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Insta360 Ace Pro review: This next-gen action camera sets the bar

The versatile flip-screen, strong build quality and low-light performance make the Insta360 Ace Pro a viable contender even for the most loyal GoPro fans

The Insta360 Ace Pro ( 44,990) takes on the likes of the new GoPro Hero 12 Black, with its segment-first 8K video and flip-up screen and optics co-engineered with Leica.(Insta360)

By Tushar Kanwar

LAST PUBLISHED 12.01.2024  |  12:42 PM IST

Insta360 makes some epic action cameras, from the best 360-degree camera (X3) you can buy to the miniscule little Go 3 shooter that gets out of the way better than most. Yet, for a brand that has made a habit of out-innovating each segment it steps into, Insta360 had yet to set foot into the big-boy territory of flagship standard action camera, a market that is dominated by GoPro and its years of experience in extreme sports.

The Insta360 Ace Pro ( 44,990) is designed to plug that gap, taking on the likes of the new GoPro Hero 12 Black, with its segment-first 8K video and flip-up screen and optics co-engineered with Leica. Is this the “ace up the sleeve" that the brand needs to truly take the fight to GoPro? Set beside a GoPro, the Ace Pro may not immediately stand apart, with a similar form factor, dimensions and buttons to the latest Hero 12 Black, although the Ace Pro is slightly thicker and heavier.

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Also read: Insta360 GO 3 review: This pill-shaped camera is not your average GoPro

Build quality and the choice of quality materials is immediately evident when you lift the camera out of the box, particularly when you try to operate its other marquee feature—the 2.4-inch rear flip screen that hinges from the top—a first on a traditional action camera. The screen is crisp and bright, and it flips up to allow for framing yourself while vlogging or for hard-to-capture angles. The flip-up mechanism is similar to the one on the Insta360 Go 3, which has held up just fine, even after months of somewhat rough use. This allays legitimate concerns of having moving parts on an action camera.

The Ace Pro is waterproof up to 10m without a case and it mounts via a magnetic latching system on to a variety of mounts (including helmets, handlebars and tripods), the latter allowing for far quicker switching between mounts than the GoPro’s thumbscrew system while feeling just as sturdy when attached.

Camera sensor

What you can’t miss is the splashes of red all round, a not-so-subtle nod to the Leica partnership that starts from the Leica Super Summarit lens and extends to the 1/1.3-inch sensor. The sensor helps it take in more details than the comparatively smaller GoPro 1/1.9-inch sensor, allowing the Ace Pro to shoot at up to 8K resolution at 24 frames per second (fps), besting the GoPro’s 5.3K output but likely not what you’d pick for fast-paced action sports. You can switch down to 4K shooting at 30, 60 and 120 fps, or slow motion at 240 fps at 1080p resolution.

Comparing the footage from the Ace Pro and the Hero 12 Black, they are quite evenly matched in daylight, with sharp details, similar colour handling, exceptional image stabilisation and great dynamic range, although one felt that the Ace Pro exposed the overall scene better while GoPro handled skin tones better. Both are great action cameras while out and about, though the Ace Pro pulls ahead slightly with its flip-up screen working better for vlogging – a use case I’m increasingly seeing influencers put their action cameras through while vacationing and shooting ‘day in the life’ style videos.

Enter AI

Low light is where all cameras traditionally trip up. This is where the Ace Pro pulls ahead, and operates on a whole different level, crushing the grainy GoPro output with clean, noise-free footage that looks like it may as well have been shot in brighter environs. If you shoot a lot of low-light video in PureVideo mode, which uses the AI-boosted 5nm chip to de-noise the footage and bump up the dynamic range, the Ace Pro is head and shoulders above the competition. The AI on the chip handles bright light sources equally well, so harsh sunlight is handled better as well. Photos are handled quite well too, with image capture at up to 48 megapixels, with true-to-life colours and good HDR (high dynamic range) performance in the outdoors.

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Video colour purists take note: the GoPro captures 10-bit colour with a robust GP-log profile, which opens up colour-editing options in post processing, while the Ace Pro captures in 8-bit and lacks log capture, which limits your colour-editing options. Like the Hero 12 Black, there’s no GPS built into the Ace Pro. But fortunately, it’s easy to get GPS data into your videos via a connected phone or if you have a Garmin fitness tracker or Apple Watch handy and within Bluetooth range. The Ace Pro can also connect to Bluetooth earbuds if you need, else the onboard audio with three microphones is exceptionally clean and clear. If you walk away from the camera, you can use gesture controls to start recording or take photos.

App support

Insta360’s companion app has, for a while, been a big reason to consider their otherwise excellent hardware, not only because of how reliably and quickly it connects to the cameras but how easy it is to retrieve and edit your clips, or to change aspect ratio (for YouTube or Instagram) for videos shot in FreeFrame mode.

Or the AI Highlights Assistant, which processes a bunch of videos you’d have shot and produces a highlight reel ready for you to share on social media.

Even after shooting a bunch of year-end vacation videos and transferring them back to the phone, the 1650mAh battery did well to last about 90-100 minutes for 4K 30 fps video recording, and the camera managed to stay cool while shooting on warmer-than-usual beaches. 30W fast charging is a bonus.

Should you buy it?

There’s much to like about Insta360’s first action camera and consider it a viable contender even for the most hardened of GoPro fans. Whether it’s the versatile flip-screen, the premium build quality or exceptional low-light performance —the Insta360 Ace Pro raises the bar on what the next generation of action cameras will have to beat.

Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, posts @2shar.

Also read: GoPro Hero 12 Black review: Capturing a whole new audience