This new version of the 360 ° camera from the manufacturer Insta360 is certainly not cheap, but the options it offers have for us something new and really creative … even if it means spending time there to tame them. We tested the One X2 for several weeks, here is our verdict in an (almost) condensed version, as the device offers so many features.
Phew! It is done ! We have finally arrived at the end of the tests of this Insta360 One X2. The manufacturer indeed announced the new version of its 360 degree camera at the end of October and we received it a few days later. Except beyond the traffic restrictions (and temperamental weather) that didn’t help with outdoor testing, we didn’t expect to find such a feature rich product. Hang in there, let’s go to testing a product that sets the bar for creativity very high.
Design and ergonomics: the color screen in addition
If you’re interested in 360 degree cameras, you’ve surely heard of the Insta360 brand, maybe even read reviews, or bought the first version. And then, maybe you are still hesitating between this model and the GoPro Max . Well, what would justify taking the One X2 first, rather than the Max, is perhaps its form factor which is quite different from the Californian camera. We have no preference for one or the other, because apart from the fact that it is a matter of taste, we especially think that one is more “action-cam” than the other, but we will come back to that.
Those who know the One X (first generation therefore) will find the rather elongated design of the camera which allows a better grip than the square format (or almost) of its rival from GoPro. As a result, while the Insta360 One X2 works very well without a pole, this is less true for the GoPro Max. However, for both, the use of a pole is recommended to facilitate the framing, especially since with these two builders, the homemade poles disappear from the image during the assembly – unless this be true with all poles completely black.
Let’s quickly review the two accessories that were sent to us for the camera test, namely the extendable pole and the multi-function handle. This not only acts as a tripod, but it is equipped with two threads allowing to assemble the said pole there to carry out shots like “Bullet Time” which consists in filming with the camera which turns above. of our head.
This accessory kit called “Bullet Time” on the manufacturer’s website is sold there for 55 euros, all the same. It is possible to buy only the mini tripod with rotating head for 40 euros. Not cheap, but this set allows the best use of the camera functions and, as we said, they disappear during editing. Either way, the pole alone allows for a considerable offset of the camera, with an extension (in addition to your arms) that extends from 28 to 115 cm. Add about 9 cm for the lens axis of the One X2. Ditto if you add the tripod which adds 14 cm if the feet are open or 17 cm if the pole is held in full hand. The wingspan of this same tripod is about 17 cm, which gives it an acceptable stability as long as the base on which it sits is flat and there is not too much wind. Once the set is extended to the maximum, the camera is still 140 cm from the ground: it can pitch. But at this height, most of the interventions in front of the camera go quite well with flexible framing.
Still on the design side, it is the integration of a new color screen that constitutes the major development. Like the old one, this one retains a round shape, which you might expect doesn’t just have its advantages. It is not always easy to select the small icons, arranged around the edges of the circle. Each represents a function, but the problem is the size of the pictograms more than the responsiveness of the screen itself. He reacted relatively well, even under pressure from fingers wearing a pair of light gloves. Well, not just any pair: one that also works with capacitive screens in smartphones. However, let’s not get carried away, remember that the screen is 2.7 cm in diameter and that the settings are not a piece of cake. Fortunately the mobile application is much more ergonomic, but we will come back to that.
As we pay attention to detail, here are some photos that will allow you to explore the said menus of the One X2. The good news is that the management of navigating through the various settings is fairly standard and easy to remember. On swipe from left to right to access multimedia files stored on the microSD card. From bottom to top to choose between photo, video or timelapse modes. From right to left to configure the various settings associated with these modes (ISO, white balance, exposures, color temperature, definitions, etc.). And finally, from top to bottom to access the camera settings: screen brightness and lock, activation or not of the recording indicator light, choice of video encoding (H.264 and H.265), or another AirPods option and another called “USB mode”.
The first option allows you to connect a Bluetooth headset (not just AirPods) for use as a microphone and the second turns this camera into a webcam when plugged into your computer!
To finish with the turn of the owner, one distinguishes, side heads and side, but also on each slice of the One X2, small holes which are not other than the microphones of the camera. Remember that this promises a 360-degree capture of sound. In fact, in practice, it should rather be considered that there is no loss of quality when moving around the camera. The impression, on the other hand, that a noise passes from left to right, for example, was not at all obvious to us.
On the right side – when the screen is in front of us – there is first a small hatch that contains the USB type-C connector dedicated to charging (and therefore webcam mode). The 1630 mAh battery also extracts from this side of the camera and these two openings have a seal to ensure water resistance to 10 meters without a housing. Finally, under the camera, there is no question of finding a “folding ears” type fixing mechanism with GoPro sauce. You have to deal with a screw thread, for which you will however have no trouble finding fixing accessories. The owners of action-cam already equipped with many mounts rest assured, there are also adapters to install this camera on your GoPro-style mounts to put you in 360-degree video without having to change everything.
Image quality: Full HD videos … entertaining
Despite its format and its less “adventurous” design, the Insta360 One X2 could inspire the same uses as the GoPro Max – and you will see at the end of the article that the robustness of the product is quite limited -, but we find it more suited to the production of less extreme content. It gives the impression of being more of a handheld camera than an action cam. However, that does not make it a less efficient model.
Since the camera shoots in 5K at 30 fps (25 fps if HDR is enabled) at 360 degrees, you can then choose the angle of view to keep during the edit. This will give you a fairly clean Full HD image, nothing more. The junction of the two images is rather well controlled as long as the ambient light is fairly homogeneous. Indeed, the One X2 does not know how to work miracles if there is too great a delta in the exhibition, for example. For optimal results, our tests also tend to show that it is preferable to use LOG mode and then look at the color calibration during editing – even if it means using the LUT offered for download by Insta360. In the video below, you can appreciate the video rendering of the camera – which has been compressed by YouTube – as well as some of the functions from the “shot lab”.
As we said earlier, it is possible to use the device’s Bluetooth connection to pair a headset and, a fortiori, a headset. And although the name of this option is “AirPods”, it works with other models. In any case, we were able to do this with our wireless headphones Jabra Elite 65T , which allowed us to use the microphone of this in-ear system as an alternative to the microphones built into the camera. A good point in certain situations where we would be too “far” from the camera to pick up the sound of our voice – if the camera is mounted on a helmet or on the pole that we hold at arm’s length, for example.
Shot Lab: the best of this camera
One of our biggest surprises was how well the manufacturer has taken care of the software part. So much so that we prefer to tell you about it before even describing the mobile application to you. Overall, it’s very simple, but you’ll find out more about it later. We will focus on the functions under the “stories” tab.
This section of the application contains 19 different automatic sequences for which you just need to follow video tutorials to create your own creations. This greatly facilitates the use of the camera and, with practice, the result is improved. And the best part is that the results can be quality. The creation of these stories is therefore very simple, even if some require more intervention on your part than others. In addition, the generation of videos sometimes requires a long time – several tens of minutes. It is not indicated to us whether the calculations are fully supported by the smartphone and / or the camera. Regardless, the rendering is good in most situations and the AI part quite impressive in people tracking.
We really appreciated the “ Stop Motion Mix, Shadow Clone, Flash Dash or Clone Trail ” modes, but the most impressive in our opinion are the “Ghost Town” modes which suppress the crowds during ‘a recording and “Fly Through”. In fact, the latter is accessible from the main recording screen since it requires very special handling. As the name suggests, this mode makes the One X2 appear to be moving through objects such as a drone.
To do this, entry and exit points must be marked in real time during recording, from the smartphone. For example, you walk between two trees with the camera mounted on the pole and oriented horizontally, screen towards the sky. It does not need to be perfectly parallel to the ground, on the contrary, it must be considered as a drone. At the entrance between the two trees, you have to mark a point so that the camera knows that the transition will be there. Then we make the exit movement of the camera by validating the second point and the electronics manage the transition. All the trips you make between the two are deleted. The result is amazing and it is not limited to just one action, you can continue the flight and multiply the plans.
There are many videos made with this very popular mode on the Internet, but it must be admitted that mastering it requires multiple attempts to succeed in creating a perfect transition between the entry shot and the exit shot , otherwise, there is a small jerk, even an unsightly cut that spoils the magical effect. This was the case for us and it must be said that we did not choose the simplest environment for this exercise – the forest and all those details in the branches.
A very easy to use mobile application
So much for the advanced features of the Insta 360 app, but let’s go back to the other parts of the mobile app. The captures are made here on an Android smartphone, namely a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ . First of all, we have never had any prohibitive concerns regarding the connection between our mobile and the camera. As soon as the smartphone’s WiFi is activated, the two communicate without problem. To reduce the latency of the video feedback, the stream is compressed: no wonder.
Nevertheless, we found this latency time less important than with the GoPro Max camera (and the Heroes for that matter) for which it is not uncommon to have to wait a few seconds before obtaining the video feedback of the camera on the mobile screen. Either way, the home screen offers good readability of all functions and setting options. This is also an opportunity for us to indicate that depending on the environment of use and your view, these inscriptions may seem a little small or difficult to read under certain light conditions.
Everything went well for us. We even quickly took our marks in this simple, fluid and really efficient interface. We qualify navigation according to four levels.
The first one, at the bottom of the screen, gives access to the choice of mode: video, photo, live and live crop. These last two options are related to streaming video live on Facebook, YouTube, Kwai Live or another RTMP service and, as a result, we do not fully understand the difference between these two modes. Once the account identifiers have been entered to perform a Live, the options seem strictly identical to us. We regret that the Insta360 application does not offer an option to manage the confidentiality of these Live broadcasts. It will not be possible to do tests in private or unlisted mode for example. It’s such a shame.
On the second level, we find the shutter button, access to mode options (definition when in video mode, for example) and settings.
In automatic mode, the camera takes precedence, but a manual mode gives access to all the options: white balance, exposures, choice of shutter speed, etc. Finally, levels 3 and 4, located respectively just above, but also accessible at the top of the screen, allow you to choose the shooting angle “ 360, panorama or 150 degrees “. The latter then uses only one lens. Note that the panorama mode is limited to taking a photo and that the 150-degree mode does not provide access to live broadcasting functions, which is quite strange and regrettable.
Very average photo quality
To finish with the picture quality of this Insta360 One X2, let’s go over some pictures. These were mainly carried out in automatic mode, and without any specific post-processing treatment. Only a few take advantage of the “PureShot” mode which is supposed to improve the dynamic range of the camera. Despite this, while the 360-degree photo can have something immersive and different, the quality of the shots here will end up being limited to something… fun.
The rendering is very rough on this photo taken from the 360 degree photo mode. Details are more like pixel mush. In addition, we can see the differences in settings between the two lenses with this line crossing the image.
A panorama mode which again struggles to balance the settings on the stitching ( stitching ). It will then be important to orient the camera as best as possible to limit this effect depending on the lighting conditions. Be careful, we took this photo on purpose, because it was particularly hard to produce. Indeed, we have a sunset on one side of the camera and on the other, a well-lit area with grazing light.
Overall then, the Insta360 One X2 is still a bit light on the photo part. If the technology applies rather correct connections between the two lenses in video, the result is not crazy in photos, with difficulty in managing the differences in exposure (for example) between each image. This is a subject on which the manufacturer still has to work.
Finally, depending on our different uses, we estimate the autonomy of the Insta360 One X2 to be around 1h20. The manufacturer does not deliver a mains charger, but only a USB Type-C cable, the duration of the recharge depends on the power of the associated mains unit. And if the camera is recharged via a conventional USB port, it will take more than 2 hours to refuel.
Insta360 and Studio 2020: applications for your edits
Insta360 provides an application to make your edits. Of course, PC editing offers incomparable convenience compared to smartphone editing. To do this, the manufacturer offers to download the Studio 2020 application free of charge from its site, which will give you access to very basic functions.
There is not even enough to make cuts in the video track, except for the “Trim” buttons which allow you to mark the beginnings and ends of sequences. On the other hand, the application allows you to place key “KeyFrames” points when desired, associating them with a specific angle in the video. Zoom, pan, tilt and roll are all settings available in this spherical video. The transitions are then managed automatically. There is the automatic character tracking function that allows you to keep it in the center of the image, regardless of the chosen viewing angle with the key points.
This is very convenient, but the lack of further functions is regrettable. Consequence: any more elaborate editing will have to go through third-party software. DaVinci Resolve in its free version can be an interesting alternative, but those with an Adobe Premiere Pro license will be more comfortable. For the latter, Insta360 indicates that it is sufficient to use the GoPro FX Reframe plug-in.
The crop tracking (zoom, pan, tilt and roll) works much the same way with the addition of key points, but you can also key in all the other effects and image processing offered by Premiere Pro. Insta360 also offers a LUT specially dedicated to its 360-degree camera. In the screenshots above, you can see the different work areas that appear as soon as you use this “GoPro FX Reframe” effect. Clicking and dragging with the mouse in each of the areas allows you to perform a specific action that becomes a key point as soon as the option is activated in Adobe Premiere Pro. Be careful, even if the final video is limited to a “flat” rendering in Full HD, the original file is quite heavy, in 5K @ 30 fps (not 60 fps), and requires a fairly powerful computer – unless to find a liner configuration that suits this assembly.
As for the LUT, we have also applied it to video and it is true that it helps to improve the dynamics of the picture a bit. Be careful, however: if it is applied while you have filmed your sequence in standard mode or in HDR mode, the rendering will be a little too hot and saturated as long as the day is sunny. By slightly lowering the temperature, exposure and light, you get a nicer and fairer in-between. Obviously, all the colorimetry options are active to refine the rendering and in particular to recover details in slightly overexposed areas. On this subject, as we said above, if you plan to go through retouching, you might as well use LOG mode rather than standard, vivid or HDR modes to obtain the most neutral colorimetry possible during recording. .
The mobile application offers much the same thing with the additional access to the creation of the famous automated sequences that the PC application does not offer. Which is quite a shame, because the calculation time would probably be shorter. The few essential functions for creating videos are available, from rush editing, to adding filters and music. Enough to make videos more or less quickly that it is then possible to share on the Web. And if the GPS chip was activated during recording, it is possible to add information related to speed, or altitude, for example to the edit. We welcome the “multiview” mode, which allows you to use the two camera lenses. This is ideal for videos showing a location (for example) since it is naturally possible to choose the framing, independently for the two images.
Far from our definition of “action cam”
Finally, we end this test with a mishap, that of the encounter of the lens of the Insta360 One X2 with the bitumen and which caused a shard clearly visible now in the image. Big mistake on our part in not having glued the lens protectors that were sent to us by the manufacturer. Used to our GoPro tests, we were too confident! And yes, these little cameras sometimes take full force of tree branches, find themselves buried in our backpack among a multitude of supports and other objects that can scratch the optics … sometimes they even kiss the ground with us and up to now none had been impacted like the One X2 is now.
So we could say to ourselves that it is normal for the optics to be chipped if it hits the ground, except that there, the camera has just swung from the deck of a scooter that we were using for the test, on the ground. And of course, the rule is the same as for the jam toast and the ground: it was the goal that cushioned this little drop from just six inches high. Not only were we surprised at the moment, but also afterwards: on closer inspection, the layer of glass looks really thin and ready to chip away again under our fingernails. This reinforces our regret that the One X2 is not an action camera. At least not as we understand it and certainly not as robust as the GoPro Max. It is now too late for us, but we have added the famous lens protectors sold for 25 euros on the manufacturer’s website. It stings for two pieces of plastic!
Insta360 One X2 Price and Availability
The Insta360 One X2 is already available from 490 euros. Several kits, with different accessories, are also offered on the official store.