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 packs a lot of the tech seen in tough cams like the Insta360 One RS, like a 1/2in sensor and phase-detect autofocus, and combines them with a 3-axis gimbal and some clever software tricks. The result is a webcam that’s also good enough to double as a vlogging or livestreaming camera.
Some of the Insta360 Link’s software skills are similar to ones we’ve seen recently from the likes of Apple and Meta. Like Apple’s ‘Center Stage’ for iPads, the Link can track your movements to keep you in frame as you move around. But because the Link has a gimbal that physically moves the camera around, it should retain better image quality than the digital zoom used in Apple’s equivalent.
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.
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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.
The raw quality of the Insta360 Link’s video and audio also promises to be more like a high-end action camera than a cheaper webcam. Alongside that 1/2in sensor, its lens has a bright f/1.8 aperture and there’s also an HDR mode to help with high-contrast lighting, plus phase-detection autofocus and dual noise-canceling microphones.
The Link has a built-in clip to attach to the top of your screen and Insta360 says it’s compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and Google Meet on both macOS and Windows computers. You can order it from today for $299 / £319 / AU$569.
Analysis: A pricey but intriguing new webcam player
The Insta360 Link isn’t the first webcam we’ve seen with a gimbal or movement-tracking powers – the Obsbot Tiny 4K has similar skills and, like the Link, is also quite pricey. Alternatives like the Razer Kiyo Pro and the Elgato Facecam are also some of the best webcams around for gamers and livestreamers.
But what’s particularly interesting about the Link is that Insta360 has lots of experience in developing unique hardware and software that’s particularly popular among social media creators. Despite the company’s name, it doesn’t just create 360 cameras – it’s also makes some of the best action cams around, like 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.