Video / Hands-on Review

Introducing the Insta360 Pro: A Spherical VR Workhorse

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Stepping up into the professional content game, Insta360 introduced the Pro Spherical VR Camera, a fully-featured 360° spherical content creating platform. Its 6-camera configuration can capture enough information to render out 8K video while keeping the size of the unit itself to a minimum. While there are larger units that may have more cameras and more sophisticated stitching options, the Insta360 Pro serves as an excellent middle ground. The prospect of high-quality spherical video in a unified form-factor at a fraction (sometimes less than 1/10) of the cost of larger solutions is very desirable.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the features that the Insta360 offers. Spherical video and photo capture can be done at up to 8K, with 3D options for video topping out at 6K, so there’s plenty of resolution to go around. The six cameras sit around the equator of the aluminum/polycarbonate spheroid chassis, which is roughly the size of a large grapefruit. Each camera can record at 2K resolution, and has a lens with a 200° fisheye angle-of-view, providing enough coverage to generate a fully spherical video with minimal artifacts once stitched.

All functionality of the Insta360 Pro is controlled via the free iOS, Mac, or Windows applications. Change your recording resolution, frame rate, bit-rate, and more with simple gestures or clicks. Remote control of spherical video cameras is important, as directly interfacing with the camera can disrupt recorded footage.

While many larger spherical video systems rely on proprietary recording media, or a major investment in memory cards, the Insta360 can record all its video on a single SD card (v30 speed certification required). H.264 compression applied to the video saves space and retains video quality, allowing the video to be stored on widely available media. Longer recording times can be achieved by attaching an external SSD drive over USB.

Each camera records a separate file for stitching later. You can use nearly any stitching software to process your video and encode it to a fully stitched format. Since each camera records at 2K resolution, punching in to create a virtual camera angle can be done while keeping the images sharp and relatively artifact-free. The built-in gyroscope is a particularly exciting feature, especially for those who like to keep the camera moving. When encoding the video, the Insta360 Stitcher software will be able to read the gyro data, automatically stabilizing the video to ensure a constantly level horizon line.

Example of stitching. Click to enlarge.

Another area in which the Insta360 Pro competes is live streaming. Using the built-in wired and wireless network connectivity, the Insta360 Pro can stream straight to any of the popular CDNs such as YouTube, Facebook Live, or Webio, or straight to a remote server in either H.264 or H.265 formats. Local streaming can also be done by connecting the Insta360 Pro’s HDMI terminal to a television or head-mounted-display for instant VR monitoring.

If you’re looking to step up into the spherical video and VR media market, the Insta360 Pro is definitely a good option. High-resolution recording, portable form-factor, ease-of-use, and versatile output configurations make the Insta360 Pro a convincing product in an ever-expanding market. For more product info, as well as updated pricing and availability info, check out the B&H superstore website.

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