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Insta360 Air
One of the Insta360 Air's twin wide-angle lenses

A cool new add-on that transforms your Android phone into 360° camera is now available in North America and Europe. The Insta360 Air is a tiny wonder about the size of a small, perfectly spherical egg. And – having tried one for just a day or so – TDC has to say it’s pretty impressive.

Using either the USB-C or micro-USB version, the Insta360 Air slides right into your phone and sits there snugly, like a round licorice lollipop. The dual 210° fisheye lenses allow for plenty of overlap, giving you a pretty clean stitch (which is accomplished in your phone using the Insta360 Air app).

insta360 air Scott
For scale – this is the Insta360 Air in my average-sized hands.

What the camera sees is displayed on your phone, and you can freely swipe around your screen to ensure an object of interest is properly in view. We plan on a full review later, but we can say that our initial impressions of this device are *very* positive. We particularly like that you can choose how you’d like the image to display after it has been taken and stored in your new Insta library within your phone. Options include:

  • Default Fisheye: Scroll with your finger to explore the full 360, but with fisheye-like distortion.
  • Perspective: Least distortion, full 360-scrollable
  • Little Planet: You know, like this:

Finally, there’s the Crystal Ball option, which gives you a perfect and scalable sphere. There’s also a variety of enhancements available – including a number of pretty delicious filters and a sketch mode.

We weren’t actually planning on writing about the Insta360 today at all; we literally just received it the day of the above Tweet, and plan on a more comprehensive review in future. However, the company issued a release today to mark that it’s available now.

And the price? Well, some of the other players in this field are in for some serious competition. It’s $129 US. (We have previously reviewed the excellent Ricoh Theta S and the somewhat flawed Nikon KeyMission 360, so we’re familiar with this space.) For what this thing does, it’s a bargain.

See - the Insta360 Air really *does* kind of look like a lollypop
See – the Insta360 Air really *does* kind of look like a lollipop

“The Air is what we’re all about — cutting-edge technology that empowers people to capture and share experiences just the way they live them,” says J.K. Liu, CEO and co-founder of Insta360. “We can’t wait to see what the world’s Android users create.”

The company released its popular Insta360 Nano last year, a device made for iOS phones.

Insta360 Nano

 

The Insta360 Air has excellent sharing tools, including live-streaming support for YouTube and other platforms. (We’ve love to hang it from a drone, but are trying to figure out how to mount our Android phone!) You can also directly share 360 images to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Messenger and more. (And yes, you can also explore your images with a VR-style headset if you want even more immersion.)

Finally, you can also plug in the included USB mini-gooseneck and stream 360 on Skype, allowing people to see just how neat (or messy) your entire room really is. Right now that capability is limited to PCs, though they’re working on a Mac version. (By the time they’re done I’ll have my room clean.)

As for specs, the unit captures 3K photos (3008 X 1504 pixels) and 2.5 K video (2560 X 1289 pixels) at 30 frames per second. It’s smaller than a ping-pong ball – and even more fun. The company also says it’s working on a new firmware version that will bring image stabilization technology to the tiny wonder, allowing users to capture smooth, steady streams for video.

It’s a very cool little add-on, and we suspect the Insta360 Air will find an eager market.


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