The Insta360 ONE RS has been released, and we've been giving it a hammering to see whether it's a suitable option in the action camera market.
The new ONE RS looks like the ONE R that it succeeds. So much so that you'd swear it was the same camera at a glance. But, it has to be said, the ONE RS is more of an evolution of the ONE R than an outright sequel, and it's one that existing ONE R owners can take advantage of. Here's some footage I've been shooting with the new camera.
There are two new key parts to the ONE RS; the new Core module and the new 4K Boost lens module. There's also a brand new case and a slightly higher-capacity battery. Let's begin with the new Core.
The ONE RS' new Core module has improved image processing and better capabilities for in-camera stabilisation. A key feature is that it is no longer required to process the footage through software to benefit from stabilised imagery. Of course, the option is still there, and if you select modes such as the new Cinemascope style 6K mode or 100fps slow-motion modes, you will still need to perform post stabilisation processing. You'll also need to process the image if you want the ultra-wide FPV FOV option. But for general footage taken in 4K at up to 60fps, you can use the in-camera stabilisation with no issues.
Video compression is much better, with fewer artefacts than the ONE R and a slightly milder compression ratio. The sharpness settings have also been improved, giving much better results. These benefits occur across all camera modules, including the 1-inch Mod.
The new 4K Boost module is the other significant new addition. With a future firmware update, this will be compatible with the ONE R. The 4K Boost mod is slightly faster and wider than the old 4K Wide Angle Mod, with a 16mm equivalent FOV and f/2.4 vs 16.4mm and f/2.8 on the older module. Furthermore, the 4K Boost lens features a large, half-inch sensor capable of taking 48MP stills images.
The new Insta360 ONE RS Boost Lens module.
You might be wondering why, with 48MP potential for stills, that video is limited to 4K. It's an interesting question, and I'm not sure how the video is being processed for the stabilisation since choosing a higher or lower setting for the FlowState stabilisation doesn't crop in any further as it does on other cameras. It's possible that the large size of the sensor is being utilised so that there's no need to crop the image at higher settings. Indeed, an unprocessed video taken in the 6K cinema mode shows a far wider angle of view than either in-camera FlowState video or the post-processed and stabilised 6K cinema footage.
Also new to the ONE RS is the Active HDR mode, which lets the camera shoot HDR video, even in high action scenarios, at up to 30fps. Active HDR is designed for when light is at its most contrasty, such as during sunsets or facing into the sun during POV shots. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well in low-light, including mountain biking through a dingy forest, but you most likely won't need it then, anyway.
The last main change is the new external case, apart from the new battery. Now, my feeling in general with outer cases for action cameras is that we should be moving beyond them now. The integrated folding feet on the GoPro were one of the best things to happen to that camera, and I'd like to see similar options from other manufacturers, too. The case on the ONE RS is required for complete waterproofing, however. Possibly it squeezes together the different modules, ensuring water tightness between them.
The ONE RS outer case is much better designed than the original, featuring a side opening door that makes swapping over the modules much more straightforward. For example, on the old case, if you were using the 1-inch Mod, you'd have to unscrew the lens protector first, which was annoying. There's no such problem here.
The new outer case is a big improvement.
So, those are the main differences; how does it stack up in the real world? I'll say that right off the bat, the image quality has improved over the ONE R. There are fewer compression issues, and the sharpness setting works well. Insta360 recommends using the medium sharpness setting, but I found that it was overly sharpened. Most of the footage I shot was taken with the sharpness set to Low, which gives an excellent result. The image is still sharp, but without any of the edge-enhancement haloing you get on higher settings.
I found that using the 360 module resulted in images that contained more detail than the old ONE R. I think this might be down to the much better compression quality, but there have been instances where, for example, gravel on a path turned to an undefined mush on the ONE R, but there is finer detail on the RS.
Colour is excellent, with three options, Vivid, Standard, and Log. Vivid certainly lives up to its name. However, some may find it too OTT. Standard gives an excellent all-round result, while Log gives more grading potential, although it is highly compressed 8-bit footage, so use it with care.
Battery life on the ONE RS is exceptional, and you'll get around 1.5hrs out of the new battery with ease and with no overheating. The ONE R was also excellent for battery life, but this is even better, and it charges quickly.
The ONE RS doesn't feature 4K at 120fps; however, it does have 100fps in 2.7K, and the results are rather good. Unlike the 1-inch Mod, which drops to 1080p with what looks like line skipping to achieve this sort of frame rate, the 4K Boost lens keeps a wonderfully detailed image during high frame rate slow motion.
The touch screen could do with being a bit more responsive.
What could be improved?
There are a few aspects of the ONE R that I think could do with improving a little, some of which might be possible with firmware updates.
The first is the touch screen responsiveness. I found that I was getting a lot of false presses as I navigated around the menus, and there was also a bit of lag. Although the general layout is easy to read and navigate, some improvement to the touch screen responsiveness and speed would be welcome.
Sound is another area that could do with improvement. The ONE RS features three microphones vs two on the ONE R, and the new outer case features windproofing. Unfortunately, in my tests, I found the audio a little quiet, and the windproofing didn't offer much protection. Using stick-on Rycote fluffies is still the best way to go for this sort of thing unless you're using the camera in water or in the rain.
Lastly, there's the SD card and USB-C port door. This is a slightly different design from the ONE R, but it is still incredibly fiddly to deal with. I'd like to see a much larger, easier to open system in a future camera.
Apart from my minor niggles, the ONE RS is an extremely capable action camera and a very credible alternative to the competition. Indeed, it is better suited to adventure sports than the DJI Action 2. After two years, it could be argued that it might have been nice to see 4K at up to 120fps or a newer, higher resolution 360 mod. Maybe those are to come. But what we have here is a very reliable, easy to use action camera that gives excellent results. The fact that it is multiple cameras in one device increases its value for money credentials quite considerably. I love using 360 reframing for POV shots, and it's possible to get some really creative views using it. I prefer to use the 360 mod for POV since the 4K Boost while offering an okay result, isn't quite wide enough for my own preference for immersive POV style shots.
That said, the ONE RS is possibly the only serious contender to GoPro right now, and it's great to see the competition hotting up once more.
The ONE RS Twin Edition (4K Boost + 360 Mod) retails for £499.99, representing excellent value if you consider it effectively two cameras for one. Existing ONE R owners can upgrade to the new Core Bundle, including the new Core, battery system, and case, for £249.99. For new owners who don't want 360 capabilities and instead want a more traditional action camera, the 4K Edition, which includes the 4K Boost lens, retails for £279.99.