Insta360 X4 Review: The 360 Camera We've Been Waiting For?

May 09, 2024

 Finally, a pocket-sized 8K 360 camera from Insta360!

The new Insta360 X4 is here and is packed with new features while also sharing quite a lot of features with the previous generation, the X3. So in this blog post, I'll share my honest and unbiased opinion of the X4. I'll analyze just how good the 8K quality really is and ultimately help you decide whether you should buy it or not.

 

Design and Build πŸ“·

The Insta360 X4 retains the sleek and user-friendly design of its predecessor, the X3. However, there are some subtle differences:

πŸ‘‰  The X4 is a bit thicker and taller, and it weighs a few grams more, but it's still lightweight overall. 

πŸ‘‰ The addition of a textured back adds a premium feel, and the larger touchscreen is a welcome improvement.

πŸ‘‰ Battery: They have upgraded the battery to 2290 mah, so you should get a few extra hours of shooting compared to the X3.

πŸ‘‰ Microphones: They are on every side of the camera, so the X4 should be able to record audio no matter which direction it's coming from.

πŸ‘‰ Touchscreen: It is slightly bigger than the touchscreen of the X3, which is a nice upgrade.

 

Lens Guards πŸ›‘οΈ

πŸ‘‰ One of the big questions many of you will be asking is whether the camera has replaceable lenses. The answer is no, but they've added a ring around the lens, allowing lens guards to easily clip in and out.

πŸ‘‰ Inside the camera box, you'll find these lens guards completely free, which are very easy to clip on. Just put them on, rotate, and they'll attach.  

If you find yourself in a serious accident and smash your camera down really hard, it still may penetrate through the plastic lens guard. However, these should cover you in most situations.

βœ… Standard Lens Guards: These come free in the box and are hardly noticeable even when the camera is spun around 360°. There's very little evidence of guards being there, and the image quality isn't degraded.

βœ… Premium Lens Guards: Sold separately, these are made of slightly better, supposedly scratch-proof material. However, they seem to pick up more lens flare than the standard guards, especially noticeable in bright sunlight.

 

Why No Replaceable Lenses? πŸ€” (My theory) 

A lens is one of THE MOST costly components of a camera, so buying a disposable lens cheaply and easily is going to be difficult. Also if you installed a replacement lens incorrectly, it would ruin the stitching of your shots, as 360 video capture relies on lenses being the perfect distance from each other.

While it's disappointing that the camera doesn't have replaceable lenses, the lens guards are pretty good and will save you in risky situations. They are cheap to replace but need to be kept very clean to avoid fingerprints and smudges. Apply them only in situations where you're putting your camera at risk.

 

Accessories Included with the Insta360 X4 πŸ“¦

Aside from the two lens guards that come free in the box of the X4, you'll also get:

  • Neoprene pouch with a zip for easy storage and safety of your camera
  • USBCD
  • USBC cable
  • Lens cloth
  • Manuals
  • Protective case that clips onto the X4 for an extra layer of protection (on one side)

 

πŸ‘‰ While the protective case offers extra protection, it doesn't protect the lens or the screen, so personally, I don't see myself using it.

 

Since the design of the X4 is different from the X3, accessories made for the X3 won't fit the X4 due to its taller and thicker build. If you own an X3 and have accessories for it, they won't work on the X4. 

The X4 comes with a new line of accessories, including:

  • Quick reader
  • Mic adapter
  • Spare battery
  • Lens cap
  • Wind mic muff

 

You'll need to purchase accessories specifically designed for the X4. Generic accessories like selfie sticks and SD cards will fit, but anything made for the X3 won't.

 

 πŸŽ Free Accessory Guide 🎁

If you want the full list of 360 video accessories that I use on my shoots with my various Insta360 cameras, I wrote a completely free guide that has all of my latest recommendations from selfie sticks to camera bags to editing software.

Regardless of whichever 360 camera you own, you'll find some great accessories in there, so feel free to download the guide completely free. 

The Ultimate 360 Video Gear Guide for 2024

πŸ‘‰ DOWNLOAD HERE πŸ‘ˆ

 

Aperture and Sensor Size βš™οΈ

When comparing the Insta360 X3 and X4 cameras, one of the key similarities is their:

βœ… f1.9 aperture; and 

βœ… ½ inch sensor size 

πŸ‘‰ Insta360 appears to have made internal improvements to the X4. Although I'm not deeply familiar with the technical details of camera components, the difference in video quality between 8K and 5.7K is quite noticeable.

 

Is 8K Video Quality Worth It? πŸ€”

Have you ever wondered just how good the 8K video quality from the X4 really is, and whether it's a necessary feature for you? 

πŸ‘‰ Sharpness: When comparing side-by-side views of a 5.7K video and an 8K video at an extreme zoom level, the 8K video definitely appears sharper. This is especially noticeable in details and textures.

πŸ‘‰ Reframing: The higher quality of 8K is particularly beneficial when shooting 360 videos and reframing them later. It allows for more zooming in without noticeable blurriness, which is great for editing flexibility.

To illustrate, let's compare a side-by-side view of a 5.7K video and an 8K video at an extreme zoom level.

Now, how exactly is this camera achieving 8K? Is it just slightly interpolated, or is there some other magic happening internally? 

πŸ‘‰ The X4 boasts an 8K resolution, but the reality might not be as straightforward as it seems. While there is an improvement in sharpness compared to lower resolutions, the 2.3k extra pixels might not always translate to a massive difference in perceived quality, especially in certain viewing conditions.

πŸ‘‰ When we talk about 8K, we're referring to the full 360 video resolution. However, when we reframe or crop the video, the quality decreases. With 5.7K, this reduction typically results in about 1080p quality. However, with 8K, it's a bit different. It doesn't feel like 4K, nor does it feel like 1080p. It sits somewhere in the middle, around 3K. This resolution is still enough, especially for dynamic action shots.

 

X4 vs. X3 vs. One RS 1-inch πŸ₯Š

From a wide perspective, there isn't a significant difference in sharpness between the X4, X3, and 1 RS 1-inch. The 1 RS 1-inch does exhibit slightly higher contrast.

πŸ‘‰ Zoomed In Comparison: When zoomed in at a high level, the X4 shows a sharper image compared to the X3 and 1 RS 1-inch. Details such as grid lines on windows are more defined with the X4.

πŸ‘‰ Contrast and Detail: The 1 RS 1-inch, due to its 1-inch sensor, captures better contrast consistently, showing more detail, especially in areas like water. This extra contrast gives it a slightly sharper feeling than the 5.7K resolution would suggest.

πŸ‘‰ Camera Movement: While in motion, both the X4 and 1 RS 1-inch outperform the X3 in terms of color, contrast, and sharpness. The dynamic range is also better in both cameras, with the sun being more controlled.

πŸ‘‰ Dynamic Range: The X4 and 1 RS 1-inch exhibit better dynamic range, with the X4 capturing skin tones even better than the other two. The X4's dynamic range is more consistent in shadowy areas.

πŸ‘‰ Despite the differences in sensor size (1-inch vs. half-inch) and resolution (5.7K vs. 8K), the X4 and 1 RS 1-inch perform similarly in terms of overall dynamic range and sharpness. This highlights the importance of sensor size in determining image quality.

 

Shooting in 5.7K at 60 FPS with the X4 πŸƒ‍♂️

πŸ‘‰ Another new spec of the X4 is its ability to shoot 5.7K at 60 FPS. 

While this might not seem like a significant difference from the previous 5.7K at 30 FPS, the impact is actually quite substantial.

πŸ‘‰ Lifelike Movements: With double the frames, the overall movement feels more lifelike. 

This improvement is particularly noticeable when using 360 cameras for virtual reality (VR). In VR, with a headset on, looking around, lower frame rates can make the experience feel unrealistic. The jump to 60 FPS is significant, making movement in your scene feel more realistic.

πŸ‘‰ VR Experience: If you're using a 360 camera for VR, the jump to 60 FPS is particularly important. When you're wearing a VR headset and looking around, lower frame rates can break the immersion. 60 FPS makes everything feel smoother and more natural, enhancing your overall VR experience.

While you don't always need to shoot at 60 FPS, it's a good option for scenes where you want a strong sense of realism. 

 

Slow Motion ⏳

X4's got some new upgraded resolutions for slow motion. 

πŸ‘‰ It shoots 4K 100 360 video and 5.7k 120 FPS bullet time.  

It's a cool upgrade, but who shoots bullet time? It's fun once, but you're only going to use it once, and then you get bored of it.

 

Low Light πŸ’‘

πŸ‘‰ I was pleasantly surprised by the Insta360 X4's performance in low light. I compared it with the other two Insta360 cameras side by side in auto mode, expecting the 1-inch sensor of the 1 RS to outperform them as it usually does against other cameras. The X4 looked way better than both of them in these shots. While this was just one test, it seems like the X4 could be the best choice for low-light shots based on these results.

 

Single Lens Mode 🀳

πŸ‘‰ The X4 offers a single-lens mode capable of shooting up to 4K 60. 

πŸ‘‰ However, be cautious not to make the same mistake I did by shooting in the ultra-wide field of view perspective, assuming you can change it later in editing. Unfortunately, this isn't possible. To ensure your single-lens shots with the X4 turn out as desired, select your field of view before pressing the record button. 

πŸ‘‰  You can switch between action view and a more normal vlogging perspective by tapping the button, which reduces distortion around the edges. 

 

Me Mode πŸ™‹  

This mode, available at:  

βœ… 4K 30 FPS  

βœ… 2.7k 120 FPS  

 This mode reframes the camera towards the selfie stick if you hold it out in front of you. 

πŸ‘‰ Personally, I'm not a big fan of these single-lens options as they negate the benefit of shooting with a 360 camera, which is the ability to shoot first and point later. When capturing a full 360-degree field of view with 8K resolution, it seems counterintuitive to lock in the perspective while filming instead of choosing it later. However, I'm sure there are some use cases, even if I'm not sure what they are. Anyway, more features can be a good thing. 🀷‍♂️

 

Stitching 🎞️

Despite being a thicker camera, the stitching of the X4 is still pretty decent. Even with the very early stage firmware that I'm using, it's stitching my shots well enough. Of course, if you move too close to it and you're standing directly in the stitch line (which I absolutely wouldn't recommend doing), that's when it's going to be noticeable.

πŸ‘‰ TIP: If you keep a distance of at least 3 ft, then there shouldn't be any noticeable stitching issues.


Sound Quality πŸ”Š

❌ The sound quality is disappointing, with noticeable background noise even after using the voice focus filter.

πŸ’‘ My suggestion? Invest in a professional mic setup or use CapCut, which can easily remove background noise with a single click. CapCut is free and has transformed my workflow—I've even created an online course around it. Check it out here! πŸ‘‡

 πŸ‘‰Start Your Editing Journey πŸ‘ˆ

 

 

Does the Insta360 X4 Overheat? πŸ”₯

πŸ‘‰ Yes, the X4 does overheat, which is not surprising considering its small size and 8K shooting capabilities.

πŸ‘‰It can record for a decent amount of time, though. I managed to get over 27 minutes of 8K recording in a room at roughly 29°C before it stopped.

πŸ‘‰ Interestingly, the camera warns about overheating on the 8K recording screen and suggests moving with the camera or being around wind to cool it down.

πŸ‘‰ For longer recordings, it's advisable to use 5.7K to prevent overheating, as this allows for much longer recording times. While overheating can be annoying, it's also a realistic limitation given the current technology. Not many cameras, especially in this form factor, can handle extended 8K recording sessions.

 

Comparison with the Qoocam 8K?

The Qoocam 8K, a pocket-sized 360 camera from a few years ago, also suffered from overheating issues. However, it overheated much faster, within 5 to 10 minutes. When it overheated, the lenses would go out of focus, making shots blurry and negating the benefits of shooting in 8K. The Qoocam 8K's overheating issues prevented it from becoming popular, and the company eventually reverted to 5.7K to improve camera temperature management.

 

Editing Workflow for 8K Footage with Insta360 X4 πŸ§‘‍πŸ’»

The process is quite straightforward and efficient, but there are some key points to keep in mind, especially regarding the hardware requirements.

βœ… Low-Resolution Proxies: Insta360 provides low-resolution proxies in both its mobile app and desktop software. These proxies allow you to edit and reframe your footage in real-time without overloading your computer or device. It's a handy feature that keeps the editing process smooth and seamless.

βœ… High-Quality Export: When you're ready to export your final video, the Insta360 software applies all the edits and settings you've made to the high-quality 8K footage. This means you get the best possible quality in your final export without sacrificing performance during the editing process.

βœ… Performance Considerations: While the editing workflow has performed well for many users, it's important to note that performance can vary depending on your hardware. For example, I've personally had a great experience editing 8K footage on my latest iPhone and a relatively new Mac Studio. However, older devices may struggle to handle the high-resolution footage, even with the use of proxies.

βœ… Hardware Requirements: To edit 8K footage smoothly, you'll need hardware that's capable of handling such high-resolution files. This includes a recent smartphone and a computer from the last couple of years. If you're using older devices, you may experience lag or other performance issues, so it's worth considering an upgrade if you're serious about editing 8K content.

 

Beware of Biased Reviews πŸ™…‍♂️

So, you've probably watched a ton of X4 reviews by now, some sponsored, others not. You might have also seen videos from Insta360 themselves, painting the X4 as the ultimate camera. But, it's important to remember that some of these videos are biased or they hype the camera up to be better than it really is.

πŸ‘‰ In reality, the X4 is probably about 10 to 20% better than the X3. 

πŸ‘‰ It's a bit sharper, performs better in low light, and has more features overall. 

I definitely recommend buying it. That said, the X3 is still a solid camera.

 

Price & Verdict πŸ’Έ

πŸ‘‰ Priced at $500

πŸ‘‰ The X4 is geared towards semi-professional users or gadget enthusiast seeking high-quality results. Ideal for capturing memorable moments during vacations or casual shooting.

πŸ‘‰ Beginners may lean towards the more budget-friendly X3, at $399. 

 

Which Camera Should You Buy? πŸ›οΈ

If you're in the market for a 360 camera, here's a breakdown to help you decide. 

πŸ‘‰ Insta360 X3:

  • Price reduced to $399, making it a more budget-friendly option compared to the X4.
  • Still relevant in 2024, with Insta360 committed to supporting it for years to come.
  • Consider if you're satisfied with its features and quality, or if you're shooting both 360 video and photos, as it remains a strong contender in this regard. 

πŸ‘‰ Insta360 X4:

  • Priced at $500, offering extra quality and features over the X3.
  • Recommended for those who want the best in 360 video quality and don't mind spending a bit more.
  • Consider if you shoot mainly 360 video, as it excels in this area compared to the X3 and even competes with the 1 RS1-inch.

πŸ‘‰ One RS 1-inch:

  • A great choice for those shooting both 360 video and photos, particularly for virtual tours, due to its excellent quality in both aspects.
  • While the X4 is competitive in 360 video, the 1-inch still holds an edge, especially in low light situations.
  • If you already own the 1-inch, upgrading to the X4 may not offer significant improvements in photo quality, but the enhanced shooting modes could be appealing.

 

So, there you have it! Picking your perfect 360 camera boils down to what you value most. The X3 is a reliable budget-friendly option, great for everyday use and suitable for both 360 video and photos. Stepping up to the X4 means a bit more cash, but you get a bump in quality and features, perfect for enthusiasts and semi-pros. Then there's the 1 RS1-inch, shining in both 360 video and photo quality, especially for virtual tours. Thanks for reading! πŸ‘‹

 

Back to Blog

LearnΒ From Me

Master 360 photography & video with my in depth courses!

360 Video 101

Learn all the essentials of shooting & editing reframed 360 videos.

Learn More

Virtual Tour Pro

Go from complete beginner toΒ paid Virtual Tour ProΒ in 30 days!

Learn More

Photo & Video Business Bootcamp

Master the business side of photography and video.

Learn More