Review: Insta360 Flow AI Smartphone Gimbal Challenges DJI as a Strong Competitor
Elevate your mobile content creation with the Insta360 Flow, a compact gimbal designed to simplify solo filming. Here are the key features and specifications:
- Deep Track 3.0: Enjoy advanced object-tracking capabilities.
- All-in-one Design: A convenient and integrated gimbal solution.
- AI Object Recognition: Easily track and capture specific subjects.
- Magnetic Phone Clip: Securely holds your smartphone in place.
- Folding Body: Compact design for easy portability.
- Built-in Cold Shoe: Attach additional accessories.
- 3-axis Stabilization: Achieve smooth and steady footage.
- Brand: Insta360
- Selfie Stick Length: 215mm (8.5in)
- Bluetooth Version: 5.0
- Battery Capacity: 2900mAh
- Weight: 369g
- Charging Time: 2 hours (5V/2A)
- Tilt Mechanical Range: Tilt: -100° to 82°
- Roll Mechanical Range: Roll: -150° to 180°
- Pan Mechanical Range: Pan: -230° to 100°
- Size: Folded: 79.6×162.1x36mm; Unfolded: 73.6×269.4×69.9mm
- Compatible Thickness: 6.9-10mm
- Compatible Width: 64-84mm
- Compatible Weight: 130-300g
Insta360, a leading player in the 360 camera industry, is venturing into new territory with the launch of Flow, a mobile gimbal. With competitors like DJI and Zhiyun dominating the market, Insta360 faces a significant challenge. The Flow directly competes with the DJI OM6, which also retails for $159 and boasts similar features such as a portable folding design, built-in extension rod, and quick launch capabilities.
At first glance, the Insta360 Flow closely resembles the DJI OM6, but it sets itself apart when you examine its back. The Flow features a translucent back panel on the gimbal arm, offering a unique touch. Unlike the standard opaque design of other gimbals, Insta360 takes it a step further by showcasing the internal components, including the circuit board and wiring. This futuristic design adds a distinctive look and feels, standing out from the conventional mobile gimbal designs we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
The rest of the Flow’s body is crafted from durable plastic, available in Stone Gray or Summit White. During our extensive testing period, we used a Summit White review unit and found that the body held up well, enduring accidental bumps and drops from various heights without any issues. However, it’s important to note that the lighter color is more susceptible to smudges and scratches, which may be more noticeable.
The Insta360 Flow comes with a rubber sleeve included in the box, which provides an extra grip and helps prevent accidental drops. While the sleeve is a nice addition, we did observe that it tends to slide off over time, potentially pressing down on the rear trigger of the gimbal. This unintended pressure triggers the gimbal’s lock mode, which can be frustrating when you’re in the middle of moving it around. Although a minor issue, it’s worth considering when using the Flow for extended periods.
The Insta360 Flow closely resembles the DJI OM6, featuring two joints that unfold to reveal the gimbal arm. However, it’s easy to forget which direction to twist for unfolding. When folded, the Flow measures 6.4 by 3.1 by 1.4 inches, making it noticeably smaller than the DJI OM6, which folds to 7.4 by 3.3 by 1.7 inches.
The compactness of the Flow remains evident even when opened. It measures 10.6 by 2.9 by 2.8 inches, in contrast to the OM6’s larger dimensions of 10.9 by 4.4 by 3.9 inches. The Flow’s folding design and compact size are among its most appealing features, as it is notably easier to pack in a bag or even carry in your pockets.
Kudos to Insta360 for incorporating a flip-open cold shoe point on the Flow, providing a convenient mounting option for small accessories like lights or microphones. This addresses one of my main concerns with other mobile gimbals. Interestingly, they have hidden this feature so well that I didn’t discover it until a few weeks into my review. With this addition, I can easily attach the newly released Rode Wireless ME receiver and connect it to my iPhone’s lightning port, enhancing the audio quality of my videos without the need to clumsily attach it to the back of my phone as I usually do. Furthermore, at the bottom of the gimbal, there is a 1/4-inch threaded hole, allowing for mounting the gimbal on a tripod plate. This proves useful for further stabilization or when shooting from a stationary position.
Magnetic Mount: Unlike traditional mobile gimbals that utilize built-in clamps to secure your phone, Insta360 has followed DJI’s lead and opted for a removable magnetic clamp design. This design choice brings several advantages. Firstly, you can swiftly attach or detach your phone without the need for rebalancing the gimbal each time, saving precious time when capturing spontaneous shots. Additionally, the magnetic mount provides a secure hold, eliminating worries about your phone slipping out during filming. The magnetic mount adds minimal thickness to your phone, allowing you to keep it on even when the gimbal is not in use—an excellent feature if you prefer not to constantly remove and reattach the clamp.
However, it’s important to note that if you require access to wireless charging or MagSafe features on your phone, the clamp needs to be removed. Additionally, although the magnetic attachment to the gimbal arm is strong, dropping or accidentally bumping the gimbal against something can cause your phone to detach.
Built-In Selfie Stick and Tripod: The Insta360 Flow incorporates a built-in selfie stick, adding tremendous versatility to the device for capturing various angles and perspectives. With an extension of 187.6mm (7.4in), you can include more of your surroundings in your shots, which proves beneficial in numerous scenarios. For instance, when photographing a group of people, the selfie stick allows you to fit everyone in the frame without having to step too far back.
Limited Tilt: The Insta360 Flow’s folding design, while impressively compact, does come with a significant limitation in terms of its tilt and roll angles. The Flow offers a pan range of -230° to 100°, a roll range of -150° to 180°, and a tilt range of -100° to 82°. This limitation can be disappointing when trying to capture specific shots, especially when framing tall buildings or achieving low-angle shots without cutting out the subject. While it may restrict creativity and framing options, this tradeoff is expected with the convenience of a folding phone gimbal, and similar limitations can be found in other folding phone gimbals like the DJI OM6.
Solo Film-Making Made Easy: Priced competitively at $159, the Insta360 Flow offers exceptional portability and a range of handy features. Its built-in selfie stick and tripod feet provide versatility in capturing unique angles and self-filming without the need for a camera operator. These features, combined with impressive tracking capabilities, allow users to easily capture shots from different perspectives. Although improvements could be made to the hinges holding its feet and its fill-light solution, overall, the Flow gets many things right for Insta360’s debut model.
Stabilization Performance: The Flow’s stabilization performance is on par with other mobile gimbals, similar to the DJI OM6. It excels in producing smoother pans and tilts but struggles to compensate for up-and-down movements while walking or running. This limitation is common among mobile gimbals due to their smaller size and limited range compared to professional setups. However, by minimizing movements or standing still, users can achieve impressive results with the Flow’s stabilization.
Software and AI Tracking: The Insta360 Flow offers software-assisted shooting modes that inspire and guide users toward capturing more interesting clips. These modes provide instructions for capturing video for specific subject types, and the Flow automatically performs the corresponding movements. Additionally, the Flow features intelligent AI recognition of subjects, allowing for specialized image capture. This proves useful for beginners or individuals focusing on their activities rather than worrying about capturing them.
The Flow’s tracking feature, utilizing AI recognition technology, accurately identifies and tracks specific subjects in real time. It simplifies filming moving subjects like skateboarders or dancers, keeping them centered in the shot even when the camera moves. The tracking feature performed exceptionally well during various scenarios, such as biking, where it reliably kept the subject in the frame and adjusted when necessary. The app also offers other shooting modes like slow-motion, time-lapse, hyper-lapse, and panorama. While the app provides editing tools for enhancing footage directly on a smartphone, it lacks advanced formats like HDR or 10-bit recording. In such cases, alternative video recording apps may be preferred.
Overall, the Insta360 Flow offers convenience, impressive tracking, and a range of shooting modes, making it a suitable choice for practical and portable mobile filming.