I've been using GoPro's for a long time now. First one I owned was the original GoPro Hero HD (released in 2010, capable of 1080p/30, which was unbelievable at the time, most portable cameras were at 640p resolution). I still use a GoPro 5 as a webcam, and have a couple of Sessions (Still my favourite form-factor) for ad-hoc static/mounted images. My normal "go-to" cameras are a GoPro 7 Black and a GoPro Max (360 camera). I still really rate the hardware, however the company have been falling further and further behind on software and connectivity. Getting a camera connected to their app (Quik) is a massive labour, often fails, and is incredibly slow. Their Windows software is basically non-existent, with an assumption that you will use an NLE and/or their Abobe Premiere plug-in. For flat cameras this is frustrating, for 360 cameras with proprietory formats this is intolerable. When I got the GoPro Max the only way I could edit it was to use GoPro's exporter, which simply rendered the 360 footage out to a generic format (dropping resolution from 5.7k/30 to 4k/30) and then using Insta360's software to reframe. Having to use a competitors software is a shocking situation...at the time I didn't even have an Insta360 camera!
As I've documented elsewhere, this year I've been using an Insta360 Go 2 for grabbing clips (mainly dogs and cycling this year). Really impressed with the hardware and form-factor...it's perfect for keeping in a pocket, and grabbing shots quickly, and I've found the Insta360 software (app and Windows platform) really good for post re-framing...you don't have to worry too much about the exact footage you are capturing, you have a lot of freedom to clean it up afterwards. It's pretty much replaced the GoPro 7 Black as a camera I carry.
With that in mind, I decided to try out their flagship 360 camera...the One X2. I nearly went for this (or rather the previous model, the One X) instead of the GoPro Max, but ultimately splitting platforms put me off. That's no longer a concern, and I found that the software and editing issues using GoPro meant I rarely went to the hassle of getting the Max out.
TL;DR - the One X2 is structurally and functionally excellent. It matches and exceeds the capture capability of the GoPro, while allowing very fast clip output. I've trialled it in 2 situations;
1) In a park, on a rainy evening, walking the dog.
2) A cyclocross event, capturing footage of racers
I can't be bothered to upload the clips to YouTube, as they are all niche and mainly trial footage, but in both situations it did really well.
There are some clips on the Reading CC Facebook Page...these were all done on-site on my phone, and all done within a lap (so 5-6 minutes of edit/render/upload)
Facebook has only done 720p versions...the original uploads were either 1080p/50 or 1440p/30 (depending on the camera setting during the capture, and the level of zoom I've used).
As with all small-lens cameras light quality is key...the brighter the better.. What Insta360 really excels at is allowing fast generation of clips and "interesting " footage. They lean heavily on AI models to analyse the footage, and make it very easy to use this via the app (so long as you read the instructions at least!). The biggies for me are;
1) Object tracking. I used this for both situations, and it worked flawlessly. This removes the need to keyframe footage, instead selecting an object and the app then tracks it, keeping it centred. It handled a black lab bombing round a park in dark conditions. In the Windows app there is an upgrade to this called "Auto Frame", which will track every moving object in the 360 shot, and produce short clips of each one. In the race situation, this resulted in a short 2-3 second clip of every.single.rider who went past. If I'd known this, I could have set the camera up on a corner, and then kicked out a personalised video for each of the 450+ riders we saw, and it would have taken me about 20 seconds to do. Stunning.
2) Multiview...this is mainly for vlogging, but it's super-good anyway. Once you've set up the main shot (be it auto-tracked or manually key-framed) you can add in a picture-in-picture which will automatically focus on a person in shot. I used this in the dog-walking situation, and you get something like this;
Again, this took seconds, and worked flawlessly.
3) Image Stabilisation/Horizon Levelling - Insta360 have a 2-phase approach to this. The capture onboard has (digital) gyro stabilisation, and then the app/software applies "Flow Stabilisation", which again is an AI-based approach. Looking at the raw footage the gyro-based stuff is pretty good, but once the Flow Stabilisation is in it's pretty much on-par with the GoPro stuff (the Go 2 also has this approach, with similar results). GoPro are doing all this on-bard the camera, and the current end result is overheating. 360 footage is always going to go through post-process, so moving some of the heavy lifting to more capable hardware is a clever tactic, and works well.
4) Software (app/windows) - it's just easy to use. The cameras and phones connect quickly, and while the UI can be a little obscure, the tools you want (tracking, keyframing, image filtering, speed etc) are all there and work pretty simply. Export is also fast. I think one reason that insta360 are doing far better than GoPro in this situation is that they generate low-res proxies on-the-fly, and the editors use this. GoPro works with the raw full-res footage, which means super-slow transfer rates and melting mobile phones.
5) Hardware - The One X2 is a really well built...very dense, and a much better form-factor for 360 shooting that the Max (which is square, and quite bulky...it's basically 2 Hero cameras bolted together). I'd say the X2's screen on on-camera UI is a little fiddlier than the Max as the screen itself is smaller, but overall it's a smaller device. One (for me) big thing is the mount point. Insta360 use a ¼" thread mount, while GoPro use their proprietory pront mount. The biggie here is that it's virtually impossible to find a GoPro-Thread mount that is narrower than the body of the camera (most selfie sticks use a ¼" thread mount), and this leads to visible artifacts when you try and do the "invisible selfie stick" trick where the stick sits in the blind spot caused by the camer body between the 2 lenses. These annoying artifacts look like this
(you can also see in this footage how degraded image quality is with the GoPro export process...this was a 5.7k/30 shot, re-rendered to 4k/30 via teh GoPro Exporter software, and then re-framed and exported to 1080p via the Insta360 Studio software...each render step degrades the image)
For the Max I ended up dremmelling and modifying a mount, and it still wasn't perfect. The thread mount of the Insta360 has 2 benefits...
1) Very narrow, so does not exceed the width of the camera
2) No flexibility, so won't move under vibration/torque
The end result is that I'm simply far more lightly to take the camera with me and use it than the GoPro...I can grab some shots, and then edit it on my phone while drinking a cuppa. Being able to do Social Media clips for a cycling club while in a field is (for me) game-changing...previously I'd have had a laptop and a prolonged workflow.
I'll be taking it to St Lucia on Friday, and assuming it behave out there (its waterproof to 10m as well, so plenty of options to play!) I will probably eBay the Max, and maybe even the Black 7 too. I think my time with GoPro's is done.