Insta360 Evo Review

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Insta360 Evo Review

This is a review from my perspective and personal experience. I’m writing this specifically for other photographers who are thinking about getting into VR180 photography. It is not meant to be an in-depth technical review or a buying guide.

I bought the Insta360 EVO about 10 months ago. It’s a stereographic 3D VR180 and 2D 360 camera. As a photographer, it blew my mind to be actually IN the image, experiencing it as a memory. I needed to have this. I’ve been shooting models since 1996, so shooting models in VR was a natural next step for me.

I’m using the Insta360 Evo both for shooting still images of models for my website, as well as shooting behind the scenes 3D VR video during my “normal” photoshoots for my VR youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/c/VRModelPhotography

Build Quality

The camera is very lightweight but seems sturdy. The only weak point is the latch that allows the lenses to hinge in either the 180 or 360 format. I have had problems in the past when the latch just wouldn’t hold and my 2 lenses hinge open during recording. It’s also irritating that you can’t switch to 360 with one hand. A fold and click system would have been better.

I’m also missing a lens cover. The lenses are very delicate. You do get a sleeve to put the camera in after you’re done and I did notice you can get lens caps sold separately.

Image quality

This one is really relative. As far as I’ve seen in other reviews, the image of the Insta360 EVO is mostly superior to any 3D camera in its segment. The image stabilization during video recording is simply amazing. But as an experienced photographer, used to shooting full-frame, this image quality is just really disappointing. The image sensor is smaller than the one from a smartphone. The result is a lot of noise in the shadows and lack of fine detail. Also, you need A LOT of light to have sharp images, and I mean direct sunlight. I shoot inside a lot and I really need to put my model right in front of a big window, especially in the winter.

There is one big advantage of having a smaller sensor. The depth of field is really large, which means that the background does not get blurry. In normal “2D” photography, you like a blurry background, to put the focus on the model. In VR, this is not desirable, since it would break immersion.

The camera is an 18-megapixel camera. That may sound “good enough”, but keep in mind, those megapixels are divided over 2 images. And because of the field of view on your headset, you are seeing about 30% of the image in one time (without moving your head). That means the “actual” quality is 18 / 2 * 30% = about a 3Mp camera, which a less than a smartphone image sensor. You can imagine that the quality is comparable to webcam images from the 2000’s.

All of this is just blown out of the water when you experience the image in VR. The lack of detail is being negated by the addition of dimension, which actually creates the illusion of a lot more detail than you would have in 2D. You will forget all of what I mentioned above when you actually experience those images, I promise.

Also, just to put my comments in perspective, the lack of image quality is not related to the Insta360 EVO, but to the current state of technology.

Handling

This is another part where the technology is just lacking.

Let’s talk about cosmetics first. I feel like a regular jackass when shooting my models with this thing. It’s a point and shoot webcam that I need to get really close to them. That being said, I am not this camera’s target audience, so I have to forgive the camera here. It’s not meant to look professional.

What I AM going to blame the camera for is not being able to set default settings. The Insta360 EVO has different settings for image quality, like shooting raw. But every time you start up the camera, it resets to its default settings, which is JPEG. The camera also doesn’t have any buttons or menu’s on it, so you can’t change it there. The only way to change your settings is by connecting to it with your smartphone.

And there is the next problem: connecting your smartphone to the Insta360 EVO. I’ve heard this camera offers the best smartphone software and connects really easily. And they’re right, the connection process is pretty straight forward. But … it takes me about 10-15 seconds to connect. And if you are a photographer, you know that during a shoot, you don’t have the time to reconnect 20-30 times to your smartphone during the shoot, especially if it takes 10-15 seconds every time.

The same goes for seeing your images. The only way to have any kind of viewfinder is to connect it to your smartphone, which as I said before, is just not a practical solution during a shoot.

I don’t even mind not having a viewfinder. Creating a composition in VR180 is next to impossible anyway. But I would like to see the images afterward. Especially in dark situations, where I need to check if my image is sharp or not.

Battery life

The battery life is about one hour. I had it running empty a couple of times during my shoots. It does charge up pretty quickly though, so either you bring your charger, or you connect an external powerbank to it (I have not tested this).

Should you get it?

Yes! Definiately yes! I’ve said some negative things in this review, that’s more about managing your expectations than to put you off of buying this camera. This camera is the best thing I bought for a long time. If you are a photographer, you need to buy this thing. It will allow you to experience your photography in a whole new way. In my opinion, it is the best 3D VR camera on the market, within its segment, today. You get to see your images come to life, which is just priceless.

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2 Comments

  • Why not just use 2 pro camera’s with trigger splitter? Put them in portrait and you should be able to get them close enough.

    • It would be great to use a solution like that. However, it does provide some challenges.

      The first thing, and the main reason for me not to do this, would be price. My pro “2D” camera cost me about 5000 dollar + another 2500 dollar in lenses. But then you still need to buy 2 fisheye lenses. You could manage the cost by looking for used camera’s, but still, the total cost would well exceed the cost of an Insta360 Evo by a a multitude of factors.

      Next problem: when you have two pro camera’s, you need to make sure the settings are exactly the same. That rules out any automatic metering by the camera, you would need to do it completely manual. That slows down reaction time during a shoot. I’m not shooting landscapes, I’m shooting models and sometimes it comes down to “the moment” to shoot an image. Doing manual settings on two cameras would be a pain and leaves too much margin for error. Don’t get me wrong, I always shoot manually as a photographer, but I’m shooting in a “touch of salt, touch of pepper” way with my settings and making sure I mirror them in another camera, would be difficult.

      Then you would have the format to deal with. Traditional SBS VR180 images are basically two squares pasted together. It would mean you need to crop your images. And not only crop them, but crop them exactly the same, to the pixel.

      And that brings me to the next problem you would have: post processing. To create a VR image, you would need to stitch both images manually. And that’s still fine when you are doing 1 image, but typically, I take about 100-120 images in a shoot. It would prolong the post-processing by a big factor.

      None of this problems are blocking (except maybe the format), but they are reason enough for me not to use pro camera’s for this. If I would go up to pro levels, I would rather invest in a pro VR camera, but then we are talking a whole different segment. The Z-cam would be a good pick, but it’s not in the consumer segment anymore. Cameras of that level are used for bigger productions and require a sizable investment. I hope to one day upgrade to it, when I start making some decent money with my VR work. 🙂

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