Insta360 One RS action camera review: a fiddly-but-fun modular cam with GoPro-beating specs

REASONS TO BUY
+Funky modular design

+Excellent image quality

+Decent battery life

REASONS TO AVOID
-Fiddly SD/Charge port cover

-Premium pricing

New in March 2022, the Insta360 One RS is the brand’s follow-up to the Leica/Insta360 collaboration the One R, and strikes a similar note, at least from a build point of view. The former flagship Insta360 action cam won plaudits for image quality, so we were excited to see how this new addition stands up.

With this new launch, Insta360 looks to be solidifying its reputation as the maker of some of the best GoPro alternatives around… although the modular design is perhaps more similar to the DJI Action 2 from late 2021.

INSTA 360 ONE RS REVIEW: PRICE AND RELEASE DATE
The Insta 360 One RS launched worldwide on 22 March 2022, available at retailers such as Amazon and direct from Insta360.com. The Insta 360 ONE RS Twin Edition’s UK price is £499.99, the US $549.99 (USD), and in Australia we’re talking $919.99 AUD.

INSTA 360 ONE RS REVIEW: FEATURES AND WHAT’S NEW

The Insta360 One RS takes the modular design from the Insta360 One R, and kinda keeps running with it. The main camera body is in fact three modules, intricately clipped together. The red bit is the battery pack, which bridges the two units as before, there’s a control module (dubbed the One RS Core) that holds the SD, charge port, buttons and screen, and a lens cube that can be swapped from a 4k/48MP single aspect lens to a dual aspect, 360 POV beast that knocks out 5.7k /30fps. Blimey. Astonishingly, this intricate techno-jigsaw is waterproof to 16 feet, a bewildering feat that we didn’t dare test too brutally.

An upgrade to the previous 4K Wide Angle Lens, now boosted to a larger 1/2″ 48MP sensor which can shoot more detailed 4K 60fps video and 48MP photos.
An upgraded One RS Core, featuring a new processor for improved in-camera FlowState stabilisation and up to 50% faster WiFi transfers, as well as an additional mic.
Battery capacity is 21% bigger than the ONE R battery.

The downside of this modular jiggery-pokery is that the finished brick is on the larger side – not ludicrously so, but a good few mm bigger than the market-dominating GoPro. The obvious benefit is that you can swap lenses whenever you like, as well as (presumably) adding in larger battery packs, or at least swapping them easily. In addition, the rear touchscreen can be swapped round to the front if you’re in selfie mode, which is a neat trick – arguably more faff than simply having two screens, but undoubtedly less battery-draining.

INSTA 360 ONE RS REVIEW: SETUP AND USE

Overall, the modular hardware is a slick and intriguing package that makes you want to explore, and is all-too-easy to use as a fiddle toy if left on a desk. The real shortcoming on our pre-production test model is the SD/charge cover, which requires fiddling to master. It pops off when a latch is released, then hangs on a retaining tether, but inevitably a fingernail has to be used as encouragement, and frankly the whole thing would be better with a normal hinge. Closing it again is a bit hit and miss, but Insta360 has sensibly added a yellow flash to the locking tab to show when it’s not quite closed properly (a common occurrence).

It’s also annoying that this is the only method of charging the battery, especially given the modular nature of the beast – a USB clip or caddy to charge the batteries off-camera would be useful.

On the other side of the coin, the case (required to bolt the beast to your desired mount) is a study in micro-tech joy, a pair of buttons front and back flick the end of the case open when squeezed, allowing the body to be slid in. It’s a positive action, both in the open and the close, and one that’s easily fiddled with while on boring Zoom calls. Essentially, it’s fun.

Unlike some action cam cases, this one has been carefully considered, so accommodates the two different lenses, as well as the screen orientation being flipped, and still allows access to controls and SD. That said, it is possible to insert the camera backwards so that the case push-through buttons don’t work – something to watch out for.

The supplied ‘invisible’ selfie stick has a solid build quality to it, extends enormously to 116cm, and although it doesn’t have a lanyard built in, there is a screw thread in the base so such a thing could be added. In summary, the modular build is fun, and the tactile quality is excellent – it feels like a quality item, a serious tool for the action cam trade (apart from the SD door).

The companion app, Insta360, will be familiar to owners of the Insta 360 One R, Insta 360 X2 or Insta 360 Go 2, and rather excitingly doesn’t require logging in or account creation to use it, which is a pleasant change. The Shot lab takes the work out of creating exciting new video content, just choose the effect and point it at your video clips and you’re done. The preview and editing tools work perfectly well, albeit not always as intuitively as others. The connection between camera and phone (Android) seems to begin with Bluetooth, then cycles to Wifi for larger data exchanges, but once connected it’s pretty reliable, and we didn’t experience any noticeable issues shooting, reviewing and editing content.

INSTA 360 ONE RS REVIEW: PICTURE PERFORMANCE

Let’s be clear, the new 4K boost lens shoots beautiful video, a feat that it was duty-bound to perform, after the general acclaim of the older Insta 360 One R. The 1/2″ image sensor does a great job of hoovering up photons, both in video and in stills mode, and to be honest the 4K Boost lens is what we spent most of the time going back to, in spite of the undeniable joys of the 360 lens pod.

Winding the capture quality up to the 6K widescreen setting does challenge many aspects of the camera, including the battery life. On longer clips the unit gets pretty warm, not catastrophically so, but ‘quite’ hot, and the battery life dives well below the claimed 75 minute runtime for the 4K boost lens, and 84 minutes for the 360 array. A couple of test runs on widescreen 6K 2.35:1 got more like 45 minutes apiece, which isn’t too bad considering the competition.

The active HDR is pretty good at smoothing footage out, even when you’re wilfully waving the unit around to test it. It’s hard to be certain, but it’s pretty close to GoPro’s stabilisation, which is a big accolade. Insta 360 has also improved the in-camera ‘FlowState’ image stabilisation on offer in the Core component – the combination is certainly capable enough for most users.

What isn’t quite enough is the Core unit’s screen size, which is still on the postage-stamp scale, and although the majority of the controls have been designed to mitigate this, it’s still a bit of a compromise. Although you can frame shots successfully, the screen is too small to review clips in a practical manner, although you can if you choose to. The modular design allows the screen to face front or back, and as a front screen it’s fine, just it can be fiddly to make adjustments on the fly.

Audio is a bit of a mixed bag – clipped into the wind-protective case, and with wind cancellation activated, almost no sound is captured at all – perfect for extreme sports, but less ideal for vlogging or similar. With stereo recording enabled in the menu the situation is improved, and with ‘directional enhancement’ you’ll be able to knock out a decent vlog, although this is a setting you’ll need to fiddle with to successfully create different content types.

 

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