Shooting video in gorgeous 360-degrees is certainly something that requires both great skill and good hardware. Thankfully the Insta360 One X takes care of most of that for you, but the company isn’t slowing down any time soon.
New on the market is the Insta360 Evo, a folding camera that’s capable of shooting both 360 and 180-degree videos that are meant to be enjoyed in VR hardware such as Oculus Go. It’s certainly a very niche device that might not be for everyone, but when used properly can yield some truly immersive 180-degree videos.
Price and availability
The Insta360 Evo is available now for AED 1,799 ($498.99, £382.50, AU$704) directly from Insta360’s website. That includes the Evo itself, a pair of foldable VR glasses, tabletop tripod, and a protective carrying pouch.
For AED 1,699 you can grab the Insta360 One X if you’re exclusively looking for 360-degree filming. However the Evo’s flexibility to easily swap between two recording formats makes it much more versatile, and a great choice if you want to film content that’s going to be experienced through a VR headset.
Design and setup
The Evo consists of two cameras connected by a hinge. When locked in side-by-side, the two cameras film simultaneously to capture a 180-degree video or photo. Release the lock and the cameras fold back-to-back to start capturing 360-degree videos.
The Evo itself is a mostly plastic build, with just two buttons on the top and two small LED indicators on the front near each lens to indicate the device’s status. There’s an exposed microSD slot which we would have preferred to be covered, as well as a microUSB charging port.
The buttons on the top allow you to turn the Evo on, start recording, and swap between video and photo mode. We would have loved to have some sort of screen to show information on such as on the One X, but you’ll have to do everything through the accompanying app instead.
The Evo is small but certainly a chunky camera to carry around. When in 360-degree mode it’s certainly not something you can comfortably stuff into your pocket and be on your way. The latches that lock the Evo into 180 and 360-degree modes are a bit too small and fiddly to operate easily, and the durability of the hinge looks alarming.
This is definitely something you’ll want to carry around safely, and since we’re not sure if Insta360 will be making any kinds of shockproof cases for the Evo, it’s best to treat it with as much care as possible.
Really the only reason to opt for the Evo over the One X would be if you’re wholly intending on recording 180-degree video for VR headsets. While the content can be still watched and enjoyed on your phone or PC, the true immersion can only be felt when you view content in a VR headset. Even something as simple as slipping your phone into Google Cardboard goes a long way, so it’s important to realize that the content you’re shooting should be something that will be enjoyed with a VR headset.
The app itself offers plenty of shooting options, including HDR. The 5.7k resolution captures some stunning footage, and stabilization technology is absolutely phenomenal. The one suggestion we would recommend if you’re shooting in 360-degree mode is to go through the stitching configuration a few times, just to properly orient the camera and get the best results. Out of the box the stitching was quite off, but once we had properly configured it, videos looked much more seamless.
Conveying the 3D aspect of your videos can be a bit tricky to master. Objects that come too close to the camera tend to be slightly blurry when viewed later, so it’s all about maintaining a comfortable distance from your subject and keeping things level.
While the resolution is impressive, the overall color being captured can be a bit disappointing, solely down to the lenses being used in the Evo. This means that the Evo excels in outdoor, brightly-lit environments, but tends to suffer during low-light scenes or when shooting at night.
For an extra bit of cash, Insta360 sells the HoloFrame, a phone case that at $29.99 is supposed to add an interesting 3D effect to your videos which you can view without the need of 3D glasses. It’s available for iPhone models X, XS, XS Max and XR at the moment, with versions for Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S9, S9+ and Note 8 models coming soon. The 3D mode is also only available on the iOS version of the app, but Android support isn’t far off.
The actual 3D effect is a mixed bag. There’s of course the slightly awkward part of prying your phone away from your case, then setting up the video in the app, and then snapping the cover onto your phone’s display.
You then have to steadily hold your phone so that the front camera can track your eye movement and apply the 3D effect accordingly. In our use we found that the app kept losing sight of us and stopping the video, and even when it was playing the video, the 3D effect itself was barely noticeable.
Where the Evo does excel – as intended – is when paired with a VR headset such as Oculus Go, HTC VIVE Focus and Samsung Gear VR. The Evo can wirelessly be paired with a headset for instant playback, or can be exported via the app to be viewed on other headsets.
Battery life is just shy of an hour, which is enough time to capture plenty of footage on the go. Editing your captured footage is extremely simply through the accompanying app, where you can apply various effects before exporting the video as an mp4 file to upload onto other platforms.
The Insta360 Evo is a unique offering as there’s probably not many consumers who would actually understand or appreciate videos being shot for VR. But for anyone else who wants to insert an extra level of immersion in their videos, the Insta360 Evo is a user-friendly and competent piece of tech.
It’s not hard to see this kind of tech becoming more compact in the future, or even making its way over to smartphones in a couple of years. Until then however, the Insta360 Evo is a good recommendation to quite literally see the world from another point of view.
All images credit: TechRadar