Why the Insta360 One X Just Became My New Favorite Travel Camera
Cameras (in some form) have been around for almost 200 years and in that time they have changed a lot. From paper film to nitrate to celluloid and now to the many different flavors of digital sensors out today. In the year 2020 over 4.5 billion people on earth have some kind of camera with image capturing smart phones like the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy taking over the world. In that entire time, cameras have always captured some flavor of rectangle boxed images. We have become so accustomed to fitting our people, places, things, feelings and desires in the these boxes that numerous art forms have popped into existence around. But now – that format is being challenged.
Enter – the 360 camera
360 cameras are nothing new, we have been experimenting with equirectangular image (see below) capture for decades now, but until very recently there were so many speed bumps and headaches along the way that it was more of a science experiment than an art form. Stitching images sucks and actually viewing or manipulating those images properly was even worse. GoPro and Insta360 have changed all that.
You can take an image like this.
And make it interactive like this.
360 camera really began to pick up steam as VR headsets and tools began taking off in 2012/2013 – suddenly these wacky images had a home. This caused an explosion in cameras and rigs hitting the market with different manufacturers trying their hand at this format. As with any trend – it eventually started to slow down and some obvious winners emerged. In the consumer sector those are the Go Pro Max and the Insta 360 One X (and One R).
I actually started experimenting with these rigs back in 2014 for a commercial project and while they were a lot of fun – rigging 6 GoPros together was neither fun nor manageable. And while the resulting images and videos were amazing – the bulk and labour that went into stitching did not fit the traveling filmmaker lifestyle very well.
What’s different now?
Two big things have changed with this latest generation of cameras from GoPro and Insta360 to make me completely flip my kit – and bring the Insta360 almost everywhere I go. The stitching and image manipulation technology has drastically improved. The Insta360 app is just as easy as Photoshop or VSCO on my phone and can export amazing images and videos straight out of the camera to any platform I want.
And the big big difference that makes this a killer tool for me – they have given the camera a magical ability to remove it’s own mounting. Using a specialized stitching and image manipulation algorithm the Insta360 One X (and GoPro Max) and appear as though they are floating in almost every situation. Which is nuts.
So what? No more selfie stick?
The reason why this is so exciting for me is for the first time – I don’t need to consider how a camera is rigged in order to rig it. As any Key Grip or Cinematographer is more than well aware of – rigging a camera is a delicate balance of getting the right angle, and actually keeping the camera safe. The art of keeping gear out of the shot has been around for a long time but that is all changing now. What excites me so much about this magical stick-deleting little camera is that camera companies are now putting money into technology that eliminates the only faux pas left in cinema – seeing the gear.