Insta360 GO 3 review: up close into the action

Smartphones have all but replaced digital cameras, but there are still a few areas where these all-in-one gadgets can’t deliver the preferred level of quality and immersion, and only purpose-built devices can do the job. Action cameras is one such segment, and this elite class of devices boast features and form factors that make them ideal for shooting action. And the new Insta360 GO 3 looks particularly interesting, not just because of its shooting prowess and features, but also because it presents unique mounting options thanks to its form factor. I do think the GO 3 holds immense promise since it can get really up close and in the thick of things when it comes to action and adventure, and therefore, deliver highly immersive content. Let me elaborate.

Design

The Insta60 GO 3 features a unique two-part design, with the device comprising a tiny, pill-shaped camera, and an Action Pod that comes with a slightly more conventional, blocky look. The ingenuity lies in how these two parts work in tandem, and when required, separately as well.


Talking about the camera first, it’s touted as the world’s smallest action camera and weighs a mere 35 grams. Thanks to the strong magnets at the back, it can be mounted in a variety of different places. However, its natural home is the Action Pod, which has an appropriately sized cavity in which the GO 3 camera locks in magnetically. Inserting the GO 3 into the Action Pod also charges up the former, and that’s really the only way to juice it up.



Also worth mentioning that the GO 3 + Action Pod combo can be had in any colour, as long as it’s white. I actually have a love-hate relationship with white — I love the colour but hate that it gets dirty quickly, and that’s also the case with the Insta360 GO 3.


You can basically shoot in three different ways:
  • use the GO 3 camera standalone,
  • use it when it’s docked inside the Action Pod (much like a conventional action cam),
  • use the Action Pod as a remote for the camera when the two are in close proximity.
As you can imagine, this allows for a lot of flexibility, giving you quite a few options to shoot. The GO 3’s diminutive size, negligible weight, and magnetic mounting add to versatility even more. And to ensure you can get started straight out of the box, three different types of mounts are included in the box:


  • A pivot stand that has a sticky base and can also be screwed on to a regular tripod.
  • An Easy Clip that can be attached to caps, belts or bags.
  • A magnetic disc-shaped pendant that can be worn around your neck, and effectively converts the GO 3 into a wearable action camera.

The Action Pod is a small, blocky unit with a cavity for the camera, a flip-out touchscreen, a shutter button on top and power button on the right. There’s also a Q button on the right for quick access to shooting modes and presets. On the left, you’ll find a Type-C port for charging (a cable is included in the box) alongside a release button that allows you to detach the GO 3 from the Action Pod.

Specs


Next, let’s take a gander at the key specs:
  • Camera: F2.2 aperture, 11.24mm focal length, up to 2.7K video at 30fps, 2,560 x 1,440 stills (16:9)
  • Photo shooting modes: Photo, HDR Photo, Interval, Starlapse
  • Video shooting modes: Video, FreeFrame Video, Timelapse, TimeShift, Slow Motion, Pre-Recording, Loop Recording
  • Weight: 35.5g (Go 3), 96.3g (Action Pod)
  • Storage options: 32GB / 64GB / 128GB, no storage expansion
  • Battery capacity: 310mAh (GO 3), 1,270mAh (Action Pod)
  • Charging time: 35 mins (GO 3), 65 mins (Action Pod)
  • Run time: 45 mins (GO 3), 170 mins (GO 3 + Action Pod)

Usage


The device syncs up with a smartphone using the Insta360 app (available on both iOS as well as Android). The app not only lets you view and transfer images and video from GO 3, but also configure settings, view tutorials and guides, edit clips, and even use templates to turn them into stories. Operating the camera does involve a bit of a learning curve initially, but once you’ve set it up the way you want, things become much easier. Most things are handled via its touchscreen, and swiping sideways on that circles through the different modes. A downward swipe displays quick settings, while an upward swipe lets you choose various parameters for the chosen mode — such as aspect ratio, resolution and frame rate for video. Swiping inwards from the right side brings up a small pane that lets you switch between auto and manual, choose one from various colour profile presets, set aspects like white balance and exposure etc. Choosing manual here opens up other settings like ISO and shutter speed.


One of the initial, and perhaps one of the most crucial settings you might want to adjust is the button behaviour on the GO 3. You see, while it’s sort of obvious that you’d use the shutter button on the top of the Action Pod to shoot whilst the GO 3 is docked inside, the latter can also be used standalone and one end of its front panel is actually a button. This can be set to shoot in specific modes on single press and double press, and those are the settings you’d want to customise early on. This can be done via the settings menu on the Action Pod or via the Insta360 app when the device is connected to your phone. However, the button on the GO 3


As I mentioned earlier, the ingenuity of the GO 3 lies in the fact that not only is it small and tiny, its magnetic mounting system, combined with the included accessories, allows you to attach it in a variety of different places — on a car or a helmet, on a cap, on a belt or bag, on railings, on a pet’s collar, any flat surface such as a skateboard, table or wall — the options really are endless and depend upon the kind of footage you want to capture. And thanks to the magnet pendent, you can wear the GO 3 on your chest too, and get some perspective shots that can look quite surreal. The company is quick to point out that the magnet pendent shouldn’t be worn by anyone who has a pacemaker, and it’s a strong magnet too.


So much so that it’s actually quite tough to detach the GO 3 from the Action Pod — it requires a fair bit of force using both hands, and the GO 3’s rounded and smooth body doesn’t provide good grip either. And speaking of negatives, you should know that the device is available in fixed storage capacities of 32GB, 64GB and 128GB options, and there’s no way to add more. Also worth mentioning is the fact that while the GO 3 itself is waterproof up to 16 feet (5 meters), the Action Pod is just splash resistant and can’t be submerged in water… limiting the action camera’s underwater usage to some extent. On the positive side, the Action Pod’s 2.2-inch touchscreen can be flipped, which comes in handy while vlogging… with the dual mics doing their bit to capture decent audio.

Performance


The GO 3 might not be able to match the new GoPro Hero 12 in terms of video resolution or weatherproofing, but what it can deliver should suffice for most users. The GO 3 has a 1/2.3-inch sensor with f/2.2 aperture and 134-degree field of view, capable of shooting at up to 2.7K at 30 fps. There are a bunch of useful shooting modes, such as a starlapse mode for shooting star trails and an interval mode that can take pictures at specific intervals. For video, the FreeFrame video mode allows you to shoot first and then crop and reframe later while editing. Low-light shooting isn’t its strong suit, but that’s a limited use case I’d think. The stabilisation is good, and you get quite a few in-camera settings and options to get the output you want. The 2.2-inch touchscreen can be a bit fiddly to use because of its size, but then, most action cameras have the same niggle. Did I mention voice control? The GO 3 can even be controlled via voice, and once you enable this feature via quick settings, you could just say “start recording” or “stop recording” and the camera will do your bidding. And it works quite well too.


The app isn’t overly complicated and yet, is packed with tons of fun elements and creative options for editing videos and stitching clips together based on themes. Coming to battery life, it’s not too bad, especially given how small the GO 3 is. You can get about 45 minutes worth with the GO 3, and 2.5-3 hours when used docked into the Action Pod. 

Verdict


Action cameras might not be for everyone, but you’d be mistaken if you think they’re just meant for adventure buffs and the outdoorsy types. While that’s true to a large extent, these devices can be used to capture fun clips otherwise too — think trips, vacations, family gatherings, poolside shenanigans, and what not. And I think the Insta360 GO 3 shines in these use cases, all thanks to its compact size and magnetic mounting… not to mention the flexible shooting options it offers. Heck, if nothing else, you could just wear it around your neck and let it do its thing. On the official website, the 32 gig version is currently listed at $380, the 64GB model at $400, and the 128 gig at $430. You’ll find these on Amazon India as well, listed around ~Rs 40,000, which isn’t really a small amount. That said, if the fun aspects of what the device can do interest you, you should know that the Insta360 GO 3 is up for some serious adventure too. As I said before, the Holy Grail for action cameras is to be able to get up close into the action, and that’s something that comes naturally to the Insta360 GO 3.

Editor’s rating: 8 / 10

Pros:

  • Small & lightweight
  • Magnetic mounting
  • Lots of creative possibilities
  • Good video & solid stabilisation

Cons:

  • Storage not expandable
  • Action Pod isn’t waterproof
  • Tough to detach GO 3 from Action Pod
  • Only available in white

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