360-degree cameras are still somewhat of a novelty, with a range of options offering decent quality for around $300 or so. A new device launching on Indiegogo Monday could bring some better balance to the cost/effectiveness equation – the Insta360 Air is a clip-on 360-degree video camera with livestreaming capabilities that will cost $99 in pre-order, or $119 when it’s available post-crowdfunding campaign.
While ordinarily I might balk at covering an Indiegogo campaign, the Insta360 brand and its parent company Shenzhen Arashi Vision are no strangers to making hardware – or to making good mobile VR cameras that integrated with smartphones. Their existing Insta360 Nano for iPhone devices has nearly the same optics, and speaking from personal experience, captures impressive quality photos and videos using its two fisheye lenses and built-in automatic image stitching.
Insta360 tells me that the Air will have essentially the same optical quality as the Nano, but with a price tag that’s around $100 less than the Insta360 Nano’s asking price. The Nano features an integrated battery so it can work when it’s away from a device with a power source, while the Air does not, but for users who primarily plan to use this in tandem with a phone anyway, that’s probably not much of an issue. Plus, the Insta360 can also be used with a notebook computer for longer periods of 360-degree live streaming.
The camera captures images in 3K resolution (depending on your smartphone’s capabilities) and 2K video, and video is also software stabilized so that when you’re streaming handheld the picture doesn’t induce nausea in your viewers. It works with both microUSB and Type C connectors for compatibility with a range of devices, too.
Content captured with the Insta360 Air can be shared on social networks or exported for use with VR headset viewing. If you’re looking for a way to dip your toes into 360-degree content creation without a hefty investment, this is probably a good bet. The new cameras should start shipping to backers in March 2017, according to the company.