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This thumb-sized camera is my new 'must-have' for traveling

The new Insta360 Go 3 gets improved battery life, 1440p recording, and one of the most ingenious companion accessories yet.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
A person holding the Insta360 Go 3
June Wan/ZDNET

I'll admit: I'm not a skater, I don't go deep sea diving, and I definitely can't jump from wall to wall in an upward trajectory. But when you pitch me an action camera the size of a thumb, it's hard not to take it out for a spin just to see what the little thing is capable of. And so that's exactly what I did this weekend with the new Insta360 Go 3.

Also: My go-to camera setting for the smoothest phone videos. Just don't abuse it

As the name suggests, this is Insta360's third outing with its pocket-sized camera, and it's made some notable upgrades this time around like the ability to record in 1440p (from 1080p) and shoot longer than two hours. 

And in place of last year's tripod stand, the camera is now bundled with this ingenious flip-out display module that doubles as a battery pack. Think modern-day vlogging camera but smaller.

View at Amazon

Naturally, the Go 3 warrants the attention of not just thrill seekers but game-beaters like myself. (Sorry, it was the best rhyme I could think of as a segue into this next segment.) See below for a short compilation of footage I recorded with the camera, and then I'll break down exactly how it was all captured and why the Insta360 Go 3 will be a mainstay in my travel bag for the foreseeable future.

The Insta360 Go 3 measures two inches in length and has a single button at the center for turning the camera on (press and hold) and starting or stopping a recording (single tap). If you're using the Go 3 on its own, you won't be able to see the exact framing of your shots because there's no physical viewfinder. But, because Insta360 uses an ultrawide lens, you can expect most subjects in your eye view to make it into the final cut.

That means capturing life's moments is as simple as mounting the camera, either with the bundled clip-on cap mount, pivot stand, magnet pendant (imagine wearing a pendant and being able to snap the camera over your shirt), or my personal favorite, the new Action Pod, and pressing record. 

Insta360 Go 3 flip-out camera

The camera has an LED indicator so both you and those around are aware when it's recording.

June Wan/ZDNET

With the Action Pod, you not only get a flip-out display to visualize what's being captured, but you have the ability to reduce the distortion caused by the ultrawide lens, increase video resolution, and extend the Go 3's battery life. Attaching the camera to the module is as simple as fitting a puzzle piece, and the ease of it is part of the reason why I kept going back to the accessory.

Also: This $15 accessory unlocks the GoPro's game-changing camera feature

Venturing into the arcade hall, I had two mounts and one shooting mode in mind: the magnet pendant for hands-free POV shots (see basketball and Pop the Lock), the pivot stand for games with props (see Tomb Raider and MotoGP), and Insta360's FreeFrame Mode, which sets the camera's field-of-view to the max so that I can easily crop out both 16:9 and 9:16 videos in post. Together, I'm very satisfied with the footage I was able to record, especially given how little effort was needed to frame the shots.

A close-up shot of the Insta360 Go 3

The Insta360 Go 3 comes with a lens guard for scratch protection.

June Wan/ZDNET

I only have two gripes with the Insta360 Go 3 and they both stem from the editing and exporting phase of the experience. Firstly, you'll need to pair the Insta360 app on your phone to the camera in order to download any videos over local Wi-Fi. When you think about how large these ultrawide, free-framing videos can be, each one can take a good three to five minutes to download. The worst part is because the Go 3 must stay on as you're transferring the video files, it tends to get hot enough to snap the connection.

Also: This thermal camera is so sensitive it can see you breathe

There were a few times when I'd have to turn off the camera after three or four exports just to let it cool down, and then repeat the process, all while hoping that it didn't disconnect mid-way through. But remember, this is a very very small camera, so its internal cooling and heat dissipation can only be so effective.

Ultimately, a bit of patience is all that's truly needed to have yourself an effortless and unobtrusive vlogging experience with the Insta360 Go 3. The camera starts at $379 for the 32GB model, but I'd recommend opting for either the 64GB or 128GB variants, as I often found myself recording more than I should due to how easy it is to do so. And you likely will, too.

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