Fstoppers Reviews the Insta360 Air: A Pocket-Sized 360-Degree Streaming Camera

Fstoppers Reviews the Insta360 Air: A Pocket-Sized 360-Degree Streaming Camera

Live streaming on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook is nothing new in the age of social media. It’s a fantastic tool for marketing or just showing how much fun you’re having on a fun new adventure. What if you were able to completely immerse your viewers in the environment you're streaming? InstaAir 360 is one such a camera and I was given the opportunity to work with it.

To start I’ll give you the basics. The camera is available for both Android (both Micro USB and USB Type-C) and Apple devices. For lens elements, it has dual 210-degree lenses facing 180-degrees from each other. With a max output of 3K resolution images, and 2K (3K on certain phone models) video. Utilizing real-time stitching, you’re able to stream the views from the camera live on most social media applications. It featured built-in stabilization allowing for smooth operation. In addition, it can be used as a webcam with the included USB adapter.

What’s Included?

When you receive the Insta360 Air it comes packaged in a white box that has everything you need to get started streaming your 360-degree videos. It comes with the camera, camera case/cover, lens cleaning rag (which you will need), USB cable adapter, warranty card, and instruction booklet.

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The Insta360 Air showing a green light through the indicator signifying a good connection and that the camera is active.

The Camera

Weighing in at less than an ounce, the camera is super compact, easily portable, and can fit anywhere you need it. I’ve had it in my back pocket in a pinch, but usually, I’ve had it stored in my backpack so that it was always handy. Like mentioned above, the camera comes equipped with dual 210-degree lenses with apertures of f/2.4 for both lenses. For connection to the camera, the Insta360 Air has an exposed male connector for the appropriate device you plan on attaching it to, provided you order the correct one. An indicator light at the top of the camera alerts you to the status of the camera, and outside of that, the predominant feature is the dual lenses as previously mentioned. The lenses are in fact giant fisheye elements, though prone to fingerprints and dust, so make sure you keep the included cleaning rag or one similar nearby and handy. Otherwise, a small smudge on the lens will distort a huge portion of what is seen on the video.

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The Insta360 Air Mounted to my cell phone.

Live Streaming

I can report that the live streaming on this camera does in fact work. I tested it in a number of situations and it’s a fun and useful tool to have in your kit for messing around or giving some behind-the-scenes look at what you’re working on. It’s simple to use, and simple to link to your various social media platforms and is compatible with Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, and YouTube (with the creation of a live stream channel on your account.)  It’s simple to set up and it’s easy to use, and the camera itself is so light, it doesn’t feel any heavier than just walking around with your phone. Also it doesn’t seem to really have an extreme drain on your phone's battery life, which is always a plus as it does hook into your phone through the main port which means you cannot charge your phone while the camera is in use.

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One of the many Live Streaming sessions I made with the Insta360 Air. This screenshot being the "unwrapped" shot of the entire 960p video signal coming out of the camera and streamed on FB.

Video Quality

For broadcast, you are given the option between 960p and 1280p, and on regular video recording, you’re given the option to 960p, 1080p, and 3K. I do have to say I continually had issues getting 1280p or 1080p to record or stream smoothly on both of my Android devices that I attempted to use it on. My guess is that for this particular problem it's simply a software glitch that may need some additional attention. The 3K video quality looks great, but with the hitch that the upper half and lower half of the video feed get separated with some latency and cause a rift in the video. The 960p did work smoothly but that's 960p spread over the entire 360-degree field of view, so when you're viewing a particular segment, the resolution is in reality much lower.

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This unfortunately is the end result of me attempting to do the high range quality video streaming, even while connected to Wi-Fi.

 

Picture Quality

Photos on the Insta360 Air are great for social media applications and for just messing around with your friends or sight seeing. Should you be trying to really capture the detail of where you're at, this would not be my first go to in that regard, but with its size and portability, it is easy to carry with you without worry of it taking up too much of a footprint in your bag.

The App

The app itself is easy enough to find on your phone's marketplace and installs without a hitch. It's relatively straightforward to use and even includes somewhat of its own integrated social network where you can view other users' uploaded photos. Delving into the camera interface, you're able to select what function you wish to use, whether it be still photos, video recording, live 360-video streaming, or even flat 360-degree filming which is definitely an interesting perspective if you wish to see yourself turned into a balloon head. From the interface, you're able to modify your exposure, choose filters, and even apply a beauty filter, which in all honesty seems like it just turns sharpening off with higher intensity the higher you set it. Linking up your social media accounts was even a fairly simple endeavor, apart from YouTube, and that was only due to there being a few extra steps to really get that going. Once you were streaming though everything ran smoothly over data or Wi-Fi connections.

A few drawbacks on the app are it does seem to be a bit buggy at times. There were a few times when the camera would be connected and it would show up as connected but there was no video feed. Most times reattaching the camera would clear up the problem. Exporting photos from the app can be somewhat challenging and sometimes video playback in the app was a bit problematic at times; all software issues which could be fixed simply in a future update. Should an update be made I will update this article.

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The Insta360 Air snuggled up safe and sound in its protective case, ready to be packed away.

Public Feedback

Scouring the various reviews of both the product and the app definitely showed the range of inconsistencies found in the market. While some of the reviews were obvious that people did not check the device compatibility with their phones, some were obvious issues. There were the odd complaints here and there about image quality and connectivity issues between the streaming network and the social media accounts. But overall reviews were pretty evenly split down the middle between positive and negative, with the positive reviews having mostly positive comments to say about the product, especially at the price point it's at on the market.

What I Liked

The Insta360 Air has a lightweight, easy to transport design that you can pack in just about anything. The included case protects the lenses and the exposed data port allowing you carefree travel. It’s a great tool for fun behind-the-scenes videos, photos, and travel photos or videos. It's a fun tool that you can use as a gimmick when you're at an exclusive event to give that extra immersive experience to followers without breaking the bank. It's simple to set up and easy to use, all of which make it a good consumer-level product. It has good construction that seems to be fairly durable and holds up under being tossed in and bounced around in a bag that has now survived two trips out of the country and several trips out of state.

What Could Be Improved

Most of the cons were outlined in previous paragraphs but safe to say the image quality I was personally able to get out of the camera does leave a little to be desired, the app has a few glitches here and there, but considering it is an entry-level 360-degree camera, I wouldn't say the cons should rule this out as a good or fun tool to use. One thing to note about its construction though is its exposed male USB port which could prove to be a weak point as between being the only point of contact on your phone could lead to problems with connectivity down the road or potentially damaging your phone should you drop them while they are put together.

Final Thoughts

Considering the Insta360 Air comes in at $129 and is extremely small and portable, I would have to say I'm relatively pleased with its performance, and I'm sure that with some software updates it will allow me to stream in a higher resolution without glitching. I would definitely recommend this camera as an entry-level 360-degree camera. Don't expect 8K cinema quality 360-degree video, that's far and beyond what the Insta360 Air's design was meant for. Keep that in mind, and I think you'll be pleased with this little camera's performance.

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