Is the Insta360 X4 8K Actually Any Good? | The PetaPixel Podcast

The biggest video-centric exhibition took place last week and brought with it a ton of news, including a new dual-lens camera from Insta360 called the X4 8K. There are a lot of conflicting reports on the video quality, though and Jordan Drake has thoughts.

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This week, Jordan and I discuss some new developments surrounding Nikon’s acquisition of RED as well as some of the top news that came out of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) tradeshow in Las Vegas. That includes some hands-on impressions and testing of Insta360’s new camera. Below are Jordan’s thoughts:

There is certainly a place for compact cameras that can record a 360 degree field of view, but it took me a while to realize it. I was initially skeptical of spherical video after looking at the half baked Nikon KeyMission 360 and GoPro Max, but was won over when testing the Insta360 X3 camera. Sure, the footage wasn’t as sharp as what I could get with a single lens camera like a GoPro Hero, but the benefits of being able to reframe shots in post was hugely appealing and offered some fun creative possibilities.

Resolution is hugely important when recording spherical video as your viewers will rarely be looking at the entire image. Even using lower end VR headsets, or when playing footage back on a 1080P display, the limitations of the Insa360 X3’s 5.7K was apparent when zoomed into a normal field of view. Typically, viewers will be seeing a small portion of the recorded file, and that’s why I was excited by the 8K option now found in the Insta360 X4. 

The image from the X4 when recording 8K is certainly more detailed than the X3, but with a serious caveat: you need a lot of light to make the footage look good. It’s really only when shooting at base ISO that will see the resolution jump over the X3. As well, 360 camera require fast shutter speeds for the stabilization to look good, as normal, slower shutter speeds will lead to occasional blurry frames. This means the X4 is perfect for daytime action like skiing or mountain biking, but less useful for indoor family moments. Just remember, a GoPro or DJI Action camera will offer faster frame rates and generally better quality if you don’t require 360 functionality.

On the plus side, the X4 is a more capable camera when using a single lens, now offering 4K/60P, up from 4K/30P in the X3. Also, the Insta360 desktop and mobile software has been substantially improved recently, and it makes keyframing your footage much more intuitive. The idea of keyframing is often intimidating to beginners, but the Insta360 software has makes it easily approachable, especially the mobile app where you can simply point your phone in the direction you want to look, and your field-of-view choices will be recorded.

Overall, I absolutely see a place for the Insta360 X4, but users will need to be very aware of the limitations. When recording in bright light, the image is absolutely an improvement over its precursor. When shooting indoors or in morning and evening, the results will be indistinguishable or even worse than the more affordable X3, so pick the right camera for your use case.

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