If (like me) you didn't know, 360 cameras record a complete sphere above, below and all around the camera using ultra wide angle lenses front and back. The two hemispherical images are then stitched together, almost seamlessly to make one video file (5k). Using the app you can then select a crop from the file in a standard format like 16:9 1080. It can be wide angle or cropped to a normal linear view without distortion. In this way without having actually moved the camera you can later choose almost any angle of view and also pan or follow moving subjects.
In addition to this magic you can use a selfie stick to change the camera position and include yourself in the picture. You can capture yourself walking along as if someone else was walking beside you with the camera. Even a view from above is possible and with a wide angle it looks very much like a low drone shot. Incredibly the selfie stick itself is blended out in the video (although the hand holding the stick does tend to appear unnaturally posed). Apart from including yourself in the shot the selfie stick is great for shooting over obstacles especially since you don't need to worry about aiming it precisely.
These abilities mean that 360 cameras have been a big hit for vlogging and for eye catching social media posts. There are any number of stunt shots possible including the "tiny planet" shot in which someone appears to be walking around the circumference of a small globe. The app includes as well the usual arrays of colour filters, fancy effects and speed changes. There is also a multi view option which lets you do picture-in-picture from the same capture - typically your own talking head and the general scene.
But I'm not really interested in fancy effects. I mostly want a straightforward record of events and activities that won't make me cringe in five years time. So does the One X2 do a good job? Apart from being the "camera crew in your pocket" giving you a choice of shots after the event, is the quality and ease of editing up to the mark?
Well generally, at least for my purposes, I'd say yes. For 1080 the result appears to be every bit as good as from my phone. Although it's definitely never telephoto I can get away with a surprising amount of zooming in, to say about a normal 1.5x. The "linear" corrected crop largely eliminates distortion and wide angle are also often acceptable. The app allows me to pan smoothly anywhere in the 360 and it has a very clever mode to automatically and smoothly follow a moving object. You can also successfully record pan and track movements by holding your device up and moving it like a window as the video plays! The result is typically much better than I'd get by trying to follow a moving car or person with my phone. Views are also effectively always stabilised (except for the bounce effect when walking with the camera).
The camera is small and neat and the build quality is excellent. It works underwater too. You have to be a bit careful to protect the protruding lenses from damage especially because the camera doesn't have flat sides to rest on. It's a bit slow to fire up compared to my phone but there is at least an option to wake and start recording with just one press. You can use your phone to control the camera but I find the small camera screen is usually sufficient since you don't really need to frame a shot. Occasionally exposure is a bit uncertain because the very wide angle lens will often include large amounts of sky. Transfer to my iPad or iPhone is fairly quick and convenient with an automatic connection via the camera's wifi and it isn't usually worth plugging in a cable.
I do sometimes use the camera's voice control to start and stop recording but there's also an Apple Watch app to start and stop recording. I stopped using it because it wasn't very convenient. For some reason it always defaults to photo rather than video and you still have to turn the camera on separately. It also doesn't have any preview function. Somewhat disturbingly the watch app left a persistent location tracking icon on the watch face after use. After noticing it I turned location services off on all the Insta apps. In practice I always manually set a general location for a project when it is finished anyway and don't need the location of individual clips.
The app generally works well but it's a bit clunky and not particularly Apple like. Although there are some clever capabilities I struggled a bit trying to figure it all out. Many of the tools work in a way that just didn't seem obvious or consistent to me. Some for example have a back (exit) button and some have a tick button. It's possible to change the view angle of previously set pivot points (key frames) but if you don't happen to notice that the "update keyframe" button has changed colour they'll gradually reset to the previous view again when you move on. Overall I sorely missed the ability to undo one step at a time and often I had no option but to reset completely and start all over again.
It probably would have helped if there was a written guide or even just a description of some of the buttons and menu options. There are of course online tutorial videos but I always find instructional videos and tutorials to be very tedious and you can't easily search them for the particular thing you want to know. Still with perseverance I think I've more or less sorted things out. There are a few options I'd prefer to have like that undo button and the ability to set landscape 16:9 as default (instead of having to change from portrait 9:16 every single time) but I can live with this. Overall I can most times take better and more flexible pictures with the One X2 and it fits very comfortably in my pocket.
Should you buy one? If vlogging and eye catching effects are your thing then definitely. For general videography the answer is probably still yes. Provided you are happy with 1080 output then the portability, convenience and flexibility of this device probably outweigh the nuisances. Previously in an attempt to gain stability and smooth panning I had tried the Osmopocket camera, which was good but the tiny screen always made it difficult to see what I was getting. With the One X2 I'm almost guaranteed to have captured my subject with or without looking at the screen, I can do smooth pans in post production and I also have the ability to extract quite different shots from my footage.
This video will give you a good idea of some of the possible tricks: