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Insta360 Nano S review: 4K 20mp 360 camera for iPhone; 21 advantages + 7 shooting tips (updated: February 9, 2018)

Insta360 Nano S review: 21 advantages + 7 shooting tips in 5 minutes
Insta360 Nano S review: 21 advantages + 7 shooting tips in 5 minutes

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 is my review, together with its specifications, features, and my hands-on impressions. February 9, 2018 update: added analysis re dynamic range; February 7, 2018 update: added sample photos and videos

Insta360 Nano S sample photos and videos
Insta360 Nano S sample photos and videos

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Video review.
Specifications
15 advantages of the Insta360 Nano S for first time 360 shooters
Sample photos and videos.
Image quality.
Insta360 Nano S for experienced 360 shooters
UPDATE: Stabilization test; getting better stabilization from Nano S.
Conclusion

Updated: February 5, 2018 – review
Updated: January 27, 2018 (Insta360 Nano S stabilization test and how to get the best stabilization from the Nano S)
Originally posted January 8, 2018


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:

Video review

Here is my video review of the Nano S, discussing its 21 advantages and 7 shooting tips:

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

21 Advantages of the Insta360 Nano S (especially 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.  Here is a sample 360 video with stabilization.

Here is another stabilization demo (from Insta360):

2.  Never misses focus.

Regular cameras can sometimes take too long to focus especially in less than ideal lighting conditions such as backlit scenes.  They can also sometimes focus on the wrong target, making the shot unusable.  The Nano S is panfocal, so it never misses the focus, and you’ll never have to wait to focus.

3.  Flying camera view.

Because the Insta360 Nano S has very good stabilization, a wide field of view, and its shots are always in focus, you can attach the Nano S and iPhone to a smartphone tripod adapter (I recommend the super slim one that is included with the Benro MK10) and connect it to a selfie stick.  With a selfie stick, the Nano S can capture videos that look like they were shot by a floating camera that’s following you.

4. Being present; focus on the action.
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.

5.   Shoot first, point later with Freecapture; show multiple points of view simultaneously

With Freecapture, you can shoot a 360 video that captures everything, and then later use it to create a non-360 view that shows only the best perspective.  FreeCapture can also show multiple points of view.  Among other things, you can use Freecapture to sequentially show multiple perspectives from a single video, if you make two separate FreeCapture videos, you can even show multiple perspectives from overlapping periods of time.

6. 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

Multiview works for video as well (not just photos):

7. Observer vs. participant: stay in the action.
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.   This problem also affects action sports.   With the Nano S, it captures everything around it, so you can stay IN the action, or whatever activity you’re recording.

8. 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.

9.  Take group shots easily

Usually, when taking a group shot , you need to ask everyone to move closer together and you step away to take the shot.  This is inconvenient and can ruin the mood.  Moreover, you’re left out of the shot.  With the Nano S, no one needs to get up and move.   Just place the Nano S in the middle and take the shot of the group – including yourself.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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)

14.  Timelapse with panning

The Nano S can take a timelapse in 360.  Alternatively, you can show the 360 timelapse as a non-360 video and pan the camera in any direction, without the need for a special motorized slider.

15.  Surprising moments.

The Nano S captures everything around it, which lets you capture things that you didn’t expect.

16. Fast movement.

Ever if something moves fast, you won’t miss it with the Nano S.  In my review video, you can see that I could aim the virtual camera quickly enough to capture a shot from a Nerf gun.

17.  Smart Tracking

In Freecapture mode, Nano S can use Smart Tracking, which means it will track a subject and pan the virtual camera automatically.  To be honest, the tracking is less robust than on the Rylo, but it still works. In the sample video below, I was tracking the sushi sign for seared mackerel. BTW, one difference between Nano S smart tracking and Rylo tracking is that on the Nano S, you can position the tracked object anywhere, even off-center.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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

21. 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.


Insta360 Nano S sample photos and videos

Here is a playlist with sample videos from the Nano S, including 360 videos, Multiview, Freecapture type videos, low light samples, indoor light samples, and time lapse.  Please click on the upper left corner to select a video:

Here are Insta360 Nano S sample 360 photos


Image quality and dynamic range

What I find most impressive about the Nano S’ image quality is the dynamic range.   For an entry level camera, the dynamic range is amazing.  Here is a sample shot where you have backlit subjects wearing dark clothes in snow directly lit by sunlight.  Other cameras will have either no detail in the snow (or many patches of opaque white with no detail), or the subjects be too dark and would have not detail.  The Nano S, however, is able to capture both highlights and shadows in this scene with difficult lighting.  This gives me confidence to shoot with it even in contrasty lighting conditions, even on auto exposure, NOT having to worry about whether an important part of the scene will have missing detail beyond the camera’s dynamic range.

Insta360 Nano S has excellent dynamic range
Insta360 Nano S has excellent dynamic range

Here is a 360 photo version:

By comparison, here is a similar shot I took last year, with the Nikon Keymission 360 (which itself also has above average dynamic range). You can see that the sunlit areas in the snow are blown out.  In the Keymission’s defense, you could say the exposure is higher but even if you look at the overall scene, the Nano S has better dynamic range and detail (besides costing half as much as the Keymission).

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, and is quite effective (see the test below). 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.

Image quality: Compared to other 360 cameras, the Nano S has above average levels of detail and resolution. It also has good dynamic range.  Backlit subjects still have sufficient detail.  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.

 


Tip: How to get better stabilization from the Nano S

As I discussed above, the Nano S stabilization works very well. However, to get the best stabilization from the Insta360 Nano S, you should stitch on the phone, not the desktop. I found out that videos stitched on the phone are much more stable compared to those stitched on the Insta360 Studio desktop app (using Insta360 Studio 2.12.0 as of January 27, 2018).  By contrast, on Insta360 ONE, the stabilization is about the same whether the video is stitched on the phone or desktop.

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.  Dynamic range is also very good.  For beginners and casual users, the Nano S provides a very good balance of image quality, features, and affordability.

For experienced users, they will probably want to spend the little extra to get the Insta360 ONE ($299; reviewed here) 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 or for those outside the US, it’s available from Insta360.  Please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. Check back on this page for updates on the Nano S!

About the author

Mic Ty

18 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

  • When will we get the insta360 air mk2 lol as the air ended up being as good as the nano in most ways?
    I like the madv mini but it’s video is worse than the existing air model at 3k so surely we need a android 360 cam that can do 4k video but decent stills.

  • Has anyone had any luck connecting the Nano S directly to Periscope? All i can find online right now only speaks about the Nano connecting directly to Periscope. I figured the S being an upgraded Nano would also work, but i do not see it pop up when in Periscope.

    • Hi Julian. I tried it on Periscope and the Periscope app can’t seem to detect it. Hopefully Periscope will upgrade their app to add native compatibility, though i don’t think they will (they haven’t done it for the One).

      • I don’t think they will. They have a record on hit and run (as they did with DJI drones making it work just for the partnership launch and forgetting about any new model and with GoPro as well)

  • Which one would you recommend between the Nano S and the One? I’m a beginner user planning on going to the World Cup, and would like to capture some nice shots and videos. I can tell the Nano S is more portable, but I’m wondering if it would be worth to go for the One. Thanks!

    • Hi AJ! Without a doubt, I would recommend Insta360 One. It can be used independently with stabilization and that’s a big deal! They’re almost the same in price anyway. plus it has an optional waterproof case. The only reason to get a Nano S is if you really want the video calling feature, which the Insta360 One doesn’t have. you can get insta360 one here https://amzn.to/2IY56vn

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I actually found a link where they include the bullet time bundle for free, which would make the price even closer to the Nano S. Thank you again!

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