Insta360 X3 could be the world’s most versatile camera

Insta360 has made some of the most fun and interesting cameras of the past few years – and the new Insta360 X3 is no different. In fact, it might just be the most versatile action cam (or camera) you can buy right now.

Like its Insta360 One X2 predecessor, the X3 is a 360-degree camera with two super-wide lenses that capture everything around you, allowing you to ‘reframe’ the footage into a standard movie later. But a host of upgrades mean it’s also now much more usable as a traditional action camera in ‘single-lens’ mode.

One of our biggest gripes with the Insta360 One X2 was that it could only shoot in 1080p resolution when using one lens. But on the X3 you can now shoot in 4K resolution in this ‘single-lens’ mode, making it more like having two cameras in one.

The main appeal of the X3, though, are its versatile 360-degree modes. It brings some upgrades here too, including a new 1/2-inch sensor (a step up from the 1/2.3-inch one on the X2) plus a new ‘Active HDR’ mode. While its predecessor did offer an HDR video mode, this seems to use extra processing to help minimize ghosting and boost stabilization.

The Insta360 X3 (above) has a much larger 2.29-inch screen than its predecessor. (Image credit: Insta360)

The X3 doesn’t deliver a resolution boost for its 360-degree footage (that’s still capped at 5.7K/30p) and its video bit-rate is still 120Mbps. But there are upgrades for its slow-motion modes, with the X3 capable of shooting at 4K/120p or 3K/180p. The equivalent mode on the one X2 topped out at only 3K/100p.

The X3 is likely to be a big hit with social media creators too, because its wide-angle footage can be easily turned into a 4:5 Instagram post of a 9:16 TikTok video without any major quality loss. Its larger 2.29-inch screen also looks like a boon for usability, compared to the X2’s small circular display.

It’s hard to think of another camera that has a list of shooting modes as long as the Insta360 X3, which is waterproof to 10m and available to buy now for $449. It can do invisible selfie stick effects, 8K timelapses, 72MP photos, looping dash cam videos, and much more in the ‘Shot Lab’ found in its companion app. But the big question is how smoothly these all work in reality…

Reality check

The main issues we’ve had with Insta360 cameras in the past, particularly immediately after launch, are relatively minor software bugs. During our brief time with the Insta360 X3 so far, this appears to be the case again.

When editing in the Android app, for example, our 360-degree video has sometimes automatically started panning to the right (unless we switched on direction lock). Downloading some footage like Starlapses to our phones has also proved tricky, with the process stalling indefinitely.

Insta360 is looking into these issues and they’re very likely pre-release bugs that’ll get ironed out eventually in firmware. We’re also impressed with the X3 overall, particularly its new screen and the sheer range of shooting modes on offer.

(Image credit: Insta360)

Naturally, it’s mainly designed for producing unique social media clips and won’t trouble the best video cameras for outright video quality. But it’s also more flexible than pretty much any camera we can think of, from GoPros to smartphones and full-frame beasts.

360 cameras have steadily grown from niche beginnings to become powerful tools in the arsenals of all kinds of creators. One TechRadar writer even successfully used a 360 camera as their wedding videographer, to complement their human snapper.

Their unique benefit is being able to decide where the camera is pointing in the scene after your video has been shot. We’ll let you know whether the Insta360 X3 is indeed the best 360 camera you can buy in our full review very soon.

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