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Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff
Tiny, fits almost anywhere
Great magnet that lets you put it on amazing spots
Nice built-in shooting styles
Video is a bit distorted on the edges
Tough to use without a mode screen
Battery life could be better
Might be viewed as a spying tool
The Insta360 Go is a fun, versatile, and incredibly small gyroscopic and software- stabilized camera that, thanks to a powerful magnets, can stick to pipes, steel beams, appliances, bikes, car hoods, and more. If you can master the somewhat inscrutable controls and manage the limited battery life properly, it can shoot some truly eye-popping video.
Virtually everyone carries a camera in their pocket. Considering that consumer photography really only took flight a half century ago and high-resolution smartphones are only a decade old, this is a significant development.
Which is why I’m always surprised to find companies still trying to augment or improve on that experience. Isn’t a trio of 12 MP (and above) cameras in your pocket enough? Yes and no. My iPhone 11 Pro’s cameras take excellent photos and video in even the most challenging conditions (under water!), but I can’t easily strap one to my body or put it on the hood of my car for a unique point of view. I guess I could put it on the hood, but as soon as I started driving it would slide off.
Insta360 Go, which claims to be the world’s tiniest stabilized camera, can attach to your clothes, hold onto the hood of your car with powerful, built-in magnet, or disappear into the palm of your hand. It records HD video in a variety of fun formats —hyperlapse, slo-mo (120 fps), and static time lapse (shoot a set amount of video over a predetermined set of intervals)—all in an ultra-wide format.
Weighing just 18.3 grams and roughly two inches tall by 0.8 inches wide by a little more than a half inch thick, the Insta360 Go stands apart from most other mobile cameras on the market. It makes the pint-sized GoPro look big and boxy.
Shaped like a large pill, the Insta360 Go features a plastic front with the camera lens near the top edge. The back is mostly metal with a trio of copper connectors on one end and the camera’s sole button on the other.
Insta360 packs a lot into this $199.99 package. There’s the charging case that features a magnetized charging and data transfer groove for the camera. On the bottom of the case is a thick, removable gray rubber cover that reveals a lightning port plug. To transfer photos and videos from the Insta360 Go to your iPhone, you simply plug the case into the bottom of your phone. The Insta360 Go app handles the transfer, downloads the media to your iPhone (if you choose to do so), and the app includes a nice collection of light video editing features.
Oddly, the case charges with neither a lighting nor USB-C port. Instead, it uses micro USB. Personally, I’m finding it harder and harder to find these cables.
The Insta360 Go also ships with a number of cool, magnetized holders and stands. There’s a mini tripod with a reusable sticky bottom (I stuck it to my mid-town office window and then pulled it off and used it again later on another window). There’s also a clip case that lets you put the camera on your belt, along with a magnetic back that’ll let you put the Insta360 Go right on your clothes (the magnetic back sits under, say, your shirt and the camera goes on the outside).
I have to admit that I often hesitated to use some of the holders because some people might’ve spotted that camera on, for instance, my sports jacket and wondered if I was spying on them. Insta360 doesn’t record surreptitiously; when you record, the tiny, white LED light on the front of the camera is always on or blinking. Still, it’s a tiny camera attached to your clothing.
Insta360 Go can be a fun mini camera to use, but the absence of a screen or visual indicator (to tell me which recording mode I was using or if it was in standby mode) was a little frustrating. I had to learn to, one, use the all-important single button properly and, two, learn to understand the meanings of a series of little haptic vibrations.
A long press turns the camera on and puts it in Standby mode but, to save battery life, it doesn’t stay that way for long. I usually tried to follow that long press with either another quick press, for a 15 second clip, or, perhaps, two quick presses for a 10-minute hyperlapse video session. A triple press launches slow-motion video recording.
I was not very good at this; I recorded and took many photos of my fingers.
Eventually, I clipped the Insta360 Go clip case to my backpack, double-pressed the camera button and seated the camera in the wearable case. Then I went for a 10-minute walk and recorded an impressive hyperlapse of my evening commute. Insta360 says, by the way, that when the camera is in its case, you can simply press the front of the device instead of the button and get the same result, but this worked inconsistently for me.
In another instance, I placed the magnetic camera on my car's rear license plate and drove around the neighborhood. The strong magnet kept the camera firmly affixed to my vehicle.
Insta360 Go has a 180-degree ultra-wide camera, so most video does have a bit of a fisheye look. That said, Go videos I shot looked sharp and, more importantly, steady.
Insta360 Go has a tiny 6-axis gyroscope inside the tiny device that it uses to gather motion telemetry that it uses with the on-board software to stabilize video. The stabilization information is applied to the full 180-degree frame, cutting away some of the outer edge to give you a smooth center. Insta360 calls the system “FlowState Stabilization” and it does keep everything looking remarkably smooth, even video of my long walk through the streets of New York City. I wanted to see just how much work FlowState is doing to smooth out video, so I downloaded a clip to the app and turned off the option (you can do that with any video after you shoot it). Without the stabilization feature, some of my videos became unwatchable.
Inta360 Go is also Bluetooth 4 enabled, which means you can control it through the iPhone. While there’s no direct feed from the camera (an oversight in my opinion), you can set mode, recording length, photo or video, and time-lapse parameters though the app. It also lets you stop and start the recoding.
The app is actually stuffed with features like FlashCut Auto Editor, which can turn your disparate clips into a wide variety of themed films (Food, Smiles, City, Beach), and tools to let you take more control. I just wish it was all a bit better organized and had better flow from one task to another. In the Export screen, for example, Insta360 Go lists a nice selection of social media options (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), but not Save to Album (meaning your iPhone). Instead, it just does that without asking. Similarly, I like the neat little collection of video editing options but have to wonder why the Trim tool was designed to handle video like a wood-chipper: You slide the video to the left or right to cut away from the beginning or end.
Longer recording modes generate a noticeable amount of heat on the tiny chassis, but Insta360 told me this is mostly an issue with pre-production units like mine. Also, I understand this is a tiny device with limited space for batteries—you get between 15 and 20 minutes of filming on a single charge—but I was frustrated by how often I found that not only was the camera dead and not ready for me to use, but I didn’t have any charge left in the charging case, which adds roughly 50 minutes. That might not sound that bad, but the similarly sized AirPod case adds another 24 hours of playback to Apple’s Bluetooth audio devices.
I’d prefer some sort of visual operation cue on the camera beyond the lights, battery life is uninspiring, and the app needs some information architecture work. Still, these are mostly minor quibbles.
The Insta360 Go is a fun, versatile, and incredibly small gyroscopic and software- stabilized camera that, thanks to a powerful magnet, can stick to a pipe, steel beam, appliance, bike, car hood, and more. If you can master the somewhat inscrutable controls and managing the limited battery life properly, it can shoot some truly eye-popping video. Check out the app where some video pros share clips of themselves sailing and base-diving. The Insta360 Go is also, at $199.99 for the camera, case and all that mounting equipment, a great value.
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