This gesture-controlled 4K webcam will make you look like a business meeting assistant
Most webcams look like dull PC accessories rather than proper cameras, but action camera maker Insta360 aims to take them up a notch with its new gesture-controlled 4K computer camera.
The Insta360 Link takes a lot of the technology from rugged 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 a few clever software tricks. The result is a webcam that’s also good enough to double as a vlogging or live-streaming camera.
Some of Insta360 Link’s software skills are similar to those we’ve seen recently at Apple and Meta. Like Apple’s “Center Stage” for iPads, the Link can track your movements to keep you in frame as you move. But because the Link has a gimbal that physically moves the camera, it should retain better image quality than the digital zoom used in Apple’s equivalent.
Another mode, called DeskView, echoes Apple’s Continuity Camera for iPhone, which lets you stream an overhead 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 crop to give your colleagues or students a clearer view of your presentation.
The raw video and audio quality of Insta360 Link also promises to sound more like a high-end action camera than a cheaper webcam. Alongside that 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 two noise canceling microphones.
The link has a built-in clip to attach to the top of your screen, and Insta360 says it’s compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Google Meet on macOS and Windows computers. You can order it from today for $299 / £319 / AU$569.
Analysis: 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 skills and, like the Link, is also quite expensive. Alternatives like the Razer Kiyo Pro and Elgato Facecam are also some of the best webcams for gamers and livestreamers.
But what is particularly interesting about Link is that Insta360 has a lot of experience in developing unique hardware and software that is especially popular among social media creators. Despite the company’s name, it doesn’t just create 360° cameras, it also makes some of the best action cameras on the market, like the Insta360 One RS.
Given how much the Link looks like a DJI Pocket 2 for your computer, we’re surprised DJI and GoPro haven’t jumped into the webcam space yet. But Insta360’s slightly late decision certainly makes sense, even though many of its potential buyers may have already invested in a high-end webcam.
Although 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 of Insta360’s products were a little undercooked in the software department at launch, requiring a few firmware updates before they were really polished.
But despite these caveats, we can’t wait to see how Insta360’s new hardware and software skills come together soon in our full Insta360 Link review.