2023 has been a massive year for Insta360. Not only have they won the prestigious T3 Awards in the best action camera category with the Insta360 X3, but they also launched several exciting products, including the Insta360 GO 3, the Insta360 X3 Invisible Dive Case, and the Insta360 Flow AI gimbal. But nothing compares to the release of the latest product from the brand, the Insta360 Ace Pro, the subject of this review.
Co-engineered with Leica, the Insta360 Ace Pro and its smaller sibling, the Insta360 Ace, follow the success of the Insta360 ONE RS 1-Inch, which also used an optical apparatus designed by the legendary German brand. However, the new action cam's shape and functionality resemble the best GoPros, aka traditional action cameras, and is not a 360-degree unit like the RS 1-Inch.
But because this is Insta360 we're talking about, expect some AI-powered features, like AI Highlights and AI Warp, not to mention all the templates and auto-editing options available via the Insta360 app and Studio. There is a lot to unpack here, so let's dive in to see what you can expect from the Ace Pro and whether you should buy one today.
[First reviewed November 2023]
Insta360 Ace Pro review
Insta360 Ace Pro review: price and availability
The Insta360 Ace Pro was announced on 21 November 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Insta360 for a recommended retail price of $450/ £430/ AU$ 729. Compared to the GoPro Hero 12 Black (RRP $400/ £400/ AU$ 650), the new Insta360 device is more expensive. The Insta360 Ace retails for a bit less and is also available to buy now for a recommended retail price of $379.99/ £359.99/ AU$ 609.
Insta360 Ace Pro review: specifications
|Header Cell - Column 0||Insta360 Ace Pro||Insta360 Ace|
|Max video resolution||8K (16:9) : 7680x4320@24fps, 4K(16:9): 3840x2160@120||6K (16:9) : 6144x3456@30, 4K (16:9) : 3840x2160@120|
|Max photo resolution||48MP (8064x6048)||48MP (8000x6000)|
|Video modes||Video (with built-in Active HDR), FreeFrame Video, PureVideo, Slow Motion, Starlapse, Timelapse, TimeShift, Pre-Recording, Loop Recording||Video, FreeFrame Video, Active HDR , PureVideo, Slow Motion, Starlapse, Timelapse, TimeShift, Pre-Recording, Loop Recording|
|Photo modes||Photo, HDR Photo, Interval, Burst Photo, Starlapse||Photo, HDR Photo, Interval, Burst Photo, Starlapse|
|Charge time||46min (30W fast charging adapter) 63min: 5V/3A||70min: 5V/3A|
|Run time||100 minutes||100 minutes|
|Connecticity||WiFi, Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C||WiFi, Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C|
Insta360 Ace Pro review: design and build quality
The Insta360 Ace Pro looks distinctively like an action camera. It has a rectangular body with a somewhat protruding optical excellent, a couple of physical buttons, with a large screen at the back and a smaller one at the front of the unit.
Being an action camera and all, the Insta360 Ace Pro can handle depths of up to 33 feet (10 meters) and up to 196 feet (60 meters) with the Dive Case, which is an optional extra. Better still, the camera can operate in temperatures as low as -20 °C (- 4°F), making it an ideal companion for winter sports.
Of course, this description only scratches the surface. For example, that protruding optical unit was co-engineered with Leica and boasts 'superior' imaging performance. It comprises a large 1/1.3" sensor, a 5nm AI chip, and a Leica SUMMARIT lens, ensuring excellent low-light capabilities.
The smaller display at the front only shows basic stats, including battery status, memory card info, and the camera's shooting mode, leaving the lion's share of work to the rear screen.
The pivoting 2.4" touchscreen display has a resolution of 240 x 400 pixels and a maximum brightness of 850 nits. It's bright and responsive – no complaints there! The hinged approach ensures you can see the screen from the rear, looking down or facing the camera.
We saw a similar approach in the Insta360 GO 3, which sported a rectangular casing with a pivoting screen. It worked there, and seemingly, it works here, too. However, I have some concerns about the system's longevity, as fewer moving parts usually mean a longer lifecycle. I also had issues with the pivoting display in the first two weeks of testing.
Another thing I wanted to mention is the fabulous magnetic mounting system that lets you quickly attach the camera to whatever accessory you decide to use with your Ace Pro. The design is similar to DJI's (see also: DJI Osmo Action 4 review), and apart from the ever-so-slight wobble on the mount – which could be down to me testing a pre-production unit – it works flawlessly.
Insta360 Ace Pro review: features
[PLEASE NOTE: I tested the pre-production version of the camera using beta software. Some features, including the 8K resolution, AI Highlights Assistant and Active HDR, weren't available to test. The desktop Insta360 Studio wasn't ready for testing, either. I'll update this review once all functionality and features have been thoroughly tested.]
The Insta360 Ace Pro has numerous shooting modes, resolutions, and framerates to play with. You get the standard video mode up to 8K resolution with built-in Active HDR for videos up to 4K@30fps, FreeFrame Video (which applies image stabilisation, horizon lock and adjustable aspect ratio in post-production), Slow Motion, Starlapse, Timelapse, TimeShift, Pre-Recording, and Loop Recording.
The standout new feature is PureVideo, powered by a 5nm AI chip. It uses a custom-trained AI neural network to denoise the footage in real-time, resulting in a clearer image. This feature is impressive, especially because it enhances the Ace Pro's already excellent low-light performance, thanks to the large sensor and pristine Leica lens.
Photo modes include standard photo (up to 48MP), HDR Photo (shoots multiple images for a high dynamic range composite), Interval, Burst Photo and Starlapse, the latter of which shoots multiple photos and automatically combines them into one single starlapse image.
One of my favourite new features is Clarity Zoom. In certain shooting modes (e.g., standard video mode with a 16:9 image ratio in 4K@60fps), double-tapping the display allows the camera to zoom in and out without any loss of quality. 'How is this even possible?' you might ask.
Well, the Insta360 Ace Pro's max resolution is 8K, which means that when shooting in 4K, some of the resolution is lost, so to speak. When you double-tap, all the camera does is zoom in to that middle 4K frame of the camera without losing resolution. Clever!
There is also Gesture Control, which allows you to use hand signals to start/stop recording or take a photo. You can also pause and record again to keep everything you want to film in one continuous file for easier file management and editing.
Insta360 Ace Pro review: performance
I was sent the review sample of the Insta360 Ace Pro approximately two weeks before the launch date. If you've tried action cams before, you know two weeks isn't enough time to thoroughly test all features, so what you'll find below are my initial thoughts on the device's performance, as opposed to a final summation.
That said, I managed to spend some quality time with the Ace Pro, and what I've seen so far is pretty impressive. I'm a big fan of both the best GoPros and Insta360's user interface, and the Ace Pro combines everything I love about both into an attractive action camera package.
When I say action camera, I mean compact, rugged recording device. More and more people use action cams not just for extreme sports but also for vlogging. Top action cams have high resolution (and framerate) and image stabilisation, are easy to operate and sink into your pocket once you finish recording. They can also connect to wireless Bluetooth microphones or earbuds, which enhances audio performance when used for vlogging.
Insta360 knows this, which is why I feel the Ace Pro is more of a vlogging camera than an action camera. It's pretty rugged, don't get me wrong, but equally, it's almost tailor-made for shooting videos where you stare at the camera, thanks to that large pivoting screen.
The Ace Pro has most of the cool features that make Insta360 cameras so fun to use, including the different shooting modes and the AI-powered templates and editing modes in the Insta360 app. Some of these are more novelty stuff, admittedly, like the new AI Warp, which uses machine learning to create little 4-second clips of your videos based on your input.
It's fun and easy enough to use, but I found that even if I edit my videos down to the required length (under 15 seconds), the AI Warp feature doesn't consider that and assumes I'd like to add the full video. More established AI-powered features work well, and I expect AI Warp to function properly once it's out of beta.
Video performance and image stabilisation are on point, and audio capturing is also very decent for an action camera. I was sad to learn there is no vertical shooting option onboard. GoPro added this on the Hero 12, and the Insta360 Go 3 also has a vertical shooting option, so its absence from the Ace Pro is a bit puzzling. However, future software updates could resolve this issue quickly.
On one occasion, I wore the Ace Pro mounted on the GoPro Chesty and let it run as long as it could (4K@60fps), for around 40 mins, at which point the memeory card ran out of space, to see if the cam overheated. Not only it didn't overheat, it almost felt cool! I was well impressed with battery performance.
One thing that might compromise this is the AI Highlights feature that analyses footage on camera and picks out the best bits. In my experience, this feature not only eats up battery life, it also struggles slightly with finding the best moments in the videos. I expect after refined, it will do a much better job.
Insta360 Ace Pro review: verdict
It's almost impossible not to like the Insta360 Ace Pro. It has all the ingredients of the best action cameras: premium optics, a large sensor, a variety of shooting modes, easy operation, and a game-changing display. Better still, it offers loads of unique editing options via the Insta360 smartphone app and the Insta360 Studio desktop app.
Although most people will probably compare the Ace Pro with its biggest rival, the GoPro Hero 12 Black, I think the two complement each other. The Hero 12 Black should still be considered the top choice for extreme sports and action shots. On the other hand, the Insta360 Ace Pro is a better option for the ever-increasing army of bloggers and various content creators.
It's a superb, rugged camera that fits in your pocket and can help create stunning, high-resolution videos and photos on the spot. I want to test the unit a bit longer, but I'll update this review once all the updates have been rolled out. Between you and me, I never looked forward to more testing than now!
Insta360 Ace Pro review: also consider
An excellent alternative to the Ace Pro would be the Insta360's One RS. The flexible modular design is loads of fun, and the 4K boost lens delivers excellent video quality alongside the existing 360 lens module. It's a well-rounded action camera package that delivers on all fronts. Read Mark's full Insta360 One RS Twin Edition review.
GoPro's last-gen action cam, the Hero 11 Black, is in many ways the ultimate in incremental evolution. It’s a better camera than the GoPro Hero 10 Black in several areas, especially with its brilliantly boosted colour palette and improved user options, but it's almost identical in most of the other ways you can measure. And these days, it's much cheaper than the Insta360 Ace Pro. Read our GoPro Hero 11 Black review, also from Mark.