Most 360-degree cameras are bulbous affairs, best used at the end of selfie sticks. The Insta360 Nano’s slim design is much more portable, and, though it costs $199, takes reasonably good images for the price. It has a few quirks, and only works with the iPhone, but all in all, it’s a good way to get into the world of 360-degree photography.
The Insta360 Nano bears a closer resemblance to stick-style 360-degree cameras such as the LG 360 than the circular-shaped Samsung Gear 360; this design means that you don’t need to attach a selfie stick to the camera to be able to hold it easily. Measuring 4.3 x 1.3 x 0.8 inches, the Insta360 Nano is slim enough to slide into a pants pocket, though I wouldn’t do so without first putting it in its protective cloth bag, for fear of scratching the lenses.
The top third of the camera, where the two lenses are housed (as well as the Lightning connector for your iPhone), is about twice as thick as its long “tail,” which drapes down the back of the iPhone. The Insta360 Nano is designed such that you’ll have to remove any case you have on your iPhone prior to attaching the camera.
However, you can use the Insta360 Nano without attaching it to your iPhone, as it has a built-in 800mAh battery. You just won’t be able to view photos and video until you connect it. On the bottom of the camera is a microUSB port as well as a microSD card slot.
The box that the Insta360 Nano comes in even has a second purpose--a VR headset. It’s pretty rudimentary, like a giveaway Google Cardboard. There’s no way to adjust the focus, and, because it has to accommodate both size iPhones, my smaller iPhone 6s slid around a little. Still, kudos to Insta360 for thinking of this.
A funny thing happens when you attach the Insta360 Nano to your iPhone. The Insta360 app launches, but it’s upside-down. That’s because the Nano’s camera is closest to the bottom of your phone, so in order to get a good photo, you’ll need to flip the phone, bottom end up. This takes some getting used to, especially when you share a photo or video to a social network, such as Facebook. When you exit the Insta360 Nano app, the screen flips back around—you’re going to rotate the phone in your hands a lot.
The smaller size of the Insta360 Nano’s cameras means that you don’t get as high a resolution as you would from larger 360-degree cameras, such as the Gear 360. However, for its purposes, the Nano’s 3040 x 1520-resolution images were pretty good—higher than the comparably-priced LG 360 (2560 x 1280).
In a photo outside the Philadelphia Art Museum, the camera did a respectable job capturing the entire scene, but zooming in on the museum itself, as well as the fountain in front, revealed a bit of pixelation.
Indoors in a darkened ballroom, the camera also performed well; it accurately captured my and my fiancee’s skin tones, as well as the colors of the room. The image was grainy, but again, not bad for a small handheld device.
The stitching of the two images was pretty seamless, but I did notice a bit of blurriness where the two parts met.
Upon opening the Insta360 app—which, as I mentioned, requires you to turn your phone upside down—the homescreen shows the photos and videos you’ve taken, a button to start shooting, and a Settings menu. Pretty simple.
After taking a photo, the app, lets you retouch images by applying various filters or applying a Beauty filter.
If you upload a photo or video directly from Insta360’s app to, say, Facebook, it inserts a preview and then takes you to an Insta360 page, and places the image inside a representation of an iPhone.
Here, you can change the view (Fisheye, Stereographic, Little Planet, and others), as well as view it full-screen on a desktop or laptop.
However, you can also download the image from the Insta360 app, and then upload it to, say, Facebook, which will recognize it as a 360-degree photo. Both methods worked well.
If you’re more of an instant-gratification type, you can also livestream to Facebook and YouTube.
iPhone users who are looking for a fun little 360-degree camera will find a lot to like in the Insta360 Nano. It fit easily into a pocket, takes pretty good images for the price, and makes them easy to share via social media. Like the Samsung Gear 360, I wish it worked with more than one mobile operating system, but in the Insta360 Nano’s case, this decision is more justified based on its hardware design.
Android users looking for a sub-$200 360-degree camera will be better served with the LG 360, but iPhone 6 (and later) owners will find this to be a capable and portable 360-degree camera.