The Insta360 One X2 Action Camera Offers a Legit GoPro Alternative [Review]

If you’re recording rides to share the stoke with friends, or to loop on your laptop in preparation for a coming race, the One X2 action camera from Insta360 will collect some of the smoothest and most crisp trail video possible. Priced at $429.95 (available at Amazon), with video performance similar to the best cameras from GoPro, this little robot will impress.

The One X2 weighs 154g with a set of lens covers mounted and a battery and memory card inserted, where my GoPro Hero7 Black weighs just 92g. Its slightly larger size makes way for a longer battery life than the GoPro, and a full 360° view of the trail that can be used to create pan shots on solo rides or can be mounted on a disappearing selfie stick for a personal-drone effect.

Construction and physical features

A primary complaint about most action cameras is their brief battery life. The One X2 is equipped with a 1630mAh lithium battery that the brand says will last twice as long as their prior version. While extra batteries are available, I have been able to shoot as much of my rides as I would like over the course of a day without running short on juice, which certainly can’t be said for any of the GoPro models I own. It’s difficult to measure how much longer the Insta330 battery will last when compared to a GoPro, since there is a host of factors that drain the cell, but I definitely would need two GoPro batteries to shoot the amount of footage I can collect with the One X2.

Charging port

Dimensions of the One X2 are roughly 11 x 4.5 x 2cm, and while it’s larger than a GoPro body, it’s by no means cumbersome. It can mount to all of the same locations as any other action cam, and even more thanks to the dueling lenses that allow for full 360° video.

There is a touch screen on one side where most of the camera’s film and audio settings can be adjusted if you don’t want to bring a phone along. Of course, you can also pair it with your mobile to look at the visual field and frame a shot out on the trail, or to make sure you recorded everything you intended to.

The One X2 can also be paired with an Apple watch for remote functionality, and a set of Airpods can be used to record audio or to voice-control the camera. There’s a GPS Smart Remote that clamps to handlebars for another remote control option. Additional accessory options include the Bullet Time tripod that doubles as a drone stick, lens covers, a waterproof case, and an external mic adapter, among others.

Filming and editing options

The number of ways. you can capture and edit film with this little camera will keep any tech lover busy for at least a few weeks. You can have the focal point swap between your face and the trail, look out to the mountain view and back to the coming jump, or simply mount it up and use one of several visual widths and distortion levels to capture your POV.

In the video below, I stuck with the main angles that a lot of mountain bikers might use, though there are several others that could be cool to test. For example, if you have an exposed trail at your disposal, you can mount the camera on a long selfie stick in front of or behind yourself, and the editing software will delete the stick to make it look like you are being followed by a personal drone. There’s even a multi-view setting that shows a frame of what’s behind and in front of the camera on the same screen which might be useful for bloggers or as a desktop computer extension for — everyone’s pandemic favorite activity — video chatting.

Once the action is captured your footage can be fully edited in the mobile application, or you can send files to a computer to put together and edit there. Insta 360 has a plugin coming for Adobe Premiere Pro, so folks who want to chop it all up at a desk will have that option.

Videos that are shot in one of the many visual-field options that are narrower than 360* can be edited similarly to any other action camera footage, and the fisheye distortion can be removed prior to exporting if you’re going for a more realistic look. For any video shot in 360° view, you can select a focal point or subject for the camera to follow throughout the clip, and move that point whenever and wherever you like. You can also trim and split clips in the app, add music, adjust the speed, add filters, and mess with all sorts of exposure elements before dropping the file into your social media feed or your laptop editing suite.

In addition to all of this video goodness, you can pull frames from the footage at any point and send them from your phone to a preferred location. The exposure compensation, white balance, and creative style are all adjustable within the onboard touch screen.

The only filming drawback I found with the One X2 is the microphone. Sound recording is sub-ideal with most action cameras, and this one is no different. With the wind noise reduction turned on you get a lot of camera noise from things wiggling around, and very little of the trail sound that would help the viewer understand if the rider is airborne, skidding, huffing on the pedals, or just taking in the scenery. This camera has another audio setting called 360 Direction Focus that picks up a lot of sounds, and as usual that sound is overwhelmed and largely indistinguishable. If audio recording is an important element of your ride footage it will be a good idea to experiment with placing different filters over the mic or attaching an external microphone near the bottom bracket to get all the good stuff.

What’s included?

The One X2 comes with this soft carrying pouch, a battery, and a charging cable. If you’re intrigued by the 360° element of this camera I would recommend checking out the Bullet Time Tripod. It weighs just 214g, and can be set up anywhere you are, including mounting it to your bike or a harness for a “tiny world” film, or any number of other angles and perspectives. I didn’t attach the selfie-rod to myself for filming, as I haven’t been to any exposed trails recently, but I will definitely be capturing some summer bike test moments with this little tool.

There’s also a chest harness available, and the camera works with all of the usual action-cam mounts and clamps to be placed wherever the fun side of your brain desires. While the One X2 functions similarly to any other action cam when it’s in the single-lens mode, that second lens and all of the mounting possibilities make it the most versatile fun-recorder I’ve found to date.

The tripod and harness are available at an extra cost.

Trail time

One key element of quality action footage is the camera’s internal stabilization system. It’s the difference between an exciting rehash of your vacation ride and an unwatchable bunch of stomach-curdling wiggle. I didn’t think that stabilization could get better than that in the GoPro Hero 7 Black, but the Insta360 One X2 has proven otherwise. Its powerful Flow State Stabilization system makes the roughest trails look like they were filmed with a heavy gimbal setup, smoothing out all of the chatter between brake bumps and a wobbling helmet or chest mount.

The clarity and color are up there with the best of them, with particularly good performance in low-light situations like the forests most of us ride through. A lot of action cameras keep the shadows too dark, and all of the detail in those portions of the frame is simply lost. With the One X2 the shadows remain well lit and you can adjust them with the desired amount of exposure and detail after the fact. The sensor is powerful enough to differentiate between lighter and darker shades of green and to pull the oranges and reds out of the soil. Overall, the camera seems well equipped to collect color and ready it for you to adjust on your phone or computer screen.

Price$429.95
Weight154g
ApertureF2.0
EV+4EV
ISO 100-3200
White BalanceAuto, 2700K, 4000K, 5000K, 6500K, 7500K
Photo resolution 360: 6080×3040 (2:1)
Pano: 4320×1440 (3:1)
Video resolution360°: [email protected], 25fps, 24fps [email protected], 30fps [email protected]
Wide Angle (Steady Cam Mode): 2560×[email protected], 30fps 1920×[email protected], 30fps
Photo modesStandard, HDR, Burst, Interval, Night Shot, PureShot, InstaPano
Video modes Standard, HDR, Timelapse, TimeShift, Bullet Time, Steady Cam
Charge timeRoughly 1.5hrs
Run timeOver an hour

Like any action cam, the One X2 video quality suffers a bit when transitioning from a tree canopy into direct sunlight. On cloudless days it gets a little overwhelmed when returning to the sun, and this effect seemed to increase with the camera mounted on my helmet, whereas the shade formed by the body when mounted to the chest protector seemed to help considerably. I found the camera too heavy to bolt on my head and consistently felt its taller rectangular frame catching on leaves and branches as I rode along. To be fair, I don’t like attaching anything to my helmet, no matter the weight or shape, and fortunately, the footage looks a lot better from chest height.

Action-cam footage is rarely clear, particularly near the edges where the image becomes distorted and grainy. Even in the fisheye mode, the One X2 keeps the frames clear enough to make out different plants and stones along the trail while traveling at speed. They won’t be crystal clear, which is good because that would make the film appear slower than it is, but the image blur isn’t so intense that you only want to look at the center of the frame.

The elusive unicorn of trail footage is steepness. No matter how many angles you try, trails will never look as steep, intense, or technical as they actually are. The One X2 is no exception here. The only way to get close to a visual trail description is to put the camera right down in those rocks and bunny hop over it. Even then you often can’t convey the fact that a piece of trail might be too steep to walk down, and that when you stand on the track you can lean against the slope with your hand while standing vertical. Hopefully one day we will master the art of displaying trail grade, but as you can see in the video above, the POV position isn’t the answer. You can, however, turn on the Insta360 GPS Enabled stats that display your heading, slope, speed, elevation, and a breadcrumb of where you have been and where you’re headed.

Conclusion

I tested the One X2 camera in its stock settings to see how it would do with minimal fiddling. For my own purposes, I will be adjusting the exposure compensation in direct sunlight to tone things down a bit, and adding an external mic for improved sound quality. Apart from those two elements, this little machine works better than expected, and it’s definitely a strong contender for the best action cameras on the market. It’s more versatile and adaptable than most, and the overall video quality is about as good as it gets. If your creative side wants to play on the bike too, this camera is definitely worth considering.

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