On the surface, it doesn’t look like Insta360’s latest entry in the GO lineup is all that different from its previous model. Looks, in this case, are very, very deceiving. The Insta360 GO 2 fixes every issue with its predecessor and in the process, has become a versatile and eminently usable camera in its own right.
I have owned the original Insta360 GO for a while. While I originally purchased it with the idea of documenting protest coverage and other situations where I needed to record body-camera-style footage to keep myself safe, it didn’t pan out that way for several reasons.
The biggest was that while the camera excelled at time-lapse/hyperlapse shooting and interval shooting, video clips topped out at 60 seconds, initially, and then 5 minutes after a firmware updated bestowed “FPV” mode on the camera. It was clear that FPV mode was a hasty addition to the camera. Using it resulted in an insane amount of overheating that made it difficult to even hold the camera, and to even use the footage, you had to run it through the app on the phone. The Insta360 GO, for all its promise, ended up in a drawer in my desk, unused.
The Insta360 GO 2 has fixed all of those problems and added features I didn’t even know I wanted. It becomes a camera that almost always comes with me, and I’ve discovered some uses that I didn’t even think of in the process. It’s a wholly different and wonderful experience. The camera combines the best bits of the original Insta360 GO and combines them with the best bits of a GoPro in a portable, versatile package that can (generally) do more than either of those cameras.
It may look like its predecessor, but under the hood, the Insta360 GO 2 is a vastly improved camera. Even on the outside, the body features a removable (and replaceable) lens, as well as better weather-sealing.
Let’s start with just the basic specs that have been improved in every way. Resolution gets a bump to 1440p at 30 fps, an improvement over the 1080p Full HD of the original camera. Image quality was quite excellent on the GO already, but the GO 2 ups the ante with a larger 1/2.3” sensor. It’s a small improvement in an area in which there were already no complaints. While not a 4K camera, I’ll take very good-looking Full HD (and more, in this case) footage any day.
As before, colors are vibrant, images are sharp, and motion is fluid and clean-looking even with the compression from the camera.
The biggest spec bump in the video department is recording time. In FPV mode, the camera can record for 30 minutes, and with basic stabilization applied, it’s 15. The camera’s increased memory, 32 GB versus 8 GB for the original, helps store all of that footage.
There’s also a Pro Video mode that can use the company’s “FlowState” Stabilization” through its desktop and mobile software. In testing the camera in both modes on a bike ride, I found the camera’s built-in stabilization to be excellent, almost making the need to use Pro Video mode irrelevant. The bonus of using built-in stabilization is that you can plug the camera into the computer using the provided USB-C to USB-A cable and pull the footage off as if it was on a flash drive. This speeds up the workflow of this camera immensely since the app is no longer required to route the video through to a computer.
That said, if you do use the desktop or mobile app, you can also choose the field of view, from ultrawide to narrow. The mobile app also allows for a preview of what you’re shooting, so you’re not just guessing at what’s being captured. Insta360’s desktop software was also refreshed earlier this year, so the interface is dead simple to use compared to previous versions.
The camera boasts improved weather resistance, IPX8. While I didn’t submerge the camera underwater, in theory, it should be able to survive a dunk. Rain and an inadvertent spray of a water fountain directly on the camera didn’t seem to affect it.
There’s the usual suite of camera mounting options that are expected of the GO line, such as the pendant, clip, and pivot stand, but they’ve added another method, which I’ll elaborate on below.
Honestly, between the improved workflow that doesn’t require the app and the increased recording app, the company could have just stopped there and called it good. It would be a great action camera that I’d easily recommend. But the upgrades didn’t stop there.
The Insta360 GO 2’s case serves as a charger, controller, tripod, and tripod mount for the new camera. By comparison, the old case for the original model just charged the camera and nothing else. Much of the GO 2’s magic is due to this wonder-case.
While the original Insta360 GO came in a stylish charge case that resembled an Apple Airpods case, it didn’t do much other than charging the camera and plug it into a phone. I wouldn’t have expected more than that.
That’s why the new charge case for the Insta360 GO 2 is such a surprise. Redesigned from the ground up, it can charge the camera (and hold an extra charge for later), connect it to a computer, and now also serve as a tripod and remote controller for the camera. It’s so good that I often found myself not needing the app at all, though it’s there for users that want to change the viewing angle, aspect ratio, or add filters. The whole front of the camera, just like the original GO, serves as a button to start recording, so there’s no need to use a phone to start the camera. There’s even a tripod mount built into the bottom of the case for more options. Charging is now USB-C instead of Micro-USB, a welcome change.
Insta360 could have made this case an optional accessory, and it would be worth the cost for this camera.
The camera attaches to a series of Insta360 mounts that come with built-in magnets, but it’s also capable of attaching (albeit less securely) to most metal objects. It’s so small and light that weight is not a factor (even Insta360’s video show it placed on the brim of a hat). It can fit where most other cameras cannot.
While Insta360’s marketing points to the camera’s versatility as a point-of-view and action camera (and the camera is very good at those things), I’ve found a few other uses as well. Chiefly, I’ve used the camera as an extra, unobtrusive body camera when I’m filming a contentious protest. It’s small enough to not draw any attention to itself unless someone’s looking. If you’re in a contentious divorce, for instance, a body camera that doesn’t look like a body camera can come in handy. Unless you’re buying the Minions edition of the camera, most people won’t look twice.
But beyond the POV possibilities, the camera’s audio is surprisingly excellent, and if you need audio from a person in a pinch, putting the camera on the pendant attachment and placing it around your subject’s neck can capture audio almost as good as a dedicated microphone.
And of course, fans of speeding up and slowing down time can appreciate the built-in time-shifting modes. Check out some of the possibilities and how it works in this video from vlogger Sarb Johal:
There are the requisite slow-mo modes, with up to 120 fps recording to make that pretty smooth, as seen in this video from Gimbal Guru:
While not a vlogging camera, the audio quality and video quality are up to the task, and in a pinch, the app can help you frame your shot well enough to do duty in this role.
There’s also a photo mode, but it’s the one mode of the camera that I can honestly say is pretty terrible. Better to get a wide angle lens for your DSLR than to rely on the Insta360 GO 2 for photography. There was also a weird issue where I could see slightly more of the image on the app than it would let me export, which led to some frustrating issues where people’s feet were cut off from the edges of the frame. The bottom line, this camera isn’t for stills.
Still photos are not the Insta360 GO 2’s strength. Between poor image quality in this mode, and lack of still photo editing options in the software, stick to video with this camera.
This is the camera I was hoping for with the original Insta360 GO. The company took everything great about that camera, fixed everything that wasn’t, and then added features I didn’t even know I wanted, making it about as perfect as a camera this size can be.
If you’re in the market for a do-everything POV/Action video camera, the Insta360 GO 2 should be at the top of your list.
You can purchase the Insta360 GO 2 at this link.
Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He’s worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He’s also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.
Is battery life just 15 minutes with stabilization on?