Insta360 link: the best webcam ever
The Insta360 link is probably the best webcam available in 2022. Incredibly, 4K video isn’t the coolest thing about this device, which pairs 3-axis AI tracking with useful whiteboard modes , ceiling, desk and privacy. You’ll never want another webcam again.
- 4K video
- 1/2 inch sensor
- AI tracking
- Gesture control
- Rapid focus technology
- Two noise-canceling microphones
- Privacy Mode
- Whiteboard mode
- Mark: Insta360
- Resolution: 4K
- Spin: 90 degrees
- Link: USB Type-C
- Integrated lighting: HDR
- Opening: 1/2 inch sensor
- Frames per second: 60
- Assembly: 1/4 inch
- Compatibility: Windows, macOS
- Easy to connect and configure
- AI tracking is impressive
- Flexible webcam
- Suitable for viewing documents at height
- Privacy mode a nice inclusion
- Gestures are sometimes ignored
- No battery, powered only by USB
During the lockdown years, sales of USB webcams skyrocketed as people tried to look as good as possible on their Zoom calls. Born out of this need to be presentable to colleagues – both visually and collaboratively – comes the Insta360 link.
A webcam from Insta360 that features AI tracking and zooming, it combines the use of a standard webcam with portrait mode, aerial mode, and even a whiteboard mode.
It’s a 4K webcam that tracks your location
Using a webcam for work can be a bit inconvenient. If you even managed to set it up correctly, it is very difficult to move without going out of the field. Documents don’t look great held up in front of a camera, and it’s not like you can easily point the camera at your desk. If you’re using a laptop, you might have thought about bending the screen a bit, but what if you go too far and the computer goes to sleep?
An external webcam is only half the answer. You need a webcam with a built-in 3-axis gimbal, with AI tracking designed to follow you when you talk to the camera. This is the key feature of the Insta360 link, something that unlocks a host of other amazing attributes.
What you get with the Insta360 Link AI webcam
In the box, the webcam comes with a USB Type-C cable, as well as a Type-C to Type-A adapter. There’s also a quick start guide and warranty, plus four whiteboard recognition markers. The device has a 4K camera with a small 1/2 inch sensor.
For testing purposes, we also received a selfie stick, as well as a gooseneck stand with desk clamp and action camera accessories. These would normally be purchased separately from Insta360.
Although not included in the box, Windows and macOS users get a dedicated app to help you get the most out of this camera. Download links are provided and the Link Controller app can also be used to update Insta360 Link firmware. However, it is generally intended to adjust camera speed and replace gesture recognition.
Our tests have shown that you can still use the device without the app if you only need the key tracking and gesture control features.
When unboxing the device, you will be surprised at how small it is. It’ll fit easily in the palm of your hand, and while the base is naturally heavy, the top section of the Insta360’s 3-axis gimbal is lighter and more nimble.
A section of the base folds down for easy mounting on a monitor. Meanwhile, the front of the base hides a tactile reset button and two mics.
A feature-rich webcam experience
Most webcams you plug in and use. The Insta360 link does so much more.
You already know about AI tracking, which is designed to track people rather than objects. Although it has some automatic and default features, AI tracking can be adjusted in the desktop app. This is coupled with phase detection autofocus (PDAF) which focuses quickly to ensure the subject is always in focus.
An important companion to AI tracking is gesture control; this enables or disables tracking, controls zoom, and enters and exits the whiteboard mode of the Insta360 link.
If you’ve used a laptop webcam or even a standard desktop webcam, you’ve probably encountered the challenge of too much light or too much darkness. The Insta360 Link has an HDR mode, which balances highlights and shadows, and prevents bright lights (such as windows or LED lights) from spoiling the image. HDR mode is only available on 1080p and 720p resolutions (both at 24, 25 and 30 fps).
You know those times when the people you’re chatting with on Zoom want to see what you’re working on, and there’s no digital version? This is where DeskView mode comes in. The mounted Insta360 link rotates downward at a 45 degree angle and adjusts perspective to suit the viewer. You can probably already see how this could be useful for sharing sketches, highlighting issues with printed materials, and more.
Activated using the included whiteboard recognition marketplaces, Insta360 Link’s Whiteboard Mode enhances whiteboarding for remote viewers and can be activated with a V gesture or using the app. associated office.
Meanwhile, aerial mode requires the Insta360 link to be paired with a mount, and once activated, the camera rotates 90 degrees downward. This feature is intended to focus on documents, illustrations, and other visual media which, again, do not have a sharable digital copy.
If your audience is likely to watch with a mobile device, you can enable Portrait mode. This can be used either with a tripod (positioning the Insta360 Link so the camera faces you in portrait mode) or by enabling Streamer Mode in the Link Controller app settings.
Finally, if you forget to turn off the camera, Insta360 link privacy mode will initiate after 10 seconds of inactivity, flipping the camera down. This will also happen if no video conferencing or chat application is running.
Setup Insta360 link and gestures
Commissioning the device is simple. You just need to connect it to the USB cable and then to your PC or laptop. The basic mounting option is to place it on your monitor, but the Insta360’s 1/4 inch thread means you can place it on any suitable tripod.
It’s really a plug and play experience, which is good because learning the different gestures can take a bit of time.
On the base of the Insta360 Link is an LED that toggles between green and blue. Green mode indicates it’s working as a basic webcam, while blue means AI tracking is active.
To activate tracking, show a right hand with the palm facing the camera. Repeating the gesture turns tracking off. The Insta360 link also has a zoom feature, which can be activated by displaying an L-shape (thumb at right angle, index finger up, other three fingers bent). Once the LED flashes, you move the gesture up to zoom in or down to zoom out.
Now these gestures seem simple. However, I had some trouble at first with the zoom feature, which zoomed in so much that it refused to recognize my L-shaped hand. Oops!
Fortunately, there is a solution. When things seem stuck, the camera can be reset by double tapping the Insta360 logo.
Where can you use the Insta360 link?
The Insta360 Link is for anyone who uses their computer for video conferencing, video calling, and collaboration. Specifically, Insta360 aimed its AI-powered webcam with 4K video at professionals, educators, live streamers, and content creators.
Various camera features are suitable for these uses. So, 9:16 uncropped portrait mode, AI tracking and Overhead mode for streamers and creators; Whiteboard mode, DeskView mode and AI tracking for educators; and high image and audio quality and DeskView mode for professionals.
Of course, these features are not exclusive to a specific use.
Is the Insta360 link suitable for its different purposes?
The first thing to note is that this is a camera that can completely replace your existing webcam. Everything you wish your webcam could do, the Insta360 link can.
Alternatively, if you’re buying the webcam specifically for video conferencing and online collaboration purposes – not to mention the benefits this camera may have for streamers – it seems to do everything you need.
Success here doesn’t depend on the camera, but on a good internet connection, a mid-range computer that can handle video, and a decent tripod or stand. The Insta360 link can’t do much.
Fortunately, the app is easy to use and the different modes expand the potential of your webcam presentations to unprecedented levels. With one click, you can switch from standard mode to whiteboard mode or use desktop mode. Air mode requires a bit of setup and dedicated support, which can potentially make instant switching a little trickier, but that’s a minor complaint.
What could Insta360 link do better?
Although it is an impressive piece of kit, the Insta360 link is not perfect. This is Insta360’s first camera specifically aimed at the desktop webcam (many other cameras in the line can also double as a webcam), and as such there’s room for improvement.
The first tests of the camera took place without the companion application, in order to judge the AI. It is certainly impressive, but only when it works. As stated above, I had some issues with the zoom feature, but it got better with the firmware update.
It’s an incredibly flexible little camera, but the Insta360 Link is missing one key feature: a battery. Now I’m not suggesting that it could be used as an action camera, but for portable use (say with an unplugged laptop) it would be nice if the device had its own battery and low power mode. It’s a minor gripe, but something I’d like to see in a later version of the camera.
Other than that, if you host video conferences, online tutorials, broadcast on gaming channels or any other platform, and need a versatile webcam with AI tracking and a variety of modes, you need the Insta360 link.