Around the same time last year, I was on a quest to find a compact camera to carry with me when traveling. I wanted a camera that was versatile and could be used in various scenarios. One that could record vlogs, action footage, and even capture scenic landscapes. That’s when I got my hands on the Insta360 X3. And soon enough, it became my favorite gadget last year.
Fast forward to a year later; I’ve taken the Insta360 X3 with me on several trips. I’ve used it for first-person PoV footage while driving, to fake a drone out of a moving bus, and even to take selfies with a large group of people. So, have I gotten my money’s worth from the camera? And if you’re in the market for a 360-degree camera or even an action camera, should you still consider the Insta360 X3? Read our review to find out.
Handy and Easy to Carry
One of the biggest selling points of the Insta360 X3 is how compact it is. The size of a camera plays a huge factor especially when traveling. Thanks to the compact footprint of the X3, you can simply slide it into your trouser pockets when it’s not in use. Or, you can store it in a tiny compartment in your backpack.
The only aspect you need to be slightly careful about is the bulge around the lenses. Both the lenses protrude quite a bit so you might want to consider using the case bundled in the box when carrying the camera. I’m slightly more paranoid about damaging my electronics so I picked up a silicone case to add more cushion to the lenses.
Even with a selfie stick attached, the X3 is quite light and compact. I went on a short hike with the Insta360 X3 mounted on a selfie stick and I didn’t feel like it was a liability. So even if you’re a light traveler, you won’t face any difficulties carrying the camera with you.
A One-Person Film Crew
I mentioned at the beginning I was looking for a camera to record multiple types of content. And I can’t stress enough how well the Insta360 X3 has stood up to it. The X3 is one of the most versatile cameras I’ve used — even more than its action camera counterpart — the Insta360 GO 3.
Of course, the camera can record 360-degree videos which basically captures an entire sphere around you. Apart from this, you can also switch to the single-lens mode to use the X3 like a standard action camera. Mount it on a tall selfie stick and you can even get visuals that look like they’ve been shot using a drone. The camera applies some sort of software trickery to eliminate the selfie stick from the frame. Now that’s ingenious!
You can also pick up additional accessories for your Insta360 X3 to clip the camera onto your bike or mount it on your chest for first-person footage. Additional features like Me Mode and Starlapse further add to the capabilities of the camera. In short, the Insta360 X3 feels like a film crew in your pocket.
First Shoot, Then Frame
A big reason for calling the X3 a film crew is its ability to record everything around you. Most solo vloggers or content creators know that framing themselves can be difficult — especially when recording run-and-gun videos. Sometimes, by the time you frame yourself, you lose the moment and can’t capture what you intended to.
The Insta360 X3 addresses all those woes since it doesn’t capture just a single 16:9 frame. Instead, it captures a huge sphere with everything around you. You can then edit this footage and select the portion you want at the center of the frame. As a result, you can start recording a video without worrying about whether or not you’re in it.
Speaking of editing, the Insta360 app is the perfect companion to the camera. Not only does it let you crop and reframe videos but it can automatically apply effects to make your videos look cooler. Whether it’s the mini planet effect that puts you on top of Mother Earth or the ability to change the color of the sky, the X3 lets you make your videos more fun.
Apart from the app, Insta360 has also added cool features like the ability to switch to a single-lens mode. This disables the other lens and records ultra-wide videos via one lens. You can use this mode for recording sporting activities. Recently, the brand also added the ability to use the Insta360 X3 as a webcam. This makes it more useful in day-to-day life.
Photo and Video Quality
While the effects are awesome, the video quality under low-light situations is average. When there’s a lot of light (especially natural), the Insta360 X3 records excellent footage. But that’s only when you don’t zoom in. A little bit of pixel-peeping reveals the X3’s footage is quite soft. This can be attributed to the fact that the final cropped output from the 360-degree footage is just 1080p.
Insta360 markets the X3 as a camera that can record at 5.7K. While that is indeed true, the resolution is for the entire 360-degree sphere. If you crop out a standard video out of it, the resolution takes a hit resulting in softer pictures and videos. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker since the footage still looks great in most scenarios. But if you plan on majorly recording at night, the Insta360 ONE RS with 1-inch sensors might be a better choice.
How Long Does It Last
The small form factor has its own disadvantages. The maximum battery life I’ve gotten out of the Insta360 X3 is about 1.5 hours. However, you can pick up additional batteries for the camera that you can swap out if you want longer recording times. It’s also worth noting that the camera gets rather hot with extended recording.
Is the Insta360 X3 Worth it in 2023?
Absolutely! For under $500, the Insta360 X3 still retains the crown for the best 360-degree camera. It offers a solid set of features, reliable video quality, and a great level of versatility that most standard cameras can’t match.
Even if you’re considering buying an action camera like the GoPro, it might make more sense to get the Insta360 X3 instead since it brings a lot more to the table. Of course, it misses out on a rugged build quality and slightly better video output. But, the overall value can be better based on your use case.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Despite being a relatively new brand, Insta360’s cameras are giving established players a run for their money. And a large part of the credit should go to the brand’s software and AI prowess. The way the selfie stick disappears or how you can apply complex effects with the tap of a button makes me look forward to what other creative features the brand may introduce in future products.
Last updated on 15 September, 2023
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