The release of the GoPro Hero 9 represents a significant upgrade from the Hero 8. The new camera features 5K resolution, two screens, improved color technology, a removable lens as well as many other upgrades. Is this the best action camera available right now? The Insta360 One R is another powerful action camera with some unique features. These two cameras are ready to battle it out for the title of best action camera in 2020.
In this post I’ll be comparing the GoPro Hero 9 to the Insta360 One R to work out which is the best choice. We’ll go through the specs, design, video/photo quality and unique features of both cameras. If you are trying to choose between the Hero 9 and One R then read on and hopefully you’ll get your answer.
GoPro Hero 9 vs Insta360 One R
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Hero 9 vs One R: Specs Analysis
The most obvious difference between the two cameras is that the Insta360 One R is actually 3 different cameras in one. The modular nature allows you to switch out the lenses to shoot different types of video. The One R can shoot 360 video with its 360 Mod, “normal” linear video with the 4K Mod and high quality video with the 1-Inch mod.
The Hero 9 is not capable of shooting 360 video, which may or may not matter to you. The Hero 9 and One R are most similar when the One R is using the 4K or 1-Inch Mod. When you buy the One R you’ll be able to choose which mods you want, you don’t necessarily have to get them all. For the purpose of this review I’ll be comparing the Hero 9 with all mods of the Insta360 One R.
The Hero 9 also features a detachable lens which may mean other lenses become available in the future. We know that a Max Lens will soon be available which will provide ultra wide angle video with improved stabilization and shooting modes.
Both cameras feature a wide array of resolution and frame rate options and both feature advanced stabilization software for super smooth video. The lens and color technology used within the cameras are different and will determine the quality of the video and photos shot with each camera.
Both cameras can livestream, both can be used as a webcam and they are both waterproof. While the similarities are numerous there are key differences in design, software and video quality.
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Hero 9 vs One R: Video
The Insta360 One R is a modular device with three lenses, or “mods”, available. The 360 mod is able to shoot 5.7K 360 video which allows you to shoot first and point later. It allows the user to exercise creativity in how you edit your video. 360 video is usually lower quality but offers the best stabilization and you’ll never miss a shot. You don’t need to point the camera at a subject as everything is being recorded at once.
The Hero 9 is not able to shoot 360 video as it only has one lens. There is an option to purchase the Max Lens for the Hero 9 which allows the camera to shoot ultra wide angle video, this allows the Hero 9 to feature similar excellent stabilization as a 360 camera.
As the Hero 9 doesn’t shoot 360 video I won’t focus too much on it, but it’s worth thinking about whether you want to shoot in 360 or not. The 1-inch and 4K mods for the One R are more comparable with the Hero 9 so we’ll focus on that.
Video shot with the Hero 9 looks fantastic. GoPro’s color technology is second to none and the Hero 9 features an excellent image processor that allows for dynamic, colorful video. The maximum resolution of the Hero 9 is 5K at 100mbps which allows for very sharp and detailed video.
The main limitation of the Hero 9 is the small size of the lens which is unchanged from previous GoPro’s. A larger lens allows for more light, detail and color to be captures and generally leads to better quality video.
Vs 4K Mod
The Insta360 One R 4K mod features a similar size lens to the Hero 9. In a direct comparison the Hero 9 wins out every time. The 4K mod of the One R does a decent job but it fails to capture the vivid colors that the Hero 9 can. The 4K mod also features more noise, has a lower resolution and can’t stabilise video as effectively. Both cameras can shoot slow motion video at various frame rates, including the popular combo of 4K @30fps.
Vs 1 Inch Mod
The 1 Inch Mod poses a greater challenge for the Hero 9. The lens features a Leicia designed 1 inch sensor which is three times larger than that of the Hero 9. The larger sensor of the 1 Inch lens allows it to work better in low light conditions where you’ll find less noise and greater detail.
Overall the 1 Inch Mod can produce greater dynamic range and slightly sharper video with a slightly higher max resolution of 5.2K. Despite the larger sensor the difference between the two isn’t massive with the Hero 9 producing excellent quality video in good lighting conditions. The difference is more apparent when shooting at night, indoors or in direct sunlight where the GoPro footage is washed out whereas the One R is still sharp.
Both GoPro and Insta360 claim to have the industry leading stabilization software in their cameras. It’s true that they are both very similar and achieve a very similar effect. GoPro calls their software Hypersmooth where as Insa360 has Flowstate. They both use the wide angle lenses to keep moving footage very stable in even the most difficult conditions.
Using the 360 mod with the Insta360 One R will produce the best stabilization. 360 video has the most information and allows the camera to create near perfect stabilization. The next best option is to use the Hero 9 with the Max Lens Mod. This extra lens (bought separately) features 155˚ FOV and allows it to create the most stabilised video possible on a non-360 camera.
Without the Max Lens Mod the Hero 9 still features excellent stabilization and you should be able to use the camera for moving video and achieve excellent results. I would say the GoPro Hero 9 is features the best stabilization of any action camera.
The Insta360 One R 4K & 1 Inch Mod also feature excellent stabilization and either would be a great choice for creating action shots. Overall I’ve found the Hero 9 to feature better stabilization compared to the One R 4K & 1-Inch Mods but the difference is marginal at best.
Another similar feature that both the One R and Hero 9 share is Timelapse/Hyperlapse. This unique moving timelapse is easy to achieve on both cameras however the One R editing software allows you to have more control over speed and duration. The Hero 9 also features a video mode called Hindsight which records 30 seconds before you’v even pressed the shutter which is handy if you find yourself missing that important shot too often.
Both cameras feature the ability to livestream and to be used as a webcam.
If you want the absolute best quality video possible then the Insta360 One R with the 1 Inch Mod is the winner here, however there are some caveats to this. The 1 Inch Mod offers the best overall quality, particularly in low light conditions, however the stabilization software in the Hero 9 is slightly superior. If you are looking for a camera to create action shots then this might impact your decision. The 4K Mod is inferior to the Hero 9 in pretty much every measure.
The 1-Inch Mod is also the most expensive option when buying the One R so you may find the Hero 9 to be better value for money, particularly if you have no interest in shooting 360 video. If you want the most shooting options and greatest potential to get creative with your videos then the multi-lens One R will probably be the best option for you.
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Hero 9 vs One R: Photo
While neither of these cameras are designed with photography as their key feature they both have several photography focused features. Both cameras have a “night mode” which improves night time photography. The Hero 9 has a new feature called LiveBurst which records for 1.5 seconds and allows you to choose the perfect shot.
The Hero 9 has a 20MP photo resolution where the One R is 18MP, this gives the Max a slight advantage when it come to image sharpness. The 1 Inch Mod can capture more light, detail and create high dynamic range images, however I think I prefer the color profile of the Hero 9 images. Also bare in mind that the One R is capable of shooting immersive 360 photos whereas the Hero 9 can’t.
When looking at photo quality of both cameras I find a similar story when comparing video quality. The One R with the 1 Inch Mod wins overall when it comes to quality however the Hero 9 is the more versatile, easier to use and you’re not required to buy multiple lenses.
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Hero 9 vs One R: Design & Build
The GoPro Hero 9 and Insta360 One R are both action cameras by design. Both are small, compact, waterproof and feature mounts compatible with many accessories. The Hero 9 features two screens, a large one on the rear and a smaller forward facing screen. The One R features a single screen however the modular nature of the camera allows you to choose which way it faces.
The Hero 9 doesn’t require a case as the mount is built into the camera itself; the One R does require a case if you want to use any accessories.
The One R is a modular camera which means you can physically take it apart and replace lenses or add a new battery. It comes in three pieces which must all be disassembled if you want to change a lens. While this allows for a broader range of uses it can be inconvenient to keep taking the camera apart. The Hero 9 on the other hand is much simpler to use, although it too features a detachable lens.
I find the Hero 9 to have superior build quality and the dual screens are very useful. The One R does have a case free option however you need to buy an extra accessory to make it possible.
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Hero 9 vs One R: Summary
This is quite a complicated comparison due to the multiple lens options available for the One R. When it comes to photo and video quality the One R 1 Inch Mod is slightly superior due to the larger sensor, however this is the most expensive One R option. Compared to the 4K Mod the Hero 9 is far superior in almost every way.
While the One R has the capacity for better video quality I believe the Hero 9 to be the superior action camera. With the ability to shoot super stable 5K video in a small, compact design the Hero 9 is probably the best action camera ever. The One R would be a better option if you also like to shoot higher quality vlogs and other types of video.
I personally prefer the One R as it has the ability to shoot 360 video, which I find allows me to be extremely creative when creating my videos. If I want to shoot other types of video I can just switch out the lens.
I would recommend skipping the 4K mod and going for the 360 and 1-Inch Mod. This option does make the One R the more expensive option and I accept the Hero 9 probably represents better value for money.
Insta360 One R Review
GoPro Max Review