Avatour works with several different 360° cameras to enable real-time remote presence. Learn about the pros and cons of different camera options in this article.
TL;DR: the best 360° camera for most Avatour users is currently the Labpano Pilot One; a good less-expensive option that works with a phone is the Insta360 One R. We are always evaluating new devices as they become available, and we update our recommendation regularly. We recommend buying a complete kit from us, but we can also provide a shopping list.
Standalone Cameras with AVATOUR integration
The Labpano line of 360° cameras - including the Pilot One and the Pilot Era - boast built-in touch screens and an Android operating system, allowing the AVATOUR app to run directly on the device. They also have higher-resolution sensors than other portable devices, enabling capture at up to 8k resolution. This combination of capabilities provides unparalleled quality, ease-of-use and reliability.
Although the Labpano devices are more expensive than typical 360° action cameras, they don't require a separate phone, so the total system price is comparable. Enterprise customers who want to distribute systems for easy use by personnel without requiring use of personal cell phones should look at the Pilot devices first.
Cameras with AVATOUR integration on mobile devices
Another option is to combine a 360 "action camera" with a mobile device. Avatour has worked with camera manufacturers Insta360 and Ricoh to tightly integrate their products with the Avatour Host app. This enables us to directly control these cameras, making for a convenient experience for users.
- Insta360 One R: The One R is our recommendation within this category, and the device we include in our "add-on" kits. It's a multi-purpose action camera with slightly improved image performance when compared to the One X. Its form factor is less convenient, though, and hot-swapping batteries on the One R is impossible due to the design of its mount. With the use of a USB-C splitter, an external battery or wired power may be used to extend battery life indefinitely.
- Insta360 One X: This is our previous default recommendation, and was included in our original turn-key Avatour kits. The OneX is cost-effective and reliable, with an excellent form factor and good-quality 4k real-time capture. While its battery cannot be charged during live streaming, Avatour permits hot-swapping of replacement batteries in seconds without ending the session, enabling longer sessions with minimal difficulty. However, continuous power is impossible, and supply shortages for this camera have made it difficult to obtain. It's still a good choice if you can find it.
- Insta360 One X2: The One X2 combines the benefits of the One X (good form factor) with the improved image quality of the One R. But it has a couple of significant drawbacks: (1) we have seen some reliability issues with the cable connection, and (2) there is no good solution for powering it longer than for the internal battery. The USB-C splitter cables we have tested don't work, and replacement batteries are very difficult to find. As a result, while the One X2 device works with Avatour, we cannot recommend it at this time.
- Ricoh Theta V: The Theta V is an older device with inferior video capture quality to either Insta360 device above. It is unable to maintain 30fps while livestreaming and has a tendency to overheat in hot locales. However the fact that it works without a cable connection to the Avatour Host device means that it can accept external power while operating, making 24/7 continuous operation possible. This also makes it impossible for Bluetooth audio to be used, and creates an additional point of connectivity failure. We generally don't recommend the Theta V for these reasons.
- Ricoh Theta Z1: The Theta Z1 is the latest and highest-quality camera in the Theta line. It offers significantly better sensor and lens quality than the other devices, providing improved sharpness. However it shares some of the drawbacks of the Theta V: the lack of bluetooth audio and an additional wireless connection. The Theta Z1 is a good option for situations where continuous power is required.
Cameras without integration
The Avatour Host app may also be used with any 360° camera which can deliver an equirectangular RTMP feed to a specified URL. Simply set the Avatour Host camera setting to "Other (Manual)" and copy the "Ingest URL," and paste it into your camera's livestreaming app.
We have seen mixed success with non-integrated devices, however. Some devices simply can't deliver low enough latency to be useful for real-time communications. And even for those that can, when used in this limited integration mode, Avatour is restricted in its ability to optimize visual quality and manage connectivity. The upshot is that if you're not experienced with livestreaming, we strongly recommend using one of the integrated cameras listed above.
Purchasing Avatour hardware
We strongly recommend buying a complete Avatour kit from us - we handle installation and testing and provide a turnkey solution that will get you up and running quickly. However if you want to assemble your own hardware, please review this guide to what you'll need.