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
1. FLIR ONE Pro-iOS Thermal Camera
2.68 x 0.51 x 1.77 inches
-20℃ to 400℃
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
8.8 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches
-20℃ to 300℃
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
7.3 x 2.2 x 3.7 inches
–25 to +380°C
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
8.8 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches
-20℃ to 300℃
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
3.18 x 3.11 x 1.03 inches
-20℃ to 400℃
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.