Insta360’s latest 360 camera comes with a big screen upgrade

Insta360 has announced the X3, an all-in-one 360 camera that is a successor to the One X2 released in late 2020. Looking at the two cameras side-by-side, the X3’s biggest upgrade is obvious — the company dropped the mildly confusing “One” from the camera’s name. Oh, and instead of a small, circular touchscreen, the X3 now sports a 2.29-inch rectangular display, which you can use to preview and review footage and control the device. (Ironically, the X2’s biggest upgrade was also in the display department.)

At $449.99, the X3 is slightly more expensive than its predecessor and still has the same 5.7K max resolution as the X2 did. However, the company says the camera’s 1/2-inch sensors have gotten an upgrade for “big resolution and image quality improvements.” The actual lenses have also gotten a few tweaks — they’re now f1.9 compared to f2.0 and will capture a wider scene with a focal length of 6.7mm, whereas the X2’s lenses were 7.2mm. The camera also supports Insta360’s Active HDR mode that tries to capture as much dynamic range as possible, even in fast-moving shots.

Even though the X3 hasn’t gotten a resolution bump for 360 videos, there have been improvements for other modes. When shooting with a single lens (essentially action cam-mode), the X3 can do 4K — the X2 topped out at 1440p. The X3 is also able to take super-detailed 360 stills at 72 megapixels — a massive step up from the 18-ish MP stills from the X2. Time lapses and “bullet time” mode (where you swing the camera around in a circle to get an effect similar to that one from The Matrix) have also gotten resolution bumps to 8K and 4K, respectively.

There are a few new features as well. In addition to the bigger screen, the camera has a bigger 1800mAh battery and four buttons for better control if you’re wearing gloves. (Given that the X2’s batteries were 1630mAh, they won’t work in the X3.) There’s also a new shooting mode called “Me mode,” where the camera creates a 180-degree video with you in the center of the frame while hiding the selfie stick you’re holding. The Verge’s video whizz Becca Farsace loved it when trying out the camera; “it’s incredibly smart given that most videos I shoot I reframe to face myself. And given the boom in social 9:16 video, this is a very good feature,” she said.

The leaked pre-record feature that will automatically save a few seconds of footage from before you press the record button won’t be available at launch, according to Caroline Zhang, a spokesperson for the company, but it will be included in a future update. The X3 will have a “Loop Recording mode” that lets it act a bit like a dash cam, recording continuously but only saving footage permanently when you say so.

Given that Insta360’s X-cameras have often been used to capture action (the company says the X3 is waterproof down to 33 feet), we did ask how durable that new screen was. Zhang said that “the X3 screen is made of tempered glass,” which unfortunately doesn’t tell us much.

Its all-in-one design makes it feel a little more rugged than the company’s One RS camera, which also features a 5.7K 360 lens but is only waterproof to 16 feet. However, the One RS is modular — if you were a quality fiend, you could add on the 1 inch-type 360 module, which can shoot in 6K and, of course, has a larger sensor. You can also pop off the 360 module and attach a 4K action cam lens.

Both of those cameras, however, are more expensive than the X3 — the base model that comes with the 5.7K 360 lens and action cam lens costs $550, and the Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 package is an eye-watering $800. Still, I’d highly recommend checking out Becca’s One RS review if you’re considering an X3, if only to hear her warnings about Insta360’s less-than-stellar replacement policy and protection plans.

Overall, the X3 feels like a solid step forward for one of Insta360’s most popular products. It’s probably not a must-buy for anyone who has an X2, but for those who have an Insta360 One or One X, it could be a nice upgrade. And given just how much bigger the screen is, it seems like an obvious choice over the X2 for anyone looking to get into 360 recording.