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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
15 advantages of the Insta360 Nano S for first time 360 shooters
Sample photos and videos.
Insta360 Nano S for experienced 360 shooters
UPDATE: Stabilization test; getting better stabilization from Nano S.
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
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:
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:
|Lenses||two 210-degree fisheye lenses|
|Field of view||fully spherical|
|Photo resolution||6272 x 3136 (20 megapixels)|
DNG raw mode option
|Exposure modes||Auto +/- 2 EV|
|Video resolution||3840 x 1920, 30fps|
log mode option
|Stabilization:||phone-based gyro stabilization|
|Storage:||removable Micro SD|
|Connectivity:||MFI-certified lightning connector|
Bluetooth LE 4.0
iPhone 7/7 plus
iPhone 6s/6s plus
iPhone 6/6 plus
|Dimensions:||110 mm x 33mm x 21mm|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!