At 26.5 grams and the size of my thumb, Insta360’s latest action camera, the Go 2, looks like an oversized Tic Tac with an eyeball. It’s the second generation in the Go lineup, which is Insta360’s only non-360-degree camera line. Where the first-generation Go left a lot to be desired, particularly in the image quality department, the $299 Go 2 comes with a new charging case, larger sensor, and improved image quality, making a strong case for a mobile-first action camera.
The most noticeable changes to this tiny camera come in the hardware department. The Go 2’s camera component has a new removable lens cover and less slippery matte plastic housing. The case plays a more active role in the use of the camera, becoming a tripod, remote, external battery, and charger all in one. It is slightly larger than the AirPods Pro case and has a 1/4-inch thread for support mounting and a USB-C port for charging. The standalone camera can run for 30 minutes on a single charge or 150 minutes while in the case.
While the case is not waterproof, the Go 2’s camera is IPX8 water resistant for use up to 13 feet underwater. In the box, Insta360 also includes three camera mounts: a pivot stand, a hat brim clip, and a pendant for wearing around your neck. All of these mounts utilize a magnet to keep the Go 2 attached to them.
The use of the case as more than just a place to store the camera is one of my favorite innovations in the Go 2. All of the mounts, remotes, and other accessories you have to end up buying for an action camera really add up. So it’s great to see essential features, such as a tripod, being built into the camera’s hardware.
More important than hardware, though, is image quality. With many smartphone cameras producing sharp, stabilized 4K 60fps video and punchy, crisp photos, it’s absolutely necessary for dedicated cameras outside of our phones to up the game. The POV ultrawide look of the Go 2’s video and the unique mounting abilities allow me to create video different enough that I could see myself carrying the Go 2 around in addition to my phone. I simply cannot produce a point-of-view angle, like that of the Go 2, with my smartphone’s camera.
On a phone, the camera’s 9-megapixel photos are crisp, full of contrast, and highly saturated without looking unrealistic. Put that image on a desktop, and it begins to look a bit grainy, where the sensor’s lower megapixel count begins to show, but the image is certainly usable.
Although the Go 2’s video resolution maxes out at 1440p and 50fps, the 120-degree field of view and saturated color science creates an image far more unique than what you get from a phone’s camera. When viewed on a small screen, the video is sharp and smooth with bright colors and lots of contrast. I was impressed with just how true to life the footage looked in perfect lighting conditions, but when I brought it over to the large screen on my laptop, the footage did look a bit noisier. I also wish video taken at night had less grain and noise. The amount of smoothing applied to low-light images doesn’t help either. Insta360 is not alone here: this is a problem even in the more expensive, robust action cameras such as the GoPro Hero 9. It is absolutely a problem I would like to see these companies spend more time fixing. (I’ve been using a pre-production unit in my testing, but Insta360 did not indicate to me that it was going to change anything when it comes to features or performance on the final version.)
There are four preset field-of-view options in the Go 2’s Pro Video mode that range from narrow to ultrawide. Despite the options, I typically just used the ultrawide view and reframed in the Go 2’s mobile app. The camera also utilizes a built-in 6-axis gyroscope along with Insta360’s FlowState stabilization algorithm for horizontal leveling, no matter the camera’s orientation, which produces extremely stable video without a crop to your image. I continue to be impressed with the stability GoPro, DJI, and Insta360 have been able to achieve in their action cameras, and the Go 2 is no exception.
Operating the Go 2 is a unique experience that takes a bit of getting used to. Like the first generation, there are no visible buttons on the camera component. To operate the camera, outside of its case, you push down on the Insta360 logo located under the lens, which then creates a vibration to signal it has been pressed. From powered off, a single press will start recording basic video, a double press takes a photo, and a one-second press will power the camera on to a ready state. If the camera is already on, a single press will start and stop FlowState stabilized video, a double press will begin a Hyperlapse timelapse video, and a two-second press will put the camera to sleep.
Like using touch controls on wireless earbuds, or any tech without a screen, there is a learning curve. It took me about three sessions to know what the LED light indications and different vibrations meant. I felt a lot more comfortable using the Go 2 in its case where its small black-and-white screen displayed which mode the camera was in, what resolution it was filming at, and how much storage was left on the 32GB of internal memory.
Insta360’s mobile app can also be used to control the camera via Wi-Fi and display a live view from the camera. The app also has capable editing software that allows for reframing, trimming, and exporting of clips. A Flashcut feature uses AI editing tools to trim and stitch clips from the Go 2 into flashy edits with punchy music and over-the-top transitions, such as screen wipes and quick zooms. It’s very fun to play with but a bit loud for my taste. For someone not familiar with video editing, this could be very useful though.
The Go 2 is available starting today for $299. For a company deeply focused on mobile-first editing for posting to social accounts, the Insta360 Go 2 makes perfect sense: a small portable camera whose footage will likely never make it to a desktop-editing software or a screen larger than a phone. To my knowledge, there isn’t a smaller camera on the market that can shoot 120 degrees with this level of stabilization or this quality, which looks great on the device you’re likely to view it on: your phone.
And for the mobile-first vlogger or avid social media user, that image quality is more than enough, the camera is small enough to mount anywhere, and its lack of confusing controls is perfect for the person who wouldn’t exactly know what to do with lots of options anyway. But for me, I’m most excited to see the bump in image quality. The better image processing and a larger sensor have allowed this camera to take a huge leap forward, even if, on paper, the difference is only going from 1080p to 1440p. This is starting to feel like a camera I might feel comfortable trusting with my more daring moments in a size that won’t feel too big to carry around.
Photography by Becca Farsace / The Verge