For the first-half of 2016, Android makers such as LG and Samsung have made a big deal about cameras capable of capturing 360-degree photos and video. Apple, for its part, has yet to announce a camera of its own.
So iPhone users who want to dabble with the hottest photography trend have been left to pick between the relatively unheard of Ricoh Theta S or the LG 360 Cam (Samsung’s Gear 360 doesn’t work with iOS). Until recently, that is, with the release of the Insta360 Nano.
This small, 360-degree camera add-on claims to offer a streamlined method for iPhone users to capture their entire world. Unfortunately, software issues get in the way of fully delivering on that promise.
Review of the Insta360 Nano coming to Mashable.
A video posted by Jason Cipriani (@mrcippy) on
Inside the Insta360 Nano box you’ll find a carrying case and a microUSB cable for charging the camera. The box itself turns into a Google Cardboard-like VR viewer, for viewing newly captured photos and videos within the Insta360 app.
The $200 camera itself is fairly small, boasting 210-degree lenses flanking either side. It’s designed to fit on the iPhone 6/6S and 6 Plus/6S Plus. I attempted to use it with the boxier iPhone SE and was unable to plug the Lightning adapter in far enough for it to work.
You can capture 3K video at 30 frames per second or still images with a resolution of 3,040 x 1,520. An internal 800 mAh battery powers the Nano, with microSD card support for up to 64GB of storage.
On the backside of the camera is a single button that doubles as a shutter release when using the Nano as a standalone camera. An indicator light lets you know when the device is powered on, recording, or charging.
I carried the Nano in my front pocket during my test photo shoots and didn’t find it to be bulky or a hassle to carry. Yes, it’s one more thing you have to worry about remembering to charge and carry around, but it could be worse.
After plugging the Insta360 Nano into your iPhone’s Lightning port, your phone will automatically launch the Insta360 app (or prompt you to install it). Naturally, due to the placement of the camera you’ll need to hold your iPhone upside down in order to interact with the app and snap photos.
You can view photos and videos stored on the camera’s memory card or within the app on your iPhone, share across social networks, copy content to your camera roll, take photos and videos, and adjust settings for the camera all through this one app.
For the most part, the app is easy enough to use. But then there are situations like the screenshot above, where I have no idea what’s going on. I mean, I kind of know — that prompt is displayed after tapping on a button that saves a photo to your camera roll. But is it telling me I was successful, or does it mean there was an error? Turns out, it directly translates to “Save photos success.”
I understand it’s possible this single prompt was overlooked when localizing the app for English, but it demonstrates a consistent lack of attention to detail on the final user experience.
Another example of the user experience falling short is when using the app without the camera attached, you are still forced to turn your phone upside down. Having to turn your phone over to view a photo, then rotate it back to its normal orientation when sharing a photo on Facebook is super annoying.
After using the Ricoh Theta S and LG 360 Cam, I’ve come to understand there’s always going to be some funkiness when it comes to the camera capturing itself in the shot. Ricoh’s software patches over where the camera should be, blending together the surroundings. Insta360 attempts to blend the shot together, patching up what it can’t blend with a logo of your choosing.
Often times, my hand looked like a garbled mess and distracted from the overall photo or video. Adding to the frustration is the fact you cannot take a photo without holding the camera. In other words, you can’t place your iPhone or the camera in a tripod and set a countdown timer so you can join a group of friends or walk across the room. You have to physically hold the camera at all times, which leads to my hands looking rather weird. According to a representative for Insta360, an upcoming update will add a countdown timer to the iPhone app.
Technically, you could use a Bluetooth shutter release to take photos from across the room but that’s one more accessory you have to worry about carrying.
Outside of my hangup with how my hands look in these photos, the Insta360 Nano’s photo and video quality is one of the best I’ve personally used on a 360-degree camera.
I haven’t used Samsung’s Gear 360, so I can’t vouch for the picture quality and seamless stitching. But I can say the Insta360 Nano captures quality photos and videos, and the stitching is often hard to recognize. (A 360 camera captures two images and then relies on software to combine the two with as little distortion as possible in what’s commonly referred to as stitching.) LG’s 360 Cam’s stitching is distractingly noticeable, from my experience.
Insta360’s listing for the Nano on Amazon gives the impression it can be used to stream on Facebook Live and YouTube’s live streaming platform.
I was able to test its YouTube capabilities after a lengthy trial and error following this guide on the company’s website, but have yet to find a setting or guide to use the camera with Facebook Live.
Streaming quality on YouTube wasn’t the best, but I’m sure after some more futzing with bitrates and other settings I could fine tune it.
Still, this is yet another example of where the user experience could be improved. Perhaps there’s a solid technical reason, but I don’t understand why I need to mess with server addresses and bitrates to start a livestream.
I’m not trying to make the Insta360 Nano sound horrible. There are clear software issues and enhancements the company can make to drastically improve the product. A countdown timer is desperately needed, and it sounds like Insta360 is working on adding one.
Allowing the app to work in normal orientation when the camera isn’t attached is another feature that would greatly improve the experience. It’s a bunch of inconsistencies that add up to consistent frustrations.
I have never wanted to like a review product more than the Insta360 Nano. I am envious of Android users and the ease at which they can snap 360 photos, edit and share directly from a phone.
With a few tweaks to the user experience, the Insta360 Nano would deliver on that promise at a fraction of the cost of standalone solutions.
If you’re set on getting into 360-degree camera’s and want something that directly interfaces with your iPhone, the Insta360 Nano is full of quirks, but gets the job done.
Small and portable
Solid photo and video quality
Good battery life
Random prompts in Chinese
Not always user-friendly
Can’t easily capture a photo from a distance
The Bottom Line
The Insta360 Nano needs some software tweaks to truly impress.
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This gadget turns your iPhone into a 360 camera, but it has some quirks – Mashable
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