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Insta360 Ace Pro Action Camera Review (2023): Best Of Both Worlds

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Insta360 Ace Pro

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Excellent lens and sensor co-engineered with Leica. Flip-up screen lets you shoot from unusual angles. Excellent video quality. Good battery life. Great magnetic mounting system. Plenty of accessories.

Heavy. Expensive. Audio quality could be better.

Just before the holidays, Insta360 managed to sneak out two new action cameras that seem to have flown under the radar. The Ace and the Ace Pro are single lens action cameras, along the lines of the GoPro Hero 12 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) and DJI Action 4. They sit in the middle of Insta360’s tiny camera lineup, a little below the high-end One RS with Leica mod, but above the tiny Go 3.

Unlike some hybrids, the Ace Pro is mostly the best of both worlds. For the right kind of videographer—think action-oriented vlogging—this is the perfect action camera.

The Middle Way

The Ace Pro doesn’t seem to be replacing Insta360’s previous action cam, the One RS (8/10, WIRED Recommends), which offers multiple lenses, making it both an action camera and 360 camera. Instead, the Ace Pro takes some elements from the One RS and some from the Go 3, to create what Insta360 seems preternaturally good at creating: a hybrid camera that’s functional, fun, and often better than the competition.

The Leica lens on the Ace Pro is reminiscent of the Leica “mod” for the One RS, though the Ace Pro lacks the 1-inch sensor found in the One RS Leica mod. Instead, there’s a 1/1.3-inch sensor (more on that in a moment), which is paired with one of the best features from the Go 3, the flip-up screen.

I will confess here that I love my GoPro Hero 12. If I am shooting video, most of the time that’s what I grab. It just works. I press a single button and get results I like. That said, ever since I used the Go 3 I’ve found myself drawn back to it. It is similarly simple and dependable; alas, it lacks 4K video. If only there were a Go 3 with 4K video.

In many ways, the Ace Pro is that camera: It has 4K video—up to 8K in fact, but limited to 24 fps at that resolution—and it has the flip-up screen in a waterproof, action camera body. It lacks the detachable camera-only unit of the Go 3, but for me the Leica lens and all the other features you’d expect from a rugged camera are more important than the tiny form factor.

The question then becomes, how well does the Ace Pro stack up against the GoPro Hero 12 or the DJI Action 4 (8/10, WIRED Recommends)? The answer is complicated. The good news is that you really can’t go wrong with any of them. You just have to figure out which one is best for you.

Photograph: Insta360

The standout features of the Ace Pro, and the reason I would recommend it over the cheaper Ace camera, is the Leica lens. It’s a 16-mm (full frame equivalent) wide-angle f/2.6 lens codeveloped with Leica. Keep in mind that while Leica was involved, this is still a very small lens. It’s not a Noctilux. That said, in my experience testing this camera over the course of six weeks, the lens is every bit as good and very often superior to what you get with either the GoPro Hero 12 or the DJI Action 4.

The Ace Pro uses a 1/1.3-inch sensor, which is what the DJI Action 4 uses as well. I was unable to confirm whether these are the exact same sensor, but they’re equal in size. It’s almost 50 percent larger than the GoPro Hero 12’s sensor, but somewhat smaller than the 1-inch sensor of the One RS.

As with the lens, the larger sensor, while larger, is still pretty small and the differences in image quality between any of these cameras is going to depend more on the exact shooting modes, lighting conditions, and other variables rather than sensor size. That said, shooting the Insta360 One RS, Ace Pro, and GoPro Hero 12 side-by-side did reveal how much more detail the One RS is capable of, despite being considerably older. If the highest video quality is what you’re after, the One RS Leica mod remains the action cam to beat.

Sometimes you have to zoom in to see the difference though. What you see with the GoPro, Action 4, and Ace Pro are more sharpening artifacts, which aren’t there in the One RS footage. How much this matters really depends on what you do with your video. If you’re recording video that’s primarily intended for TikTok or Instagram, this is all a moot point. The quality of video that either of those services streams could be replicated with a pinhole camera. If that’s your audience, get whatever camera is cheap this week.

I found the footage from the Ace Pro to be largely indistinguishable from my GoPro Hero 12. Each has its strengths. The GoPro seems to handle extreme vibration and windy audio much better, while the Ace Pro had the edge in well-lit outdoor scenarios, thanks to excellent color rendition.

I almost never shoot anything but Log footage with my GoPro and do all my coloring in post-production because I don’t like the GoPro’s color rendition defaults. With the Ace Pro, I was pleasantly surprised to find the colors are quite good. They pop without appearing oversaturated, and skin tones of all shades rendered with true-to-life color.

I should note that there is no option to record Log video on the Ace Pro, so if you don’t like the color rendition, this is not the camera for you.

Video resolution goes to 8K at 24 fps, which no other action cam can match. It’s impressive on paper, and if you need zoom by crop to 4K it might be handy, but the world is not currently set up for 8K footage. Go shoot 10 minutes worth and try opening it in Premiere or Final Cut if you don’t believe me. There are also very few 8K monitors out there, and none that are affordable. Still, if you need 8K in an action cam, the Ace Pro is your only option, or it will be. This feature was not enabled during my testing and is coming in a future update.

What’s slightly confusing to me is that the Ace Pro doesn’t have a 5.3K or 6K setting like the non-Pro Ace camera. I’d love to see Insta360 add this down the road. It’s worth noting that Insta360 has a great track record of adding new features via firmware updates.

While overall video quality from the Ace Pro is good, I did notice some softness in the corners of the Ace Pro footage at times when shooting in 4K. It’s not particularly noticeable. In fact, I would never have seen it were it not for some comments on Reddit talking about it. When I went back and looked closely at my footage I saw it, especially on footage in lower-light scenarios, like shooting indoors on a cloudy day. I suspect this is not so much the lens as some of the in-camera processing, but I don’t know for sure. Either way I would not call it a deal breaker unless you are a professional filmmaker.

Video stabilization in the Ace Pro is on par with its rivals—better in some situations, not as good in others. For the most part, I was very happy with the Ace Pro’s stabilization. It uses Insta360’s FlowState formula, which is also in the Go 3 and other Insta360 cameras.

I found audio to be the weakest link in the Ace Pro’s feature set. It was entirely passable, especially for the vlogging use case, but it would very much benefit from an external microphone (as does any action camera—see our guide to the best action cameras for mic suggestions).

Different Angles

As I mentioned above though, the Ace Pro’s flip-up screen makes it much better for filming yourself. Yes, the GoPro has a front screen, but it’s tiny and nearly impossible to accurately frame with when you’re staring into the sun. The Ace Pro’s flip-up screen is big, bright, and perfect for framing shots of yourself, which even I, much to my chagrin, find myself doing more and more these days.

The flip-up screen also makes it easier to shoot from the waist. Naturally you can do this with any camera, but the ability to monitor it as you shoot had me shooting this way more frequently. For the record, the Ace Pro does have a front screen, but it’s black-and-white, with just settings data, reminiscent of the GoPro Hero 9. Still, this gives you the best of both worlds—you can see yourself in the big flip-up, and see all the video recording data in the small screen.

Photograph: Insta360

This is by far the best action cam for vlogging, but I was not fond of the way this showed up in some of the settings. Out of the box, the Ace Pro has the sharpening set to what I thought was 11, but turned out to not even be the highest setting. Footage sharpened to this degree looks fine on a mobile device, and presumably on Instagram and TikTok, but if you want to do anything else with your video it looks like hot garbage. I strongly suggest dialing the sharpening back to medium or even low for all but the social video use case.

Battery life on the Ace Pro is good. I got 82 minutes recording 4K 30 footage, which isn’t quite the 100 minutes that Insta360 claims, but it’s good enough to match the GoPro Hero 12 and DJI Action 4 (though the latter did manage a slightly better 98 minutes at that resolution). Like the Action 4, the Ace Pro can juice back up in a hurry, grabbing an 80 percent charge in just 22 minutes. As with any action camera, I suggest picking up an extra battery.

The one thing I don’t like about the Ace Pro is that it’s rather heavy at 6.3 ounces (180 grams). The Hero 12 Black weighs 5.4 ounces and the Action 4 is just 5.1 ounces. That might not sound like much, but it’s noticeable when you hold them together and it’s definitely going to be noticeable mounted to a helmet. The weight increases when you add the magnetic base, which you’ll need to attach it to any flip-down, GoPro-style mounts. For what it’s worth, I really like the mounting system. It’s magnetic, but very secure thanks to some locking mechanisms. I just wish it weren’t so heavy.

The Ace Pro offers a wide range of accessories. I particularly like the external mic attachment system, which is much less cumbersome than GoPro’s media mod.

The final thing to consider when comparing the Ace Pro to its rivals is the price. At $450, the Ace Pro is $50 more than a GoPro or Action 4. Whether the higher price is justified depends a lot on your use case. If you’re primarily interested in a vanilla action cam, I would argue it’s not worth the extra money—grab the GoPro or Action 4. However, if you’re looking for a hybrid camera that can handle some action sequences or some selfie videos, and that offers great color out of the box, then the extra $50 is well worth it.

In general, it’s a good time to be an action camera user. Whether you buy an Ace Pro, Action 4, or GoPro Hero 12, you’re going to have a camera that’s capable of delivering excellent footage.