More than five years ago I tried out a Samsung Gear 360 camera, but it seems that 360 photography didn't really take off. Early in 2020, I also spent time with a GoPro Hero 9 Black action camera, and there clearly is a market for sharing your adventures with these durable action cameras.
For the past several months, I've been using an Insta360 One X2 camera that serves as both an action camera and a 360 camera so you can capture the world around you in several ways and share that with others who are unable to explore in the same way. I spent time running, hiking, biking, walking, and viewing a Formula 1 race with the Insta360 One X2 and it did not disappoint.
There are a lot of great features and functions that we will discuss in the review, but one of the coolest tricks is the invisible selfie stick where the Insta360 software magically erases the selfie stick so that it looks like a drone is capturing your content on the go. The hardware is rock solid, the software is easy and very capable, and the results are outstanding.
- Great size and build quality
- Solid battery life
- Functional color touchscreen display/viewfinder
- Excellent image stabilization
- Powerful and simple smartphone software
- IPX8 waterproof rating
- Connecting to the phone can be finicky
- Content not as sharp and detailed as others
While the Samsung Gear 360 camera I had years ago was a ball-shaped accessory, the Insta360 One X2 has a nice candy bar (about a Snickers and a half) shape with two domed camera lenses on each side of the upper portion of the camera. The camera is covered in soft touch material with extra texture on the sides so it is very easy to hold onto securely.
On the front, we have one camera lens with a round touchscreen color display centered on the front. The capture button is centered below the display. The display is responsive and works with taps and swipes to control the camera experience if you do not want to control things from your phone display.
The power button is on the right side with the speaker opening positioned up further. Port covers for the USB-C power and battery compartment are positioned on the left side. The battery is user-replaceable and for long recording sessions, you will want to carry spares since the camera will not let you record while plugged into the USB-C port.
The second domed camera is positioned on the upper back with an indicator light on the lower portion of the back. A standard tripod mount connection is centered on the bottom. The bottom is flat enough to allow you to stand the camera up on its own and record as well.
Four microphones are also positioned on the camera with one just under each camera lens and the other two on the upper portion of each side panel.
The retail package contains the camera, battery, USB-C charging cable, protective pouch, and QuickStart Guide. I also tested the Bullet Time accessory bundle and lens cap. I was also sent sticky lens guards, but they tend to compromise the image/video quality too much to be worth using. The premium lens guards look like a much better option for protecting the lenses from damage. The Bullet Time bundle includes a tripod handle that works as a tabletop tripod and also serves as the handle to spin the camera around. The other attachment fits onto the end of the tripod for serving as the rotating arm for swinging, but can also be used as an invisible selfie stick.
- Storage: microSD card slot
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 and 801.22 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi
- Other: 6-axis gyroscope and wind reduction
- Waterproof rating: IPX8, 10m (33 feet)
- Photo resolution: 6080 x 3040 for 360 image and 4320 x 1440 for panoramic
- 360 video resolution: 5.7k@30fps, 25fps, 24fps. 4K@50fps and 30fps, 3K@100fps
- Wide angle video resolution: 2560x1440 @ 50fps and 30fps, 1920x1080 @ 50fps and 30fps
- Battery life: Removable 1630 mAh with 85 minute charging time. Up to 80 minutes of use with 5.7K at 30 fps
- Dimensions: 113 x 46.2 x 29.8mm and 149 grams
You can charge up the Insta360 One X2, insert a microSD card (up to 1TB), and start recording without any smartphone connection. The round LCD touchscreen supports taps and swipes so when it first turns on it shows the current views of the cameras. Tap once to pop up various status indicators. With these indicators shown swipe from the top and work down to get to several controls. Swipe left and right to view all of the controls. These include display brightness, lock mode, LED toggle, AirPods connectivity, mic modes, voice control, and more settings.
From the main viewfinder, swipe up from the bottom to between standard photo, standard video, and timelaps modes. Swipe from left to right to view image and video that you have previously capture, the album view. Swipe from right to left to access specific settings for the selected camera mode, including format, ISO, white balance, and more.
On the main viewfinder, you can tap various icons to quickly change options. This includes 360, pano, or 150-degree (single side camera) modes. One button quickly flips the viewfinder between the front and rear cameras. The last option is the PureShot toggle. Battery life and remaining space on your SD card are also shown on the viewfinder.
You can move your finger around the viewfinder to view what the camera sees, in full 360-degree view. Also moving the camera around changes what appears in the viewfinder. Press the physical shutter button to capture content.
Insta360 smartphone software
The free Insta360 smartphone software is very well done and one of the best pieces of software I have used for a camera experience on a phone. When you first launch the app you can setup an account and then connect the camera. The camera connects via WiFi and Bluetooth for content transfer and camera control functions.
The software has tutorials to help you get the most out of your new camera, as well as submitted content from other users so you can be inspired to capture your world too. Along the bottom there are tabs for explore, album, camera control, stories, and settings.
In album view you can see what has been captured on your camera and then select content to download to your phone for further editing and use. There are a host of viewing and editing tools available in the app. You can change the aspect ratio of the content, view tiny planet shots, apply the PureShot auto enhancement, take a snapshot of the content, enable Multiview, add music, change video speed, and much more. Multiview is a cool option that shows you different views of the content in another window that you customize so you can see things like people's reactions as something is happening in the video.
You can use the Insta360 One X2 as a webcam and also live stream to various services when the camera is connected to your phone. Live streaming is supported for Facebook, YouTube, Kwai Live, and RTMP.
When you connect and control your One X2 from your phone, a host of modes are available to you. These include burst, interval, night shot, HDR photo, photo, video, timelapse, HDR video, bullet time, timeshift, and live. While auto mode for these is on by default, you can change to manual mode and control specific camera settings with your phone.
You can also download and install the Insta360 Studio desktop software if you want to view and edit your content on your computer instead of your phone.
Experiences and conclusions
The Insta360 One X2 is available now for $429.99. An extra battery costs $29.99 while the selfie stick with tripod is $25.
One thing that frustrates me about using cameras, either stand-alone or on phones, is having to make decisions on what content you are going to capture. It's a relief to use a camera like the One X2 since you can capture everything in 360 videos and then later use the powerful Insta360 smartphone software to export the bits and pieces that you want to share or use to create other content with. When I took the One X2 to the US Grand Prix in Austin, I captured lots of 360 video content in various corners of the course and then exported what I wanted to share with ease. I love that the One X2 provides the ability to just go ahead and capture content and worry about what parts of that you want to keep later.
The Insta360 One X2 is also a very capable action camera with a pocketable form factor that easily attaches via the standard 1/4-inch bottom port. Excellent stabilization, horizon lock, and the invisible selfie stick help you capture your best content. Intelligent software lets you reframe content after you capture it so you can get creative with the videos you post and share with family and friends. I haven't had the chance to try it in the water, but it does have an IPX8 waterproof rating so it is built to handle the water.
There are many ways to be creative with the Insta360 One X2 with stop motion mix, clone trail, fly lapse, and much more. A 360 camera has also proven very useful for work and our shipchecks are much more valuable when we capture everything in spaces rather than just bits and pieces of compartments. Insta360 makes capturing content easy and then editing that to perfection easy as well. I also love that I can wear my Coros Vertix 2 and control the Insta360 One X2 right from my watch.
The One X2 delivers solid quality content with good resolution and color. There are several videos online showing off various Shot Lab features that are present through the AI capability of the camera so I recommend you discover everything the camera can do for you.