Insta360 drags webcams into the 21st century with the new Insta360 Link

Tips & Techniques

Webcams aren’t exactly a new thing. They’ve been around since the days of the parallel port and other than switching to USB, they’ve largely remained unchanged. Most of them still offer potato-quality images and very little has changed by way of their design. It’s not much of a surprise, though. With only a couple of companies actually making a name for themselves with webcams, there hasn’t really been a big push for innovation.

Well, that might be changing now as Insta360 announces its entry into the world of webcams with the Insta360 Link. Their webcam features a 4K resolution 1/2″ sensor, built-in 3-axis gimbal with AI tracking, smart gesture control, phase detection autofocus, HDR mode, dual noise-cancelling microphones and it can even switch to a vertical 9:16 orientation for streaming to social media.

Webcams have become very popular over the last couple of years as more of us have needed to take to the Internet for our online meetings rather than doing them face to face. More of us have also started to live stream to platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Many photographers who teach have also switched to doing online training rather than in-person, too. And Insta360 takes all of these up to the next level.

With 4K UHD resolution at up to 30fps, the Insta360 Link offers better detail with a higher dynamic range than other webcams on the market thanks to its 1/2″ CMOS sensor. It’s also capable of capturing 1080p at up to 60 frames per second for smoother live streaming performance. And the 3-axis gimbal means that as you move around in front of the camera, it can adjust to follow you and you can use gesture control to zoom it in and out.

Phase Detection Autofocus also means that it should never focus on the wall behind you instead of on your face. And if you need to hold something up to the camera to let the viewer see it, Insta360 says Link offers near instant focusing with a minimum focus distance of only 10cm. So now you don’t need to choose between holding it so close it’s out of focus or so far away that your viewer can’t actually tell what you’re showing them.

It also features an HDR mode to give a greater balance between the shadows and highlights, a common problem for most webcams is that they can’t handle a little bit of soft light coming in through the window and balancing it with the room lighting. In auto exposure mode, you get +/-3EV exposure compensation but you can also set the ISO, shutter speed and white balance manually, too. The aperture is fixed at f/1.8 with a 26mm equivalent lens.

But by far, the standout feature on the Insta360 Link is that it features a built-in 3-axis gimbal. It’s basically like having a DJI Pocket as a webcam. This is what allows the AI tracking to work, with the camera moving to follow you as you move – very handy if you’re a bit animated in front of the camera. And if you’re teaching online, it also has a whiteboard mode that lets it automatically zoom in to have the whiteboard fill the frame when you’re jotting things down to it.

Gesture control allows you to zoom in, zoom out, enable and disable AI tracking and switch between whiteboard and regular mode seamlessly without having to physically click to change modes in a piece of software. And, naturally, there is software. Insta360 Link is a USB camera, designed for use on Windows and macOS and comes with a desktop companion app to let you configure things the way you want or adjust and tweak things during your stream or Zoom chat. The camera can then be added into OBS or any video conferencing in the same way you would with any other USB webcam.

Another particularly cool feature is that it includes DeskView and Overhead modes, allowing you to switch it into top-down views of your desk, with automatic perspective correction – very handy if you’re a YouTube channel that includes things like unboxings in your content. This ability to face the camera downwards also means that the Insta360 Link automatically goes into privacy mode after 10 seconds of inactivity, pointing the camera straight down to prevent unwanted eyes from seeing its view.

That gimbal also leads to the Insta360 Link’s second standout feature and that’s portrait orientation live streaming. The Insta360 Link offers native uncropped 9:16 mode, where the gimbal rotates the camera to 90°, allowing you to insert it into OBS and then stream out to vertically oriented platforms like Facebook. And having both a monitor clip as well as a 1/4-20″ threaded socket underneath, you get a lot of versatility on where and how you want to mount it.

The Insta360 Link certainly elevates webcams up to a whole new level compared to what else is out there on the market. Hopefully, this means that the likes of Logitech and Microsoft will now start to step things up a bit and we’ll see more of this kind of tech and innovation coming to their product lines.

The Insta360 Link is available to buy now for $299.99 from the Insta360 website or pre-order at B&H.

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