REVIEWED: Insta360 Nano dual lens for iPhone

The latest craze in travel photography? This 360° dual fish-eye lens links to the Apple Lighting slot on an iPhone impresses, and its cardboard packaging even doubles as a Virtual Reality headset

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360° is everywhere, but can your phone handle the latest craze in travel photography? It can’t – not on its own – which is why the Insta360 Nano has been launched to add 360° capability to iPhones. What’s more it can not only shoot, but livestream 360° panoramic stills and videos directly from an iPhone. Travel photography will never be the same again.

A fish-eye future?

Essentially a 360° dual fish-eye lens that links to the Apple Lighting slot on an iPhone, Insta360 slips onto it and generally uses its host only as a viewfinder, using its two fish-eye lenses – one facing forwards and one backwards – to record 360° photos (8 megapixel) and videos (3K footage at 30 fps as MP4 photos) to a microSDXC card. From there’s it’s easy to transfer them to your phone directly without having to go online.

Simple set-up

First take the Insta360 Nano, which weighs just 70g (and 214g) when attached to an iPhone 7), insert a microSD card, and attach it to the back of the iPhone, slotting its Lightning connector into the phone. It works with iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. It fits like a glove.

Using the Insta360 Nano

It’s an absolute breeze to use; you just swivel your iPhone upside down, then point and shoot, with a live preview of what you can see in front of you on the main screen, which you can drag a finger around to see all of. Meanwhile, in the corner of the screen is a preview of the entire 360° image you’re about to create. It’s really rather amazing – there is no join between the lenses evident in the image. OK, so the need to view 360° content on a portrait-orientated screen is not ideal, but even the preview underneath is big enough to see what you’re producing (though it’s sometimes neccessary to apparently cut your own head off on the full-screenpreview to get a balanced image in the 360° image beneath).

The ‘me’ problem

There are a couple of limitations with Insta360 Nano. The first is the ‘me’ problem; while holding your phone is easy, that does mean that you’re always in the image (and so are your fingers, usually spread-out across the bottom due to the spherical stitching). That all works OK for selfies, for streaming live, and so on, but for travel and landscape photographers who want to use 360° to extract more from a destination, a tripod will be required (if only so the photographer get get far away for a few minutes, and out of shot … if that’s possible with 360°!). Unless you can lean your phone against something, that is going to be tricky, and a separate phone case with a tripod thread isn’t going to work since Insta360 Nano only works with a ‘naked’ iPhone. Maybe we’ll try it with the Bubblescope BubblePod.

Viewing your 360° content

Viewing is easy enough; you can scan around the photos and play the video – and even re-touch them and add filters – or you can share them to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger and even popular Asian messenger app KakaoTalk, or just save them to your phone’s camera roll. It’s also worth pointing out that using Insta360- Nano does drain your phone’s battery really rather quickly, so carry a portable battery with you (though you won’t be able to recharge while you shoot in 360 because the Insta360 Nano uses the Lightning slot).

Ingenious packaging

The Apple-esque packaging on this product is especially impressive, and the quote designed by Insta 360, made in China’ detailing is just too much of a tribute. However, this product does have absolutely awesome packaging. not because it makes us all excited for the un boxing that Apple fans love so much, but because the Insta 360 Nano’s box also doubles as virtual reality goggles. Oh yes!

Cardboard viewer

Hard to believe? It’s true – the compartment the houses the Insta 360s felt drawstring bag ( which, incidentally, is good quality and context the product really well when it’s in your bag or pocket) – has a felt back drop that allows a phone to be snugly inserted. it works really well with the iPhone six and iPhone seven we fight. then you simply close the box top using about magnetic clasp and look through the to eye holes on the bottom, which even has a cut out to put your nose in. soapy playback the footage you taken and you can see it in wraparound glory; literally turn your head while holding the box to your face and you will be able to look around your photos up and down as well as right and left in a 360 fashion. Hence the name!

360° triumph

Is there any easier way of shooting handheld 360° content using just a phone? Absolutely not, and despite the Insta360 Nano being mostly about convenience and ease of use at the slight cost of versatility (it would be great to have a tripod option on the bottom of the product, perhaps where the microSDXC slot is at present), it’s a great way to get 360° into your travel plans ASAP, and with the minimum of fuss. Seriously, the virtual reality era – which is just around the corner – will thank you. No doubts here; the Insta360 Nano is a gadget for true travel photography pioneers.

Price as reviewed: UK£199/US$195

Buy the Insta360 Nano