Insta360 Pro 2
$4,999 | Insta360.com

Every now and again a company comes along and, well, just gets it right. Over the course of just a couple years, Insta360 went from being a virtually unknown brand to an industry favorite for 360 cameras. So much so that Insta360 is one of a handful of manufacturers Google has worked with directly and entrusted for their Street View programs. That's why I was so excited to test the company's newest professional model, the Insta360 Pro 2, which retails for $4,999.

While many will be familiar with consumer-level 360 cameras such as the GoPro Fusion, Rylo Camera, or even Insta360's own Insta360 One X, it's important to understand that, while great for vloggers, casual 360 shooters, or social media sharing, they're not designed for professional use – especially for viewing with VR headsets, or HMDs (Head-Mounted Devices).

There are some big differences between the consumer models and a professional 360 camera like the Pro 2. First, professional cameras shoot stereoscopic (3D) images; second, the sensors used in these cameras produce higher quality images, both because of sensor size and simply the additional pixels from multiple cameras; third, you have much more control over the image parameters

Editor's note: To fully appreciate the output from this camera, we recommend downloading video files to view on your own mobile device or head-mounted-device. To do so, you'll need the Insta360 Moment app, which includes the CrystalView 8K Player (described below). It's available for Apple iOS, Android, Samsung Gear VR, or Oculus Go. Download links to CrystalView-encoded files will be provided below each image or video.

Key Features

  • Six F2.4 fisheye lenses
  • 8K Stereoscopic video (7680 x 3840, 2D/60p; 3D/30p)
  • 12K photos (12,000 x 12,000)
  • FarSight Technology (for long-distance live monitoring)
  • FlowState Optical Flow Stabilization (with SGO Mistika VR support)
  • Spherical Spatial Audio
  • HDR Video and Photo
  • CrystalView (allows high quality playback of 8K video on phones or VR headsets with less than 8K resolution)
  • Live-streaming capable

With that context in mind, let's take a look at the Insta360 Pro 2.

Design

The Insta360 Pro 2 is about the size and shape of a large cantaloupe with 6 equidistant lenses around its equator, a small LCD screen in between two of them, a battery and microSD card slot between two others, and four microphones between four sets of lenses for ambisonic spatial audio. It packs a hefty set of features and controls into a fairly compact and sturdy aluminum alloy package.

Additionally, there are notches carved out on opposite ends of the camera, on the top for ventilation as well as antennas (GPS and Wifi), and on the bottom for more ventilation as well as various ports. These include LAN, USB, DC-in, microphone, a reset button and six microSD slots (which I'll get to in a moment).

The Insta360 Pro 2 includes six lenses and four microphones for ambisonic spatial audio.

Quite thoughtfully, the Insta360 Pro comes packaged in a custom Pelican case with plenty of additional space to include an extra battery, battery charger, all necessary cables and accessories, and even a tablet. There's also a rubber protective 'blindfold' for the lenses, which is inexplicably satisfying to slip on and off.

Most users will likely use the Pro 2 for video, and it provides a variety of resolutions and frame rates to work with:

Resolution Mode Pixel resolution
8K 3D @ 30 fps 7680 x 7680
2D @ 60 fps 7680 x 3840
8K HDR 2D @ 30 fps 7680 x 3840
6K 2D/3D @ 60 fps 6400 x 6400
4K 2D/3D @ 120 fps 3840 x 3840

At the highest 8K resolution, the camera can capture 2D footage at 60 fps. In contrast, 3D footage tops out a 30 fps, but that's still quite impressive. It's possible to shoot at up to 120 fps, but only in 4K resolution.

When shooting 360 photographs, the following resolutions are available:

Resolution Mode Pixel resolution
12K* 2D or 3D 12000 x 12000
8K 3D 7680 x 7680
8K 2D 7680 x 3840

*12K photo resolution requires stitching to be done on the computer instead of in-camera.

The Insta360 Pro 2 is also capable of live-streaming 360 degree content.

In the field

The first thing I noticed was the very fast start-up time. While Insta360's previous pro model, the Pro 1, took around 90 seconds to start, the Pro 2 barely takes 10. Another welcome upgrade is the built-in GPS. I often use the Pro 1 for Google Street View campaigns, and it’s not rare to forget to plug in the external GPS dongle, which, as you can imagine, is an important aspect of Google Street View, so the in-camera integration is swell.

However, the most incredibly, amazingly, insanely appreciated feature on this camera is something Insta360 calls 'FarSight'. Holy moly I can’t begin to express how warm and fuzzy this made me feel. Let me explain.

The most incredibly, amazingly, insanely appreciated feature on this camera something Insta360 calls 'FarSight'.

For those unfamiliar with the 360 video production process, you can’t block a scene as you would a regular video or photo. Since all lenses are capturing all directions at all times, nothing can be in view that you don’t want included in your shot, including you.

Thus, maintaining a connection with the camera in order to monitor it while shooting is a tricky process (and often a gamble), especially when working with and trying to direct human subjects. Basically, you have to run and find a place to hide, which poses quite a challenge as the Wi-Fi connection between the camera and preview monitor typically drops out once you're 3-5m (10-15 ft.) away from the unit. Most 360 producers, myself included, have bins of outtakes of jumping behind trees, climbing trees, hiding under bridges, under the camera, around trash bins, in trash bins... you get the idea.

FarSight solves ALL of this.

With FarSight, you connect a transmitter to the camera using its LAN connection, and a receiver to your phone or tablet. The unit's antennas use the 5.18 GHz band to stream clean 1080/30p live previews. I was able to hold a steady connection and control the camera indoors from well over 10m (30 ft.) away with four walls in between me and the camera, with only a single bar of signal lost.

FarSight pairs a transmitter for the camera with a receiver for your phone or tablet, and allows you to monitor and control the camera from exceptionally long distances (or from your secret hiding spot inside a nearby garbage can).

Outdoors, with a clear line of sight to the camera save for a couple of trees, I got nearly 300 feet away – almost to the end of the block – before I ran out of room to get any further away. Insta360 claims a 300m (1000 ft) ground-to-ground range, 1000m ground-to-air range, and a battery life of close to 3 hours (or alternately, connected to a power source)

FarSight is an absolute game-changer, and reason enough alone to consider the Pro 2 if you're looking for a stereoscopic camera. Furthermore, I’m beyond giddy to report that FarSight is now available for Pro 1 users as well (and yes, I’ve already ordered one).

FarSight is an absolute game-changer, and reason enough alone to consider the Pro 2.

The mobile app for operating the camera is very intuitive and feature packed. You have more control than just about any other professional rig I’ve experienced, and Insta360 continues to add features via frequent firmware updates.

In fact, there’s nothing I feel it’s missing. You get individual exposure control over each lens, curves control, exposure brightness, contrast and saturation, ISO, white balance and exposure bracketing, and choices between 360 3D or 360 2D, real time stitching, audio gain, and a delay timer.

Insta360's mobile app provides more control than just about any 360 rig I've tried, right down to individual exposure control for each lens.

Additionally, you even get HDR video. I wasn't able to test this, however I was able to test the HDR photo feature, in which you can bracket 3, 5, 7 or 9 exposures. I found the 3 bracket exposure to produce the most realistic results.

Single image 3-bracket HDR 9-bracket HDR
For best results, download the original image files to view on your own computer, mobile or head-mounted-device. If you need a 360 viewer you can use the Insta360 Moment app. Download links: single image, 3-bracket HDR, 9-bracket HDR.

Key takeaways:

  • 'FarSight' image transmission technology is a game changer for VR pros
  • Mobile app is feature-packed, intuitive, and includes granular controls
  • Supports both HDR photo and video
  • Integrated GPS is useful for many applications