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There’s been a seismic shift in the action camera industry over the past few years. The GoPro monopoly has come to a halt, both at the hands of Insta360 and its 360-degree camera range, and what GoPro calls market forces. Insta360 would likely disagree with the latter, as it’s becoming an increasingly popular item among action sports and car videos.
But while Insta360’s cameras are by no means the first 360-degree cameras on the market, they are the first to make the masses consider making the jump from standard point-and-shoot models. But what are they like? The X3 is the brand’s flagship camera, and I'm going to find out if it has taken the spot as the world's go-to action camera over the next month or so.
First, here are my initial impressions.
You can only determine the true build quality of anything with time, but if my initial impressions are anything to go by, the X3 could be the best-built action camera on the market.
Firstly, it is solid. Like a brick. Much more so than any action camera I have handled before. It reminded me of picking up a good watch, as you just know this thing means business. Secondly, I have never had such satisfying tactile feedback from the compartments that house the battery and SD card. This is a far cry from the access ports to other action cameras, which I often resort to opening with my teeth.
Watching the 2.29-inch curved screen illuminate for the first time lives up to the expectations set by the quality finish on the X3. It’s easily the biggest, brightest, most responsive screen I have ever used on an action camera.
Setting it up was as simple as scanning a QR code, downloading an app, and pairing the device with my phone. But that’s where the simplicity ended, as I needed to figure out how to use some very new-to-me features.
Once I started toying with footage in the app, I got a glimpse of what’s possible with this camera. It was like playing with the multiverse: There are endless possibilities. But it’s tough to wrap your head around at the start.
As long as you’re connected to the camera via Wi-Fi or a cable, you can view and edit your footage via Insta360’s mobile app. If you opt to work with low-resolution footage, it loads rapidly. But high-definition clips take a few moments to load up. With that said, given the amount of data you’re dealing with, I was expecting it to take longer and be buggy. It’s been a pleasant surprise thus far.
When setting up a classic point-and-shoot action camera, you worry about misplacing it and essentially running your chances of getting good footage. With the X3, you worry about not using it to its full potential. Anyone can get good, unique footage by placing it in practically any position. So it puts less stress on you to capture good footage, but in the back of your mind you know it could be great footage with the right placement.
I Have Yet to See It Stumble
Based on my initial impressions, I think it’s going to be relatively easy to edit simple clips that’d be perfect for socials. But I wouldn’t want to use my phone to string footage together and make a video encapsulating a motorcycle trip or entire vacation. No, for that, I’d rather work from my desktop and Insta360’s free editing software.
Now, my Macbook M1 Pro is pretty good, and I have yet to see it stumble editing any videos. And although I downloaded the software, my laptop doesn’t meet the hardware requirements. So, you can expect a full report on how I got on when I publish my full review.
The upcoming review is for you. So, what do you want to know? Help me answer the questions that matter most. How much do you care about audio quality? Do I need to work on my freediving skills to test its IPX8 rating? Tell me how you’d like to see me push this thing.