Have you ever stood on top of a mountain, looked around, and wished that you could capture everything around you in one picture?

Or maybe it was while standing in the middle of Paris’s Gare du Nord Train Station, while hiking Machu Picchu, wandering through the ancient city of Hampi, island hopping in Thailand, or walking the Great Wall of China.

There’s always so much to see and take in when traveling to new destinations that it sometimes seems impossible to capture all the beauty/madness/mayhem/unbelievable in one two-dimensional photograph.

That’s where 360 cameras come in handy. They allow you to capture the entire 360 degrees around you, where you can later relive the feeling of being right in the middle of all the action. And now you don’t even need to invest in an expensive 360-degree camera. Insta360 has two 360-degree cameras that you can connect to your smartphone to turn it into a fully-fledged 360-degree VR camera: Insta360 Air for Android and Insta360 Nano for iOS.

We got our hands on an Insta360 Air and tried it out on the Huawei P10.

Review: Insta360 Air

The specs

  • Phone compatibility: Android phones (needs to be Android 5.1 and higher)
  • App: Insta360 Air, Insta360 Player
  • Minimum aperture: F2.4
  • Photo capture resolution: 3008 x 1504 (3K)
  • Video capture resolution: 2560 x 1280
  • Video: 30 frames per second (FPS)
  • Dimensions [Metric]: 37.6mm diameter
  • Dimensions (US): 0.12ft diameter, 0.13ft height
  • Weight: 26.5g
  • Connector: USB micro/Type-C (Make sure to choose the appropriate version according to your phone)

How it works

Using the Insta360 Air is really easy. All you have to do is download the app, plug the camera into your phone’s connector and open the app. There will be a few initial prompts to get started, like turning your screen upside down so that you can hold the camera at the top, then you’ll be ready to start using the camera.

You can take photos or videos and even start live streaming on Facebook Live, Periscope, or YouTube. Using the camera is quite intuitive, you’ll get the hang of navigating your way around the app in no time. When shooting images or video you can apply exposure compensation or Instagram-like filters, which are applied to the preview image. You can also apply these filters after you’ve taken the image or video if you’d rather shoot in raw quality first.

The Insta360 Air can also be used as a 360-degree webcam on Skype and other video-chat applications after connecting to a PC’s USB 2.0 or 3.0 port.

The app

The homepage in the app includes ‘Daily Selections’ where you can check out videos and photos from other members – some are really good and will inspire you to get creative with your filming. All of your videos and photos will then be stored in your album, where you can go through all of the content that you’ve created.

There is also a range of sharing options which let you choose between sharing full 360-degree photos/video or ‘tiny-planet’ style images or animations. You’ll have to link your social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter, before sharing.

The app includes a live streaming mode to share directly to YouTube, Periscope, Facebook, and Weibo.

In-app settings include:

  • Camera settings: 15-minute recording limit, stitching calibration, shutter sound (on/off), watermark (this replaces the spot where you are holding the phone)
  • Set your storage location
  • Language
  • Facebook/YouTube video quality (data saver, standard, high-definition)
  • Support guide
  • Advanced tutorial
  • Live streaming settings: YouTube, Periscope, FB, Weibo
  • Gyroscope stabilisation
  • Timer – up to 30seconds
  • A few filters – you can film with it or add after
  • Link Facebook account

 

Photo and video quality

The quality of the photos is quite good, in some cases better than the phone’s camera. They include good colour and exposure and the stitching quality that joins the two halves does a good job. There were a few occasions where ‘ghosting’ was slightly visible, but they were mostly fine. Though, like many smartphone camera’s and add-on’s, the night-time quality isn’t too great. Well-lit areas work best.

In video mode in the Insta360 Air can record 2 560 x 1 280 video resolution, which is more or less in line with other entry-level 360-degree cameras. The settings for live-streaming include 1 080P, 1M, and auto. Like the photos, the videos are best in well-lit areas with the colour and stitching quality being just as good as the photos.

When sharing your content on Facebook or YouTube you can adjust the quality to data saver, standard and high-definition.

What we think

The Insta360 Air is a really fun add-on to your smartphone, and does pretty well as an entry-level 360-camera. It’s perfect if you’re just looking to take a few 360 photos or videos on your next big trip to share with friends.

It’s easy to use, portable to carry around (it includes a rubber casing for protection), quick to setup, and provides good quality 360-degree photos and videos. The editing, social sharing, and live-streaming options are also great and help make this a fully-inclusive product.

The Insta360 Air is a great introduction to the world of 360-degree photography that offers a good variety of features and functions to play with. And at $129, it’s also really affordable. For more info, check out their latest summer campaign.