Insta360 X3 review | The world in 5.7k

by W. Andrew Powell
Insta360 X3

The Insta360 X3 is the perfect social media camera for so many reasons that it feels too simplistic to call it an action camera.

The lightweight, portable device does everything you want from an action camera though, in the best ways possible. Whether you’re wearing it, or mounting it to a car or a bike, the 360 degree views that it captures are incredible, and even if you need vertical and horizontal footage, it captures everything at once.

All of the features on the X3 add up to a lot more than what the average action camera. For the last few weeks I’ve been using the X3 non-stop, and it’s one of the most satisfying tools that I’ve picked up in years.

If you’re looking to up your content–whether it’s photos or videos–read on for why I love the Insta360 X3.

Shoot once, capture every angle

Insta360 X3
Insta360 X3

With the X3’s 360 degree view of the world, it’s easy to see how the camera sets itself apart. With two lenses, the device stitches together the two views into one, immersive view that you can explore. Using the Insta360 invisible selfie stick with it, you can capture smooth, drone-like videos, and you’ll never see the stick because the X3 edits those out of the footage.

The real magic happens when you open up the app, or download the videos to your computer, and edit the videos any way you like. You can export videos as vertical, horizontal, or square, and take photos, and there are a number of editing tools in the app to get nearly any result, from snappy sequences and transitions, to simple walkthroughs.

For the vloggers and content creators, the X3 also captures very good audio, so you can hike, bike, or do something wild, and you get yourself in the shot, as well as everything you’re doing. Once you edit, you can switch between the angles and show anything you want, and then export it again for another platform. I’ve loved it for my travel videos.

As one example, you can shoot something, and then export the horizontally framed video for YouTube, and then export the video again as a vertical for TikTok or Instagram, or YouTube Shorts. The app also lets you use your phone as a director’s view, so wherever you point your phone while the video plays is the view that will be exported. This is a really powerful tool that makes editing a lot simpler, rather than placing markers in the video editor as you work.

Video and image quality

The X3 captures 360 degree video at 5.7K at a robust bitrate of 120Mbps, with two 1/2″ 48Mpx sensors, active HDR, and the 4K mode supports 30fps. There’s also a MaxView 2.7K mode that offers 170° field of view.

The only limitation of the X3 is that it captures 360 degree video in 5.7K resolution, however when exporting the video from the device, the default quality is 1080p. That’s because the entire field of view is 5.7K, but for stabilization and likely because of processor speed, any portion of that view has a limit.

The workaround is to use the front camera, or rear camera mode, which captures at 4K resolution. You won’t have a full 360 degree view, but that’s often not necessary anyway, and it worked well for me in most cases. You can also choose a higher resolution and the software does a good job of upscaling the footage.

Every mode has a range of options, so you can capture a higher frame rate of 100 fps, if you shoot at 3K resolution in 360 mode. In single lens mode you can capture wide angle or linear, but the top frame rate is 60 fps.

The range of modes include Active HDR, Timelapse, TimeShift, Bullet Time, Loop Recording, Starlapse, Burst, Interval, and in single lens mode, Me Mode, a special feature that adjusts the video so you’re always at the centre of the frame.

In 360 degree photo mode, you can capture up to a 72 MP photo, so you can zoom in and get any angle from an image and export it as landscape, vertical, or square. The photos look good when they’re linear, but they’re much more unique and lively when they’re warped out at a wider angle.

Colour, sharpness, contrast, and overall quality are quite good in most conditions, but the X3 works best outdoors or in bright environments. I’ve used the action camera in a few darker or just plain dim settings, and unfortunately there’s a fair bit of noise.

That’s identical to the other action camera competitors, so it’s not a surprise. The quality of the videos and photos in bright conditions is so good that it’s also easy to ignore. The colours pop, the contrast is great, and there’s a quality to the wide angle view that makes everything look amazing.

Every field of view looks so vivid, and with unlimited framing and editing options, it’s easy to love the results.

A new way to capture video

Insta360 X3 rear display

While so much of the Insta360 X3 is familiar to any action camera, there are some quirks that make it unique.

For starters, if you’re capturing 360 video, you will want to learn how and where to hold the camera so you get the best angles. In most cases, holding the X3 above you, and slightly in front of your body, or behind it works best, so you can frame the videos wide with yourself in it, or choose to crop facing forward so you don’t appear in the main view at all.

Likewise, there’s a “seam” along the sides of the video, where the X3 blends the video from the two cameras together, and it’s generally not noticeable unless your face is along the seam. I always just aim to walk with the rear camera facing towards me.

It also takes getting used to, but to make editing easier, it’s best if you walk with the cameras facing in one direction the whole time. Otherwise, when you go in to edit the video, you may have to rotate the view in the same way that you rotated the camera when you were recording.

Shooting in single lens mode is fairly straightforward otherwise, and it’s pretty much exactly like shooting with a phone or camera, except that it’s more stable.

Using the app and software

If you’re comfortable with editing software, even just on your phone, the Insta360 app is pretty easy to get used to. There are a few things you may have to learn as you go, but it’s a very intuitive app.

Insta360 also has desktop software that you can download, and while it does the same thing, it’s sometimes easier to use the phone app. The app offers a lot of quick features that are easy to use, and you get a great sense of how it will look on other phones for social media especially. Features like Auto editing, filters, and built in music for videos are also very helpful.

Working with the desktop software, it’s somewhat simpler, and I found it easier to set keyframes, angles, and field of view, and preview the results.

The third option for editing is to install the Adobe Premiere Pro plugins that come with the desktop software and edit X3 360 video right in the video editor. The main catch is that you need a fairly powerful system to deal with the size of the files, so it’s not for everyone.

Device build and design

The overall X3 design and build quality are excellent. It has a great weight and the materials are strong, it’s durable, and it can sit flat on it’s own, or the 1/4 inch screw mount means you can attach it to most tripods, or the Insta360 telescoping invisible selfie stick.

And did I mention that it’s IPX8 waterproof down to 10 meters, with well-made and sealed doors to protect everything?

You can change the battery, there’s a USB-C port for charging or downloading files, and the lenses seem very durable from my tests. You can buy protective covers to go over the lenses, but I found that the stretchy cover that comes with the camera is good enough for keeping the lenses from getting scratched up in a camera bag if you’re careful.

Operation is easy, with a power button, a mode button to switch quickly between front, rear, and 360 cameras, a quick menu for settings, and the record button. Otherwise the large touchscreen has lots of real estate to get into all the menus and options, or you can adjust these settings from the app if you connect to the camera while you’re shooting.

Swiping down on the home screen opens the main menu, swiping right opens the gallery, swiping left brings up shooting options, and at the bottom you can tap icons to change modes, resolution, and frame rate.

Final thoughts

Insta360 X3 - small world view

There is no other action camera like the Insta360 X3 and it’s unbeatable for anyone who wants a versatile device to capture just about anything to share on social media.

For vloggers, it does everything, and more, since you can capture vertical and horizontal video in one go. No more shooting something two or three times just for different formats.

Sports enthusiasts will love the X3’s performance, wide-angle lenses, and the fact that you can shoot yourself and what you’re doing all at once. There’s no need to pick just one angle or viewpoint.

And the photographer in the family will love being able to be part of the action for a change. They can get into the shot, and still get photos or videos of the action too. With the selfie stick and a small tripod, there’s a lot you can do.

Watch my video review below.

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