Insta360 EVO Camera Hands on: 360- and 180-Degree Video Made Easy

Despite the lower prices of headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Go, virtual reality has yet to really take off. One of the reasons? There's not enough stuff to watch.

Cameras with 360-degree capability have helped, but there aren't many affordable stereoscopic cameras that can capture 3D video. Insta360's newest camera, the EVO ($419), can do both: In one mode, its dual cameras can record everything around you; in its other mode, its cameras can take stereoscopic video and photos for a truly immersive experience. I'm still working on a full review, but here are my initial impressions of the Insta360 EVO.

Design

Although it's not the first of its kind (the Vuze XR holds that distinction), the EVO is the first camera I've used that folds in half. Each side of the squarish device measures 2 x 2 x 1 inches, and each is held together by a hinge; latches on the top and sides of each half keep them locked in place if you're using the EVO as a 360 camera or as a stereoscopic camera. The latches are a little finicky, though.

When folded out, the top-right half of the EVO (if the camera is facing away from you) has a power button and a shutter button. The right side has a microSD card slot and a micro USB port for charging the camera.

On the bottom of the right side is a standard tripod screw mount; this is essential, since it's impractical to use the EVO without a selfie stick of some kind. By comparison, the Vuze XR ($439), which also has two cameras that fold out to take either 180- or 360-degree images, has a built-in grip, which seems like it would be better for more spontaneous photo shoots.

MORE: Best 360-Degree Cameras

Photo and Video Quality

I'm still putting the Insta360 EVO through its paces, and I will reserve final judgment until I've had a chance to test it alongside the Vuze XR, which has nearly identical specs: 5.7K video at 30 fps, and 18MP photos. But so far, I like what I've seen from the EVO.

Insta360 EVO and Vuze XR Specs Compared


Insta360 EVOVuze XR
Price$419$439
Camera Aperturef/2.2f/2.4
Max Video Resolution

5.7K/30 fps (360)

2880p x 2880p (180 degrees)


5.7K/30 fps (360)

2880p x 2880p (180 degrees)


Max Photo Resolution18MP18MP

Indoor 360-degree photos were pretty good; from the middle of Grand Central Terminal, the scene was evenly lit, though the sunlight coming from the windows was a bit blown out. You can also tell that the camera used a slower shutter speed, since people in motion are blurred.

I also checked out the videos and photos I took on the EVO using an Oculus Go. Here, stereoscopic images and videos really came to life. Water spitting from a fountain in Bryant Park appeared to jump out at me, while the walk through Grand Central made it feel almost as if I were there. Colors were fairly saturated, and there was plenty of detail — I could see actual droplets of water as they came out of the fountain.

Insta360 EVO - Fountain

One of the limitations of shooting stereoscopic photos and videos is that your field of view is limited to 180 degrees, so if you're viewing them using a VR headset, your range of motion will be limited.

MORE: Best VR Headsets

But How Do I Watch My 3D Footage?

You can watch footage from the EVO using the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Go headsets, but Insta360 realizes that not everyone has a VR headset on hand. That's why it's selling the HoloFrame smartphone case as an accessory. Basically a clear plastic case, the HoloFrame has a number of ridges (not unlike a Fresnel lens) that, when placed in front of your phone's screen, will let you view stereoscopic videos in 3D.

Using the HoloFrame is a little funky. First, you have to attach the case to your phone so that what would be the back of the case is covering your phone's screen. (You can still use your phone's touch screen, but you have to press a bit harder.) Then, from within the Insta360 app, you have to enable the HoloFrame mode for whatever video you want to watch; you then have to configure HoloFrame mode for your eyes before you can watch the video. It also means that you can't simply hand the phone to a friend and expect that person to see things as well as you.

The HoloFrame uses your phone's camera and eye-tracking technology to ensure the best possible quality, and when it was aligned properly, it was a neat effect. A video I shot of the Grand Central Market looked like the food court was receding into the depths of my iPhone XS. However, I had to hold the phone right in front of my face; if the app didn't detect my eyes, it would stop. And, because of the case, the video wasn't superclear. It was like looking at one of those hologram baseball cards. Plus, the case picks up fingerprints very easily.

Insta360 EVO - Grand Central Market

The HoloFrame is available for iPhone models X, XS, XS Max and XR; cases for the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S9, S9+ and Note 8 are coming soon.

Outlook

I'm reserving my final judgment until I've had a chance to compare it alongside the Vuze XR, but I've been generally pleased with what I've captured from the Insta360 EVO thus far. While the price of the hardware on which you can view VR content is dropping, there aren't many low-cost options for actually creating immersive 360-degree and stereoscopic videos. Will Insta360's EVO create a sudden demand for VR? Unlikely, but enthusiasts will have one more affordable device that they can use to create content.

Credit: Tom's Guide