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DJI Action 2 vs. Insta360 Go 2

There are lots of dishonest “sponsored” DJI Action 2 reviews on YouTube. It is a camera with some worrying flaws and it’s clear from the design it isn’t a replacement for the original DJI Action or the modern GoPros. Rather, it’s a re-imagining of the GoPro Hero 5 Session, and the camera it’s trying to compete with is the Insta360 Go 2.

So this video is an honest and comprehensive comparison of all three devices with lots of side-by-side footage and a series of tests: Video quality, Battery life, Stabilization, Overheating problems, Horizon levelling, Audio from internal mics, menus, apps, modular design and Vlogging.

DJI ACTION 2
Dual screen combo: https://amzn.to/3q33eXo
Power combo: https://amzn.to/3k1EElJ

INSTA360 GO 2
32GB version: https://amzn.to/3FltbWi
64GB version: https://amzn.to/3FsLDfE


TRANSCRIPT

Today, I’ve got a DJI Action 2, an Insta360 Go 2, and a GoPro Hero5 Session, and I’m really excited right now. The DJI Action 1 is my favorite camera. I’ve been waiting more than a year for DJI to release a sequel. Three weeks ago, they came out with the DJI Action 2. I bought it on launch day with my own money. That means I can be completely honest when I review it. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of dishonesty from YouTube reviewers in the last few weeks. Lots of them received a free camera and many expensive accessories.

Are those people ever going to criticize this camera? No, of course not. Otherwise, DJI would never send them free stuff ever again. However, I am free to be honest with you about the DJI Action 2, and if you’ve seen my unboxing video, then you know I have some concerns. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The DJI Action 2 is clearly not a replacement for the original DJI Osmo Action. The Action 1 was a serious competitor to GoPro Hero7GoPro Hero8, and Hero9. The Action 2 is a very different beast. The form factor is significantly smaller. It’s basically half the size.

The Action 2’s screen is much smaller. The battery is absolutely tiny, and it has a small built-in memory. The only way to increase the battery life or utilize an SD card is via a separate module. This camera, the Action 2, isn’t designed to compete with modern GoPros. This is obviously a reimagining of the GoPro Hero5 Session, and I think the action camera it’s competing with is the Insta360 Go 2. That’s why in this video, I’m comparing the DJI Action 2 and the Insta360 Go 2. And, just for fun, I’m also going to compare them to the six year old GoPro Hero5 Session.

However, the main purpose of this video is to talk about the DJI Action 2. I do want to reiterate, I bought all three cameras with my own money. Now, please keep in mind that I’m judging these cameras for day-to-day use and for their vlogging capabilities. Obviously, they’re capable of much more than that, but, I don’t do extreme sports. I’m not a skater boy. I’m not a surfer. I live in landlocked Birmingham, and it rains here a hell of a lot. I want to know whether these cameras are good for me and for my circumstances. So keep that in mind.


Tale of the Tape

As always, we begin with a tale of the tape. I’m not going to go through all the stats, but I will point out some highlights and some areas of concern. First thing I want to note is the massive price difference. The Hero5 Session and the Go 2 were both about the same price at launch, whereas, at launch, the DJI Action 2 costs about £455 (prices may change). That price is for the dual screen combo, and with that you get the camera unit and a separate vlogging module. They’ll soon be launching a cheaper combo for about £350 or $400 (prices may change), and that will have a module that’s exactly like this, but without a screen. Here’s where I have my first big problem with the Action 2, the modular design. I’m going to discuss that later in this video.

Weight

The Insta360 Go 2 is also a modular design, and the Go 2 camera unit is absolutely tiny, just 27 grams, and it’s literally the size of my thumb. Even adding the charging case into the mix, the Go 2 is just 90 grams in total.

Max Resolution

When it comes to video and photo resolution, it’s obvious you get what you pay for. Both the DJI and GoPro can film in 4K. What’s really impressive, on paper at least, is the 4K, 120 frames per second option on the DJI Action 2. On paper, the Insta360 Go is a lot less impressive. The best it could do is 2.5K, and it’s limited to a maximum of 50 frames per second. I usually film in 4K 30, so the Insta360 has already disappointed me.

Sensor Size

Sensor size is a big factor in image quality, and the GoPro has a tiny sensor, but that’s to be expected given its age. The sensor on the DJI is the biggest, so you’d expect that it has the best image quality. Whether that’s true, we’ll find out soon enough.

Battery

Compared to most action cameras, the GoPro Session has a pretty small battery. However, the modular design of the Action 2 and the Go 2 means their camera units come with absolutely tiny batteries. Let’s not judge too quickly, though. Battery tech has been improved dramatically over these last few years, and while the Go 2 battery is worryingly small, the camera doesn’t have a screen. Most of the battery drain on cameras is because of the screen, so maybe these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Memory

What is really worrying me, however, is the fact the Action 2 and the Go 2 have a very limited internal memory. They are advertised as 32GB, but some of that memory has to be used to run the camera itself, so the usable memory of the Go 2 is about 28GB, and the usable memory of the DJI Action 2 is a measly 22GB. Once the memory on the Go 2 is filled up, you have to stop using it until you upload your footage to your phone or your computer, which is really inconvenient. There is a new version of the Go 2 coming out soon, which has more space, and I will talk about that later.

The DJI does have less memory in the camera unit, but both of the screen module and the power module have an SD card slot. Attach those to the camera and you can have extra juice and extra memory, and I’ll be exploring how well that system works. The GoPro is different, of course, no modularity. It’s an all-in-one unit. The battery is built in, but it can take an SD card up to 256GB. That’s incredibly convenient. As soon as you run out of space, you can just insert a new SD card.

Common Features

Finally, here are some common features across all three devices. They’re all waterproof the Insta360 Go 2 up to 4 meters, while the GoPro and DJI can go down as far as 10 meters. They all have HDR video, image stabilization, and can connect wirelessly to your smartphone. As usual, I’m going to compare these cameras in the following categories: video quality, audio quality, battery life, and usability. When it comes to cameras, those are always the four most important criteria.

The Insta 360 Go 2 tops out at 2.5K resolution. Both the DJI and the GoPro can shoot in 4K. However, for this video test, I’m going to shoot with the DJI and GoPro in 2.7K, and there’s a good reason why I’m doing that. The GoPro only has stabilization in 2.7K, and the DJI only has horizon leveling in 2.7K. So in the real world, if I was using these cameras for vlogging or action sports, I would be using the DJI and the GoPro in 2.7K because that’s the resolution where they perform best. I’m not just saying that for the sake of this video, to keep it interesting. I’ve had this GoPro for years, and it’s been in 2.7K mode from the day I bought it. By the way, there is very little difference between 2.5K and 2.7K. 2.5k has 3.7 million pixels, and 2.7K gives you 4.1 million pixels. If you really want to know how the DJI Action 2 performs in 4K, that will be covered in my video comparing it to the GoPro 10, so subscribe, because that’s coming very soon. Anyway, enough talking. Let’s head outside and test these cameras in the real world.

The Test

As usual, first things first. Let’s start off with a quick vlogging test, so I can see how the image looks from each of these cameras. Of course, they’re all at 30 frames per second, either 2.7K or 2.5K. I really do love how tiny these three cameras are. Obviously, the Insta360 Go is the tiniest of them all. It has an absolutely frighteningly small form factor. The DJI Action 2 isn’t far off, but of course, there’s a price to pay with the battery life because of the diminutive size of these two cameras. The king of battery longevity is certainly the GoPro Hero5 Session, which is just shockingly good how long it can keep going, but of course, it’s slightly bigger and it also has no screen to worry about. It’s something that the the DJI Action 2 certainly does have to worry about.

Stabilization Test

Let’s test the stabilization of these three cameras. They all do have built-in stabilization, albeit very different kinds. The GoPro Hero5 Session has a very old pre-HyperSmooth Stabilization. The Insta360 Go has flow state, and the DJI Action 2 has Rocksteady with Horizonsteady. The reason why I don’t like this bit is I have to run, so here I go. (Watch the test from 11:32 to 11:59.)

Horizon Levelling

One of the best, most impressive new feature of this new generation of action cameras is the Horizon Levelling functionality. Now, this is great for people like me who are terrible at holding the camera straight and terrible working out when the horizon is level. The amount of times I’ve made a video, gone back to my computer, and realized the whole thing is wonky, I cannot tell you. It’s the bane of my life, so this is a fantastic new feature for me. I can’t imagine my life without it in the future.

Unfortunately, the six year old GoPro Hero5 Sessions don’t have it. The Insta360 Go 2 does have it, but I believe you have to record in Pro Mode, so Pro Mode exports the video files to the app on your computer or on your phone, then runs FlowState Stabilization, and then export the file. That’s a lot of work, a lot of effort, especially if you’re just a vlogger. Brilliantly, the DJI Action 2 has Horizon Levelling and RockSteady 2.0 built in to the camera.

The files come out exactly as you want them, with the horizon level. Only capable of doing it all the way up to 2.7K, however. It’s not available to 4K, or at least, not yet. Hopefully, there will be some kind of firmware update in the future that will mean you can do 4K Horizon Levelling in the DJI Action 2. You can do 5.3K Horizon Levelling in the GoPro 10, so you’re falling behind DJI. I’m twisting all three cameras right now, and you can literally turn the cameras upside down and they should still keep the horizon absolutely level. It is hugely impressive, and like I said, I can’t imagine my life without it. Let’s go back to the studio.

Back in the studio

Now, I didn’t edit that footage in any way. That was all straight out of camera. The only exception being of course for the Horizon Levelling footage of the Insta360 Go 2. To get Horizon Levelling on the Go 2, you have to run it through the Insta360 app. Now, personally, I don’t like the image from the Go 2. It just seemed a little less pleasing to my eyes than what I got out of the GoPro and the DJI. I think it’s pretty clear the DJI has the best image quality by far. In the lowlight tests, it was very clear none of these cameras perform well once the sun goes down, and it’s very hard to rank them. I think I’d pick the DJI over the Go 2 simply because the image of the Insta360 was very noisy, and I’ve put the GoPro dead last.

In terms of stabilization, it’s pretty obvious that the GoPro performs badly. In its day, it may have been impressive, but stabe tech has improved dramatically in the last three years. The Action 2 and Go 2 are both excellent when it comes to stabilization. It’s actually hard to say which is better, but if I had to choose one, I’d say I prefer the DJI, and that’s simply because the Go 2 doesn’t do its best stabilization in the camera. You have to film in Pro Mode and then run your footage through the Insta360 app to get proper FlowState Stabilization. That’s a pain. S, for stabilization, I’m making the DJI the overall winner, which means that for video quality, it’s pretty obvious that the DJI Action 2 is a clear winner. It’s the best option in every category.

Audio Quality

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a little bit hard of hearing, so audio testing isn’t my forte. All of these cameras sounded very similar to my ears. Time for a little walk and talk vlogging test. Now, I am very close to a main road. There are trucks, cars and buses going by. All of these cameras, as they are, have one microphone each, although if I add one of the other modules to the DJI Action 2, then it will have an extra three microphones, so four in total. That should improve the sound quality immensely. Right now, I’ve got four microphones pointed at me, or at least pointed around me. Is this better than the one microphone that you get with the camera module? (Watch the test from 17:25 to 18:55.)

Battery Life

Battery life is incredibly important, and I wanted to make sure my testing was done in a fair and objective way. All three devices were fully charged. The GoPro and DJI were set to 2.7K at 30 frames per second, and the Go 2 was set to 2.5K at 30 frames per second. All three cameras were in standard or linear mode. The Go 2 was in regular mode rather than Pro Mode. All of them had stabilization turned on. Since the GoPro and Go 2 have no screens, I turned off the screen on the DJI. The room temperature was kept at 21 degrees Celsius, which is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and I just let all three of them run until the battery ran out.

I then repeated the test, but this time, I attached the external modules to both the Go 2 and the Action 2. Here’s what happened. The Action 2 camera unit has a very small battery, less than 600 milliamp hours in size, so you’d expect it to have limitations. However, when I ran the test, I couldn’t even get to 15 minutes before the camera turned itself off, not because it ran out of battery, but because the Action 2 overheated. At this point, it still had 50% battery remaining, but it couldn’t do anything until the device cooled down. When I ran the test with the screen module attached, things were very different.

The Action 2 managed to record for more than one and a half hours, and what’s interesting is that it seemed to record directly to the SD card inside the screen module. Now, the Go 2 camera unit has a much smaller battery than the DJI camera unit, just 210 milliamp hours. However, it actually performed better than the Action 2. It shut down after 23 minutes when the battery ran out. However, recording with the Go 2 inside the charging case didn’t really help much. It only increased the record time to about 29 minutes. It seems that the charging case works very slowly to top up the camera’s battery.

Finally, the six year old GoPro Hero5 Session. The battery life is very impressive, and this is an old, used camera. The camera kept going for 87 minutes, almost the same time as the Action 2 with the screen mod. The reason it’s impressive is that the GoPro has a 1000 milliamp hour battery. The DJI Action 2 with screen mod has a combined total, almost double that size, but the DJI Action 2 also has a front screen, which I left running during the test. A couple of observations. The DJI Action 2 recharges very quickly, and it cools down very slowly. The Insta360 Go 2 is the opposite. It recharges very slowly and cools down very quickly. Once the Action 2 had overheated, it refused to detect the SD card. Maybe that was just my device, but I suspect that’s an issue with all of them.

Overheating

This is the big controversy. The first people to review the DJI Action 2 on YouTube totally failed to mention that this camera overheats like crazy. Are you surprised? These people were sent a free camera three months ago. They definitely had time to notice the issue, but they never mentioned it because if they criticize the camera, DJI would never send them free stuff in the future. I paid for all these cameras myself. I don’t owe DJI anything, which is why I can be honest. I’ve had my DJI Action 1 heat up at times. Sometimes, I’ve accidentally left it running and put it in my bag, and an hour or two later, I’ve taken it out and it’s been pretty hot, but it still kept going until the SD card ran out.

My Action 1 has never shut down due to overheating, and every honest reviewer will tell you the same thing, whereas with the Action 2 overheating is a huge problem. Firstly, it seems to heat up quite a lot while it’s charging. It won’t get so hot that you can’t pick it up, but it’s worrying that it does that. Now, there is a high temperature setting in the menu. Basically, you’re telling the camera to keep going even if it’s overheating, but that option is grayed out on my camera module. The strange thing is that it was available to me the first couple of days I was running this camera, and then DJI took the option away from me.

I’ve heard a rumor that this is something to do with the European Union, and there’s some obscure rule in EU regulations about overheating devices, so DJI was forced to make the cameras it sold in Europe operate in standard mode only, which means they turn themselves off after 15 to 20 minutes of continuous use. That really limits this as a vlogging camera. Now, my Insta360 Go 2 did not overheat, but it is limited to at most 23 minutes of battery life in the camera itself, and even using it in the charging case only increases that to 29 minutes. The GoPro, on the other hand, will keep recording for well over an hour, even in 4K mode.

Usability

I think an action camera should be rugged. The DJI Action 1 feels rugged. Every GoPro Hero camera feels rugged. I would happily use these cameras under any circumstances because I trust them to survive some extreme conditions. I’ve taken them mountain biking, I’ve taken them swimming, I’ve taken them on my travels all over the world, and that’s where we have a problem with both the Action 2 and the Go 2. I don’t trust them. My first concern is that they don’t seem rugged at all. GoPros and the original DJI Action have this rubberized texture. Just by holding them in your hand, you can tell they can take a beating.

The Action 2 and the Go 2 feel very different. The Go 2 feels very plasticky and the Action 2 has a metal and glass construction. If I dropped either of them, I’d expect them to crack. If you go online, you can find photos of cracked DJI Action 2s, and the complaints are mounting that this camera was not built to survive tough conditions. What makes things worse is the magnet fad. The Insta360 Go 2 camera unit is magnetic on the back, and I did actually use that to attach it to things, but it was a novelty. It’s not something I would do every day. And, frankly, I don’t consider magnetic attachments to be sturdy and secure.

This woman has attached the Go 2 to her body using the magnetic lanyard. Now imagine her jumping up and down. Imagine her running in slow motion on a beach. Do you honestly think that camera is going to stay where it is? I don’t, and things are just as bad for the DJI action 2. I talked about this in my unboxing video. Both the camera module and the vlogging module connect magnetically, and there are two mounts that come with the camera. One connects to GoPro style accessories. The other one has a quarter-inch thread at the bottom, which means you can attach it to tripods. Both of those are sturdy and secure ways to attach cameras and accessories.

What doesn’t feel so sturdy is the way the camera itself attaches to these mounts. Now, don’t get me wrong. These are very strong magnets, and the little clasp on the side do give you some extra confidence, but I trust the thread a hell of a lot more than the magnet. My fear is that my obviously fragile camera is going to fall off and shatter the screen. It’s a problem, but it’s not my biggest problem. My biggest problem with the DJI Action 2 is the modular design. You see, my main disappointment with the Action 2 is that it’s not an all-in-one device.

The GoPro is a standalone piece of kit. I can charge it with a USB cable, and if I want to access my video files, I just remove my SD card and plug it straight into my computer. You can’t do that with the DJI Action, 2, and you can’t do it with the Go 2 either. Both DJI and Insta360 have sacrificed battery life and memory capacity for compactness. However, I have to give Insta360 some credit. They listened to their critics and came up with solutions. Firstly, they’ve launched a new version of the Go 2 with 64GB of internal memory. That’s probably going to mean 60GB of usable internal memory.

That’s way more than the 22GB you get in the DJI action 2. The 64 gigabyte version of the Go 2 only costs around $30 more than the original model (prices may change). The Insta360 has also released a small camera mount that can be used to charge the camera while it’s running. Sadly, it’s not waterproof, but I do think it’s an incredibly useful accessory. It’s so useful, in fact, that it’s been sold out since the day it launched. But you can get it at Alibaba/AliExpress. I think Insta360 deserves a lot of credit for both of those products.

Menus and Apps

Let’s talk about controls. As I said at the start, the Insta360 Go 2 is just 27 grams, and it’s literally the size of my thumb. Now, the camera unit on its own, can record footage, but you can’t actually access anything using the camera alone. You have to use the charging case to control the camera settings, and you can plug the case into your computer to download footage. Alternatively, all three of these cameras let you use an app to change the settings, start recording, and download footage. I really do like the apps for the Action 2 and the Go 2. They do everything you need, basically.

If you’re using the Pro Mode on the Go 2, then the Insta360 app opens up a world of possibilities. You can change the aspect ratio of your video. There’s only three options, though: Widescreen, Portrait, and Square. You can change the field of view, so if it doesn’t look good at ultra-wide, then you can make it narrower within the app. You can lock the horizon so the video stays totally level no matter how unsteady your recording is. You can also apply color corrections for underwater footage. They even have an option called Color Plus, which I never use. It’s supposed to make your videos look more vivid. Instead, it makes the footage looks like a cartoon.

Overall, I really like the Insta360 app, but I can’t see myself using it much. If all you’re doing is day-to-day filming, then the extra steps are a pain in the neck. Firstly, filming in Pro Mode fills up your memory far quicker, as the files have a lot more information in them. The app uses that information to give you all those extra options. Secondly, it adds extra work to the editing process. You have to download your footage into the app, make the adjustments you want, then export the footage to your computer, and then you dump it into your video editing software. Indeed, ain’t nobody got time for that. That’s why I’m happy to use normal video mode on the Go 2.

The footage looks okay, and the standard mode video stabilization works well enough. The DJI Action 2 uses the Mimo app, which is functional, but I have often had connectivity issues between my app and the camera. Of course, you can control the Action 2 using the touchscreen on the back, so I’ve never really needed to control the camera using the app. If you’ve got the screen module attached, that also allows you to access the menu system. It actually looks very similar to the menu on the DJI Action 1, which is great because that’s a very intuitive and functional design. Unfortunately, the touchscreens on the Action 2 are much smaller and a lot less responsive than the screen you get on the original DJI Action.

The GoPro Hero5 Session has a tiny LCD screen and only two buttons. It might not seem like much, but it’s amazing how much you can control using just two buttons and a tiny LCD screen. However, you can’t do everything. Which brings me to my biggest gripe with GoPro. You can download the latest GoPro app onto your smartphone and connect it to your Hero5 Session, but you may notice there’s something missing. The latest versions of the GoPro app don’t give you access to the Protune settings. Protune lets you control the ISO, shutter speed, white balance, sharpness, and exposure compensation. I had to download an old version of the GoPro app and sideload it onto my phone.

That’s the only way I could access Protune for this camera. Honestly though, that’s the only problem I have with the GoPro. Everything else about the GoPro Hero5 Session is fantastic. It’s lightweight, rugged, waterproof, and has a long battery life. It takes a 256 gigabyte SD card, and it’s so small that people don’t even notice it. I’ve often used it for vlogging. Most of the time, cameras attract attention. People will stare at you, or even worse, people will come up to you and try and make small talk. I hate people. Really, I hate people. I want to be left alone, so random strangers asking me questions is beyond irritating. That is why I love tiny, inconspicuous cameras. The point is, the GoPro is small enough that for practical purposes, it’s almost invisible.

Conclusions

By now, you should have worked out that I don’t recommend the DJI Action 2. I like that it’s small. I like that it’s got a bigger sensor, but it’s an awkward design. It’s got limited space. The battery is tiny, it overheats very quickly. The lack of Horizon Levelling in 4K is embarrassing, and it’s ridiculously expensive. I waited more than a year for this camera, but the DJI Action 2 was not worth waiting for. Do not buy it. I’m going to send this back. In my opinion, the Insta360 Go 2 is a better option than the Action 2, and if you do buy one, make sure you get the 64 gigabyte version. It’s not a lot more expensive than the original. However, I’m still not sold on it. The stabilization is great, the image quality is adequate, but it’s limited to 2.5K.

It doesn’t do Horizon Levelling in standard mode, and again, the battery life is quite limited, especially when using the camera in Pro Mode. Right now, it’s around $330 (prices may change), which is about £250 (prices may change). That’s very reasonable, and I can see the appeal, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s not the camera for me. I can’t see myself using it. I appreciate that not everyone needs 4K, and so for a lot of people, the Go 2 is a good option. However, I make YouTube videos, so filming at 4K is important to me. That’s why I’m sending it back, which leaves us with just one more device.

Action camera fans have been crying out for an updated version of the GoPro Session for years. Clearly, this is the camera the DJI Action 2 was trying to emulate. Unfortunately, DJI screwed up really badly. The Hero5 session is six years old and I love it so much that I just bought another one. It cost me £120, and I think it was money well spent. My conclusion is that everyone should buy a GoPro Hero5 Session. Yes, it has some ropey stabilization, but as a basic camera for vlogging and for everyday use, it is the perfect device. That’s all for today. I’ll be back with another video very soon.

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