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Insta360 moves from action cams to next-gen webcams. Most webcams feel like drab PC accessories rather than proper cameras, but action cam maker Insta360 is aiming to take them up a notch with its a new 4K, gesture-controlled computer cam.
The Insta360 Link combines a 3-axis gimbal with some smart software tactics to cram a lot of the technology seen in rugged cams like the Insta360 One RS, such as a 1/2in sensor and phase-detect autofocus. The end product is a webcam that is suitable for use as both a vlogging and livestreaming camera.
Some of the software capabilities of the Insta360 Link are comparable to current innovations from companies like Apple and Meta. The Link can detect your movements to keep you in frame as you move around, much like Apple’s “Center Stage” for iPads. However, the Link should maintain higher image quality than the Apple equivalent because it features a gimbal that physically rotates the camera around.
Another mode, called DeskView, has echoes of the Apple’s Continuity Camera for iPhones, which lets you stream an overhead view of your desk during work meetings.
But it’s the gesture controls that promise to elevate the Insta360 Link above your average webcam. Raise your hand to the camera, and you’ll be able to zoom in and out, and also activate camera modes like Whiteboard mode, which will crop in to give co-workers or students a clearer view of your presentation.
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The Insta360 Link’s video and audio quality is also expected to be higher than that of a standard webcam and more akin to a high-end action camera. Its lens boasts a brilliant f/1.8 aperture, a 1/2-inch sensor, phase-detection autofocus, dual noise-cancelling microphones, HDR mode to help with high-contrast lighting, and other features.
The Link can be used with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Google Meet on both macOS and Windows PCs, according to Insta360, and it comes with a built-in clip for attaching to the top of your screen. You can purchase it starting right now for $299, £319, or AU $569.
Analysis: A pricey but intriguing new webcam player
The Obsbot Tiny 4K has comparable abilities and, like the Insta360 Link, is also fairly expensive. The Insta360 Link isn’t the first camera we’ve seen with a gimbal or movement-tracking abilities. For gamers and livestreamers, alternatives like the Razer Kiyo Pro and the Elgato Facecam are among the best webcams available.
But what makes the Link particularly intriguing is that Insta360 has a wealth of expertise in creating distinctive hardware and software that is very well-liked by social media creators. Despite the name of the business, it also produces some of the best action cameras available, including the Insta360 One RS.
Given how closely the Link resembles a DJI Pocket 2 for your computer, we’re surprised that the likes of DJI and GoPro haven’t jumped into the webcam space yet. But Insta360’s slightly belated move certainly makes sense, even if many of its potential buyers may have already invested in a premium webcam.
While a 1/2in sensor is relatively large for a webcam, the Link is still unlikely to match the quality of the best mirrorless cameras. We have also found some of Insta360’s products to be a little undercooked in the software department at launch, requiring a few firmware updates before they are truly polished.
But despite these caveats, we’re looking forward to seeing how Insta360’s hardware and new software skills combine in our full Insta360 Link review soon.