Looking for a camera that's powerful enough to capture all of life's incredible, action-packed moments, yet small enough to fit inside your pocket or clip inconspicuously onto your clothing? Say hello to the Insta360 GO 2, the 26-gram action cam that delivers powerful performance despite its diminutive size. B&H asked me to do a full hands-on review of this mighty miniature, so I brought it along for some boating in Rhode Island, a bit of espionage training in New York, and going backstage at New York Fashion Week.
I'm not particularly keen on surprises, so I'll start by saying that, overall, I was very impressed with the GO 2's performance. From a marketing standpoint, it's clear the GO 2 was designed for active users and people on the go. To that end, the GO 2's powerful camera setup, which includes a larger sensor and higher maximum resolution than the original GO camera, and its unique set of outdoor-friendly features serve those groups very well. For a more detailed analysis on why I was so impressed with the GO 2, as well as some advice on how to get the most out of your GO 2 action camera, continue reading or jump ahead to the section that interests you.
Before You GO: How to Set up the GO 2
Setting up the GO 2 was fairly straightforward, but there were a couple of key lessons I wish I had learned prior to testing. The first is regarding the battery. The product manual outlines the importance of charging the GO 2 before using it, but I was so excited to start shooting I breezed right past that part. Don't do that. Even though the GO 2 offers best-in-class battery life of 150 minutes, it goes by quicker than you think. Do yourself a favor and fully charge the GO 2 and the Charge Case before you start shooting.
While the camera is charging, you should download the Insta360 companion app. You'll need to use the app to activate the GO 2 before using the camera for the first time. The app isn't a requisite for shooting, but there are a ton of useful features that will help you get the most out of your camera, so it's important to install. Once the app is downloaded, follow the on-screen tutorial to connect the GO 2 to your phone, and you're ready to shoot.
But wait! Before heading out, you should familiarize yourself with all of the GO 2's accessories and make sure you understand how each item works. Understanding the purpose and proper function of these accessories will not only help you choose the right equipment for your shoot, but it will also help prevent you from dropping the GO 2 on the ground (sorry), into the ocean (double sorry), or onto some woman's head (allegedly; also, she shouldn't have been standing there).
To save you some time, I vetted most of the accessories myself, including those that came with the camera and others you can purchase separately. I would definitely read up on the accessories that come separate from the GO 2, because familiarizing yourself with those will save you time down the road. Otherwise, feel free to jump ahead to the performance review.
Accessories Included with the GO 2
The Magnet Pendant lets you wear the GO 2 camera like a necklace or attach it to the front of your shirt, depending upon where you place the magnet. Personally, I recommend wearing it underneath your top so that you can secure the GO 2 to the front of your shirt, no problem. I have it on good authority that wearing the pendant outside of your shirt in a windy environment will only bring forth regret and shame. That thing will be swinging around, causing all kinds of problems.
The Charge Case is three accessories in one: a battery, a remote, and a tripod. It works well enough as any of the three, but when using it as a tripod, I suggest you pay attention to the wind. Because the GO 2 and Charge Case are both so light (90g total), they can easily tip over if it's too windy outside.
The Easy Clip comes with the GO 2 camera, but a headband or any kind of adjustable strap does not. I used the Easy Clip to attach the GO 2 to a soft headband, and that worked pretty well. An adjustable strap would have been even better, since headbands might stretch out over time.
The Pivot Stand is an adjustable stand with an adhesive base that lets you mount the GO 2 on various clean surfaces, such as a bike helmet or the side of a boat.
Accessories Not Included with the GO 2
Mount Adapter Bundle
Similar to the Pivot Stand, the Mount Adapter Bundle comes with three plastic mounts that allow you to stick the GO 2 on various surfaces, such as vehicles or sporting gear. The bundle also comes with several adapters so you can attach the mounts to any accessory with a 2-prong mount or a ¼" mounting point. For sticking to surfaces, the mount uses a reliable 3M adhesive base, but even still I wouldn't recommend traveling too fast without holding onto the camera―not because of anything that happened during my review, just trust issues in general, with adhesives and otherwise.
Invisible Selfie Stick
The Invisible Selfie Stick is a pretty handy accessory that would be especially useful for vloggers who want to film themselves using the GO 2.
Image Quality and Video Performance
To fully understand the range of GO 2, I tested the camera in multiple environments where the lighting was uncontrolled and unpredictable. Assuming most people will use the GO 2 to "Chase Adventure" (the brand motto), and adventure rarely comes with controlled continuous lighting, I thought this made the most practical sense. Those testing environments included various seaside locations in Rhode Island, on the streets of New York, backstage at NYFW, and at SPYSCAPE, a dark labyrinth of a museum filled with multicolored lasers and other erratic light sources.
Pro Tip: The GO 2's camera sensor and maximum video resolution of 1440p at 50 fps are both significant improvements over the original GO action cam, so the overall image quality is dramatically better.
Though it fared adequately in low-light environments, the GO 2's best footage came from shooting outdoors. Specifically, while walking the streets of New York City and on the water in Rhode Island. This camera is great for all types of adventures, but it really excels at capturing the essence and feeling of being outdoors. The color-enhancement features, like HDR Mode and AquaVision, make colors so much more vivid, especially blue skies and water, which just pop.
And Speaking of Water
While on a boat in Rhode Island, I tested the GO 2's Basic, Pro, and Slow Motion video modes. If you have ever been on a boat, one thing you know is that the combination of high-speed winds and water splashing everywhere makes filming quite difficult. Using my phone, for example, was next to impossible because it doesn't have any kind of video stabilization, so all the footage was shaky and unfocused (either because of the aforementioned choppy water and high winds or the nerve-wracking fear of dropping my entire life into the ocean—who's to say?).
However, the GO 2 was a perfect solution for this type of adventure because of its stabilization tech, which kept things level and shake-free. Both Basic and Pro video modes offer video stabilization, but Pro mode is the one you'll want for more action-packed shoots, because it uses the GO 2's proprietary "FlowState Stabilization" feature, which dramatically reduces shakiness and keeps footage smooth. On top of that, Pro mode also uses a special horizon leveler feature that will keep your video upright even if you twist and turn while shooting (demonstrated in the video clip below).
Pro Tip: The Magnet Pendant keeps the GO 2 securely attached to your body, which proved to be a less anxiety-inducing method of capturing boating footage!
The Slow Motion video mode, which records 1080p video at 120 fps, also worked really well and was great for capturing the kind of details you would normally miss, especially during action shots. For example, the slow-mo footage of water droplets flying through the air as we skated across the water looked really cool.
Using the Insta360 App
The Insta360 companion app is a really useful tool that helps you get the most out of the GO 2 camera. For starters, the app lets you control the GO 2 using your phone as a remote control. It even has a Live View mode that shows you the camera feed from the GO 2 on your smartphone.
Pro Tip: Before filming, make sure to change the recording interval to reflect the desired recording time. By default, my demo unit was set to 15-second increments, so it kept stopping during a shoot.
You can also use the app to customize your shooting experience fully, as well as edit the final video. For example, the app lets you choose which shooting mode you want to use, as well as the resolution, frame rate, aspect ratio, and recording time. The list of in-app features is pretty long, but here are some I thought were the most useful.
Horizontal Grid View
Adds a 3 x 3 grid to the live camera view, which makes framing balanced shots easy.
Another cool feature is the ability to edit your footage in the app. There are tons of editing tools that allow you to edit, alter, and enhance your footage.
You can do all of your post work in the app, including exporting the final video. Export time was usually pretty quick. During my review, it took about 15 minutes to export seven videos that varied between 1 and 4 minutes in length.
Pro Tip: The maximum resolution at which you can export video changes based on the video mode. For Pro and Basic video modes, the maximum export resolution is 1440p at 50 fps. For HDR vide mode, the max resolution is 1440p at 25 fps. If you're exporting Timelapse or TimeShift video, the maximum resolution is 1440p at 30 fps. And for Slow Motion video, the export resolution is 1080p at 120 fps.
Considering how small the GO 2 is, the battery performance was pretty solid. When used without the Charge Case, the GO 2 gets about 30 minutes of shooting with a full battery, depending on the video mode. Shooting with the Charge Case gets you up to 150 minutes, but only 110 if you're shooting in Pro Video mode.
Charging the GO 2 using the Charge Case was reasonably fast, as well. It takes about 20 minutes to get three-quarters of the way there and a little more than half an hour to go from dead to completely full. Still, I recommend keeping an external power source nearby so you can continue capturing the action without risk of the battery dying at a critical juncture.
One last thing to say about the battery is that after about 30 minutes of use, the Charge Case became very hot. Like, sunburn hot. I'm not sure if it was because of the prolonged usage or because I was standing on the Spring Studios rooftop for hours trying to capture footage for New York Fashion Week, but it got alarmingly hot. The heat made it act a little fussy, too. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to connect the camera to the app or it would just start disobeying me in general—something to keep in mind if you are planning on using the GO 2 for prolonged periods of time in direct sunlight or other hot environments.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed my time with the Insta360 GO 2. It's small and light enough to carry anywhere, so you can keep it on you and always have it available in case something cool and worth shooting shows up. It's also perfect for capturing all types of adventure, whether that's catching waves in the ocean, rollerblading through the park, or anything in between.
Please leave a comment if you have any questions about the Insta360, and if you feel so inclined, feel free to share links to your own GO 2 adventure footage!
Sofia Belhouari is a professional photographer, actor, and model. Follow her on Instagram or visit her website for more information about what she's working on next.
This is the perfect little camera for my parents vacations!
And we hope they have a terrific time capturing their memories with it! Thank you for taking the time to post your comment.
really cool article. like that it can go so many palces. still trying to decided between go2 and the one r or x2. not sure if i need 360 shots or not but I wouldnt want to have to biuy another camera if i did
Hey, Cam! Thanks for the comment. You raise a good question about which insta360 camera is the "right" one for you. Personally, I think the ONE X2 is one of the very best action cameras you can buy right now. It lets you shoot flat and spherical content, and its free editing software is arguably the most sophisticated I've ever seen. It is more expensive, though, so that's something you might want to take into consideration. Sofia does a great job explaining why the ONE X2 is such an excellent camera in her hands-on review. Be sure to check it out.