Insta360 ONE X2 bends all perspectives

The first time I had seen the Insta360 promo video, I knew I’d get one of these sooner or later. They clearly know how to market their cameras and make it exciting. My experience with Insta 360 GO (review) impressed me with terrific image stabilisation and eased me to the idea that getting a 360-degree camera is the next step. Once I got my hands on Insta360 ONE X2 thanks to Banggood, it blew my mind. It’s more than I expected, there is more to 360 cameras than just VR experience.

Insta360 ONE X2

Insta360 ONE X2 combines a 360-degree capable video camera and an action camera. This blend of features cannot be understated, Insta360 ONE X2 has the ability to replace most the other cameras: from traditional webcams to action-focused GoPros. All thanks to a powerful sensor, great image processing and stabilisation and the Insta360 app that takes full advantage of modern phone hardware.

As a content creator, cyclist and avid traveller, I have an array of cameras at my disposal. From stabilised gimbal from FIMI Palm (review) to steady my hand and provide smooth handheld footage, through various action cameras attached to drones and whatnot. I encourage you to read the review, but you will do yourself a strong disservice not watching the video. I’m going to do take Insta360 ONE X2 cycling, impersonate a game character by putting on 3rd person view and strap it to a drone. There will be an instance of drone jousting as well, so make sure you don’t miss out, but for now, let’s do the hardware.

Hardware

It’s an impressive piece of tech for more than one reason. Insta360 ONE X2 fits nicely inside your palm. Each side of the camera has a fisheye lens to capture images with minimal blind spots. On the front of the camera, there is a unique touch, a round display. It’s the first mind-bending thing.

Even though I’m aware of how 360-degree vision works, swiping my thumb across the screen and watching the camera preview pointing at objects to the side of the camera made me go WOW! It’s funny how we are so used to these preview screens, that seeing “breaking the laws of physics” and pointing sideways still makes me awe!

The touch interface is very usable. There is enough options to set the camera the way you want, to look up stored footage and use the camera without opening the Insta360 companion app. A power button wakes the screen, and the action button starts the recording/snaps pictures even from a standby.

At the bottom of the camera, there is a 1/4″ mount to accommodate most of your needs, and the side panel hides the USB-C connector, battery compartment and sd card slot. The whole package is waterproof up to 10m without external cases (this is nuts!) and supports voice controls for the most basic options.

To talk to the rest of the world, Insta360 ONE X2 uses Bluetooth BLE 4.2 and WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac.

Photo specs are as follows

ApertureF2.0 (7.2 mm equivalent)
ISOAuto, 100-3200
Photo Resolution360: 6080×3040 (2:1)
Pano: 4320×1440 (3:1)
Video Resolution360:
[email protected], 25fps, 24fps [email protected], 30fps [email protected]
Wide Angle (Steady Cam Mode):
2560×[email protected], 30fps 1920×[email protected], 30fps
Video Bitrate100Mbps (H.264, H.265)
Battery Capacity
1630mAh

As you can see, this is a perfectly capable camera. It lasts 1.5h on a single charge and I would recommend at least a 64GB SD card (about 50 min of footage) with cards over 256GB being ideal. Yes, you can run it with a USB-C cable without the battery inside. Inside the box, you will also find a protective sock, USB-C cable and the usual paperwork.

Overall, Insta360 ONE X2 is a very well made product. The only thing that makes me feel a little afraid for the camera is the lens. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to protect it due to the nature of the 360 videos, but there are lens covers on the Insta360 store and special settings that let you shoot 360 videos with an extra level of protection.

To complete the set, I have ordered an Insta360 Bluetooth remote, but I will write more about it in a separate post.

Insta360 ONE X2 as a 360 camera

When it comes to 360 videos, you will have to make a choice. 5.7K resolution is great for epic (but less action-packed) videos while 4K/50FPS or 3K/100FPS will give your action shots smooth and blur-free footage to look at from any angle. Personally, I tend to shoot in 4k at 50FPS as it’s a nice balance between having all the pixels I want and a nice framerate.

Exported videos are saved as 360, and available to see with virtual reality headsets. The whole process is effortless and easy. Thanks to the app, and desktop Insta360 Studio, you can pick where you want to edit your videos. Files also support the Adobe Premiere Pro plugin for GoPro 360 footage – so you can play with that too.

The camera does a great job at stitching images with the most visible blind spot being at the bottom of the camera (where the 1/4 inch mount is). This means that any selfie stick becomes invisible which results in awesome videos. I had friends asking me how the particular videos were taken as they would see the camera moving in the 3D space, but nothing that indicates it being present. “Drone” was their go-to answer.

Audio

The audio got the attention as well thanks to the spatial sound recorder by the array of the microphones. These can also be used in the wind cancellation mode to minimise the annoying noise associated with filming on the move. There is a USB-C accessory, that will let you connect an external 3.5mm microphone too

The ability to hide the stick can be creatively explored. It creates more immersive videos and helps to keep up the 4th wall.

Insta360 ONE X2 as an action camera

It makes it for an excellent action camera as well. Thanks to a 360-degree field of view and very good digital stabilisation you will never miss an action shot. It changed the way how I use action cameras. Previously, I’d think of ways to dampen the vibrations, to make sure the camera points in the right way, now I simply attach the Insta360 ONE X2 and press play. The camera faces in every direction and 360–degree vision is able to deal with even the most horrible vibrations.

This opened the door to capturing the footage I wouldn’t otherwise. All the fun stuff that can happen outside the frame of the action cam is recorded by Insta360 ONE X2 and available to look at in the post process. The same footage captured by the drone barely shows any birds. The moment I realised the birds were about to fly over the drone, and I have the 360 camera rolling, I got very excited as I knew this will look awesome in post.

It’s not just drones that benefit from having Insta360 on board. Thanks to great image stabilisation, footage from the camera hard mounted to my bicycle handlebars (the worst possible way of doing it) is not just usable, it actually looks great!

When I mentioned that you don’t have care any more about the camera orientation, I lied a little. Ideally, you want to position the Insta360 ONE X2 in such a way, that the blind spot and the imperfections caused by stitching two 180-degree videos are not in the centre of the action.

Insta360 ONE X2 as a fun camera

Every GoPro ad video shows you how awesome shots you can make while performing motorbike backflips and sky diving, but something tells me that for the majority of their customers the most extreme hobby would be cycling down to a local shop. Insta360 ONE X2 changes this. It makes owning a 360 camera fun.

You don’t have to be into extreme sports (it does help though) to make really creative videos that will make your audience awe. The app is filled with creative tutorials and step by step guides on how to use the camera, its features and powered by AI creative editing to turn simple clips into mind-bending videos. It encourages experiments with the camera making sure the Insta360 ONE X2 isn’t gathering dust during global lockdowns.

My favourite things to try are:

Shadow Clone – as a project montage

Ideal solution for short build montages. Pan around the workshop and show different stages of work on the project while keeping the editing time to a minimum. Shoot a couple of clips made from the same position with yourself performing different tasks in different places of your room and enjoy watching yourself doing it all at once.

Clone Trail – even if my action shots are lame

Freeze frame yourself in different positions. What’s really cool about it – is that the app picks up your posture, but lets the background roll. Result: cars and objects moving in the background aren’t frozen just your posture. Film a clip with you performing fun things while the camera is on a tripod and let the app do its magic.

Bullet Time – like every respectable Matrix fan!

A feature that needs no introduction. Works best with a special Bullet Time “stand” but you can fake it with a grip and ball joint. Spin up the camera above your head and watch things move in slow-motion while the camera circles around you.

Creativity is the limit. Insta360 app is full of good and bad ideas that people try and share. It’s good to watch how these are made, as this can inspire you to post your next viral video (maybe – I will let you know when I go viral).

Insta360 app

There are many things that one could say about the app. It’s a mix between the Insta360 store, social hub, editing software and online manual. It’s nice that Insta360 is trying to drive the community by organising challenges and rewarding creativity with Gold Points. These can be redeemed for discounts and free gear.

The community is encouraged to share not just their videos, but the tutorials about how these were made, with the most popular ways of editing enabled as AI templates. Even inexperienced videomaker can follow simple video instructions to shoot the content needed to create fascinating effects using 360 footage.

I only wish that other parts of the app were as well developed. Manual editing on the phone is very much possible, but the user is encouraged to take short takes over longer footage. Clips can be edited using an array of automated features like:

  • reframe video
  • track points and objects to stabilise the footage
  • change speed
  • add filters
  • add music

It’s enough features to keep your busy fingers editing the videos for a long time. Just prepare and expect rather long export times.

Awesome features that miss polish

It’s 2nd generation, and you would expect things to be stellar, but Insta360 ONE X2 isn’t perfect and comes with an array of things that could be resolved better. There are things you should take into consideration before you inevitably press that Buy Now button.

Expect to run out of the storage very quickly. The 360 videos are big. They fill up space quickly and that was one of the deciding factors in getting Xiaomi Mi 11 (review) with 256GB storage. If you are running short on space as it is, you won’t have a great time unless you want to edit on PC and potentially lose out on some AI features available only to mobile users.

Subpar livestreaming

There is a reason why I have an entire guide to streaming with OBS and Insta360 ONE X2. The app (and the camera) does not support Google Accounts with multiple YouTube channels at the moment, so you have to use workarounds.

Instead of connecting directly to your router, the default streaming uses your phone’s mobile data to share the footage, which can get very expensive very quickly. Connecting your phone via USB-C (Android phones only) fixes that, and you can repurpose WiFi to share the stream but the process is more complex than it should have been.

Temperamental USB–C

On top of that, the USB-C can be temperamental. My streaming efforts were hindered until I unplugged the camera several times. It would freeze the Insta360 ONE X2 several times and reboots of the camera were required to make it work with my phone. It’s far from plug and play experience, however, I do appreciate the fact that the camera can be used as a storage, webcam and in Android mode to bypass WiFi.

Clunky in-app editing

I mentioned that the Insta360 app works better with short clips. Editing longer clips is a nightmare as the file cannot be easily split into compatible with the templates chunks and used in the app. Trimmed clips, remove the excess video (temporarily) and you can’t access the original file without discarding the previous trim.

The app also makes it hard to import clips from other folders even if the clips are from the same camera.

Final thoughts

I know it’s easy for me to fall in love with a £400 gadget that was offered to me as a part of my cooperation with Banggood. In my defence, knowing what I know now about the camera, I’d set money aside and buy the camera anyway. Insta360 ONE X2 is a perfect pocket companion for each occasion. It won’t replace tailored tools but can help you make unique and creative memories without taking much space in your bag or burning a massive hole in your budget. Expect more footage on the channel taken by Insta360 ONE X2 as I learn more tricks as I go. Would you consider a 360 camera?

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Mat Zolnierczyk

I am passionate about technology, cycling, and art. This would explain why my bike has more computing power than your average office. I own notenoughtech.com and I write for xda-developers.com and pocketables.com NotEnoughTECH | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube |Instagram | Google+ |Donate |Patreon