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

The attach-everywhere design makes the Insta360 GO 3 action camera a fun tool for hobbyists and content creators

The Action Pod really makes the Insta360 GO 3 product complete.
The Action Pod really makes the Insta360 GO 3 product complete. (Insta360)

Insta360 has been on a roll, impressing content creators and laypersons alike with its 360-degree cameras, smartphone gimbals and action cameras, all of which have its signature touch of considered design paired with arguably the best companion app experience around.

The newest Insta360 GO 3 action camera pushes the envelope of just how many places you can use this diminutive shooter, by doing what only something its size can do—get out of the way.

Smaller than the average thumb, at 2.1x1.0x0.9 inches, and just 34g, the pill-shaped camera on the GO 3 is intentionally bare-bones, with just the camera lens, an LED indicator, two microphones and a single button to start/stop recording and change recording modes.

It’s so tiny that Insta360 opted to leave out storage card support to keep the camera IPX8 waterproof-rated for submersion up to 16ft, so you will have to pick it up in one of three storage configurations— 36,990 (32GB), 38,990 (64GB) or 42,990 (128GB).

The camera’s rear is magnetic, letting you attach the GO 3 by itself to any compatible metallic surface easily while opening up more shooting angles and flexibility of placement than I suspect most of us can handle. Car doors, motorcycle and bicycle handles, window frames or any other magnetic surface available can transform instantly into a jury-rigged tripod for steady, hands-free shooting.

Additionally, you get three mounting accessories in the box: a magnetic pendant that can be worn inside a shirt for first-person POV-style videos, a hat clip with a variable-angle holder and a “Pivot Stand” that lets you mount the camera on any standard screw mount (the box comes with a sticky pad mount). Plus, there are mounts for crazy scenarios, such as a monkey tail mount to wrap around any pole, tree and the like—and a “fetch stick” to see the world from your pet’s “paw-spective”.

While you can also use voice control or the Insta360 app on a paired smartphone to control the camera, it’s the other half of this daring duo—the new Action Pod—that really makes the product complete.

Drop the GO 3 camera into the cavity on the GoPro-shaped Action Pod and it connects over the POGO pins on the rear to charge the 310mAh battery using the Action Pod’s 1270mAh battery. The GO 3 gets an average run-time of about 40 minutes per charge, boosted to about 170 minutes with the Action Pod. You also get a USB-C port to connect to a computer as well as buttons to operate the GO 3 without the smartphone, using the rear 2.2-inch touch screen as a viewfinder and to change camera settings.

The Insta360 GO 3 is a great option for parents with pets and children.
The Insta360 GO 3 is a great option for parents with pets and children. (Insta360)

While the screen flips out a 180 degrees for vlogging, what’s really cool is that the Action Pod remains wirelessly connected (up to 16ft) to the GO 3 even after the camera is detached, previewing the camera remotely—particularly handy when the camera is placed in a hard-to-reach position or, say, under water.

Having the Action Pod on hand to see what the GO 3 was recording, even when it was out of visible range, was liberating. Note that the Action Pod is only splash-proof, so it can’t be submerged with the GO 3; this takes the shine off the system’s action credentials. Well, at least all the GO 3’s mounts work with the Action Pod, so you won’t need different mounts to securely stow the Pod when shooting.

You will quickly realise the GO 3 is a very different beast from the DJI and GoPro action cameras, with video maxing out 2.7K resolution/30 frames per second and 2,560x2,560 pixel stills. Compare this to the similarly priced GoPro Hero 11 Black’s 5.3K resolution or the DJI Action 4’s 4K resolution, and the GO 3 doesn’t stack up as favourably on sheer detail in well-lit shooting scenarios. On its own, the 2.7K video shot is strong in terms of accurate exposure and dynamic range, and saturation and contrast levels are pleasing as well, though low-light performance is a little lacklustre.

The GO 3’s imaging performance may hurt its appeal with serious 4K-seeking action sports enthusiasts but its form factor and unique ability to not get in the way makes it a fun tool for the everyday hobbyist, casual adventurer or content creator, not to mention lifeloggers, vloggers and parents with pets and children. Honestly, given how small it is, the footage is quite incredible.

Another thing that stood out was Insta360’s FreeFrame feature, which lets you capture photographs and videos at 1440p/50 frames per second and later reframe or modify the aspect ratio of your footage. Capture once and then edit the clip for a portrait-orientation Instagram Reel or a landscape-orientation YouTube video, or both.

Insta360 has, in the past, done a great job with its FlowState Stabilization algorithm and it shows on the GO 3 too, smoothing out shaky footage when running or cycling. In addition, the GO 3 also supports slow motion (up to 120 frames per second), time lapse, hyperlapses/timeshifts and the like. The app intelligently curates your best clips and edits them into shareable custom clips.

If you are looking for raw specs and higher resolution, you are better served by the competition. The GO 3 is not a GoPro clone. Its rather unique take to action-style cameras, with its featherlight weight and attach-everywhere design, promote a rather unique brand of creativity.

No, it isn’t meant to replace your mirrorless or smartphone cameras but to end up shooting things (and in places) you wouldn’t with either of those. It is held back somewhat by the lack of expandable storage, and the fact that there’s no removable battery you could carry for long hikes.

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

Also read: GoPro Hero11 Black review: This action camera is for everyone

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