Insta360’s cameras are always a refreshing blast of originality, but its new Sphere accessory for DJI drones takes their fun, immersive video capabilities to new heights. It piggybacks on the DJI Air 2S and Mavic Air 2 to help you create unique effects, including mind-bending, Inception-style videos.
The Sphere promises to bring the unique skills of 360 cameras to the skies for the first time. These all-seeing cameras typically use two 200-degree lenses, which bring two benefits. First, the redundancy between those two lenses lets you use software to remove objects like selfie sticks and, in this case, drones. This is why Insta360 is billing the Sphere as an “invisible drone”.
Shooting 360-degree video also provides a super-wide field of view that software can mold into weird and wonderful video effects. Check out Insta360’s sample video below for a taster – it shows off city-bending effects similar to the ones we saw in the sci-fi classic Inception back in 2010.
These teasers come with a few caveats, though. First, it isn’t clear how much editing has gone into the city-based shots. Also, most regions have pretty restrictive laws around flying drones in built-up areas, so it’s likely that you’d need to get special permissions to be able to create shots like these.
Still, the Insta360 Sphere does look like a fascinating accessory for DJI drone fans to play with – as long as you live in the US or mainland China, which are the only places where it’ll initially be going on sale.
The more likely use case is simply being able to shoot 5.7K / 30p videos in an FPV (first-person view) style, thanks to the ability to quickly switch the angle of view using Insta360’s post-processing Studio software and app (for iOS and Android). The wide angle of view also lets you bring an extra dose of video stabilization to your clips, although the Air 2S and Mavic Air 2 are already pretty good in this department.
The Sphere itself clips around those two drones and weighs in at 192g. Insta360 told us that your drone’s battery life will be reduced by about 20% thanks to that added weight, which means you’ll want to pack some spares. Both of the compatible DJI drones have flight times of just over 30 minutes without the Sphere attached.
As intriguing as the Sphere is, its pricing and availability will initially make it pretty niche. It’ll be available to buy for $ 429 (around £ 345 / AU $ 600) from May 24 in the US and mainland China, and it’s only compatible with the DJI Air 2S and Mavic Air 2. Still, we’re very much looking forward to see what early adopters do with it.
Analysis: the ultimate DJI drone accessory?
In the hyper-competitive world of social media one-upmanship, Insta360’s cameras have been a useful tool for creators looking to create spectacular, viral videos – and the Sphere stretches the 360 camera concept to the limit.
On one hand, the kind of video tools that are now available to amateur creators is pretty mind-blowing. In the US, buying a DJI Air 2S (our top pick for the title of best drone) and an Insta360 Sphere will cost a total of $ 1,428 – not small change, but not exhorbitantly pricey either considering the kind of aerial videos and photos the setup can create.
The Sphere does also have a few practical limitations, though, which are easy to overlook in the face of Insta360’s dazzling promotional clips. Once you’re done editing and reframing its videos, the quality means they’ll be most at home on social media feeds or YouTube rather than the big screen. The sheer size of the files can also make the editing process pretty demanding on your laptop or computer.
Insta360 also told us the the Sphere “has been developed and will be sold by Insta360 without any involvement from DJI”. This means it isn’t an authorized accessory, which could have ramifications for your drone’s warranty or insurance in the case of an incident.
Still, Insta360 did add that that “extensive tests and trials have been conducted for the development of Sphere” and that the accessory “doesn’t impede the drone’s balance or GPS system, nor will it interfere with the flights”. Insta360 also has a good track record of producing polished hardware like the Insta360 One RS and added that “extensive tests and trials have been conducted for the development of Sphere”.
So will Insta360 eventually launch the Sphere in other regions? It told us that “we’d definitely consider launching it in more countries and regions in the future”. Let’s hope that’s the case, as we’re primed and ready to create our home-brewed Inception sequel.