You will know Insta360 best as a company that makes GoPro-style action cameras with 360-degree shooting capabilities. It’s somewhat of a surprise then, for the company to branch out into webcams – and even more of a surprise to see that its first effort, the Link, employs a drone-style motorized gimbal.
At first you, may question why a webcam, generally not moved while in use, needs stabilization. But then you realize how the gimbal can provide super-smooth panning and tilting which, when combined with a 4K resolution and 4x digital zoom, makes for excellent subject tracking.
At $299.99, the Insta360 Link is very expensive compared to the best webcams (opens in new tab). But it is also intended to be used by educators and professional streamers, as well as anyone wanting to look their best in a Zoom call.
Insta360 Link Specifications
Resolution: 4K at 24/25/30fps, 1080p at 24/25/30/50/60fps
Field of view: 79.5 degrees
Digital zoom: 4x
Microphone: Dual noise-cancelling mics
Autofocus: Yes, from 10cm to infinity
Privacy cover: No, but camera looks down when not in use
Insta360 Link Key features
You can see how the Insta360 Link works and what it does in this official YouTube video.
The big features here are the gimbal, 4K resolution and artificial intelligence. These all work together to offer a subject-tracking experience that is better than any I have used before. You simply raise your palm to the camera to get its attention, then it will follow you to keep your face in the centre of the frame. Even if you walk quickly around the room, it’ll easily keep up, while footage remains perfectly smooth and not at all jerky.
Ultra HD resolution might seem pointless when some video conferencing apps don’t even support it, but those extra pixels mean the Insta360 Link can zoom in without dipping below HD quality. The 4X zoom can be controlled manually via the free Link Controller software (for Mac and Windows), or you can leave it to automatically zoom in and out as you move around your environment.
The camera can also be rotated 90 degrees into portrait mode, for full-resolution streaming in an aspect ratio that works best on smartphones. Or you can attach the camera to a tripod and use the overhead mode for recording what’s on your desk.
There’s also DeskView mode, which points the camera down at 45 degrees, and Whiteboard mode, where you apply a set of included markets to a whiteboard, helping the camera focus on it and stream its content more clearly.
Insta360 Link(opens in new tab)
The Link’s design and build quality live up to the high price. It looks and feels just like the camera and gimbal of a drone, but fitted to a solid base that clips to your monitor or laptop display in the usual way, and also has an integrated tripod screw mount.
There’s a USB-C port on the back for power, and although there’s no privacy cover, the camera faces directly down, at its own base, when not in use. A light round the base flashes blue to show when the camera has understood a hand gesture, and a pair of noise-cancelling microphones are fitted to the front of the base.
It’s a high-quality item that feels like it is built to last, but we’d be wary about throwing it into a bag without something holding the three-axis gimbal in place. Drones tend to have plastic housing to protect their delicate gimbal in transport, but the Link misses out on this.
We like how compact the Link is. It’s easily pocketable and sits on the lid of our MacBook Air without causing it to fall closed. It does get rather hot, however, even when not in use. It’s going to drain your laptop battery more quickly than using the computer’s own webcam, so that’s something buyers should be aware of, if they plan to video stream away from a plug socket.
Insta360 Link(opens in new tab)
The Insta360 Link is pretty much flawless. We found video quality from the large, half-inch sensor to be excellent, as did those on the other end of our video calls, and the way it moves to keep us in frame is fantastic, while the autofocus is quick and pin-sharp. Unlike many webcams, the Link creates a lovely bokeh effect, where the background is blurred and the subject remains in sharp focus, giving your footage a real sense of quality.
It is also quick to recognise hand gestures; make an L shape with your thumb and index finger, then move upwards to zoom in, or down to zoom out. You can also enter and exit Whiteboard mode by making a V shape with two fingers, and turn AI tracking on and off with an open palm.
Enabling HDR helps to balance shadows and highlights, with the camera keeping great control over the background of our shots, even when sitting in front of a bright window. Audio quality is also very good, thanks to a pair of noise-cancelling microphones on the front of the base, and we like how the tripod mount gives added flexibility for where the Link is situated.
The Link Controller app can be used to fine-tune parameters like exposure, contrast, saturation and white balance. It is also where you can manually move the gimbal, zoom in up to 4x, update the camera’s firmware, and enable or disable each of the three gesture controls.
Insta360 Link Verdict(opens in new tab)
Insta360 gets just about everything right with the Link. Yes, it is very expensive for a webcam and only those who really want 4K HDR with AI tracking should consider stumping up the cash. But if those features will enhance your specific use case, then this webcam is hard to fault.
We can see educators getting a lot of use out of the Whiteboard and DeskView modes, while YouTubers could use the Link as a camera for pre-recorded 4K footage, especially if they want to be followed as they move around their studio. For show-and-tell videos, like product demonstrations, the Link’s AI tracking is bound to come in useful too.
It may seem strange using a gimbal for a webcam, when your screen is unlikely to move around like a drone. But the Insta360 demonstrates here how gimbal technology can be used for more than just stabilisation, and in the Link it has produced a world-class webcam.