Disclaimer: This is a stand-alone review. We are not sponsored by anyone or have any commercial interests.
This review comes after a commercial shoot with the Insta360 Pro 2 for BMW in the UK. The brief from the recruitment company was simply to show off the working environment in its office in the south of England.
The reason we bought it against e.g an Insta360 X was that this looks more impressive (the cost is 10x more as well), they may use it with VR headsets at exhibitions and events and so wanted true 360, and we had to live to view it out of shot.
We struggled with the cost of buying it as we are a small production house. However, as there are a lot of eyes on the final cut and on the shoot itself, we justified it to ourselves mentally that it was worth it. This particular writer gets buyers remorse regardless.
Anyhow, onto the review and in no particular order
Packaging and additional costs for the Insta360 Pro 2
Although the Insta360 Pro 2 arrived in a flight case, the additional “bits” didn’t fit and the controller stuck out a fair amount. It’s already making dents into the foam on the top lid. The protective elements for the antennae on the Insta360 Pro 2 controller are VERY BADLY designed and just fall off. For a £5k ($6.3k) unit, this isn’t well thought out and feels quite rushed. We have to carry 2 bags around. A larger case would have been more welcome. Yes, you can take the bare essentials using the flight case but it’s not really enough for the “in case” scenarios that may present themselves.
Of course, these are somewhat moot for what the final output is. It would just have made life easier.
The instruction manual is 6 pages long of a small booklet. For a £5k product, that is simply not enough. It’s very basic and rudimentary – things like how to insert batteries, where the microSD cards go etc. There is more on the forums.
One battery supposedly lasts 75 minutes. We found it to be closer to 50-60 minutes before we felt we had to change. Of course, extra batteries are costly.
Lastly, and very importantly, prior to shooting, we realised you need not only 6 microSD cards and 1 SD but very high grade and expensive ones. That added a nice £500 ($634) to the cost. Yes, this information is available prior to purchase, but we didn’t realise how expensive the cards would be in order to capture the resolution at full. We soon realised you absolutely need a 7 card reader to dump the footage otherwise it could take an age.
Bear all this in mind if you are thinking of buying one. I would suggest hiring prior to buying but of course that depends on how big a production unit you are. £5k may not be that much for you.
Set up and actual use of the Insta360 Pro 2
On the shoot and pre-shoot tests, we found the Insta360 Pro 2 fairly easy to record. The app is quite straightforward and simple to use. It does take time to get to grips with the intricacies of the app and it’s not as intuitive as one would like and hope. However, client wise, they were pleased to see the shot when we were out of shot and they liked the playback. Depending on the size of the cards and the length of each clip, you may need additional cards or a system to dump and format again.
We had one lens fail on one of the shoots and a few camera errors here and there which required re-shoots on the day. We had allocated BMW staff who had only 1 hour at times and so it was impractical and of course embarrassing to have to re-shoot. The lens that failed completely failed and didn’t capture anything for that particular scene. For your first client shoot, that does raise eyebrows. However, bar that, the image itself looked great. You can review proxy files as you go along.
Here is a sample from the Insta360 Pro 2 shoot itself. We are still to add graphics and the like:
Back at the office, the dump from the multi-card reader into the PC took hours. Either you have to take all 7 cards out and plug them into the USB hub which is annoying and laborious or you connect through a Network cable which is slow.
TOP TIP – DO NOT INSTALL THE PREMIERE PRO EXTENSION. It made Premiere Pro unusable. We struggled for a day wondering what had happened to Premiere Pro, forgetting that we had had the extension. After deleting it, PP was less sickly and back to work. One has to use standalone software.
If you do not have a high-end graphics card then mindfulness techniques will come very handy. Even if you do patience is tested. Editing and stitching will take an age. Yes, it’s 8K footage and 3D. Just brace yourself. The export for the above clip took 3.5 hours and that’s not even at full resolution. Furthermore, stitching isn’t always perfect. With stereo vision, for example, it can stitch perfectly for one eye with not the other eye. Minor but irritating. There is a decent amount of control to overcome the niggles but you’d think at the price point, it would do it better. Post production was not a pleasurable affair. The footage looked good but getting it to something the client could look at took a lot longer than we anticipated.
The camera op and editor had this to say. To sum it up, filming with the Insta360 Pro 2 is simple and easy. Put the camera up, whip out our tablet and you are ready to shoot. The cons are the price point of the Insta360 Pro 2 and the workflow once you’ve shot it. Fiddly, idiosyncratic and definitely a work in progress. There endeth our review of the Insta360 Pro 2. Any questions, do ask. And we have Insta360 Pro 2 for hire from January 2019 onwards in the UK only.