It’s not the Insta360 camera I wanted, but it’s the camera I got in the end. I had my mind set on the Insta360 camera for some time, but the price was prohibitive. Insta360 GO (AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress) was on my radar, but bold claims about stabilisation and perfectly edited videos online made me rather sceptical. I have 1st hand experience with gimbal based stabilisation thanks to FIMI Palm (review), so what else Insta360 GO could offer?
Insta360 GO – but where?
It’s the second national lockdown in the UK so the options are limited. It’s a pity, as the Insta360 GO comes with interesting accessories to try out. The company is not being shy at Insta360 GO’s the intended use. Advertised as an action cam to capture the best moments at the button’s press, this gadget tries to appeal to active youngsters who are happy to get viral in 1 min long action clips on Instagram. I’m neither young nor capable of going viral despite having an Instagram account.
There is more to this camera than meets the eye, but if you want to record long, scenic hikes in the mountains rather than quick zipline trips down the slope, FIMI Palm (review) may be better suited for you.
If you are here to share a short, stabilised clip of you doing something insanely cool, read on.
Here is the box, inside the box there is another box
Insta360 GO camera sleeps in a charging case. This case will top up the battery a couple of times before it runs out of juice, it also acts as a storage and USB pass-through for PC and mobile devices. I cannot believe they actually included a fixed Lightning Port covered up by a rubber bumper. What’s wrong with USB-C? C’mon guys, you could do better! Apple fans will appreciate the move, but everyone else is left with a slight “WTF?”.
That’s the only disappointment in the box, as the camera comes with interesting accessories to keep you trying new things out. Insta360 GO mounting options are impressing thanks to 20g weight of the device. Strong magnets are enough to keep the camera in place using various attachments.
The kit comes with a medallion (to wear under the shirt) to which camera can be mounted to, a clip for hats and necklines, a sticky pad with magnets and a car mount which doubles as selfie holster thanks to 1/4 inch screw at the bottom.
I actually went cycling with the camera snapped to the medallion hidden underneath my gear. At first, I worried about losing it. As time passed, I gained total confidence in the camera’s ability to stay in place thanks to strong magnets.
Awkward at first
The minuscule size and weight come with certain disadvantages. A buzzer and an RGB LED is all you have to decipher the camera’s operating modes. Do yourself a favour, sit down and study the patterns for vibrations and LED. It helps a lot when trying to take a video or a picture. The included manual is bare, but in-app tutorials do an excellent job at explaining stuff for you.
Once you train your brain into recognising vibration patterns, it gets better. Unfortunately, some accessories can’t decide if they want me to press the button, or prevent me from doing so. The car mount is notoriously difficult to get the camera out without triggering an accidental recording. The medallion almost makes the button presses too easy.
50:50 on the app
Insta360 GO comes with a designated app. This very app is the weakest link in the whole package. The current bugs include:
- launching app upside-down
- no full screen on the video preview
- automatic connection (Bluetooth) is a hit and miss (manual is ok)
- no preview of the frame
- USB connection doesn’t trigger sometimes
The app links to the camera via Bluetooth. Due to Insta360 GO battery, it makes sense as anything less consumption friendly would ruin the battery on the action cam. Unfortunately, this means no frame preview. The only controls I have are shutter and settings.
It’s annoying that at times, the app fails to connect automatically to turned on Insta360 GO (hold button to power it first), but the manual connection works each time. Once connected, button bindings can be defined and you have access to all shooting modes:
- Video 15/30/1min/5min
The 5 min video limit comes with a warning. Insta360 GO will heat up and it’s advisable to use this only when sufficient cooling is provided (cold day, fan or drone props). In reality, most of my fun action videos rarely go over 1min.
Editing tools are basic. Trim, Instagram alike filters, speed control and aspect ratios. There is a fairly rich library of music overlays. I assume these are copyright free. The app comes with very rich tutorials, instructions and videos showing all cool shots and how to recreate it. That’s pretty cool and inspires creativity.
Insta360 GO shines here. I have not seen better stabilisation to date on a device without the mechanical gimbal. The footage is unbelievably smooth considering how badly my body moves as I cycle. This took me by surprise, as this camera not only weighs nothing but shoots incredibly nice to watch videos.
3 different form factors – same shot!
Walking and running is still impressive, but the vibration coming from steps is noticeable. Go to edit options in the app and disable the stabilisation, watch the raw footage and you will quickly understand how impressive Insta360 GO is.
It’s 1080p at 25FPS but I believe the sensor is capable of much greater resolution (2720×2720). All these extra pixels are used to crop the image and keep it shake free. A truly remarkable achievement considering the size. You have to appreciate what went into the design as this is where Insta360 GO size and weight counts against it. The ability to place the camera in a random place on your body does not make the video processing easier.
Sadly, this all collapses once the lights levels are too low. The footage jumps from silky smooth and high res, to grainy, moody and seen through a dirty lens (created thanks to post-processing artefacts). No night time parkour guys.
But if the light is right, pictures, hyper lapses and short video clips are fun to watch! On top of this, the mic is pretty decent too. It lowers the IP rating, so the camera is only splash-proof despite the sealed body. It’s clear as day, that the Insta360 GO is made for a specific purpose. This purpose for me, it’s cycling. For you, it could be parkour, skiing, or playing ball. From the hardware standpoint, they got it right.
The biggest problem of the Insta360 GO (AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress) is the release date. Released in the middle of the 2020 pandemic, where most of the world is locked inside, unable to travel, fool around with friends and take awesome action shots. Insta360 got the stabilisation done right. Now they should use these smart people to work on their app a bit. Due to its size and near perfect (for the size of the camera) stabilisation, I can proclaim it as my one and only cycling camera. I’m sorry FIMI Palm (review), you are far too fragile to compete in that field! Got questions? Leave it in this Reddit thread.