Insta360’s X3 360 Action Cam will blow your mind

advantages

  • The 2.29 inch display is an excellent viewfinder
  • Robust and accessible design
  • Insta360 software is basically dark magic
  • Ease of use is underestimated

Disadvantages

  • 5.7K resolution is equivalent to 1080p video
  • Software export times can be sluggish
  • You need a large microSD card to store the 360 ​​degree footage

Insta360 has been on an absolute rift lately, churning out cameras like there were no supply chain issues. From the gimballed Link webcam to the modulating One RS, which my colleague Matthew Miller reviewed earlier this year, the company clearly has no issues with components — or ideas.

Next in line to carry the torch is the Insta360 X3the successor to last year A X2. Insta360 says the “One” branding is now being phased out, which in a market full of complicated names like GoPro Hero 11 Black and DJI OsmoAction 3is a very welcome change.

While the X3’s naming scheme has gotten smaller, this year’s model is all about going bigger. Bigger ad. Bigger camera sensor. Bigger battery. Bigger price. Whether you’re an experienced content creator or just starting to venture into the action camera space, Insta360 makes a compelling case for why you should buy the X3 over everything else.

specifications

Dimensions

114*46*31mm

weight

180gr

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2.29 inch touch screen

sensor

1/2” 48MP

resolution

Up to 5.7K resolution

battery

1,800 mAh (removable)

connection ports

USB Type-C, MicroSD

durability

Waterproof up to 33ft (10m)

Price

$449


The third time is the charm

This is the third generation of Insta360’s fun Snickers bar on a camera, and arguably their most sophisticated design yet. The frame is about four inches tall and a little under two inches wide, making the X3 adorably compact to hold, swing around and bite on (I’ll explain later, and it’s unrelated to the Snickers reference .)

The exterior is gilded with a durable mix of rubber and textured ridges, assuring you that the X3 will stick up on even the toughest of excursions and/or the slippiest of fingers. Each compartment bordering the center panel is tightly closed and water-resistant, but surprisingly accessible with a simple tweak. (Long fingernails aren’t necessary.) That means charging and transferring data through the USB-C port is fast, and swapping out the removable battery and microSD card is convenient.

insta360 x3 display

The larger touchscreen display.

June Wan/ZDNET

The biggest changes to the X3 are the new half-inch 48MP sensor and 2.29-inch touchscreen display. The former delivers improved image quality and dynamic range, allowing the action camera to capture sharper and more color-accurate shots—even on the brightest of days. This comes at the expense of a heavier case (180 g) and a camera lens that is slightly more outwardly curved.

As for the new display, the benefits write themselves: you can now see more out of the viewfinder when shooting, there’s more space for gestures and tap controls, and gone are the days of squinting at that small, circular display had to check your 360° masterpieces.

The X3 also introduces three new buttons: one on the bottom left for start/stop recording, one on the bottom right for switching between front and rear cameras, and one on the right edge for camera mode presets. For ergonomic reasons, I would like the record button to be a bit higher or even placed on the side for a thumb press.

More: The five best vlogging cameras you can buy

Lights, Camera, Action

Most users should find the X3’s 360-degree video recording the most useful, especially as it’s easy to change, edit and redesign the footage in the “post”. This year’s model achieves a resolution of 5.7K at 30 fps, with the 4K resolution supporting up to 60 fps.

However, don’t let the numbers fool you. A 5.7K resolution 360-degree video is technically compressed to 1080p, which means the footage isn’t as pixel-perfect as, say, movies on a 4K TV. Instead, you should post-upscale the 1080p content to 4K.

There’s also a single-lens mode for front or back shots and slow-motion capture at up to 4K/120fps.

Aside from the numbers, the picture quality of the X3 has generally looked impressive. I made the mistake of not enabling Active HDR for my first few outdoor shots, but even then my broad daylight shots weren’t overly cluttered or colorless. Here’s a compilation of different shots, angles and post-processing effects that the X3 is capable of. (Spoilers: They’re pretty magical.)

It’s not a skydiving montage, but I’d say the shots turned out great, especially when all I really had to do was hold up the X3, press the record button and let the camera do the rest. Remember that this is a 360 degree video. No matter how the camera is oriented, you can crop, reposition, stabilize and frame footage just right in post-processing. It’s a very foolproof format that professionals and first-time users alike will appreciate.

insta360 x3 accessories

From left to right: lens cap, bullet time cable, Insta360 X3 and the invisible selfie stick.

June Wan/ZDNET

There are a lot of first and third party accessories that can enhance the X3 experience, but the one I kept coming back to was this invisible selfie stick. As the name suggests, footage captured with an accessory attached automatically hides it from view – as in the car scene of the video sample. You can still see its shadow from certain angles, but the camera is generally reliable at clipping the selfie stick from the final product.

For first-person shots, like when I rode my bike up the hill, you can either prop the X3 up on a head or chest rig, or, you know, literally hold the bottom half of the camera with a mouth mount. (You can also technically bite the camera to hold it in place, but I wouldn’t recommend it.)

Putting the “art” into artificial intelligence

Insta360 prides itself on being a software company – not a camera company – for good reason. The Insta360 software experience is packed with whimsical video filters, editing features, and endless possibilities to transform your standard 360° (or 180°) footage into something more.

All of this is powered by what Insta360 calls AI technology. When asked, not much was said about the backend processing. From the app’s ability to intelligently pan the video so all the action is properly framed, to the various Shot Lab filters that can literally replace the skyline with Van Gogh’s Starry Night, there’s clearly some sort of magic going on here.

insta360 app experience

Shot Lab in the Insta360 app has over 30 viral effects that you can apply to your footage.

June Wan/ZDNET

What impressed me the most about the software experience was the ease of use. The switch from more professional services like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro didn’t feel as drastic as I expected. In fact, the simpler interface of Insta360’s editing suite (see above) allowed setting keyframes, speed ramps, and jump cuts, all from the palm of my hand. I didn’t have to pull out a MacBook Pro to reduce the high-resolution 360° footage; Everything was done right on a smartphone.

Sure, export times can be a few seconds faster, and applying ShotLab filters and effects can add a minute or two to your workflow. But as effortless as it is to turn raw video into shareable content, it’s definitely worth the wait.

Battery life

During my two-week trial of the Insta360 X3, I found that the camera could last two to three days per charge. Obviously, battery life boils down to how often you shoot, the resolution, whether it’s 360°, 180° or single-shot content, and more. Still, the endurance numbers are a healthy increase over the One X2, which had a smaller capacity of 1,630mAh and lasted about a day less.

bottom line

I will never forget my first experience with a 360 degree camera. That Samsung Gear 360 which is still gathering dust in my treasured tech drawer to this day, was slow, jerky, expensive, and absolutely mesmerizing for photos and video. It was such a shameless device that it overheated every second, but the performance – all that 360-degree goodness you can see – made any erratic behavior negligible.

Why am I telling you this? Because using the Insta360 X3 brought back all those good memories, minus the bad parts. It’s the second coming of my honeymoon phase with 360 cameras and this time I’m even more blown away.

Whether you’re a prosumer or a novice videographer, the X3 brings a lot to the table for everyone to play. That Price $449 is fair, especially when you consider all the fun and handy video features you get and how they compare to the $300-$500 action cameras from GoPro and DJI. Just make sure you have a MicroSD card big enough to store all those 360 ​​videos. You’ll probably catch more than you think.

to examine alternatives

Besides the Insta360 X3, here are some worthy alternatives to consider:

My ZDNET colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes calls the GoPro Hero 11 Black the “best action camera in the world”. Perhaps it’s the colorful video footage or exceptional video stabilization that has become synonymous with the GoPro brand. There’s no 360-degree capture with this camera, but it’s a compelling $399 option.

For even more flexibility check out Insta360’s ONE RS. It’s a modular gadget that allows you to swap out camera lenses for all kinds of shooting conditions. This plug-and-play feature is enough to differentiate the ONE RS from any other action camera. ZDNET’s Matthew Miller found the image stabilization and battery life equally impressive.

Of course, there are many options when it comes to action cameras. DJI’s latest Osmo Action 3 returns to the compact, rectangular form factor reminiscent of GoPro cameras. Of course, many of the Osmo Action 3’s features are similar to those of the aforementioned Hero 11 Black, with 4K 120p video recording and HyperSmooth 4.0 stabilization to keep all the action stable.

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