Action cameras aren’t exactly a universal accessory for motorcyclists, something you immediately buy after getting your first motorcycle. They haven’t reached the same status as aftermarket mufflers, or tail tidies … but they aren’t far behind. Just about every riding group has at least one guy or girl with an action cam these days.
At first, most of these cameras followed the GoPro Formula (and no wonder, because GoPro did it first, and did it so well). They have a sort of cube-shaped body, with a lens in front, a touchscreen on back, and they film at 1080p or even 4k resolution.
Insta360 does it much differently. Most Insta360 cameras come with two lenses, one on front and one on back. The resulting footage is spliced together to make a full 360-degree video, which can then be edited down for online viewing.
Kind of a cool idea, but is it something the average user could master? I didn’t think so, and never investigated them very thoroughly. However, I noticed some YouTubers/Instagrammers (@redspade, in particular) were coming up with some very unique footage with their Insta360 gear. Then, out of the blue, the company offered to send me a One X2 camera to test. Uh, sure—in the past, I’ve made it very clear I’m a complete noob with this equipment, but we’ve all got to start somewhere …
Insta360 sent me a box full of hardware, and that’s important to operating the camera, but so is the software—here’s a look at both.
I received Insta360’s Motorcycle Kit: An Insta360 One X2 camera, USB-C charger, a single battery, an Invisible Selfie Stick, a 64gb MicroSD card, a package of motorcycle mounts and a lens cap.
The camera itself is roughly the size and shape of a chocolate bar, with lenses bulging from front and back, a power button on the side, and a round touchscreen on back of the camera, with secondary button underneath that.
Hit the power button to turn the camera on, and then you can swipe the touchscreen to change settings.
The button underneath the touchscreen switches recording function on or off. Be careful—if you accidentally swipe the touchscreen when you’re trying to turn the camera on or off, you can inadvertently change your settings, resulting in ruined footage.
The camera records 5.7k footage, in a 360-degree circle. You can downgrade that footage resolution to 4k or even less, or use the camera as a standard single-lens action cam, or mess with light balance, lens perspective, or many other settings, all through that touchscreen. You can put the camera into hyperlapse mode, or set up other special effects while recording.
However, when you’re done recording—that’s when the real work starts.
The true key to the Insta360 One X2 is the software. Insta360 provides an app with its cameras, allowing you to pick apart the 360-degree footage into something useful.
You can upload the raw 360-degree video to YouTube (see above), but not many people are watching that on there; when I tried it, it looked a bit crappy. YouTube’s compression could be to blame, or my own hardware; the point is, this isn’t what people are using their Insta360 cameras for.
Instead, they’re using them to grab interesting footage which can then be set to a standard “flat” configuration via the app. The app itself is extremely powerful, allowing you to to turn the 360-degree footage into a vertical format (for smartphone viewing), or standard horizontal. You can choose to track an object through the video frame, which even allows you to use the Insta360 for panning-style shots. The editing software allows you to do frame-in-frame shots with ease.
For users who aren’t sure exactly what angles they want, Insta360’s app even has a function that lets AI select a camera perspective for you. I tried it, and it’s surprisingly decent, especially if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to get the perfect shot. See below:
If you’re just making stuff for social media, you can opt for the Tiny Planet perspective, or add other goofy special effects. You can add music, and splice clips together. Insta360 won’t turn you into Stanley Kubrick, but between the camera and the phone app, you have extremely powerful tools that you can carry in your hands. A decade ago, you would have needed expensive equipment to achieve the same effects.
While the editing app is powerful, it does come with a steep learning curve. Some people seem to think it’s intuitive; I’m not so sure about that, but if you’re comfortable with computers and mobile apps, you’ll figure it out. Insta360 has built-in tutorials that explain not just the basics, but also the more complicated special effects.
One other note: I found the Insta360 app much more stable than the GoPro app, but it’s possible that could change with any update of either software.
The Insta360 One X2 costs roughly $430 in the US, $570 in Canada, available through Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers, or Insta360’s own website (more details, and much more professional-looking footage, here). The app is free. Considering how powerful the camera and software are, I believe the pricing is extremely low. If you’re serious about self-filming your moto adventures, you should at least consider the One X2
However, I will say that the Insta360 camera will take more time to master than a GoPro. The software has about the same learning curve, but don’t expect to buy either on a Friday evening and start turning out cinema-quality work by Sunday morning. All of these cameras require commitment, if you want to use them to their full potential. If you just want to click a camera on and off occasionally during your ride, with no real plan to use the footage, perhaps a cheaper, less powerful piece of equipment would suffice.
But for me, I think that if I was to start moto-vlogging seriously, the Insta360 One X2 would be an important part of the plan, just as I see other YouTubers integrating cameras from various manufacturers due to their respective strengths.