Gadget

Insta360’s X4 captures 8K 360-degree video

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There’s a cult following for 360-degree cameras. While companies like GoPro and Ricoh continue to dabble in the category, Insta360 simply dominates it. Until today, the X3 was the ultimate 360 camera, with loads of features and shooting modes that were relatively easy to use. Insta360’s collection of selfie sticks, guards, cases and peripherals added even more cool tricks like bullet time effects and fast-zoom video effects. A few years later, we’re getting the Insta360 X4, with improvements prioritizing the fundamentals. There are higher-resolution camera sensors, a bigger battery and even more versatility, thanks to multiple resolutions and framerate options.

Insta360 X4

Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

The Insta360 X4 doesn’t look hugely different from the X3. It has the same candy bar form factor, with two huge wide-angle lenses either side. It does seem more elongated, but I had no issue cramming it into my pocket during a week of testing.

The new camera has removable lens guards, which is an intelligent design improvement. Any damage or scratch to the lens will likely affect image quality, especially when it’s exposed in … adventurous settings. Previously, Insta360 offered sticky lens covers, but the X4 new lens has guards that can be twisted on and off the camera sensors. And they come included in the box, which is nice.

Both the USB-C port and battery compartment, where the microSD slot lives, are protected by solid covers with sliding locks. The Insta360 X4’s Type-C port now supports USB 3.0 speeds, arguably necessary when dealing with these higher-resolution videos and bigger files.

Insta360 X4 sample image

Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

The button layout remains streamlined and familiar to anyone who’s used Insta360 cameras before. There’s a circular ‘shoot’ button (voice and gesture shooting options are built-in, too, but they’re a little less reliable), a mode switcher, a programmable Q button, and the power button. The 2.5-inch touchscreen is bigger, too, and most settings are only a few swipes away. It feels like using a smartphone, which helps make it intuitive.

However, the sheer versatility means there are a lot of menus to peruse. I never felt overwhelmed but during testing, I never quite managed to get Bullet Time and Time Shift to work anywhere near as well as I’ve seen on YouTube.

Insta360 X4

Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

Newcomers can power up the X4 immediately and capture video and stills without too much struggle. Naturally, for those who know what they’re doing, this is where things get fun.

The technical improvements focus on video, with the new ability to record footage at up to 8K 30fps or 5.7k at 60fps. Slow-mo video has been boosted up to 4K resolution, too. Insta360’s Me Mode, which captures traditional ‘flat’ video (in combination with its ‘invisible’ selfie stick), has been upgraded to 4K 30fps. In short, it captures more of everything compared to its predecessor. More pixels mean more detail with 360-degree video (or any capture mode). It also ensures that when you crop down to create clips for social media, the footage doesn’t appear too low-res. Plus, Insta360 claims that stepping down to 5.7K resolution to record video will offer better performance in low light, which seemed true during my tests indoors and in the evening.

Insta360 has considered the increased processing demands of higher-resolution content. The X4 has a 2,290mAh battery, 67 percent bigger than the X3’s. According to the press release, it should be able to capture video for up to 135 minutes.

While we’re focusing on the upgrades, a lot of Insta360’s best camera features are carryovers from the X3. 360-degree horizon lock keeps all your footage level regardless of how you hold the X4, and there’s still impressive image stabilization and waterproofing up to 33 feet. While the X3 fixed many of the biggest problems with capturing 360-degree video, the X4 has boosted fidelity to the point where it’s possible to capture polished footage without much effort.

The X4 is now available to order directly from Insta360, priced at $499.99. That is $100 more than its predecessor but still less than the company’s pro-level $800 camera, the One RS 1-inch 360 Edition.

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