Some tasks require looking at things’ temperatures. This includes checking on the house insulation, locating expensive air leaks, and inspecting the performance of industrial equipment. The problem, though as you surely know already is that temperature is not visible to the naked eye. This is where thermal cameras come in. 

Thermal cameras are handy tools to have visual imagery of surface temperatures. It displays an image of the infrared energy or heat that the object emits.  This image projects the temperature of the objects being scanned. Although it was initially developed for military use, it now serves a wide range of applications from construction, electrical, to regular home inspection. 

This is particularly useful in spotting hot spots and addressing areas of concern (electrical or insulation) before they cause further problems or energy loss. Further, thermal cameras are particularly handy in scaling down your areas of concern so your troubleshooting would be more targeted. 

A handy and useful thermal camera could be expensive, but not necessarily so. You just need to find the camera that offers specifications that are most suitable to your desired applications and live to those promises. You won’t really want a thermal camera that makes great promises it could not really deliver, do you? Hence, we have summarized in this review the top 5 thermal cameras that were tried and tested and could suit your different purposes. This is all possible through the aid of one of our SolidSmack editors who is a former QA engineer, Sunny Adams. So, join us as we discuss our verdicts about these top 5 awesome picks!

Best Thermal Cameras Comparison & Rating

Thermal Cameras

Features

FLIR ONE Pro - iOS - Professional Grade Thermal Camera for Smartphones - with VividIR and MSX Image Enhancement Technology
  • ±3°C or ±5% accuracy 
  • 19,200 pixels
  • -20℃ to 400℃ temperature range
Higher Resolution 320 x 240 IR Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera. Model HTI HT-19 with Improved 300,000 Pixels, Sharp 3.2" Color Display Screen, Battery Included. Lightweight Comfortable Grip.
  • -20℃ to 300℃ temperature range
  • 320 x 240 (76,800) image resolution
  • adjustable emissivity from 0.01 to 1.0
FLIR TG165 - Spot Thermal Camera - with 2-Meter Drop Durability for Your Toughest Jobs
  • –25 to +380°C temperature range
  • 4,800 pixels
  • measurement accuracy of up to ±1.5% or 1.5°C
220 x 160 IR Resolution HTI Thermal Imager, Handheld 35200 Pixels Thermal Imaging Camera with 3.2" Color Display Screen(Battery Included)
  • -20℃ to 300℃ temperature range
  • 220×160 (35,200) image resolution
  • ±2%  or ±2℃ accuracy
Klein Tools TI250 Rechargeable Thermal Imager, Camera Displays Over 10,000 Pixels with 3 Color Palettes, High/Low Temperature Points
  • -20℃ to 400℃ temperature range
  • over 10,000 pixels 
  • 2-meter impact resistance

1. FLIR ONE Pro-iOS Thermal Camera

FLIR ONE Pro - iOS - Professional Grade Thermal Camera for Smartphones - with VividIR and MSX Image Enhancement Technology
Specifications:
97% Overall

Brand

FLIR

Dimensions

2.68 x 0.51 x 1.77 inches

Weight

1.27 ounces

Temperature Range

-20℃ to 400℃

98%
functionlity
98%
image quality
95%
DURABILITY
95%
value for money
Pros:
  • Light and a portable infrared camera that works as an accessory to your mobile phone
  • Adjustable visualization by attaching it either to your phone or tablet
  • Captures scene dynamics for a wider range of -20°C — 400°C (-4°F — 752°F)
  • The impressive thermal resolution of 160 × 120 with a visual resolution of 1440 × 1080
  • Built for durability even from 1.8-meter drop
  • Comes with four emissivity settings for matte, semi-matte, semi-glossy, and glossy for more accurate imaging
  • Offers nine color palettes to choose from including white hot, hottest, coldest, iron, rainbow, rainbow HC, arctic, lava, and wheel
  • Offers ±3°C or ±5% accuracy
  • Comes with 3 capture modes including video, still image, and time-lapse
  • Rechargeable battery which could last for approximately one hour
  • The app is downloadable at Apple App Store and Google Play Store for iOS and Android
  • Comes with an IR scale to adjust the temperature color mapping
Cons:
  • Designed for closer inspection
  • This device has a low battery life which lasts for only one hour. After that, you are expected to recharge it for 40 minutes before use.
Final Take:

If you are looking for thermal cameras, you surely would have come across FLIR which is a leading name in developing this product. Sure, FLIR costs more than the other brands. Nonetheless, they make it a point to match the price tag with impressive specifications. First, it has a wide temperature range and ±3°C or ±5 percent (typical) of ambient and scene temperature differences. 

“Emissivity is one of the factors that have to be taken into consideration to improve the accuracy of the thermal images, and One Pro offers four emissivity settings,“ Adams said.

Further, one of the best reasons why you would opt for FLIR one pro is the high resolution of the thermal image that this camera offers. While you could have FLIR Pro LT which shares many features with this product, One Pro offers 4 times greater thermal resolution. This is quite handy, especially if the applications that you have in mind require more details and better reporting and sharing of images or videos. 

“One of the first things you need to look into in infrared cameras is infrared resolution. A camera with higher thermal resolution can create better images even from a farther distance. Take note, however, that we are not just talking about the regular resolution here. We are talking about the infrared resolution. And I would say, at 160 × 120 FLIR One Pro delivers this quality quite impressively,” Adams added. 

This camera works best at 10-15 feel although it could work to 50 feet. Other qualities that set it apart from its competitors are the portability and the adjustability in screen visualization because of its design. It also has a lot of color palette options for better visualization.  Where other competitors would offer 3 to 5 this product has 9 color palettes.  All these features and functionality gives justice for every additional dollar you pay for this cam.

2. Hti-Xintai HTI HT-19 Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera

Higher Resolution 320 x 240 IR Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera. Model HTI HT-19 with Improved 300,000 Pixels, Sharp 3.2" Color Display Screen, Battery Included. Lightweight Comfortable Grip.
Specifications:
96% Overall

Brand

Hti-Xintai

Dimensions

8.8 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches

Weight

13.3 ounces

Temperature Range

-20℃ to 300℃

95%
functionlity
98%
image quality
94%
DURABILITY
98%
value for money
Pros:
  • The high infrared image resolution of  320 x 240 for clearer details
  • Measures wide thermal range from -20℃ to 300℃  with ±2% or ±2℃ accuracy
  • Adjustable emissivity from 0.01 to 1.0 for enhanced accuracy
  • Has high thermal sensitivity of 0.07℃
  • 76, 800 pixels of IR resolution and.300,000 pixels for visible resolution
  • Built with a 3.2-inch color display for better viewing of images
  • Offers 5 color scale palettes to choose from for better visualization including rainbow, iron red, cold color, black and white, and white and black
  • Comes with a built-in 3GB memory card which could store up to 20,000 images
  • Easy display of images on other devices through a micro USB connection
  • Comes with a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery which could support continuous use for 2 to 3 hours
  • Features ergonomic design for easy handling
  • Very easy to use and intuitive
Cons:
  • Could be noisy at low ambient temperature
  • Does not support capturing of video files
Final Take:

With its high accuracy, thermal sensitivity, and IR resolution at a very low price, this product is definitely an underrated brand that you might want to check out. With its promising performance, it could easily pay for itself in no time. 

“What you are really looking for in a thermal camera is accuracy in thermal imaging and you get this with lower margin of error, thermal sensitivity, and high thermal resolution. Notably, HTI HT-19 offers this in impressive combinations,” Adams remarked.

For as long as you understand how to use it, the emissivity adjustment in this product allows you to maximize the best level of accuracy it could provide. Further, its high thermal sensitivity indicates that this product could detect a temperature difference of up to 0.07℃, making it really highly desirable. 

It could also detect a person at a safe distance of 160 feet. It shall have no issue detecting heat or cold on your roof even at 50 feet distance, so you do not have to climb it. You would also appreciate the ergonomic design and buttons which are easy to use even when you are wearing winter gloves. At its price, a combination of these features makes it quite a steal.

3. FLIR TG165 - Spot Thermal Camera

FLIR TG165 - Spot Thermal Camera - with 2-Meter Drop Durability for Your Toughest Jobs
Specifications:
95% Overall

Brand

FLIR

Dimensions

7.3 x 2.2 x 3.7 inches

Weight

11 ounces

Temperature Range

–25 to +380°C

95%
functionlity
95%
image quality
96%
DURABILITY
94%
value for money
Pros:
  • Built with a 2-inch screen to view the thermal images
  • Wide temperature range of –25 to +380°C (–13 to +716°F) for wider applications
  • Offers measurement accuracy of up to ±1.5% or 1.5°C
  • Spot ratio of 24:1 provides a safe distance for measuring
  • Designed with 4 pre-set levels for emissivity with custom adjustment from 0.1 to 0.99
  • Trigger activated dual diverging laser to point the areas of interest
  • Built for durability with its capability to withstand a 2-meter drop
  • Includes 8GB micro SD card for the storage of files
  • Ergonomic design for easy handling with easy-pull trigger
  • Very easy to operate and intuitive
  • Includes rechargeable batteries with longer battery life
  • The fast download of files either through the USB cable or micro SD card
  • Offers 2 color palette options: hot iron or grayscale
  • Comes with bright LED work light to navigate dark areas you wish to measure
Cons:
  • Offers limited color palettes and has a lower resolution as compared to the FLIR One Pro
Final Take:

If you desire a quality stand-alone thermal camera with longer battery life,  FLIR TG165 might be what you are looking for. What it lacks in terms of image resolution, it compensates for its high-temperature range of –25 to +380°C and accuracy of up to ±1.5% or 1.5°C. 

“If you’re looking for a good thermal camera, temperature range and accuracy are foremost. You will often see this in terms of degree celsius or percent. This information comes from an uncertainty analysis technique which is all about calculating the errors for the variables in measuring temperature. With an accuracy of up to ±1.5%, TG165 is one good option,” Adams said. 

Since emissivity is one of the factors that affect the accuracy of thermal cameras, this accuracy is helped by the availability of emissivity adjustment features in this thermal camera which offers 4 preset levels and custom adjustments. 

Another advantage of this product that you won’t easily find with other brands is its dual diverging lasers which allow you to have a clearer perspective on the specific area that you are looking at, which is sometimes difficult with most thermal cameras. Unless you need a higher image of thermal resolution (which could be availed with higher models like TG275), this model could serve your purposes just right from checking hotspots in insulation, plumbing, and more.

4. Hti-Xintai HTI HT-18 Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera

220 x 160 IR Resolution HTI Thermal Imager, Handheld 35200 Pixels Thermal Imaging Camera with 3.2" Color Display Screen(Battery Included)
Specifications:
95% Overall

Brand

Hti-Xintai

Dimensions

8.8 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches

Weight

13.3 ounces

Temperature Range

-20℃ to 300℃

95%
functionlity
95%
image quality
95%
DURABILITY
94%
value for money
Pros:
  • Offers 220×160 thermal image resolution
  • Built with a 3.2-inch full-color display screen for viewing images
  • Thermal sensitivity of 0.07℃ for better reading of temperature differences
  • Measures temperature from -20℃ to 300℃  with ±2%  or ±2℃ accuracy
  • Provides adjustability of emissivity from 0.01 to 1.0 for a more accurate thermal image
  • Comes with a built-in 3G memory card which could store up to 20, 000 images
  • Offers 5 color palettes to choose from which include rainbow, iron red, cold color, black and white, and white and black
  • Ergonomic design and easy to use
  • Comes with a rechargeable battery
  • Easy transfer of images to a computer using a USB cable
  • Designed with a ring-shaped sensor to protect it from being damaged during a collision
Cons:
  • The IR and visible images are challenging to align. It works better if the object is distant enough.
Final Take:

If you want the same temperature range and level of accuracy of HTI and are willing to knock down a few pixels for a lesser price, this HT-18 must be what you are looking for. This product offers desirable features which are what you should be looking for in your thermal camera. 

“Just like, HTI HT-19, this camera’s accuracy is impressive. It indeed does not have FLIR’s temp range but its accuracy of ±2℃ and thermal sensitivity of 0.07℃ make it a nice option for a thermal camera at its price point. Remember that this figure (thermal sensitivity) tells us the smallest differences in temperature that your cam could detect. And this 0.07 is impressive,” Adams said. 

Further, the battery lasts long and its ergonomic design allows you to hold it even for an extended period of use. The large buttons are quite handy in using the cam even with your gloves on. It could be useful in detecting heat that a water pipe radiates through the surface, and more. This could also be handy in locating where the air leaks through your house to ensure energy-saving measures. 

Its resolution may be lower than its HT-19 counterpart but remember that this 220×160 already bears a higher price tag than other brands. This is a product that won’t disappoint.

5. Klein Tools TI250 Rechargeable Thermal Imager Camera

Klein Tools TI250 Rechargeable Thermal Imager, Camera Displays Over 10,000 Pixels with 3 Color Palettes, High/Low Temperature Points
Specifications:
94% Overall

Brand

Klein Tools

Dimensions

3.18 x 3.11 x 1.03 inches

Weight

8.6 ounces

Temperature Range

-20℃ to 400℃

95%
functionlity
93%
image quality
95%
DURABILITY
93%
value for money
Pros:
  • Wide temperature range from  -20 to 400 degrees Celsius for wider applications
  • Offers adjustability in emissivity from 0.10 to 0.99
  • Offers over 10,000 pixels to identify hotspots
  • Designed with user-selectable alarms for high and low temperature from  -20 to 400 degrees Celsius
  • 3 color palettes to choose from which include ironbow, rainbow, and grayscale
  • Lightweight, portable, and rechargeable device
  • Large LCD screen for viewing of thermal images
  • Built for durability with 2-meter impact resistance
Cons:
  • SD card for storing files is sold separately.
Final Take:

“What you would like about this product is the high-temperature range of up to 400 degrees celsius. This wider temperature range allows more flexibility in its application and better accuracy in measuring a wider span of temperatures,” Adams expressed.

While this temperature range is available in other brands, you would typically need to pay more for it. Further, this is compact, lightweight, and comes with large buttons which are easy to use even with your gloves on. The power and photo capture buttons are logically placed so that you won’t have trouble using them even in the dark. This is meant for close scans but could work at 20 feet, giving you a safe distance when measuring. Another feature that you would appreciate with this affordable device is the freedom to set thermal temperature alarms for high and low so you could easily target specific thermal points.

Best Thermal Cameras - Buyer's Guide

temperature range and accuracy

If you are checking out a thermal camera, there are a lot of numbers that you need to check out. First is the temperature range. A device that offers a wider range could provide more accurate measurements and could have wider applications. Further, you should also look into the accuracy of the camera which is often measured in degrees or percentage. The lower margin of error, the better the accuracy.

thermal sensitivity

This is another number to look for. What is the smallest temperature difference that the device could detect? The lower the number, the better the thermal sensitivity. However, the standard in the industry is 30°C. Anything lower than that is even better.

ir resolution

You have to be careful in checking out the resolution. Make sure that the figures that you are looking at are the IR or thermal resolution and not the visual resolution. An image with higher thermal resolution would give your better details on the image. This is also useful in measuring smaller objects from greater or safer distances.

emissivity adjustment

Using a thermal camera could be tricky because of the factors that could jeopardize the accuracy of measurement such as the emissivity. Low emissivity could confuse your measurement accuracy. Hence, emissivity adjustments are also a feature to look into.

file formats and saving options

Comparing some images is easier when you print or project them on larger screens. Further some applications you probably have in mind include submission of images for reports. Hence, it would be nice to look into the file formats that the device supports and the ease of transporting the files into other devices.

Best Thermal Cameras - FAQs

Can the thermal camera see through the walls?

A thermal camera detects heat on the surface of the object. It does not work like an X-ray machine. Hence, if the object’s difference in temperature with the other areas is within the device’s thermal sensitivity, it could be detected. However, if there is no difference in the temperature, it won’t show up in the image.

Does a thermal camera work even in the dark?

Yes. The amount of light available in the areas does not make any difference on the functioning of a thermal camera, because this camera creates images using the infrared radiation that it detects from the object.

Why do I need to adjust the emissivity to get more accurate results?

Different objects have different emissivity which pertains to how well objects radiate infrared energy. Emissivity values range from 0.0 to 1.0. Nonmetallic objects are good radiators of heat, such as human skin. On the other hand, polished copper has only 0.01 emissivity. Hence, you need to adjust the thermal camera based on the emissivity object you are trying to measure for more accurate results.

Why does my thermal camera freeze when I move?

This lag in the thermal camera could be the result of your device’s need to take time to update and analyze the changes in the image that it is now presented.

Author

Santi Bongco is an editor at SolidSmack which is the leading site for 3D CAD, robots, cool product designs, and other technologies. For the past seven years, he taught robotics and developed innovative 3D printer ideas with his students. He also helped in developing some innovative digital ideas and products for various digital marketing businesses and big companies in Asia. Now, aside from exploring buffet restos in California, he enjoys leading groups of our in-house experts in trying some of your favorite products and electronic brands to write insightful reviews for you. PS: He loves reviewing appliances and taking them home to personally ‘try’ them.