Insta360 One is a 4K 360 camera with smart tricks

For those who haven’t been following, earlier Insta360 released a montage of cool sample clips to tease its upcoming camera’s bullet-time video capability. What baffled me at the time was how those slow-motion shots orbited around a person with his upright arm seemingly holding onto something, except there was no visible string nor selfie stick to suggest that the camera was being swung around. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong, but there’s no need to be disappointed — it actually takes a lot more than just a piece of string to achieve this bullet-time effect.

The camera, which has just been unveiled as the Insta360 One, is the latest 360 camera designed to deceive naive folks like myself. This is the company’s second 4K-capable compact device following the aptly-named Insta360 4K but at about half the price — just $ 299.90. The One shoots video at either 3,840 x 1,920 at 30 fps or 2,560 x 1,280 at 60 fps, both with LOG format option which is a first for a consumer 360 camera; and it can take 24-megapixel stills (6,912 x 3,456) with RAW format option — another first for a consumer 360 camera — followed by HDR capture at a later date.

Unlike the older model, the One lacks WiFi connectivity for remote view, but it does come with an 8GB microSD card to get you started. Sports fans will also be delighted to know that the One has an optional IP68 waterproof housing that’s good for depths of up to 30-meter or about 98.4 feet.

Much like the 3K-only Nano, the One can be used as a standalone 360 camera (using the power button or via Bluetooth) or as an iPhone dongle using its retractable Lightning plug (an Android version is due to arrive by the end of the year). It’s also gained a couple of new use methods. For one, the kit comes with a short plastic tube that houses the device on the deeper end to protect its two lenses, while the shallower end lets you mount the device so that the tube can be used as a stand. Alternatively, you can also mount the camera on any standard tripod, monopod, selfie stick or even the bundled string attachment using its 1/4″-20 screw thread.

Needless to say, one of the main selling points of the One is the aforementioned bullet time mode. This trick is a combination of the device’s six-axis image stabilization, powerful 120 fps capture at 2,048 x 512 (which can be boosted to 240 fps via interpolation using the companion app), some video magic to erase evidence of tethering plus a little bit of manual work using one arm. Once the power button’s triple-tap toggle has been mapped to bullet time capture (via settings in the app), simply mount the One on the bundled string attachment or an optional selfie stick, turn it on, tap its power button three times and then start swinging it above your head at a modest pace (with the risk of getting funny looks from folks nearby). When done, simply hit the power button once to stop recording, and then you can plug the camera into your iPhone for playback, editing and exporting to 720p clips.

Perhaps an even more useful feature coming from the One is its app’s FreeCapture tool — a “shoot first, point later” concept that’s clearly going after the upcoming GoPro Fusion’s OverCapture feature. This one’s super easy: just load up a 360 clip in FreeCapture mode, treat your phone as if it’s a conventional video camera at the time of capture (this relies on the phone’s gyroscope), then simply pan around and zoom in or out — all the way to the cute “tiny planet” view, if you want — as you desire for your new “director’s cut” in 1080p. Similarly, there’s a SmartTrack editing tool that can automatically output a 1080p clip based on the subject that you want to be tracked in a 360 clip.

For existing Insta360 users who already have a library of fun 360 clips, a company rep pointed out that you can actually side-load any 360 clip from older cameras to the One’s microSD card, in order to tinker with it using FreeCapture. That said, there are currently no plans to update the other cameras’ apps with FreeCapture, which is all the more reason for existing Insta360 users to upgrade to the One.

As cool as the sample clips look, what remains to be seen is how well these features — especially bullet time — actually work when mere mortals like us give them a go. Alas, the pre-production unit we received didn’t get on well with my iPhone 6 due to the app’s beta nature, so I haven’t been able to upload any of my 360 content. More worryingly, the string attachment I got was apparently flawed and thus rendering all of my bullet-time attempts useless, so unless you really want to get one as soon as middle of next month, you may want to wait until our replacement unit arrives and see how it fares.

Source: Insta360

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Xiaomi Mi 6 mimics the iPhone’s camera tricks without the bump

After the swanky limited edition Mi MIX, you’d think it’d be pretty hard for Xiaomi to top that with its next flagship phone, but the new Mi 6 unveiled today still had some tricks up its sleeve. First off, the company has revived the Mi 5’s awesome curved glass back design along with a special ceramic edition, and this time it’s complemented by a piece of 2.5D front glass panel plus two new color options: metallic blue and glossy silver. To my surprise, Xiaomi has also gone back to the more expensive stainless steel (as used on the Mi 4) instead of aluminum for the mid-frame: not only is it tougher, but it’s also more luxurious with that high-gloss finish — a much welcomed feature on the blue version’s gold-colored frame.

As per usual, Xiaomi has thrown in pretty much the best essential components for its latest flagship, though this time it’s a bit more generous than before. On top of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset there’s a whopping 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM instead of starting at 4GB, a base storage option of 64GB instead of just 32GB, a denser 3,350 mAh battery and an improved under-glass fingerprint reader on the front (though unlike the one on the Mi 5s, this one is capacitive rather than ultrasonic). Based on the display units at the launch event, the Mi 6 is powered by MIUI 8 based on Android 7.1.1 which is remarkably up to date.

What’s more surprising is that the Mi 6 is Xiaomi’s first splash-proof device thanks to the added internal seals, though the company avoided the word “waterproof” throughout the keynote. Indeed, the Mi 6’s product page states that it has yet been put through such certification tests, so you’ve been warned.

After the Redmi Pro and the Mi 5s Plus, Xiaomi is once again dabbling with a dual camera setup on the Mi 6. Rather than going with the increasingly common RGB + BW sensor pairing, this time Xiaomi has taken a page out of Apple’s book to pair a wide-angle lens with a telephoto lens for this 12-megapixel camera: the former has an f/1.8 aperture plus a 1.25um sensor, whereas the latter — effectively a 2x optical zoom — has an f/2.6 aperture with a 1um sensor. However, unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, the Mi 6’s dual camera is flush with the body; plus its wide-angle lens features 4-axis optical stabilization, meaning it’ll take better photos in low-light conditions.

Xiaomi also boasted its latest beautification algorithm which claims to produce more natural looks, and there’s also a portrait mode which automatically adds a bokeh effect. As for selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front camera which takes advantage of the new beautification software as well.

Much like its two predecessors, the Mi 6 is sticking with the relatively humble 5.15-inch 1080p display spec, which is good news for those who prefer something more ergonomic. It’s a nice LCD, too: like before, you get a 94.4-percent NTSC gamut, a brightness ranging from 600 nit all the way down to 1 nit (with 4,096 levels in between), and an optimized blue light filter mode with reduced color cast.

On the audio side, it’s worth noting that Xiaomi decided to ditch the headphone jack for the Mi 6, with the reason being it wanted to offer a cleaner look (ugh), which is why you’ll find a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter in the box. Similarly, there’s no fancy DAC chip here to satisfy audiophiles, though the phone does have a stereo loudspeaker implementation — using the earpiece as one of the two audio channels — similar to those used on recent HTC and Huawei devices for casual video-watching.

As with pretty much all Xiaomi products, the Mi 6 will only be available in China to begin with as of April 28th, with the 64GB model priced at 2,499 yuan (about $ 360) and the 128GB flavor at 2,899 yuan ($ 420). And for an extra 100 yuan ($ 15) you can get the 128GB ceramic edition with 18K gold rim around the main camera lenses. Alas, CEO Lei Jun said the silver edition isn’t quite ready for mass production; it’ll apparently be months before it’s finally ready.

Source: Xiaomi

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