Insta360 One X Review

Introduction

Initially released in the fall of 2018, Insta360’s One X is their current mid-tier consumer camera. Its predecessor, the original One, offered quite an exciting feature set at the time and several unique ways to create 360-degree content without the need for any bulky equipment. But, its camera quality compared to rivals was slightly behind the curve. With this new release, Insta360 is coming out of the gates swinging, offering what appears to be a complete redesign over its predecessor. On paper, it promises massive improvements in resolution, connectivity, and added special effects. And it’s a product Insta360 aims to take the title of the most fully-featured camera around and a strong competitor to GoPro’s Fusion and Yi’s 360 VR.

But considering 360-degree cameras remain very niche in today’s market, have they done enough to make this new release a compelling addition for the masses? While 360-degree promised to be the next revolution in the industry, that promise hasn’t seen a fulfillment to date. This new release aims to reverse the trend. And today, we assess its strengths and weaknesses and answer whether it is a worthwhile addition to your arsenal.

insta-360-camera-coupon

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Insta360 One X? 

Pros:

Build Quality, Design & Handling 

Insta360 has completely redesigned the camera with this iteration. Gone is the doorbell styled shape and body design. Instead, they’ve equipped the camera with a sleek, modern, and minimalist design that doesn’t warrant attention. Both its dual lenses are now directly in-line with one another, and the camera also provides two physical buttons and a small OLED display that shows on-screen settings or the main menu. The physical buttons navigate the camera’s menus, where the top acts as both a shutter release and OK/Enter button, while the bottom, a d-pad of sorts to scroll the menus. And it also doubles as the On/Off button. Having physical control is a nice bonus, particularly because using Wi-Fi to control the camera remotely really drains the battery.

New for this model is updated connectivity, removing the predecessor’s built-in lightning adapter. And, instead, replacing this strange wired connection with a Micro USB port, which streamlines the connection process for both iOS and Android. And a bonus, this port also supports charging via USB. Insta360 has also made the battery removable with this model and includes an extra battery in the package. Outside of that, the camera has a MicroSD card slot on the bottom for in-camera storage. And it also offers a standard 1/4-inch tripod thread to mount tripods, grips, or other accessories.

insta-360-x-camera-side-facing

The build quality of the camera itself is excellent. The body uses a robust plastic material topped with a comfortable, yet grippy matte black rubber finish. And these combine to provide a feeling of solidity to the camera. The battery compartment door and the buttons also feel well-made. And, overall, the camera feels quite durable and built to last. And it’s comfortable to hold and pocket-friendly.

In size, it’s now slightly larger than its predecessor. But measuring at 115 x 48 x 28mm, it’s quite a bit smaller than a wallet and as thin as a phone. And compared to rivals, it’s significantly smaller and far more pocket-sized. The camera itself also weighs only 115g, making it less than half the weight of its competitors. And, overall, it’s extraordinarily light and highly portable considering its feature set.

Companion App & Connectivity

You have two options to control this camera. You can either use the physical buttons or the ONE X companion app. This app works on both iOS and Android. The benefit of using the app is that it unlocks a wide range of shooting modes and special effects. You can also edit photos and videos with the app, perfect for maximizing versatility.

Connecting to the app:

Upon turn on, the camera automatically creates a Wi-Fi hotspot, a significant upgrade over its predecessor. Previously, you had to physically connect the camera to an iOS device for file transfer. The addition of a wireless connection significantly streamlines this process.

The app then finds the camera via Bluetooth, then automatically connects to its Wi-Fi hotspot. This pairing process is dead-easy and is also entirely pain-free. The camera doesn’t even require you to enter an ID or password either, a nice bonus. Once paired, it uses a wireless file transfer system that uses Bluetooth to initiate the pair and Wi-Fi to transfer data. Overall, this process is easy and straightforward.

Download Insta360 One X App

Design:

The app itself is well-designed and easy to navigate. And it provides a fair bit of manual controls and customization. The app also offers tutorials and sample footage, an excellent addition for newcomers.

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Remote Control:

The app even supports full remote shooting. And you can remotely start/stop video recordings, take photos, and adjust camera settings. You can adjust ISO, white balance, shutter, frame rates, and much more. Plus, you also can see a preview of the captured footage in real-time. And this combined functionality is particularly helpful if you’re using the camera on the selfie stick, strap, or mount. Overall, the remote features provided here are excellent and well-executed.

Editing: 

When it comes to editing the 360 files, you can perform basic edits like trimming and applying filters, without transferring them to your device. However, if you want to make more complex changes, you’ll need to transfer the files to your phone. Thankfully, Insta360 supplies three dedicated cables in the box for connecting the camera to various devices. And they include USB-C, Lighting, and Micro-USB. Alternatively, you can transfer files using the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi option, which moves files reasonably quickly.

Note: a wired connection will save time when transferring longer clips compared to Wi-Fi alone. When possible, use the dedicated cable. 

Once the files are on your device, you can extensively trim videos, adjust settings, add filters or music, and change the playback speed. And you can select as many segments within a clip as you want and adjust the playback speed as slow as 0.25x or fast as 64x.

But, as impressive as 360 videos are, they’re hard for viewers to determine where to focus. Insta360 offers several smart editing features to help here.

insta360-one-x-rear-view

Firstly, the app lets you select people or objects of interest in the video. And it automatically pans the camera towards these points throughout the video. It also has a subject-tracking feature called SmartTrack, which allows you to track a single subject in the center of the frame. You can also insert Pivot Points manually at any point you want a cutaway shot.

Secondly, the app also offers the company’s FreeCapture mode, which allows you to render 16:9, 9:16, 4:3, or 1:1 frames from the 360-degree video. This mode effectively turns the 360 capture into a conventional 2-dimensional video file with the aspect ratio of choice. And you can add as many of these changes as you’d like to a clip. For newcomers, this may sound surprising to you. But, the reality is that you don’t always need to stay in the world of 360. Instead, you can use the 360 capture as an easy way to record traditional fixed-frame output with near-perfect stabilization. And this is a unique benefit that only 360 capture offers. But, one that works well to direct your audience towards specific highlights within the video. While it’s quite powerful, it’s a necessary feature to direct focus on the best segments of the video. And it also allows for easy sharing online without viewers having to rotate their phones for the full effect.

Lastly, the app also has an algorithm that automatically detects and removes the selfie stick from video recordings. It’s a nice touch that makes for more immersive images and works as well as advertised.

Verdict:

Overall, the app is excellent and provides a remarkable amount of control with easy enough access to them. And despite the complexity of effects offered, the editing experience itself is easy, straightforward, and intuitive.

Camera Quality

It features a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and dual 200º f/2.0 fisheye lenses. These combine to create 18-megapixel 360º photos and 5.7K 30 fps videos. Compared to the predecessor 4K maximum resolution, the added resolution here is a significant improvement. And it allows users to have peace of mind when composing videos, as you can extract standard 16:9 videos that maintain 1080p resolution – a big selling point over the predecessor. So as long as you press record, you can rest assured you’ll get reliable content.

Outside of that, it also shoots 4K video up to 50 fps and 3K video up to 100 fps for super slow motion. The 3K resolution also unlocks two special effects, Time-Shift and Cinematic Slow-Mo. The former allows you to speed up or slow key moments within the video.

Image quality, on the whole, is good. The footage is reasonably sharp, closely matching the GoPro Fusion in fine details. The same applies to the DNG RAW images the camera produces. Exposures are well balanced, and highlights retain a good amount of detail. And in bright light, it provides very sharp photos and videos.

Though, the colors are a bit muted by default, which requires post-processing adjustment for proper saturation. And there’s also fringing around areas of high contrast and noise when shooting in low light. However, given the camera’s sensor size, it’s a good compromise between quality and portability. And for this class, the image quality overall is excellent.

The camera also does an excellent job of stitching the results of its two cameras. Stitching refers to how well it combines the two hemispheres into a seamless 360º field of view. And when done correctly, the stitch line between the cameras is barely visible.

It offers a built-in HDR mode, which combines three separate exposures in-camera to maintain details with more robust colors. This mode works for both stills and videos. It makes a noticeable improvement to image quality with reduced highlights and better shadow details.

And it also offers a flat log profile, for even flatter footage if you prefer post-production grading.

It offers built-in time-lapses.

And a bonus, the 18MP photos automatically stretch to show the entire 360º field of view on desktop computers without requiring stitching.

Battery Performance

The camera uses a 1,200 mAh battery, which, while smaller than rivals, still provides excellent battery life. Users can expect about 60 minutes of 5.7K video, with Wi-Fi enabled, which is reasonable, though not class-leading. The battery is also removable, unlike the predecessor, so you can swap batteries for longer sessions if needed.

insta360-one-x-battery

Niche Features/Extras

Insta360 provides several original accessories for this camera. Namely, the Bullet Time grip, which swings to create a unique matrix life effect. They even offer the Drifter dart accessory, which lets you throw the camera for a unique angle. And they provide other protective cases, houses, and grips on their site. Overall, the number of accessories available shows that they’ve embraced this camera as both a professional tool and a fun toy.

The camera also supports live streaming, unlike rivals. With that, you can see what the camera captures in real-time by connecting it to the companion app.

It also features a revamped hybrid image stabilization system, which Insta360 calls FlowState. It uses a six-axis stabilizer combined with software algorithms to compensate for shake in all directions. It’s brilliant in practice and virtually eliminates the need for a gimbal.

Cons:

Image Performance

As with all cameras that employ a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor, low light performance is poor. And even overcast conditions will cause a loss of detail and reduced image quality. And while it has 5.7K resolution, these pixels spread across the entire 360º field, which doesn’t hold up on larger screens. Overall, the image quality is impressive on phones, but not on other devices. Granted, this is a problem-plagued by all smaller sensor cameras, and it’s no different in this regard.

Menus

Navigating the camera’s menus with the physical buttons is a bit tedious. Thankfully, you’ll only do it once to select the appropriate shooting settings, and then you shouldn’t have to in the future.

Ergonomics

The On/Off button is easy to press accidentally, which could potentially end video recordings without you knowing.

Lacking Features

The camera isn’t weather-sealed or waterproof like rivals. To get this feature, you’ll have to purchase the optional housing. Plus, both the micro USB slot and MicroSD slots are naked and unprotected as well. So take caution to avoid dirt, sand, or debris entering and damning them.

Is this a good beginner camera?

Yes.

As a 360 camera, it’s intuitive and reasonably easy to use, considering its large feature set. Insta360 also provides a wealth of information, guides, and tutorials on the app or the site. So, overall, for someone that’s a beginner to this form of content creation, it’ll be quite easy to get started.

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Insta360 One X?

Extra Batteries:

Insta360 ONE X Battery Charger Pack
Insta360 ONE X Battery Charging Cradle 

SD Cards:

SanDisk 128GB Extreme MicroSDXC UHS-I Memory Card

Case:

Insta360 one X Action Camera Venture Housing Case

Is this a good camera for you?

Yes.

It’s a marketed improvement over its predecessor, with an updated design, higher-resolution camera, HDR, and built-in Wi-Fi. And for the $100 price difference between the two cameras, it makes for the better purchase.

Compared to rivals in this class, it provides an excellent value proposition. In the 360 capture world, producing compelling videos ultimately comes down to capturing the action and proper editing. And the One X delivers both in a simple and intuitive package. It’s like having multiple camera operators on location with you. And it gives you the freedom to capture different angles for a multi-camera feel—all without the need for bulky equipment or a team. And unlike prior 360 cameras, it doesn’t limit you to a VR headset or force you to pan your phone to consume content. Instead, turn it on, record, and decide what’s important after the fact.

In the end, there’s much to love about Insta360’s One X, and it’s one of the better options in the consumer 360 space right now. It matches rivals in resolution and capabilities but offers a far more sleek and pocketable form factor. It’s not the cheapest option in this class, but it’s one that holds its own. It delivers strong image quality and a robust feature set that provides enormous customization. And it’s currently the closest release so far to the ideal 360 camera. And it makes a compelling choice for videographers wanting a unique flare and perspective to their creations.

Overview
  • Build Quality, Design & Handling
  • Companion App & Connectivity
  • Camera Quality
  • Battery Performance
  • Extras
4.2

Summary

Insta360’s One X is currently the most advanced and refined 360 camera on the market, in both software and hardware. And it’s a compelling choice for videographers looking for a unique angle to their compositions.