Insta360 has been pushing the envelope of what one can do using small, portable cameras. In fact, the Insta360 X3 was one of my favorite gadgets last year. When they reached out to me regarding their latest product, little did I know the brand is going to take the crown this year too for the most fun gadget I’ve used. I’m talking about the Insta360 GO 3.
Unlike the X3, the GO 3 isn’t a 360-degree camera. Instead, it’s an action camera competing against the likes of GoPro and DJI. Mind you, it’s not just another action camera though. The GO 3 has a tiny little trick (quite literally) up its sleeve, ensuring it’s not just an action camera — but an action camera on steroids! I put the Insta360 GO 3 through its paces for the past few weeks — and here’s what I think about it.
Build and Design: Oh So Portable!
At first look, the Insta360 GO 3 looks like any other action camera. There’s a lens on the front and a screen on the rear — crammed into a tiny chassis. Look closely and you’ll see how the brand has introduced a couple of innovative design elements to make the camera more functional.
For starters, the display can flip 180 degrees to the front. This is a godsend for vloggers or for those who want to record themselves when performing a certain activity. The next big feature — in fact, the marquee one — is the camera module pops out into a tiny capsule.
This capsule can act as a standalone camera module. So every time you want to record videos, you can use this tiny camera without the housing. Speaking of the housing, Insta360 likes to call it the Action Pod. While the brains and optics are all inside the tiny camera, the Action Pod adds extra battery life and a screen.
Due to the way the Action Pod is designed, it also acts as a tripod or stand. So if you’re recording yourself, you can simply place the Action Pod on any flat surface without the need for an external attachment. The camera module snaps into place inside the Action Pod via magnets. Hence, it’s easy to take it off when you want to clip it onto yourself.
Look and Feel
The fact that Insta360 has managed to cram all this into such a tiny form factor is commendable. Despite having so many moving parts, the GO 3 feels solid. It’s constructed entirely out of soft-touch plastic but there are no creaks whatsoever. While it’s nice and grippy to hold, I can’t help but wish there was a black variant of the camera. The matte white exterior picks up dust and lint like it’s nobody’s business.
I’ve been carrying the GO 3 in my trouser pockets and every time I take it out, I have to spend a few seconds cleaning it before I start recording. There are three buttons on the Action Pod — Power, Record, and a customizable shortcut key. All of them have a rubberized texture and are easy to operate.
The camera module also has a button of its own. When it’s outside the Action Pod, pressing the button on the camera starts or stops recording. If you’ve clipped the camera onto yourself, this button is handy to quickly start recording before performing a certain action.
I’ve got to say — the Insta360 GO 3 feels much more solid than I’d imagined. Having said that, I’m not sure how it will hold up when subjected to the elements like dirt, dust, and grime — scenarios that are common when hiking or performing adventurous activities. Also, the flex cable connecting the display to the chassis is rather thin so I hope it doesn’t snap with repeated tilting.
Speaking of durability, the GO 3 camera module is IPX8 rated so it’s waterproof up to 16ft. The Action Pod is only splash-resistant so it’s best to keep it away from water.
Mounts and Accessories: Ever So Versatile
One of the best aspects of the Insta360 GO 3 is its magnetic capabilities. The camera module sits inside the Action Pod with the help of magnets. Thanks to this, the camera has strong magnets on the rear that can snap onto pretty much any metallic surface. So if you want to record yourself and don’t have the Action Pod, simply find a metallic pole and attach the camera.
The magnetic properties carry over to the attachments Insta360 bundles with the camera as well. In the box, you get a magnetic pendant to wear around your neck. Tuck the pendant under your shirt and snap the camera onto the pendant from the outside. This creates an illusion of the GO 3 floating with you.
If you want to record first-person PoV footage, this combination of the GO 3 with the pendant is fantastic. It’s completely hands-free so you can continue to perform any activity you’re doing without holding the camera. Personally, I use this all the time to record my morning walks or to shoot unboxing videos of gadgets.
I play a lot of cricket so when batting, I usually clip the GO 3 onto my shirt and record my innings. This is a great way to go back and watch how I played and then make necessary improvements. The pendant can also be worn on roller coasters, bike rides, or if you want to record a vlog from a first-person perspective.
Sticky Pad Mount
Credit where due, Insta360 bundles in pretty much everything you need to get started with the camera. Along with the pendant, you also get a pivot mount that sticks to any surface. It has an adhesive pad at the bottom attached to a pivot joint using which you can rotate the camera. The camera itself snaps onto the mount using magnets.
Now here’s the interesting part. Not only does the camera attach magnetically but the base of the Action Pod is also magnetized so you can fit the entire module on the mount. My favorite use case with this mount is recording a nice timelapse of a plane taking off. I usually stick the pad onto the airplane’s window and tilt the camera to face the outside.
Another handy usage I can think of is sticking the GO 3 onto your car’s dashboard using this mount. That way, the camera can be used as a makeshift dashcam.
Finally, you also get a hat clip in the box. There are no magnets involved here. The camera module snaps into the cavity after which it can be clipped onto a hat. This is meant for recording sporting activities that are generally played with a hat or cap on.
As a matter of fact, the hat clip is the best accessory to record your bike rides in my opinion. It gives a taller perspective and covers a wider area.
Quick Release Mount
While all the abovementioned accessories are provided in the box, there are some other attachments that Insta360 sells separately. The best one according to me is the quick-release mount. It’s similar to the sticky pad mount but trades the adhesive sticker to a standard tripod mount.
So if you plan on vlogging with a selfie stick, tripod, or even something like a bicycle or helmet mount, the quick-release mount is a must-buy. It’s essentially an adapter to interface the GO 3 with regular mounts.
The core experience of using the Insta360 GO 3 as a standalone product is already fantastic. You don’t really need a tripod or any additional mount per se. However, you can always pick up additional Insta360 GO 3 accessories to either protect the camera or get more out of it.
Insta360 GO 3: Video Quality
Let’s face it. You’re buying a camera to click pictures and record videos. And if the product fails to deliver on that front, it’s a huge letdown. However, I’m glad to report the Insta360 GO 3 records high-quality footage — albeit with a few caveats.
Resolution and Frame Rate
Let’s first get the numbers out of the way. The Insta360 X3 can record at a max resolution of 2.7K at 30fps. Now this is certainly a few notches lower than the 5.3K 60fps recording offered by something like the GoPro Hero 11 Black. So if your priority is better details and smoother footage, you’re better off buying that camera.
However, it’s important to take into account that the GO 3 (without the Action Pod) is remarkably smaller. So for a camera this small to record in 2.7K is still a good feat. In fact, the quality of photos and videos taken by the GO 3 is excellent in broad daylight. I personally value higher frame rates over a higher resolution so I dialed down the resolution to 1080p for the most part. This allowed me to crank up the frame rate to 50fps.
Video Output in Daylight
The result? Well, let’s just say, I urge everyone who picks up the GO 3 to shoot in this exact config — 1080p 50fps. There’s just enough detail even at 1080p and the extra frames give you the ability to slow down your footage in post. Moreover, you’ll have more free space to play with since you cannot expand the storage on the GO 3. You’re stuck with what you pay for.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the level of detail as well as the color reproduction. The colors are vibrant — just enough to give the footage a punchy look. When walking or running, Insta360’s FlowState stabilization does an incredible job of cutting down stutters and jolts. Moreover, the onboard mic also does a decent job of capturing audio. An external mic input would have been great for professional creators though.
Video Output in Low Light
While things are quite rosy when the Sun’s out, the situation takes a turn when artificial lights are turned on. The Insta360 GO 3’s low-light performance is quite average since the sensor size is small and the aperture is narrow. There’s not a lot of light that’s let into the sensor resulting in noisy footage.
At times, there’s also a bit of a halo effect at night which I’m assuming can be attributed to the software-based stabilization trying to kick in. This is not to say the camera can’t be used indoors. If you’re in a well-lit environment with lots of light sources around, the GO 3 performs just fine.
The issues start creeping in only when recording in dim environments like a pub, concert, or park. Toning down the frame rate does help in this regard but not by much. If you are recording in low light, ensure you’re as stationary as possible or use an external source of light like a ring light and point it to the subject.
Despite these shortcomings, the Insta360 GO 3 is an excellent video camera for all intents and purposes. If you’re mostly going to be recording in good lighting conditions or outdoors, the camera records solid footage that can give much larger cameras a run for their money.
Battery Life: Can It Last?
The obvious repercussion of having a camera as tiny as the Insta360 GO 3 is compromised battery life. And while that is indeed the case here, I didn’t find myself anxious about the battery running out during my usage. The camera itself lasts for close to 40 minutes of recording. But, snap it into the Action Pod and you’re now looking at three hours of footage.
My usage primarily involved using just the camera module without the Action Pod. So what I did was after using the camera to record what I wanted, I put it back into the Action Pod for a quick top-up. This way, when I took out the camera again, it was charged all the way up to give me the full 40 minutes if I needed it.
If you’re a vlogger or you’re going to mount the camera on a tripod/selfie stick, you can use the camera while it’s inside the Action Pod itself and enjoy the full three hours of recording time. So while battery life isn’t the Insta360 GO 3’s strongest suit, you can surely get past the endurance with some quick top-ups in between. I always carry a power bank in my backpack which surely helps.
Should You Buy the Insta360 GO 3
From my experience over the past couple of weeks, the Insta360 GO 3 isn’t necessarily the best action camera you can buy. However, it’s certainly the most fun camera you can buy. You can wear it, clamp it onto any surface, snap it onto your refrigerator, or simply vlog by flipping up the screen. Heck, you can even use it as a body camera.
Whether you’re a content creator or simply want to experiment with recording videos from unique perspectives, the Insta360 GO 3 is an excellent companion. The tiny form factor is its biggest USP and when you combine that with the accessory ecosystem, it’s hard to beat. While the latest GoPro — at a lower price — may offer better video output, it can’t match the GO 3’s convenience and versatility.
For the second time in a row, a camera from Insta360 is my favorite gadget of the year. And that’s saying something about the brand. They’re constantly innovating to bring out unique products, and that’s a big win for us consumers.
Last updated on 08 September, 2023
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