//360 Camera Review: Insta360 Air is a Good Entry-Level Camera

360 Camera Review: Insta360 Air is a Good Entry-Level Camera

In July, InstaVR added both WebVR and easy sharing to Facebook to our Free version. To celebrate, we’re having a contest in August for our users who share their InstaVR authored experiences via Facebook. Prizes include free upgrades to InstaVR Pro and an Insta360 camera. Details can be found here: 


Overview: Insta360 Air is an entry-level (MSRP: $129 USD) camera that attaches to Android phones. Introduced earlier this year, the camera provides 3K still images and 2560 x 1280 video. Portable, easy-to-use, and affordable — the Insta360 is a good starting camera for someone new to VR/360 on a budget. Our Head of Sales, Andrew Woodberry, reviews below. 


1. First Impressions

The first thing you notice after receiving your Insta360 Air is the size. The box it arrives in is no larger than a Rubik’s cube, with the actual camera resembling an oversized gumball. The portability, in addition the price, is definitely one of the most compelling features of the Air.

Setting up the camera is simple. You download the Insta360 app from Google Play, and plug the camera directly into your Android phone. “Plug-and-play” is a very apt description for this camera.

The low cost, small size, and easy set up are all huge pluses!

PRO TIP: The Insta360 Air comes in two different varieties — USB Micro and Type-C. Make sure when ordering you select the one that matches up with the input you have on your phone. 


2. Using the Insta360 Air

Because the Insta360 Air attaches to your phone, it provides some unique advantages and challenges. Unlike other popular 360 cameras, such as the Ricoh Theta and Samsung 360, this camera has no storage mechanism. It uses the storage on your phone. So you’ll either have to make sure you have plenty of space on your phone, or purchase additional add-on storage for your phone.

Actually capturing images/video is relatively straightforward. You’ll select either image or video, press the record button on your phone, and then eventually hit stop (if it’s video). The dual fish-eye lenses capture in 360, with the camera doing all the stitching for you.

Because the camera is attached to your phone, there are some downsides. You can’t set up the camera on a tripod or monopod, and initiate capture remotely via app. What that means is that the videographer (you) will appear in all images or video, unless you attach your phone to a monopod/selfie stick and get creative. That being said, I held the camera above me by hand for still images, and the final rendered images barely captured me on the bottom of the screen. Also, as our heat map data shows, most 360/VR audiences tend to focus attention on the immediate 90 degree field of view in front of them. So if in the InstaVR platform you reset initial view point so you’re always 180 degrees from the starting point, it’s actually not terribly distracting to the audience.

As mentioned earlier, the Insta360 Air is incredibly portable. This makes it very easy to carry with you without any inconvenience. In capturing a tour of the White Sox stadium, I carried the camera in my pocket into the stadium, rather than having to bring an extra bag. And then since I was just holding up my phone while capturing the media, the process felt very organic and didn’t generate any unusual interest from others. The portability and price make it so you can take the camera just about anywhere, without much fear of losing or breaking the camera.

PRO TIP: Since the Insta360 Air basically forces you to be in every image/video capture, make sure to utilize the initial view adjustment feature in InstaVR. 


3. Examining the Captured Media

Transferring images/video to your laptop is really simple. Because your phone is storing the Insta360 media capture, you need to merely plug your phone into your laptop to download. Or if you’re using an auto-cloud backup of your phone, the images/video will be ready for you in the cloud.

For those obsessed with image/video clarity, the results of the Insta360 Air will initially be a bit disappointing. Even at 3K, the images at full screen laptop size won’t be as crisp as you’re used to. You do have to remember that when fully packaged for a VR headset, with your eyes so close to the phone, the experience will be much better than on download to laptop. The same is true of video — the pixelation on a full-sized laptop monitor will underwhelm, though will be mitigated in final app form after authored using InstaVR.

One big benefit of using a camera attached to a phone is instant previews. You can review your images/video immediately, and decide if you want to re-capture. This came in handy a number of times for me, as I realized my camera position wasn’t great, or something distracting happened in the video.

PRO TIP: The Insta360 lets you capture video in either 960p or 1280p. Always choose 1280p. It’s better to use more storage and compress later. 


4. Authoring Insta360 Media w/ InstaVR

Insta360 advertises the ease of uploading (and even streaming live!) to YouTube and Facebook. For merely sharing photos/video, without any editing or packaging up applications, this feature is handy. But for many users, combining the Insta360 with InstaVR creates a powerful platform for creating distribute-ready apps across all the major VR headsets.

As discussed, upload to your laptop is easy. Because Insta360 captures in standard formats (png, mp4, etc), and does the stitching automatically, the stills/videos are ready for immediate upload and use with InstaVR. You’ll definitely want to make use of our initial viewpoint selection feature, and can even remove yourself from the bottom of stills by placing a logo hotspot covering you.

From there, you just follow the standard steps for creating an app using InstaVR. The final results will be pretty impressive for iOS/Android/Google Cardboard. For a fairly minimal investment, you’ll have a fully functional VR app to share with clients, employees, friends, etc.

PRO TIPInsta360 allows for easy direct posting to Facebook. However, because the images are stitched and in correct format, you can quickly and easily author a whole 360 app using InstaVR. 


5. Conclusion

Insta360 recently launched its $3500 USD Pro edition, featuring 8K capture. We’ve seen the results of the Insta360 Pro and are very impressed!

But for someone looking to dip their toe into 360/VR, that doesn’t want to outlay that kind of investment, the Insta360 Air is a great starting point. It’s affordable, easy-to-use, and portable. The results, though not perfect, will be adequate for entry-level users. Going from image or video capture to distribute-ready iOS/Android app via the InstaVR platform is very streamlined. Same day media capture and app creation is very realistic for most users.

Then once you feel comfortable, and want to start making more professional VR apps, you can upgrade to both Insta360 Pro and InstaVR Pro!

2017-08-11T13:16:00+00:00 August 11th, 2017|General|