Hexbyte – Science and Tech
One of the best 360 cameras of the last few years was the One, by Insta360. While down a bit on the picture quality side, the company’s excellent software did things with 360 videos that other companies either promised but failed to deliver, or just flat out couldn’t implement.
With the X, Insta360 seems to want to eliminate any of the nagging picture quality caveats I and others leveled at the One. The top-line spec list for the X seems like a wish list for a 360 camera going into 2019: 5.7K video, 18MP photos, image stabilization, advanced in-app editing, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more.
And those are just the top-line features. Insta360 seems to have thrown the proverbial kitchen sink into the X. Here are all the details.
The biggest thing here is the 5.7K resolution for videos, or 5760×2880 at 30fps. As I’ve written about before, you can’t have too much resolution when it comes to 360 photos and videos. Perhaps just as impressive is the ability to do significantly higher framerates, albeit at a lower resolution. If you’re willing to “deal” with 3K, you can get up to 100fps, for some super-smooth slow motion. Since I feel like most people are going to use this camera to create traditional rectangular 1080p videos (more on this later), the drop to 3K for this high a framerate seems fine.
For photos the 18MP, aka 6080×3040 is more than the Ricoh Theta V, but less than the Xiaomi Mi Sphere’s near-24MP 6912×3456. I’ve been using that camera for a few months and while its video is OK, that extra resolution creates some mighty fine images. I doubt this will be an issue, since the Theta V creates excellent images and is even lower resolution, at 5370×2688.
The body itself is a good size. Fairly flat (2-lens 360 cameras need to be), but not that tall. Perhaps 40% of your average smartphone. The rechargeable battery is removable, which is a nice touch. While the One only had Bluetooth, the X adds Wi-Fi so you can see what you’re shooting live. I think this is a pretty vital feature, but it’s also a very slow way to transfer huge video files. So in a first that I’ve seen, the X also comes with cables to connect to your phone for faster downloads from the camera.
While not waterproof itself, two cases are available. One gets you down to 5 meters, so basically a snorkel/surfing case. The other gets you down to 30, and has additional lenses built in so you’re able to get a seamless 360 sphere underwater. Most cases and waterproof 360 cameras don’t have this, so there’s always a very noticeable stitch line because of how water magnifies the image compared to air.
An optional Bluetooth remote with built-in GPS lets you add Garmin VIRB-style overlays:
There’s one other accessory worth mentioning, and I can’t quite wrap my head around it. It’s… well, it’s a lawn dart. A lawn dart you put the camera in and then throw it. No, seriously:
I mean, I bet this could create some amazing footage, but having scratched more than my fair share of 360 camera lenses while being careful, this seems like insanity. Insanity I can’t want to see other people’s footage of.
This has always where Insta360 has shined. I’ve written before about their stabilization, but it’s the editing that’s the most interesting. This is what I mentioned earlier, the ability to create a standard HD video using the most interesting parts of your 360 video. Smooth pans, slow and sped-up motion, subject tracking, and more, all within the app. It takes a little time to get it just right, but the end result can be much more compelling than even a traditional 360 video, depending on the scene of course.
Like the One, there’s a bullet-time mode where you, I’m not kidding, swing the camera around your head. It records in high-speed, so when you slow it down it looks like the bullet time in the Matrix. With the One X this is now much higher resolution, at 3K.
There’s also an HDR mode for photos I’m interested in trying. The Theta V had this and it worked pretty well, and in certain situations it’s very important for 360 photos since it’s very easy to have bright sunlight and deep shadows in the same image.
Well this is certainly the question. Given the specs and the competition, $400 for the X seems pretty spot on. The GoPro Fusion has similar resolution, stabilization, and editing features, plus it’s weatherproof, but costs $600 and is annoying to use.
The Ricoh Theta V has lower resolution, but its image quality is fantastic so the difference isn’t what it seems on paper. Its app is… fine, but lacks the fancy editing that the Insta360 can do, nor is its stabilization as effective. It’s also $400.
Then there’s the Rylo, which is a great camera, has amazing stabilization, but is still quite pricey at $500.
360 All Around
I was a fan of the One, saying so in my review, and picking it as a solid alternate in my Wirecutter guide. But that picture quality caveat was always there. As good as the software was, the hardware just didn’t match. I’ve had the One X for over a week and from what I’ve seen so far, Insta360 has a solid contender on their hands, going into a holiday season with all their major competitors fielding cameras that are in many cases a year old or more.
The lack of Android compatibility at launch is disappointing. This isn’t 2010 anymore and it annoys me probably more than it should when companies ignore 80+ percent of the market. It took GoPro months to get an Android app working, and then poorly. But whatever, small companies have limited resources and my codin