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Switching cameras is a snap

The Insta360 One R Twin Edition comes with a 4K action and a 360-degree camera module.
The Insta360 One R Twin Edition comes with a 4K action and a 360-degree camera module.

Imagine turning a regular action camera into a 360-degree one by changing one component.

That is what you get with the Insta360 One R.

It comprises three components - a camera module, a battery base and a core.

The core has a 1.3-inch touchscreen display, a power button and a play button on its top, while a USB-C port and a microSD card slot are hidden in a compartment on one side. The battery base locks the core and camera modules together, as well as provides power.

There are three camera modules - 4K action, 5.7K 360-degree and 1-inch wide-angle - to choose from, to form the One R you want.

The Straits Times reviewed the One R Twin Edition that comes with a 4K action and a 360-degree camera module.

Putting the One R together is a simple "Lego" exercise. Connect a camera module to the core. Then, place this connected unit on the battery base. You can even connect the 4K action camera module to the core with its display facing you for selfie-taking or video-blogging.

This modular scheme also gives you the convenience of being able to easily switch cameras when the situation requires it - a process that should take no more than 30 seconds.

Despite its modular nature, the One R is said to be water-resistant to a depth of 5m. However, I can see a tiny gap between the battery base and the core and camera modules when all three are locked together, which makes me worry about how watertight the camera would be when submerged.

The package comes with a lens cap for the 360-degree camera module, but none for the 4K action camera module.

A mounting bracket, which has the GoPro mount and a hole for standard tripod mounts, is also included. Thus, you can use your existing GoPro tripod or mobile tripod with the One R.

  • FOR

    • Easy-to-use modular system

    • Twin Edition is basically two cameras in one set-up

    • Great image quality

    • Companion app allows for intuitive 360-degree video editing

  • AGAINST

    • Image stabilisation for 4K videos cannot match that of the GoPro Hero8

    • Does not seem watertight

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $728 (Twin edition - 4K + 360-degree cam module)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 12-megapixel (4K cam module), 18-megapixel (360-degree cam module)

    LENS: 16.4mm f/2.8 (4K cam module), 2 x 7.2mm f/2.0 (360-degree cam module)

    DISPLAY: 1.3-inch touchscreen

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 121g (with 4K cam module), 130.5g (with 360-degree cam module)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The video footage captured by the 4K action camera module are sharp and detailed. The image stabilisation (IS) technology here - called FlowState - does a superb job, allowing me to shoot stable frames when I jogged with the camera.

But compared with the GoPro Hero8 action, the IS feels slightly less effective. It is still good enough for most circumstances and better than most of its competitors.

The footage captured by the 360-degree camera module are not as sharp and detailed as those recorded by the 4K action camera module. They look visibly softer, though are still sharp enough for social media posts. I can see the stitch line at times, unlike with the Insta360 One X reviewed last year, which has almost no stitch lines in its captured videos.

Like the One X, the One R companion app provides easy-to-use editing tools that let you create videos with plenty of effects such as timeshift and bullet time. This continues to be the best mobile app for editing 360-degree video.

For instance, you can transform 360-degree video into 2D video with different angles that simulate multiple camera set-ups.

The One R app lets you easily choose which angle to use at a certain segment of the footage and mix the angles to create a video clip that looks like it has been shot using multiple cameras

On the downside, the 1.3-inch display is small. As a result, some touch gestures might not register or could be mis-registered. But I am nitpicking here, as early action and 360-degree cameras do not even come with a display.

The One R supports voice controls such as "start recording" and "take a photo". But I found one has to be quite near the One R to be heard, especially when the ambient noise is loud, such as when on a busy street. But it works like a charm in quieter environments, like in a forest.

Battery life when using the 360-degree module is below average, clocking about 45 minutes of video recording on a full charge.

This is less than the one-hour battery life of One X. When using the 4K module, battery life extends to about an hour, which is still just average.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2020, with the headline 'Switching cameras is a snap'. Print Edition | Subscribe