Released in the fall of 2020, Insta360’s ONE X2 comes to market to refine a fan favorite. Its predecessor, the ONE X released two years prior, was quite a hit. And it was arguably a pivotal release to separate the company against rivals.
In 2018, the ONE X came out the gates swinging with a complete redesign and massive improvements. And now entering its third generation, the X2 aims to continue the legacy left by its predecessor.
But on paper, it only provides modest software improvements. Instead, it offers a fresh new design, now with a handy touchscreen and IXP8 sealing. But, are these changes enough? The playing field has changed over the last two years. So how does it stack up to the GoPro Max and Kandao QooCam 8K? Let’s find out.
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What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Insta360 ONE X2?
Build Quality, Design & Handling
Physically, it maintains a similar overarching design as its predecessor. And at first glance, it indeed carries its predecessor basic footprint. But Insta360 has made several notable updates this go-round. Let’s cover these.
Firstly, they’ve equipped the camera with an improved plastic housing, with squared-off corners and a rubberized grip on its outskirts. It’s a subtle change, but one that enhances the grip while making the overall device feel more premium. So now, the general build quality is quite good. They’ve also made the device slightly beefier, now weighing 5.3 oz (150 g) rather than 115g. This represents a 30% increase in weight. Even so, it measures about the same, and you won’t feel this weight increase in hand. But, this somewhat larger side does accommodate extra internal sealing around the port covers. And the device now boasts an IPX8 rating, letting it survive 10m (33 ft) depths without a case. And this becomes a key selling feature over its predecessor, which required a Dive Case for such capabilities.
“More premium, sealed, and software rich.”
Secondly, they’ve also redesigned the battery door, which is much easier to unlatch to access both the battery and MicroSD card.
But, crucially, Insta360’s has improved the built-in LED screen, which is now 40% larger than before. Surprisingly, it takes cues from the higher-end ONE R and grabs a similar OLED touchscreen. However, its screen is round and slightly more ergonomic too. With this change, you can now navigate various settings or frame and monitor shots in 360º in real-time. So it’s unlikely you’ll miss moments by not connecting a smartphone. And it’s a step up in general usability than the ONE R in this regard. Plus, the screen itself is also quite bright, so it’s easy to use outdoors, and it’s also responsive to inputs. Overall, this becomes a key selling point over the original model, which lacked a live preview.
Also new for this model is improved connectivity. And gone is its predecessor Micro USB port. Instead, they’ve switched to USB-C for recharging.
Lastly, they’ve added four onboard stereo microphones, capable of capturing 360º ambisonic sound. These microphones also have wind reduction. And they generally do a good enough job at capturing ambience or voices regardless of the camera’s position. And it’s a night and day difference over the predecessor in this area.
Otherwise, it follows a largely similar design as the original ONE X. It keeps the dual in-line lenses, start/stop, a MicroSD slot, on/off toggle, a bottom-mounted 1/4-20-inch thread for attaching accessories. And it does so in the compact vertical handheld form factor that lends perfectly for one-handed use. Yet, given its size, it’s equally easy to store into a jacket or pants pocket.
Overall, the design with this new iteration is notably refined. The device feels more premium. And, the general improvements to the handling, added screen, and sealing are noteworthy.
Companion App & Connectivity
Beyond the physical design changes, much of the improvements come as new features to the ONE X companion app. And some of these features are currently exclusive to this lineup. Sure, you can access many advanced features in-camera. But the app unlocks the device’s full range of shooting modes and special effects. And you can edit the results within the app or share them online, streamlining the workflow.
You’ll connect to the app using the device’s Wi-Fi hotspot, where Bluetooth initiates the pairing process. Like the original model, connecting is entirely pain-free and straightforward. And the file transfer process is also relatively fast. Granted, it will be tough on your phone’s battery life and carrier data plan. Thankfully though, you can use the dedicated Insta360 Studio editor for Mac or Windows desktops. And while mostly unchanged over the last few years, the software remains powerful. Though it does require some time to master, however, as there’s a rather steep learning curve.
But, back to the app. It gives you access to all of Insta360’s most advanced software features. You can view the footage, add keyframes, adjust exposure, color, add filters, stitch, use object tracking, and much more. And the app itself is well-designed and easy enough to navigate. Seasoned users will also see a wealth of manual controls and customization. But, there’s plenty of tutorials and examples for newcomers too.
Overall, the app is well designed, organized, and reliable. And it becomes a highlight feature over rivals, who don’t offer nearly this level of functionality. And like the original, this polished companion app becomes a key selling point.
Below is a host of features offered in the app and a summary of each.
It has Bullet Time 3, which records a Matrix-style slow-motion effect where you appear motionless.
It features Clone Trail, a new mode that clones the subject within different places in the frame.
It features Multiview, a new option that’s great for presenters or vloggers. In this mode, the camera overlays a small window of your face within the main video. And it functions like a picture-in-picture effect. But, it gives viewers insight into how you’re responding to the scene ahead. You can also adjust the field of view and zoom levels too, ensuring you’re always correctly in-frame.
It has SteadyCam, which captures ultra-wide-angle footage from a single lens, mimicking a regular action camera. And it’s an excellent option if you want to reduce the editing afterward for this effect.
It has Fly Through, which lets you navigate through tight spaces to create a continuous long take that looks like an FPV drone shot it.
It features Ghost Town, which shoots a time-lapse that selectively removes people from the photo.
It has Freeze Frame, which freezes the video at the height of the action.
It features Deep Track 2, a subject traction algorithm that follows the subject in the center of the frame. And the camera can track people, animals, or moving objects.
It features Auto Frame, a new feature that automatically reframes the footage based on its best angles. And the app’s AI helps find the perfect angle in a photo or video. Doing so solves an interesting headache of 360º cameras, which is deciding what to show during reframing. So overall, it’s a handy addition that simplifies finding highlight moments.
It has Automatic Horizon leveling and Horizon Lock, which keeps the horizon level, regardless of the camera’s position.
It has Timeshift, which creates slow-motion or fast-motion hyper-lapse videos.
It features Shot Lab, a new option that uses AI for one-tap cinematic edits. Shot Lab also has a host of preset templates to help add various effects and make editing easier.
It has Reframing, letting you select and adjust the frame to any area within the video. And you can also adjust the aspect ratio from 16:9, 1:1, or 9:16 for easy sharing on YouTube, Tik Tok, or Instagram.
It features the identical camera configuration from its predecessor. And its video capabilities are largely unchanged. With that, it still has dual 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors and 200º F/2 fisheye lenses. And combined, these create 18MP images or 5.7K videos up to 30 FPS. It also shoots 4K 50 FPS and 3K 100 FPS, all to the MP4 or INSV formats with H.264 compression at 100 Mbps. It does, however, offer the newer H.265 HEVC codec, which produces higher quality videos with less compression. Otherwise, it outputs still images to JPEG or DNG (RAW) for external editing.
Overall, while virtually unchanged here, the image quality remains good. The footage is reasonably sharp, and its RAW images offer a good working latitude for post-processing. The camera also does a great job properly exposing the results without thrashing the highlights. And with enough light, it provides sharp photos and videos, well suited for immediate social media use. Insta360’s FlowState 6-axis image stabilization system also makes its return and works extraordinarily well. And you can capture shake-free footage in virtually any circumstances. So in this particular regard, it remains class-leading.
Like the original model, it too does an excellent job stitching the two cameras. And, while not 100% seamless, the stitch between both hemispheres is excellent.
It offers a built-in HDR mode, which creates high dynamic range photos and videos by combining separate exposures. And the image quality in this mode matches the higher-end ONE R.
It features InstaPano, which creates ultra-wide panoramic shots without sweeping across the scene.
It has the Color Plus Mode, which adds more vibrance and saturation to images.
It also offers a log profile for even flatter footage if you prefer post-production grading.
It features a brand new 1,630 mAh battery, attached directly to the battery door itself. This change provides a 55% increase in longevity over its predecessors 1,200 mAh battery. Now, users can expect up to 80 minutes of continuous video recording, rather than 60.
It supports live streaming to compatible platforms, such as YouTube. There, your audience can explore the 360º environment freely in real-time.
It can act as a 360º webcam for remote meetings, and you can have the camera show multiple viewpoints for a split-screen effect or a single point of view.
It has Apple Watch Control, letting you control the device from the watch or embed GPS data or overlays.
It has GPS-Enabled Stats, letting you geotag a journey or add a HUD with valuable data like speed or altitude.
It has Voice Control, letting you start/stop recordings using voice. And you can use Apple AirPods to do this remotely.
It has Aquavision, which adjusts the white balance to make underwater content more true to life. And the AI auto-balances the colors to prevent needing an external filter.
It has Quick Capture, which turns the camera on immediately with a single press and starts recording.
The port covering the USB-C connector is a bit flimsy and requires a bit of fussing around to undo. A re-design here is needed.
Both the battery and MicroSD card are in the same compartment. With that, you’ll have first to remove the battery to replace the SD card, slowing workflow.
Like all 360º cameras, the lens protrudes substantially from the body. And even with the rubberized corners, the wrong fall and the lenses will shatter. Overall, the protective lens guards are a must, as this is not a camera to casually throw around.
The companion app requires a fairly new phone to work. For Apple, you’ll need a model with an A11 chip (iPhone 8 and onwards). While for Android, you’ll need a Snapdragon 845, Kirin 980, or Exynos 9810 (Samsung Galaxy S9, Huawei Mate 20, or Note9). If you have an older device, the app will still work. But, your phone will likely take a processor hit, and many in-app features won’t work. So expect frustrating delays.
Connecting the device to Wi-Fi will drain the smartphone’s battery quickly, especially if you offload files for editing. Additionally, you can’t watch instructional videos or see any tips in-app, as your mobile data will be the primary means of transfer data.
This is more of a note, but to get the most out of this device and the companion app, you’ll need to dig in and learn quite a bit about filming. The 11 templates in Shot Lob all require specific techniques, and they’ll only work if the proper requirements are met. So if you don’t mind a steep learning curve or storyboarding, then this camera is quite a dream. But, the amount of functionality it provides is likely to be overkill for most users. And a hesitation for many, consider the amount of time needed to master its complete feature set.
You cannot charge and use the device simultaneously. With that, you’ll want to invest in a spare battery for extended shoots.
While this new display is undoubtedly welcomed, the size does inevitably mean you have to struggle to press the right menu items. And it’s also not well suited for gloves. So bear this in mind. But more strangely, you can’t use the rear screen while also connected to the companion app.
Is this a good beginner camera?
The camera itself is intuitive and easy to use. But, the companion app does offer a lot of features. So it will take beginners some time to master fully. Even so, Insta360 provides a wealth of information, tutorials, and guides. So, it shouldn’t prove too overwhelming.
Is this a good camera for you?
But, current Insta360 ONE X owners shouldn’t upgrade. The changes here, while welcome, don’t justify the upgrade considering many of the key improvements are ultimately software-based.
Even so, Insta360 over-delivered here for new users. And this device represents the best all-rounder in their current ecosystem. So, if you don’t already own their products, then this is undoubtedly one to consider.
In the end, Insta360’s ONE X2 refines their already class-leading and fan-favorite product with the features that creators needed most. It ups the line with better battery life, refined handling, a touchscreen display, and superior app functionality. Sure, it’s slightly disappointing to see the identical camera setup for a second go-round. And yes, it’s not the cheapest option for this style of content. But, even so, it holds its own. And it delivers solid image quality and the most robust feature set in the entire class. So, as it stands, it continues its predecessor’s legacy and remains the closest ideal 360 camera to date. And it’s a solid option to create the unique angles that only this camera style offers—all without needing a drone or a full-blown camera crew in the process.
Insta360’s ONE X2 isn’t necessarily an entirely new release. But, it refines the platform with much-needed and requested features. And it does so while still offering high-end image quality and outstanding flexibility. It will take filmmakers some time to master, given its capabilities. However, it’s a solid option in this segment nonetheless.