360 Studio on the desktop if you prefer. For me, I’ll be using it in-camera.
I don’t use the Insta360 app myself, preferring to use Insta360 Studio on the desktop for 360° footage or just shooting MP4 in-camera for regular 4K (and larger) flat footage. So, if you’re looking for an in-depth review of how the app works, you’re looking at the wrong review. As I said, though, the app works exactly the same with the ONE RS as it does with the ONE R and there have been plenty of videos posted about it on the web already over the last couple of years, so there’s nothing really new to talk about. It connects to the camera, it lets me update the firmware and it does it well, and that’s all I really use the Insta360 smartphone app for.
Like the Insta360 ONE R, the Insta360 ONE RS supports charging while in use, but I’ve found that I can easily get well over an hour of runtime from a full charge. And while I haven’t tested it to its limits, I’ve been able to shoot continuous back-to-back 10-20 minute clips for that hour without having any overheating issues or warnings that the camera was getting too hot.
But let’s talk about the photos…
An action camera isn’t the type of camera you’d typically use for shooting photos, even relatively unimportant ones, as we all have smartphones in our pockets these days that shoot perfectly acceptable stills. Given that we typically need to slow down or stop to shoot a photo anyway – vs a video clip – pulling out our phone isn’t a big hassle when we need a quick snap. But it’s a pretty standard feature in action cameras, so let’s take a quick look
Shooting photos with the ONE RS and the new 4K Boost Lens provides images of up to 48-megapixels in resolution as either JPG or DNG raw files. Operation is essentially the same as the Insta360 ONE R. Of course, the new 4K module with the ONE RS is much higher resolution than its predecessor.
As with video, you get full manual control with a 100-6400 ISO range (100-3200 with the 360° and Leica 1″ modules), white balance control from 2000-10000K (along with daylight, cloudy, etc. presets), as well as shutter speeds from 1/8000th of a second up to a whopping 2 minutes for those really long exposures.
Here are a few samples images shot with the Insta360 ONE RS and the new 4K lens module in JPG mode and then scaled down to 2000 pixels wide for the benefit of the web.
As the camera shoots DNG, the images can be edited in just about any raw processor without requiring an update, however, you might need to create some kind of colour calibration profile with something like a ColorChecker Passport or the DataColor SpyderCHECKR in order to get the best results.
One thing I did note is that the raw files hold a lot more detail than found in the jpg. I’ve corrected this image to have the lens distortion correction as close to the processed JPG as possible and I did make a profile with the SpyderCHECKER to try to get somewhat more natural colours, but here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of a 100% crop of one of the above images so you can see the sharpness captured by the camera in raw.
It is worth noting, however, that the focus on this camera is fixed. Up close, as you can see in the JPG examples above, your subject is blurred. And really far away subjects, like those in the distance of the park shot above do start to go a little soft, even in the raw file. When your subject’s in that sweet spot range, though, it’s much sharper than I had expected it to be.
For raw files, though, you will need to do quite a bit of perspective correction in post if you want to get rid of that wide-angle distortion. This isn’t specifically an Insta360 ONE RS issue, though. This type of distortion is inherent in pretty much all ultra-wide action cameras.
The other stuff (and stuff I couldn’t test)
There were a few things I couldn’t test because they don’t appear to be in the firmware yet with the camera that I have, but they’re mostly relatively minor.
Insta360 has informed me that these features will be implemented in a firmware update to be released either today during the official launch of the camera or at some point very soon before it starts shipping.
Webcam mode doesn’t quite work yet, either. With the slightly wider aperture and after seeing the improved sharpness and colour accuracy over the original 4K module, this is one that I’m quite looking forward to trying out as a webcam when the feature is available.
The App also won’t let you preview Active HDR mode just yet and it has a couple of delay issues. But, again, Insta360 says that these issues will be fixed upon release.
I didn’t fully test the new ONE RS core with the 360° module as it’s the same 360° module that came with the ONE R, but I did give it a brief go. The results were essentially identical to those of the Insta360 ONE R. So, as nothing has really changed as far as the operation or quality goes with that, I didn’t think that it was really worth covering in this review.
The Insta360 ONE RS came to me with an Insta360 branded 64GB V30 microSD card and that’s what I used for recording all of the footage above. But, I did also test it with the SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB microSD and the SIlicon Power Superior 1TB microSD card and it performed flawlessly with both.
Finally a word on the 6K video. It looks quite good to be fair. It’s fairly sharp and the colour’s pretty consistent with 4K mode. The only issue with it, and the main reason why I didn’t include any sample footage in this review, is that it’s only really all that useful if you’re shooting from a tripod, slider or using a handheld gimbal as there is no stabilisation whatsoever when shooting in this mode.
I did shoot some stuff in 6K mode, but I didn’t realise at the time of testing that there was no stabilisation at all, so it’s pretty terrible as video footage goes and super jerky and bouncy. It seems that 6K mode isn’t so much an “action” feature as a controlled environment thing, really. It’s for when you want to shoot something a little more cinematic but the only camera you have with you is an action camera. That’s great if you often shoot with a tripod or something anyway, but don’t expect to strap this to your chest or helmet and shoot silky smooth 6K footage. It’s just not going to happen.
Thoughts and conclusion
It’s a worthy successor to its predecessor in terms of image quality. The Active HDR mode of the ONE RS and new 4K module, while not perfect, is a big improvement over the original ONE R and the old 4K module. The colour and contrast of the video footage is much more accurate to real-life without requiring a bunch of correction in the edit.
As far as downsides of the ONE RS and what I’d like to see improved… Well, until I can test those last few features, I’m reserving judgement, but I do hope that Insta360 continues to produce the old form factor battery for those of us who have cages for the ONE R already. The new battery is expected to provide a better waterproofing seal with the core and slightly longer runtime, but for those of us where that isn’t an issue, the old one still works just fine.
Is it worth upgrading from the original Insta360 ONE R? Well, it depends. Personally, I think the colour, contrast and sharpness improvements with the new 4K Boost module are worth it, but I wouldn’t suggest going for the whole Twin Kit. You can get just the core module and the 4K boost module together for $299, allowing you to use the 360° and 1″ Leica modules you already have without having to buy them again (unless you want a spare).
If you mostly use the 360° and 1″ modules and don’t use the 4K module a lot, then you’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not you think it’s worth it. If you already have cages for the Insta360 ONE R, as I do with the SmallRig vlogging cage I have, then you can still go up to the Insta360 ONE RS, but you’ll just need to use the original battery in order for it to fit.
If you don’t already own the Insta360 ONE R but you’ve been thinking about it, then it’s definitely worth getting the Insta360 ONE RS instead. After all, it’s a newer and better camera and it has the same retail price as the ONE R, so why wouldn’t you choose the ONE RS over the ONE R?
The Insta360 ONE RS is available to pre-order now for $549.99 (B&H) in the Twin Kit variety including the RS core, 4K Boost and 360° modules, $299 for just the RS core and 4K Boost module, or $549 for the RS Core and 1″ Leica module.