Thursday, January 26, 2017

Insta360 Air is here! First impressions


The Insta360 Air is here!  I was actually the first person to order it on Indiegogo and to show their appreciation, Insta360 has sent me the very first retail unit, ahead of the official release.  Here are my first impressions.

Update: Insta360 Air is now available on Amazon!

INTRODUCTION
The Insta360 Air is a 360 camera for Android smartphones.  Since 360 cameras are still very new for most consumers, Insta360 started with a device that consumers are very familiar with -- their smartphone -- and they designed a 360 camera accessory for smartphones.  Insta360's Nano for iPhone (reviewed here) proved very popular and now it has created the Air for Android.

However, rather than merely creating an Android version of the Nano, the Air is a totally new design that is even simpler than the Nano.  Whereas the Nano could be attached to an iPhone or used independently as a 360 camera, the Air is purely a smartphone accessory.  This further tightens its integration with the smartphone.  For example, there's no need to charge it -- it simply uses the phone's battery.  There's no need to sync photos either -- photos are saved directly into the phone.

With these design changes, Insta360 has been able to make the Air much smaller than the Nano (itself a compact 360 camera) and almost half the price.

SPECIFICATIONS
Here are the key specifications:
- photo resolution: 3008 x 1504
- video resolution: 2560 x 1280 @ 30 fps (some phones will be able to use 3008 x 1504 @ 30 fps)
- realtime in-camera stitching
- share photos and videos to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WeChat
- 360 livestreaming to Facebook and YouTube

WHAT'S IN THE BOX
Update: here is an unboxing video:
Larger version of the video here.


The cube-shaped box looks very sleek.  After you remove the outer sleeve, you'll find a handsome box with a clean-looking minimalist design.  As you lift the cover, you'll see the Insta360 Air nestled in a receptacle.

The Air comes with a silicone rubber cover that serves both as a lens cap / camera case and a stand:

The Insta360 Air itself is tiny, about the size of a ping pong ball.  It has a somewhat futuristic looking design that reminds me of a Star Wars droid.

The Insta360 Air has cool details.  For example, on top of the camera is the Insta360 logo:


The dot in the middle of their logo also serves as an LED status light for the camera:

The Insta360 Air is available with either a Micro USB port or a USB Type C port.  The one I ordered has a Micro USB port.


Here's how it looks on a Samsung S6.  One thing I like about the Air better than the Nano is that because the Air is much smaller and doesn't extend toward the body of the phone, it is possible to use almost any smartphone tripod adapter.


The box also includes a quick start guide (in several languages), warranty card, and a special semi-rigid USB adapter that can also hold the Air upright when being used as a webcam (note: the USB adapter has to be used vertically -- it won't support the Air diagonally or horizontally).

The box for the USB adapter includes a small hole to make it easier to remove it from the case.



Speaking of warranty, it's not 60 or 90 days but one year, just like Apple iPhones for example.

Another item you'll find in the box looks like a tiny screw.  It's actually a pin used when installing the firmware.  You can see that beside the USB port there's a tiny hole where the pin is inserted.

When used, the pin should be inserted vertically (not radially).

PERFORMANCE
So how does the Air perform?  Like I said, it hasn't been officially released yet, so I'm only using the pre-release version of the app (version 0.5.2 build 20161220), which doesn't have all of the functions of the release version yet.  The [prerelease] app is available for download from the Google Play store.

However, so far it seems similar to the Nano in terms of controls and usability.  As with the Nano, inserting the Air automatically launches the app (assuming you've installed the app).


In this early version of the app, there are two modes - photo and video, but in the release version, there is a third mode for livestreaming.

The live preview is fully spherical, and you can swipe it to look around.  In this version, there are controls for a self-timer (3 seconds, 5 seconds or 10 seconds).  There's also exposure compensation (from -2.5EV to 2.5EV, in 1/4 stops).  There's an adjustable beautifying filter (to make wrinkles and skin blemishes less apparent) and a collection of Instagram-like filters, which are both reversible.
self-timer and exposure compensation

beauty filter and instagram-style filters
In terms of image quality, so far it looks similar to the Nano with pleasant colors and contrast, except that the stitching seems better.  I'll have to test further to see.

As for the video, the Air's resolution is dependent on your phone's processing power.  For powerful phones such as the Samsung S7, the resolution is 3008 x 1504.  For other phones, the video resolution is 2560 x 1280.  My phone (Samsung S6) can only manage 2560 x 1280 but interestingly enough, I haven't noticed the difference compared to videos from the Insta360 Nano (which has 3008 x 1504 resolution).  Again, I would have to conduct tests to see.

Sharing is easier than on the Nano or any other 360 camera I've tried.  Photos and videos are stored in your camera (on the app) so there's no need to remember to download or synchronize them.  Photos and videos are stitched in-camera, so you don't have to wait for stitching either.  However, note that photos and videos are still in the proprietary .INSP and .INSV formats therefore to be used with other apps, they need to be exported to your camera roll (but it's pretty fast).

Finally, I haven't gotten to test the livestream capabilities or the other functions.  I will post an in-depth review when I get the release version of the app.  In the meantime, I will take some test photos and videos for comparison with the Nano.  But so far, the Air looks very promising and looks like an amazing value for its $119 MSRP.

As a reminder, at the time of this writing, it's still possible to get the Insta360 Air with a 20% discount through Insta360 Air's Indiegogo crowdfunding page, but there are only a few hours left (it ends January 26, 11:59pm Pacific Time).

Update: here are initial sample photos and a video.

WHERE TO BUY
Insta360 Air is now available on Amazon!

RELATED POSTS
Hands-on with Insta360 Air, a 360 camera for Android with livestreaming
Insta360 Air app now available for download; sample photo and video included
Insta360 Studio update adds support for Insta360 Air
You can do a video call chat on Skype with Insta360 Air!
Insta360 will enable one-button livestreaming!
Insta360 Air will ship early
Insta360 Air's crowdfunding campaign has been successfully funded after just one day
Facebook launches livestreaming but which devices are compatible?

13 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, I've been exercising. haha just kidding. Yes, the Air looks cool!

      Best regards,
      Mic

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    2. Hi, looking forward for a test footage (photos/videos). Thanks!

      Delete
    3. Absolutely! Thanks Tom!

      Best regards,
      Mic

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  2. You've almost convinced me, Mic. Just need to see some sample vids a photos done by you.
    Hopefully, before the campaign ends. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rich. I've taken some videos but I haven't uploaded them yet. Let me try to do that and then post a link.

      Best regards,
      Mic

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    2. And here you go: http://360rumors.blogspot.com/2017/01/sample-photos-and-video-from-insta360.html

      Best regards,
      Mic

      Delete
  3. I can't wait to get mine. This is really promising. And if I can use it with my Zhiyun Smooth II in selfie mode, I'll be even more impressed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tanuki. Yes I think you should be able to use it with the Zhiyun Smooth II. I look forward to seeing your videos with it!

      Best regards,
      Mic

      Delete
  4. The quality of the video and photos in your samples are much better than I expected. Obviously this is marketed as a tech gadget and not for professional use but but I'm impressed. Thanks for uploading some samples

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks my friend. I agree, and I think it's a great 360 camera for casual shooting or for quick sharing to social media.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      Delete
  5. Have you compared quality while viewing in a VR headset such as Google Cardboard? That could be where the rub is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brian! I haven't done a comparison because the Air app I'm using is just the beta version. But rest assured I will compare them when I get the release version of the app.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      Delete

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