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Insta360 One X2 review: 360-degree camera for dummies
Video that’s captured in 360 degrees is its own kind of awesome. You know what I’m talking about. The epic, first- or third-person shot of a mountain biker traversing a razor-thin ridge, or a surfer slicing through a massive wave, or a snowboarder spinning wildly while catching major air. These video feats are largely captured by action cameras: small, mountable devices that offer 360-degree or ultra-wide views of the world. Getting those shots requires planning and a little know-how. Insta360, however, hopes to give everyone the know-how they need with its latest camera: the Insta360 One X2.
Can anyone create jaw-dropping 360-degree photos and video? We find out in the Android Authority Insta360 One X2 review.
What is the Insta360 One X2?
The One X2 is a second-generation, 360-degree pocket camera from Insta360. It carries over the basic footprint of the original Insta360 One X, but makes some notable upgrades.
The camera is designed for one-handed use. It’s about 113mm tall, 46.2mm wide, and 29.8mm thick (4.45 x 1.82 x 1.17inches) and weighs a hefty 149g (5.25oz). A rubberized plastic material runs around the outer edges and has a grippy pattern to it, which really helps you hold onto the One X2. It feels rugged. While there’s no official mil-spec rating, the camera does have an IPX8 rating for liquid protection. This means it can handle shooting in water up to 10m (33ft) deep without a case. The camera easily slips into your pocket for toting about.
Users will find everything they need directly under their thumb. Aside from the bulbous, 180-degree lenses on each side, the most noticeable feature is the circular display. This round touch screen acts as a viewfinder and a control panel. You can pan the viewfinder around all 360 degrees to see what you’re shooting, as well as access basic shooting modes and settings. It is bright enough to use outdoors. A shutter release button sits just below the screen and an indicator light is below that.
Insta360 put the power button on the right edge of the camera. It takes a long press to turn the camera on. My guess is some users will mistake this button for the shutter key. In fact, its secondary use is to turn the circular display on and off, which can save battery life.
All the ports are on the left edge of the phone. Fussy hatches cover the USB-C charging port as well as the battery. You need to pull the battery to get at the microSD memory card, which is rather annoying.
A metal 1/4-inch tripod mount is positioned on the bottom of the Insta360 One X2. A second indicator light is on the front.
The hardware ships with a sleeve into which you can store the Insta360 One X2 safely.
See also: Best 360 cameras you can buy
In all, it’s a tidy package. During my time with the Insta360 One X2 review unit, I found it easy to manipulate and use. I’m sure most people will have the same experience.
How do you use the Insta360 One X2?
The good news is you can access and use nearly all the basic shooting modes directly on the camera. This is clutch, because it lets you start shooting quickly so you don’t miss something specific.
Using the display, you can switch between photo, video, and time-lapse shooting modes; control the indicator light, wind reduction, and voice shooting; alternate between JPG and RAW capture; control white balance and exposure; and access the library of images and video stored on the microSD card. This is a fine start. However, to get the most from the Insta360 One X2 you do need to tap into the accompanying mobile app. The app we used was in beta, so it was a little janky, but the bulk of tools worked.
Your phone and the Insta360 One X2 pair via Wi-Fi. The setup process is a bit slow, but it’s more consistent than I’ve seen on other Wi-Fi-based connection methods (including Insta360’s own One R.) This means you’ll spend less time hunting for the camera/phone when pairing and more time shooting.
The app itself is a compendium of all things Insta360. You’ll find promotional videos galore in addition to tutorials, the accessory store, and a social community of other Insta360 users. What you need to concern yourself with are the camera controls and shot selector tools. Within the app, the camera controls allow you to tweak absolutely everything about the shot before you press the shutter button. It can be a bit overwhelming. My suggestion is to leave everything on “auto” for a while so you can get the hang of the camera’s basic functionality.
The app is a fine tool, and perhaps the best way to fine-tune before shooting. Once you’ve decided on a mode, simply press the shutter button to begin capturing photos or video.
What types of shots can I get with the Insta360 One X2?
Insta360’s video experts have culled some of the greatest action sequences you’ll see and loaded them into the app as evidence and inspiration of what you can accomplish with the One X2. Under the stories tab, you’ll see sub-tabs. Use the tutorials there to learn how to use everything in the shot lab. A sampling of the shots you can take include fly lapse, stop motion, ghost town, flash dash, parallel planet, dolly zoom, bullet time, and many more.
Let’s talk about one of the coolest, which is bullet time. In this shooting mode, you attach the One X2 to the end of a pole and swing it around yourself in a circle. The resulting footage has the camera circling you in slow motion in a fashion similar to the bullet time scenes that made The Matrix so interesting to watch way back in 1999. It takes minimal planning to get this shot to work.
Then there’s roll planet. In this mode, you set the camera down on the ground and capture footage of yourself walking around it in a circle. Sounds boring, but the artificial intelligence of the app then takes over. It creates a “tiny planet” and makes it appear as though you’re walking the circumference of a small planet as it spins beneath your feet.
The directions to create these fun shots are very easy to follow. However, you’re probably more interested in creating your own shots. Simply attach the camera to something (heck, or just walk around with it) and begin recording. Once you have the footage, the Insta360 app helps you create compelling end results by allowing you to set the point of focus, speed things up or slow them down, change perspective, add filters and effects, and much more. You’re really only limited by your own creativity.
I did find some of the tools a bit fussy to use in the app. Applying edits after the fact could be tricky, particularly on a phone. Insta360 also makes desktop software that we did not test with the One X2.
The last thing I’ll say is that it takes planning to attain good footage. You have to have a vision and a way to execute on that vision by affixing the Insta360 One X2 to the right thing.
Are the results any good?
The default video shooting mode is 5.7K at 30fps. This enables what is perhaps the One X2’s most impressive feature: FlowState Stabilization. The camera and application are able to take your footage and strip out all the unwanted jitters and jiggers to create some of the smoothest video this side of a gimbal. Such smooth results alone give even the most boring footage a professional air that has to be seen to be believed.
In terms of raw quality, the clarity of the footage is exceptional. You can turn on vivid color mode to give things a boost if you wish, as well as enable HDR to give your video extra depth. Using these two together gives you excellent raw footage from which you can extract fun video results.
Photos, which are captured in either full 360 degrees or super wide angle, have the same solid look to them as the video. Everything is crisp and sharp, which I really like. Your exposure results will vary depending on lighting, but in general the camera does a good job. Color is lifelike and white balance was nearly always on point.
See also: 10 best cameras with a touch screen
All that said, my videos are drab and boring because I wasn’t able to take the camera mountain biking or heli-skiing. You have to have a good subject and eye for creativity to get good results.
An extensive catalog of professionally-created videos is available here.
Things I like about the Insta360 One X2
- Size. It’s perfectly sized for one-handed use, pocketability, and portability.
- Ecosystem. Like competitor GoPro, Insta360 has a vast range of accessories to help you attach the One X2 to bike helmets, surf boards, selfie poles, handlebars, and more.
- Video. The clarity of the 5.7k video cannot be understated, nor can how smooth results are.
- Editing. You don’t have to transfer footage from the camera to your phone before you can edit. That’s clutch.
- Options. Tons of video settings are available, allowing you to tweak before — and after — you shoot.
Things I don’t like
- Battery life. The camera runs for about 80 minutes when shooting 5.7K video. It’ll go as long as 9o minutes if you drop down to 4K.
- The app. It may be powerful, but it’s also confusing and besotted with too much extraneous content.
- Limited without the app. You can capture the basics without using the smartphone app, but you really need it to get everything from the camera.
- Memory card access. You have to pull the battery to get at the card. That’s always annoying.
Insta360 One X2 specs
|Insta360 One X2|
46.2 x 113. x 29.8mm
7.2mm at f/2
Standard, HDR, Timelapse, TimeShift, Bullet Time, Steady Cam
5.7K@30fps, 25fps, 24fps
Standard, HDR, Burst, Interval, Night Shot, PureShot, InstaPano
Steady Cam: MP4
80 minutes at 5.7K
Insta360 One X2 review: Should you buy it?
There’s a lot of competition in the 360-degree camera space. GoPro has a big name and a big lineup worth checking out. Other vendors that have decent offerings include Ricoh, Garmin, and Vuze. Pricing is fairly uniform, too, with $400 being a central selling point for many of these cameras. The Insta360 One X2 lands right in the middle of the pack with a price of $430. That’s for a basic package. If you want to add mounts or selfie sticks or other accessories, get ready to pay more. It’s easy to build a bundle that costs more than $500.
As far as 360-degree cameras go, the One X2 covers the basics. I really dig the image stabilization and clarity of video. Exposure is good. Sometimes there’s a bit too much grain. Your results will truly depend on the creativity you put into the shots. The most important factor is usability, and the One X2 is one of the more usable 360-degree cameras I’ve encountered. It’s easy to fire off photos and video without using a smartphone. Tapping into the smartphone app only expands the creative possibilities.
For $430, the Insta360 One X2 is a solid 360-degree offering. You can pre-order it from Insta360, as well as Adorama and BHPhoto. Shipping times are mid-November.