Insta360 brings its staple 360 camera into 2021, and it’s a joy to use.
After some teasing, Insta360 has launched their ONE X2 today. I’ve had some time to play around with it and feel that it’s a worthy upgrade to the ONE X. How does it compete with the competition and the rest of Insta360’s lineup?
Insta360 tried to reinvent the wheel with their ONE R. This time around, we’re just getting a replacement to the ONE X. The X missed out on a lot of the R’s new features, so this upgrade brings both cameras in line with each other.
Like the R, the X2 has these new features:
- Airpod/Apple Watch support.
- A full-color touchscreen.
- Waterproof to 10 m/33 ft (IPX8).
- Can record regular old MP4s like any action cam in both landscape and portrait.
- Extra detailed H.265 recording.
- PureShot photos, akin to Google’s HDR+.
- Bullet Time mode with a new compact rig.
My first impression of the camera is that it’s very solid. It doesn’t feel cheap in your hand. Apple is going to have no problem displaying this in store.
My second impression is that it’s convenient. For action stuff, I’ve been shooting on the ONE R recently. The R is generally less “set it and forget it”. The X2 doesn’t have any extra mods to attach; it doesn’t even have a microphone input. Its form factor lends itself to pulling it out of your pocket and immediately shooting. As a result, it feels more fun to use than the ONE R and the GoPro HERO MAX. There’s a 1/4-20 thread on the bottom for mounting, and it sits in your hand like a smartphone.
On that note, I’d totally recommend picking up the rubber lens cap. It’s a lot more convenient than the pouch that the X2 comes with. I’ve had a lot of fun pulling the X2 out and just recording in “steady cam” mode, which gives you a regular old 1440p MP4 (30 or 50 fps) and 150-degree angle of view.
In this mode, you can switch between Basic and Pro mode. The former has basic in-camera stabilization, and the latter allows for FlowState stabilization in the app instead. Honestly, unless you’re careering down a mountain, the basic stabilization is usually great. It’s a 360 camera, so it’s got a lot to work with in that department. It has no problem keeping the horizon level at all times.
The ONE X2 is an upgrade to the ONE X, and it shows. There’s no major standout feature. In a way, it’s what the ONE X should have been all along. As a result, here’s what I would have liked to see.
The screen is a welcome addition, looks gorgeous, and is very easy to use. Annoyingly, it’s very small. It’s about the size of the ONE R’s screen, which is a common gripe. The GoPro HERO MAX has a screen to match its name. The GoPro is bulkier, but it’d still be nice to see a bigger screen on the X2. Fortunately, Insta360’s app is very snappy and live-viewing the camera is far better than most apps.
I like the pouch, but it’s just not as convenient as the rubber lens cap. It would have been nice to see the lens cover in the box, leaving the pouch as an optional accessory. The X2 seems tough enough to survive an accidental drop when the lens cap is on.
When testing this camera, webcam mode wasn’t available. I’ve been told that it’s coming with a firmware update very soon. However, assuming it’s the same as the ONE R, I’d love to see Insta360 update this feature to add more control. Changing the field of view and white balance would be very handy. Hopefully, this will all come with a firmware update.
GoPro’s “floaty” case saves cameras from sleeping with the fishes. Unfortunately, Insta360 don’t have an equivalent. Some brightly colored foam that screwed into the 1/4-20 mount at the bottom would be nice. It would be difficult to DIY it without the foam getting in your 360 degree shot. Now that the X2 is waterproof, there’s no need for a proper dive case. Watch out, though, 360 stitching won’t work underwater without a case.
Audio was surprisingly good in extremely harsh winds. I also think I prefer the regular mic to my AirPods.
ONE X2 or ONE R?
I’ve thought long and hard about this. Why did Insta360 even make a new 360 camera when the ONE R already exists? How can the X2 compete against something so much more versatile?
The answer is that one is more professional and the other is more consumer. At least, that’s my opinion. If I needed to buy a Christmas present, I’d probably pick up the ONE X2. Its lack of extra options and all-in-one design just make it simple to use. My sister was able to use this camera instantly, without having ever used a 360 camera before.
The ONE R is the camera you buy for yourself when you need the resolution of the 4K mod or the low-light performance of the 1-inch sensor mod. The person who buys the ONE R might know that they’ll pick up the aerial kit, mount a mic, or get other upgrades in the future. If I’m bringing an action camera on set with me, it will be the ONE R. In fact I’m going to be sticking it to the roof of an oven next month for some cooking tutorials.
Additionally, the ONE X2 doesn’t have an action camera mount built in like the ONE R’s cage. You probably wouldn’t go skiing with the X2 as easily as you would with the R. I think the X2 is better suited to everyday life.
The ONE X2 is a breeze to use, and the footage is best in class. It’s not the most exciting camera, but it’s a worthy upgrade.
Most of us don’t live the extreme sport lifestyle that warrants an action camera. However, the app integration and Shot Lab modes mean that creativity comes instantly. The ONE X2 is the camera you take on vacation, and you will actually enjoy using it. It fits into your pocket, is ready for a quick shot instantly, and those photos can very easily be posted to Instagram then.
I probably wouldn’t upgrade a ONE X to the new ONE X2, but if you’re in the market for a 360 camera, then this needs to be considered. Also, if you’re buying it as a holiday gift, I’d throw in the new bullet time string thing. It’s a lot of fun and hopefully it will get bundled in deals anyway. If you want to go a step further, here’s the clamp I used to mount the camera in interesting places.