Most webcams look like drab PC accessories rather than proper cameras, but action camera maker Insta360 aims to take them to the next level with its new gesture-controlled 4K computer camera.
The Insta360 Link includes a lot of tech seen in tough cameras like the Insta360 One RS, like a 1/2-inch sensor and phase detection 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 vlog or live stream camera.
Some of Insta360 Link’s software abilities are similar to what we’ve seen recently from companies like Apple and Meta. Like Apple’s ‘Center Stage’ for iPads, Link can track your movements to keep you in the frame as you move. But since the Link has a gimbal that physically moves the camera, it should maintain better image quality than the digital zoom used in Apple’s equivalent.
Another mode, called DeskView, has echoes of Apple’s Continuity Camera for iPhones, which lets you broadcast a bird’s-eye 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 be cropped 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. Along with the 1/2-inch sensor, its lens has a bright f/1.8 aperture, and there’s also an HDR mode to help with high-contrast lighting, as well as phase-detection autofocus and dual noise-canceling microphones.
Link has a built-in clip to attach to the top of the screen, and Insta360 says it supports Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Google Meet on macOS and Windows computers. You can order it from today for $299 / £319 / AU$569.
Review: An expensive but intriguing new webcam player
The Insta360 Link isn’t the first webcam we’ve seen with a gimbal or motion tracking powers – the Obsbot Tiny 4K has similar abilities and, like the Link, is also quite pricey. Alternatives like the Razer Kiyo Pro and Elgato Facecam are also some of the best webcams available to gamers and streamers.
But what’s particularly interesting about Link is that Insta360 has a lot of experience developing unique hardware and software that are particularly popular with social media creators. Despite the company name, they don’t just make 360 cameras – they also make some of the best action cameras on the market, like the Insta360 One RS.
Given how closely the Link resembles a DJI Pocket 2 to your computer, we’re surprised the likes of DJI and GoPro haven’t yet entered the webcam space. But Insta360’s slightly delayed move certainly makes sense, even if many of its potential buyers have already invested in a premium webcam.
While a 1/2-inch sensor is relatively large for a webcam, the Link is unlikely to match the quality of the best mirrorless cameras. We also found that some Insta360 products are a little poorly prepared in the software department at launch, requiring some firmware updates before they are really polished.
But despite those caveats, we’re looking forward to seeing how Insta360’s hardware and new software abilities combine in our full Insta360 Link review soon.