360-degree cameras are fiddly things. They're really not great at being "point-and-shoot" cameras for the most part, but many of the consumer-grade cameras are constantly pitched as such. The truth is, it's hard to get a consistently great photo with a fixed focus fisheye lens, much less two of them stitched into a sphere. If you're willing to put in the work, you can make most 360-degree cameras take some fun photos. But until the Insta360 One X, there was no 360-cam I would hand to a family member without expecting frustration in return.
Insta360 has been one of the more interesting companies in the 360-degree camera space for a little while now, but its latest standalone camera is an effort to not only make a super user-friendly camera but make it powerful enough to be great for professionals as well.
- Compact design
- HDR is great
- Surprisingly easy to use
- Charges via Micro-USB
- Remote mode isn't always dependable
Insta360 One X What I like
As portable 360-degree cameras go, it doesn't get much better than this. Insta360 One X very nearly fits in the palm of your hand, comes with its own protective sleeve, and can be easily slipped into a pocket or tucked into a bag for when you think you might need it. You can lift your hand and use the shutter button on the side to take a picture while holding the camera, or you can set a delay and use a timer built into the software while mounting it on a tripod. '
The universal screw on the bottom works with everything, so you can easily set this camera up on a tripod and get the photo you want. And, of course, if you'd rather see what you're capturing from a distance you can connect to the Insta360 over Wi-Fi with the free Android or iOS app and use your phone as a viewfinder. The same goes for video; it really doesn't get much simpler than this for getting the picture.
As portable 360-degree cameras go, it doesn't get much better than this.
There's no shortage of settings in this camera, either. If you want to set a specific ISO, you can. If you want control over photo or video resolution and framerate you can easily do so from the settings on the camera itself. You can even see the Wi-Fi password for the camera on the camera itself. And the photography software is just as capable; you can enable HDR and it actually works very well. That's something most 360-degree cameras struggle with, as HDR means multiple photos which means stitching even more together in a way that doesn't look terrible in the end.
Speaking of stitching, dozens of photos and hours of video with this camera and you'd be hard-pressed to find a clear stitching line. The camera does an excellent job in a vast majority of situations. In fact, the only times I was able to see a stitch line in a photo was because of user error.
Like the previous Insta360 One, you can also activate "bullet time" videos, which use a single lens to get a unique video while you spin the camera in a circle. It certainly works better than the last version, but I'm still not sure where it's safe to use this without clocking someone else in the head.
Importing to the Insta360 app on your phone is very easy, and faster than I expected given how big the files are. This camera is shooting 18.5MP photos, making each file at least 8MB, but they transfer to the phone almost instantly thanks to Wi-Fi. Editing from the app is very easy, and then you can share to Facebook or Flickr or Google Photos. No weird attempts to get me to use a specific uploading technique or social network — you can easily export the file and do whatever you want with it.
Really, that's the thing I like most about this camera — I can do whatever I want without the hardware or software getting in the way. If I want to export the raw, unstitched file to edit myself, it's easy to do. If I want to point and shoot and share to Facebook, it's easy to do. If I want to live stream 360-degree video, It's two buttons away. It's easy, and when it comes to this kind of photography, easy means more time for fun.
Insta360 One X What I don't like
Everything about the Insta360 software is plenty simple, right until it isn't. Not every phone can connect to it in the exact same way, making the instructions in the app a little complicated at times. There has been a single firmware update to address this problem, but I still find the camera and/or app needs to be rebooted to make it all work. That's not a problem for me, but when the goal is to get everyone to put one of these in their pocket simplicity matters.
Sharing my shots to Google Photos has proven easy, but some of the EXIF data attached to the images is just plain weird. There's a location tag for Zhujiang River Estuary even when the camera is connected to my phone and the location is clearly reporting in the United States. It makes sorting photos by location a little frustrating, but that's probably not something most people do with 360 photos just yet.
Finally, the camera itself charges via Micro-USB, which just kind of sucks at this point. This is supposed to be a high-end 360-degree camera, and Insta360 has made products with USB-C ports in the past. It should be an easy win here, but instead, I need to carry a separate power cable with me everywhere if I want to use it for extended periods of time.
Insta360 One X Bottom Line
You're not going to find a better 360-degree camera under $600, that much is obvious. The images are nice and clean, the HDR actually works, and the camera comes with everything you need to get started. It's great to see Insta360 offer solutions for beginners, professionals, and now something in between for when you just want to bring a fun camera with you places.
But at the same time, this is a $400 camera. You're only going to be interested in this if you've already used other 360-degree cameras and you're looking to upgrade to something more capable. If that's you, trust me this camera is fantastic. It'll keep you busy for quite a while, and lave you very happy with the photos you take in the process.
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