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CES 2018: Hands-on analysis of the Insta360 Nano S, a 4K 20mp 360 camera for iPhone and why you should get one

Insta360 Nano S specifications, features, hands-on impressions
Insta360 Nano S specifications, features, hands-on impressions

At CES 2018, Insta360 announced the Insta360 Nano S, a 360 camera for iPhone and the successor to the popular Insta360 Nano, which was the first 360 smartphone camera.  The Nano S features upgraded photo and video resolution and new features including 360 video calling and Multiview.  I’ve been shooting with it for the past couple of weeks and I’m excited about it especially for first-time 360 shooters. Here are its specifications, features, and my hands-on impressions, including 15 features for those who have never shot 360 before.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Specifications
15 advantages of the Insta360 Nano S for first time 360 shooters
Insta360 Nano S for experienced 360 shooters
Conclusion


Insta360 Nano S black
Insta360 Nano S black

The Nano S is a 360 camera for the iPhone. It attaches to your iPhone’s lightning port to use the phone’s large touchscreen for previewing, adjusting, and sharing your shots. The Nano S can also be used by itself (without a phone, I recommend getting the Nano Mount tripod adapter). After shooting, you can then attach the Nano S to your phone to view the photos and videos, and to share them. The Nano S is the second version of last year’s Nano and has many improvements. Here is a video introducing the Nano S:

Insta360 Nano S Specifications

The Nano S looks almost identical to its predecessor, the Nano, but its specifications are a major upgrade from the Nano. Here are the specifications of the Nano S:

Lensestwo 210-degree fisheye lenses
Field of viewfully spherical
Aperturef/2.2
SensorSony
Photo resolution6272 x 3136 (20 megapixels)
DNG raw mode option
Exposure modesAuto +/- 2 EV
Manual
ISO Priority
Shutter Priority
Video resolution3840 x 1920, 30fps
log mode option
Stabilization:phone-based gyro stabilization
Storage:removable Micro SD
Waterproof:No
Connectivity:MFI-certified lightning connector
Bluetooth LE 4.0
Compatibility:iPhone X
iPhone8/8 plus
iPhone 7/7 plus
iPhone 6s/6s plus
iPhone 6/6 plus
Weight66 grams
Dimensions:110 mm x 33mm x 21mm
Battery:800 mah
(60 minutes)
not removable;
USB charging

15 Advantages of the Insta360 Nano S for first time 360 shooters

Most people are becoming aware of 360 cameras, but there are still relatively few people who have one. In my opinion, a big part of the reason is not the cost but a lack of understanding of how they can actually use 360, and its practical advantages over a smartphone or action camera.

This is where the Insta360 Nano S comes in. Its features are designed to help consumers actually use 360. Here are its practical benefits:

1. Super stabilization.
Many cameras or even smartphones have some form of image stabilization, whether optical based or electronic stabilization. Both of them work on the same concept of sensing the camera movement and offsetting the movement physically (by moving the lens or the sensor), or digitally (by cropping the image and offsetting the movement of the cropped image). These stabilization technologies can work well for small movements.

The Nano S is a 360 camera with built-in stabilization. Unlike the EIS in a conventional camera that crops the image (and thus decreases the image quality), the EIS in a stabilized 360 camera such as the Nano S rotates the video (or photo) to offset the movement without cropping.

You can see the Nano S’ stabilization is far more effective than a conventional camera with stabilization. The effect is similar to using a gimbal with your camera.

2. Being present.
Because the Nano S is stabilized and because it captures a fully spherical field of view, it can take photos or record in any position, and at any angle. The important benefit from doing this is that you don’t have to aim it. You only have to hold the camera (at any angle) close to the subject, like an omnidirectional microphone. Because you don’t have to aim it, you can focus on being present and enjoying whatever it is that you’re doing instead of trying to frame the camera’s view correctly.

3. Observer vs. participant
Another problem with a conventional camera is that it makes you an observer rather than a participant. If it’s a dinner, for example, you have to step away from the group to take a photo or video of the group. With the Nano S, it captures everything around it, so you can stay IN the action, or whatever activity you’re recording.

4. Include yourself in the shot
When you take a photo or video with a conventional camera, you’re usually not included in the shot unless you are taking a selfie. The problem is that it leaves out a member of the family or friends — you. With the Nano S, it takes a photo of everything around it, which usually includes you (unless you put it on a tripod and use a self-timer).

5. Capture reactions
If you take a photo or video of something amazing with the Nano S, not only wlll you capture whatever is the primary subject, but you’ll also capture your reaction, and likely those of your family or friends as well.

6. Takes great selfies easily.
With a smartphone or normal camera, sometimes it can be hard to frame a selfie just right with both you and the background you’re trying to capture, especially if you want to use a smartphone’s rear camera. With the Nano S, getting a selfie is pretty easy and you can easily include the background in the shot, on your first try.

7. Capture a special place.
Conventional cameras can often struggle to capture a special place such as a majestic mountain view or an ornately decorated cathedral. The Nano S is great for taking photos and videos of places because it captures everything around it.

8. Transport users to a special time or place with VR.
The Nano S box converts to a Google Cardboard headset, enabling you to get an immersive view of its photos or videos through VR.

9. Tiny planets.
The Nano S’s photos or videos can be converted to a tiny planet view, which can make even ordinary objects look extraordinary.

Insta360 Nano S tiny planet (minor postprocessing)
Insta360 Nano S tiny planet (minor postprocessing)

10. Live streaming in 360
The Nano S can live stream in 360, which can help you connect with a wider audience for your family, friends, or business. The live streaming is also stabilized in realtime.

11. Freecast (Live streaming in tiny planet).
The Nano S is one of the few 360 cameras that can live stream in tiny planet view, and the shooter can control the exact perspective of the tiny planet in realtime.

12. Show multiple points of view simultaneously with Freecapture
One of the ways that the Nano S can show multiple points of view is through Freecapture. With Freecapture, you can extract a non-360 view from a 360 photo or video. Among other things, you can use this to sequentially show multiple perspectives from a single video.

13. Show multiple points of view simultaneously with Multiview
Whereas Freecapture can be used to show multiple points of view sequentially, Multiview takes this even further by creating a collage of 2 or 3 views from a video simultaneously.

Insta360 Nano S multiview
Insta360 Nano S multiview

14. 360 stickers
The Nano S can add whimsical stickers to your 360 photos or videos. Something interesting is that if you use multiview, each window of the multiview is capable of automatically showing the sticker(s) that you placed. You won’t have to put the sticker again and again for each Multiview window.

Insta360 Nano S stickers automatically show up in each window of the multiview
Insta360 Nano S stickers automatically show up in each window of the multiview

15. 360 video calls.
The Nano S is only the second 360 camera to have the ability to make 360 video calls.  The person using the Nano S becomes the caller and has full control over whether to switch to 360 view, or Multivew.  The recipient cannot change the view (unlike a 360 video call by Giroptic iO Ping).  Meanwhile, the recipient’s view is shown using the camera from the recipient’s phone (not his Nano S).  Here is a screenshot from a 360 video call I had with Ben Claremont.

360 video call with Insta360 Nano S
360 video call with Insta360 Nano S

As you can see, the Insta360 Nano S has many features that will enable even beginners to immediately take advantage of the benefits of 360, which is why I would highly recommend the Nano S for beginners and casual shooters.

For Experienced 360 Shooters

Insta360 Nano S tiny planet (minor postprocessing)
Insta360 Nano S tiny planet (minor postprocessing)

The Nano S is designed for beginners but has features that are attractive to experienced shooters as well. First is the stabilization, which has been significantly improved over the original Insta360 Nano. It also has manual exposure, shutter priority, and ISO priority (these exposure modes are available even for video, which is an unusual feature for consumer 360 cameras). It can also capture photos in DNG raw format (which Insta360 Studio can stitch in DNG raw domain) and can shoot videos in log mode.

Compared to other 360 cameras, the Nano S has above average levels of detail and resolution. However, its photo and video quality are not as good as that of its big brother, the Insta360 ONE.  In particular, the bit depth are a bit lower than the ONE. Nonetheless, you can get good photos and videos from the Nano S so long as you work within its limits, such as using a low ISO.

While the stabilization feature works very well, it requires the Nano S to be connected to a phone — there is no stabilization when the Nano S is used independently, unlike the ONE, which is stabilized whether or not it is used with a phone.  Because of these characteristics, for experienced shooters I would still recommend the Insta360 ONE instead of the Nano S.  (However, it is not clear whether the ONE will also get the 360 video call mode, or the Multiview mode.)   Experienced users could get the Nano S as a backup, or to compliment their existing 360 camera(s) with the Nano S’ features.

Conclusion

Insta360 Nano S is an exciting new 360 smartphone camera that is an excellent camera for beginner 360 shooters and casual users.  It has many innovative features that allow users to get the most benefit out of 360.  On the other hand, experienced users will probably want to spend the little extra to get the ONE due to the latter’s versatility and image quality but they may be interested in the Nano S as a backup or secondary camera due to its many features.  Insta360 Nano S is available on Amazon for $239 in black or silver.  Please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. Check back on this page for more sample photos and videos!

About the author

Mic Ty

9 Comments

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    • Thanks Gary! Yeah I like it even though it’s not cutting edge in terms of image quality. My biggest concern is probably the somewhat short battery life. I recommend having a USB power stick or something like that.

      Best regards,
      Mic

    • Hi Remy. Madv Mini is 14mp. This one is 20mp. I think this one will come out ahead. But I will compare them when I get the Mini.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • I had the original Nano, which I traded in favour of the One.
    I´m very dissapointed about the lack of periscope 360 support.
    Does this camera work in 360 as the first one did?
    Also, do you think the 360 chat and multiwindow will appear on the One soon?
    As a professional content creator I need to stream in 360 in Periscope and Periscope producer is not an option, so even when I´m mad at Insta360 for crippling the One I´m considering buying this camera as well.
    Regards

    • Hi Guillermo. Yes Nano S can stream in 360 to Facebook, Youtube, Periscope and Weibo.
      Re 360 video calling and multiview, check out my upcoming post on Insta360’s booth at CES 2018.
      Best regards,
      Mic

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