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Insta360 X3 review: The best 360 camera you can buy

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
460
inc VAT

Pricey, but this is the best 360-degree action camera money can buy

Pros 
Big, easy-to-use screen
Single lens mode now goes up to 4K
Loop Recording covers 360 degrees
Cons 
360 image quality similar to the One X2
Bigger and heavier than the One X2
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The Insta360 X3 is the third camera the Chinese firm has launched this year and it’s probably the best. While I liked the modular Insta360 One RS, it was a small upgrade on the original One R, and the recent One X 1-inch edition – a modular 360 camera with 1in sensors – was far too bulky and expensive.

Fortunately, the Insta360 X3 doesn’t fall into either of those categories. It’s packed with new features and useful upgrades and Insta360 hasn’t bumped up the price too much, either.

Insta360 X3 review: What do you get for the money?

The Insta360 X3 costs £460, which is a £30 increase over its predecessor and, just like the One X2, it’s primarily a 360 camera. It can be used in single lens mode if you want, but you shouldn’t really buy one if that’s going to be your main use for it. A regular single-lens action camera such as the GoPro Hero 10 Black will do that job far better.

I’d argue, however, that most people don’t need the advanced features of a high-end GoPro anyway. I prefer to use a 360 camera when I’m biking or skiing, mainly because the camera records in all directions at once, so I don’t need to worry about where it’s pointing; I can get on with my ride or my run and then reframe the footage so the camera’s viewpoint is pointing in the right direction when I get home.

The Insta360 X3 is a very good 360 camera, too; far better, in fact, than its predecessor. The headline is that it has larger, higher-resolution 48MP sensors behind each of the camera’s fisheye lenses. These allow the camera to capture higher-quality single lens 4K video footage, higher-resolution 72-megapixel photos and 8K timelapse videos – although the maximum resolution for 360 videos remains the same at 5.7K and 30fps.

That’s not the only, or the biggest upgrade, however. That honour falls to the X3’s new 2.29in tempered glass colour touchscreen. Not only does this screen make previewing and playback much easier than it was on the previous camera – the tiny circular display on the One X2 was only really good for mode switching and settings changes – it also makes the camera far easier to use.

READ NEXT: The best action cameras to buy today

Where before I’d reach for my phone to do pretty much everything with the One X2, this new screen means I’ve been able to leave my phone in my pocket most of the time. It’s a vast improvement.

There’s also a new button layout, which makes using the camera a little quicker and easier. Instead of only one control below the screen, there’s now a pair of buttons – one to start and stop recording plus one to switch between lenses. There’s also an extra button on the right edge that provides access to a list of customisable presets.

As a result of needing to accommodate the new larger sensor, the Insta360 X3 has grown in size slightly. It’s now 3mm thicker and a few grams heavier than the One X2. It’s still far lighter and more practical than the One RS 1-inch, though, and the bigger case means there’s a larger 1,800mAh battery inside.

This doesn’t extend run time much but it keeps it roughly the same and, given the larger display, that’s all you need. The Insta360 X3 can record 81 minutes of 5.7K 360 footage in one charge, where the X2 was rated at 80 minutes.

Otherwise, the Insta360 X3 is a very similar camera to the One X2. Its candy bar form factor is similar, it mounts in the same way – via a 1/4in tripod thread – and it’s still waterproof to a depth of 10m. All good stuff.

Insta360 X3 review: What do we like?

As with the previous model, the best thing about the Insta360 X3 is that it makes shooting and processing 360 footage incredibly easy. Once you’ve recorded your footage, simply connect the camera to the Insta360 app on your phone, reframe it using the simple editing tool and tap export. You don’t even need to download the footage to your phone before exporting if you don’t want to, which saves on precious storage space.

The app has presets for all the major social media platforms, so uploading clips to share couldn’t be easier or quicker and, if that wasn’t enough, there are also desktop apps for macOS and Windows, plus plugins for Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere for those who want a little more editing control.

Image quality is pretty good, too, and certainly on a par with the X2. Insta360’s FlowState image stabilisation is as good as ever, smoothing out even the most violent shaking to deliver a stable, cinematic shot. And the camera’s horizon lock feature keeps your shots dead level no matter what the orientation is.

Don’t expect a huge leap forward in underlying quality, though. I took a close look at the same clips shot side by side on the two cameras, in 5.7K 360 mode at 30fps, and couldn’t decide on which I liked more. There’s certainly not a night and day difference, in good light or poor, although I did spot slightly lower levels of chromatic aberration on the X3 clips.

What the new sensors do offer, however, is a more flexible experience for users. You can now shoot much higher-resolution 72MP 360 photos. Single lens recordings now go up to 4K at 30fps where before they were limited to 2,560 x 1,440, and Insta360’s slow-motion Bullet Time mode can now be captured at 4K resolution at up to 120fps or 3K at 180fps.

Cyclists and motorcycle riders will also welcome the camera’s new Loop Recording mode, which lets you set the camera up as a 360-degree dashcam. This records a continuously looping video clip that can be set between one and 30 minutes long, the idea being that it records continuously until the battery dies instead of until the SD card fills up.

Insta360 X3 review: What could it do better?

One thing to note about processing your videos via the Insta360 smartphone app is that it’s still not possible to export a reframed video clip in 4K resolution, despite the fact that this is the resolution Insta360 recommends for the best possible quality when exporting to YouTube.

You can export at up to 1440p if you edit your 360 video using the My Story editing tool in the app, but if all you want is to reframe one clip and export it, you’re still restricted to 1080p, which is bizarre and very confusing.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the slightly yellow tint to the video footage I captured during testing. It’s quite possible Insta360 will fix this with a firmware update – indeed, this happens quite often with the company’s cameras – but, for now, I prefer the One X2’s colour balance. 

The only other gripe I had with the Insta360 X3 was that, initially, I found that switching modes took a tad longer than I’d like. A firmware update while I was writing this review, however, solved this problem and, by the time I had come to publish, the X3 was feeling as snappy and responsive as its predecessor.

Insta360 X3 review: Verdict

The Insta360 X3 is a bit of a tricky product to assess, then, mainly because it doesn’t really improve basic image quality that much over the Insta360 X2. If you already own one of those cameras, it isn’t worth upgrading.

Buy now from Insta360

However, if you’re looking to buy your first 360-degree action camera, the Insta360 X3 is certainly the camera you want to buy. Its large touchscreen makes it super easy to operate on the hoof, its extra modes offer more flexibility than its predecessor and its Loop Recording mode means you can now use it as an advanced, albeit expensive, helmet camera.

All of which brings me to the price, which at £460 is not an insubstantial investment. For that money, you could pick up a GoPro Hero 10 Black, which delivers better all-round image quality at resolutions up to 5.3K in a smaller, more practical package. If you do that, though, you’ll miss out on all the creative possibilities a 360 action camera such as the Insta360 X3 delivers.

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