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Thermal imaging cameras or the infrared cameras is nothing but a device which uses infrared rays to visualize the objects clearly. They work by detecting the heat given by the object or a body. These cameras have lenses similar to the digital cameras and help in capturing the intricate details of the objects or the body.

guide-to-choose-the-best-thermal-imaging-cameras

They differ from the normal digital camera by detecting the difference in temperature and by representing them in the visible form to the user. They are capable of performing this function by using the IR sensors built with the thermal imagers. Even though they are expensive, purchasing the best imagers will provide you with the lifetime benefits.

What Is It Actually?

Before going for purchasing a thermal imager, it is essential that you know what is it actually and how does it work according to the types. A thermal imaging camera works with the mechanism of thermography, which means the capacity of visualizing the radiation.

As already mentioned, the device is capable of visualizing objects with the emission of IR radiation. The primary source of working depends on the heat or the radiation and hence does not require lighting to visualize objects; this makes it useful to be able to see through the objects even in the poorly lit environment or the low lighting conditions.

What Are The Types Of Thermal Imaging Cameras?

The thermal imaging cameras are classified into two different categories depending upon the temperature they require for working. They are the cameras with cooled infrared detectors and the cameras with the uncooled infrared detectors.

Cooled detectors- The cooled thermal imaging cameras are those that require cold temperature for operation. The temperature can be 4K or below in order to get benefitted with the infrared sensitivity. Using this type of camera will offer you crisp and clear images with quality. However, they are a bit expensive and heavy.

Uncooled detectors- The uncooled detectors are those that require an environment with the room temperature for performing the operation. They do not necessitate additional equipment for working. The quality of the images produced by these detectors is low when compared to the cooled detectors. But, they are cheaper than the cooled detectors.

Irrespective of their type, both the cameras use a single color channel for visualization. They reproduce the object with different shades of colors to denote the temperature of the particular object or body. They represent the warmest parts of the object by representing it with bright colors, usually white.

Those areas that are not hot are represented with the yellow and the red colors. Further, the areas with the coolest temperatures are represented with the help of the darker color shades especially black. It also displays the color scale corresponding to a particular temperature.

For a detailed comparison of its use in thermal imager, check the article on cooled thermal imager vs uncooled thermal imager

What Are The Applications Of A Thermal Imaging Camera?

Using a thermal imaging camera can provide you various in applications in various fields with the help of the technology can be useful. They include,

Civil engineering- It is useful for detecting leaks and ensures the quality of ventilation thereby avoiding the wastage of money and energy.

Industrial usage- In the industries, this thermal imaging camera can help to detect the condition of the electrical wirings and the connections. They can detect the overheating of the wire and avoid failures and wiring problems.

Medical field- The uses of the thermal imager in the medical field is tremendous. Using the camera, the physician can inspect the internal parts of the body along with monitoring proper blood circulation which helps in diagnosing various diseases.

What Makes It Expensive?

The thermal imaging cameras are priced according to the features they come with. Apart from the features such as the temperature range and sensitivity, they are priced only with respect to the infrared resolution and the special features they come with.

The cameras are mainly classified into two classes with respect to its features: the cameras that include many additional features and offer a wide range of benefits and those that are built with only the essential features. Thus, the cameras with the special features are priced high when compared to those that do not possess any additional features. Further, the price also depends on the resolution they provide.

What Are The Criteria That Should Be Met By The Best Thermal Imaging Cameras?

As there are various features and capacities that are built with a thermal imaging camera, selecting a particular camera becomes a complex task. However, by considering the following essential criteria, you can pick the best thermal imaging camera.

Image modes- The thermal imagers are made to produce a thermal image in most of the case. Certain cameras come with a feature of providing visual images which can help in identifying the defect in a particular location clearly. But the best thermal imager will comprise of a unique mode called the fusion mode, with which both the thermal and the visual images can be obtained and it will help in identifying crisp and clear information about the problem.

Picture quality or resolution- As the thermal imaging cameras are used to identify the defect or fault in a particular area, having a clarified picture with quality is essential. The resolution is determined with the help of the Focal Array Plane sensors present in the camera and is measured with pixels and these sensors are not present in the digital cameras.

Purchasing a thermal imager with low resolution will result in a visual image which looks similar to the one from the digital cameras. Most of the thermal imagers offer a picture resolution of 120×120 or    140 × 140 resolution capacity in terms of pixels. The best thermal imager will offer a resolution of 180×180 pixels thereby providing accurate images which are useful for detecting even the minute defects.

Screen and display- Most of the cameras come with a minimal screen size of about 3 inches which can display pictures with minimal quality. But the best camera should comprise of a screen size ranging between 5- 7 inches in size and are capable of displaying images with the higher quality. Higher the screen size, greater the accuracy and enables easy identification of the problems and defects.

The next important feature of the display is the refresh rate. In general, the thermal imagers come with a refresh rate of 9 Hz or 60 Hz. Those with 9 Hz are slower to scan the surfaces and have improper focus. The best one will comprise of the 60Hz refresh rate and enable proper focus.

Accuracy and sensitivity- The thermal imaging cameras, with their infrared detector arrays are capable of offering accuracy with temperature sensitivity up to 0.1°C which is useful in detecting more accurate information. However, those with the -20°C to 350°C temperature sensitivity and delivers accurate measurements are considered extraordinary.

User-friendly- Usually, the cameras can be operated with the help of the buttons they are built with. They are the menu buttons with which the user can navigate to the required function or operation they wish to perform.

The normal cameras may constitute only a few buttons and make the functioning get complex, whereas the best cameras will constitute of several buttons, each of which is coded to perform a specific operation and are capable of navigating easily to the desired functions.

Battery- The capacity of the battery to hold the power as well as the availability of the spare battery is quite essential criteria that have to be considered before purchasing. A thermal imager’s battery should be easily removable and replaceable when its runs out of power. The poor thermal camera will use the design of inbuilt battery which cannot be removed and result in depending upon the power cord or circuit.

When the lifetime of the battery ends, it has to be sent to the service shop and be checked for the availability of the replacement. But, the best imager will comprise of the Lithium Ion battery that is removable and is readily available for replacement and holds the power for a maximum of 5 hours.

Durability- These cameras irrespective of the field they are used in, has to be light in weight and compact to be held in a single hand. Only then, the user will be capable of using it for a longer period of time.

Further, the cameras should also come with a dust resistant cover and should have an exterior that is made of materials that offer grip in order to hold it during the working hours.

Image format- The format that the image gets stored in the camera has to be considered while purchasing the camera. Generally, the thermal imaging cameras use two types of image formats; JPEG and BMP.

The BMP image formats will strip down the temperature information to preserve them and for sharing separately. In the cases of purchasing a camera with a BMP image format, you will have to face compatibility issues as most of them require software to convert them into the readable form. This will make the process of sharing to become complex and tedious.  But, those with the JPEG format are compatible with almost all the devices as it can be transferred and shared easily when at the workplace itself.

Image storage- When in work, you will require downloading more and more images of visual, thermal and fusion types. With the best camera and with the higher resolution, it obviously consumes more space to be stored in the camera which will, in turn, hang the camera when the memory gets filled. This will result in cleaning up space often.

But with using a camera that has more than enough memory for storage will reduce the strain of deleting the images often to create space.

Visibility- The thermal imagers should be capable of producing images under any lighting conditions so as to be the best product. In the case of low light or darker areas, using a camera without proper vision will not help in identifying the defects properly. So, the best brands have come up with the option of including the thermal illuminator light which will help in providing images with picture clarity.

What Are The Best Brands Offering The Thermal Range Cameras?

There are various brands that offer thermal ranging cameras that are capable of performing several distinct functions and have specific features unique from the others. The best brands that offer the cameras with best features, cheap price, and handheld models include,

FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System

The product is our top pick among the other brands as it consists of all the essential features along with the special features and is affordable.

The product comes with a 4800-pixel resolution and along with the high sensitivity detector; it is capable of visualizing images representing even the minute defects. With its light weight and sleek design, it can fit into the pockets just like a Smartphone.

As the product is built with a LED spotlight, it can be used for detecting defects even in the low lighting conditions. Due to the Multispectral imaging- enhancement, the unit reproduces images with exceptional quality providing the details crisp and clear.

The product is capable of measuring thermal measurements from -10°C to 150°C resulting in images with more accurate details. They are built with the Lithium- ion battery which makes it easier to use it on the go. With a wide field view of 41°×31°, the images can be observed with precise detailing.

FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System

Key features: wide display, LED spotlight, high sensitivity detector

Pros: Visualize minute details, Work in low lighting conditions, Accurate images.

Seek Reveal Handheld Thermal Imager

The product is our second top pick as it is designed to be held in the hand without slipping and is an all in one device.

The product is designed ergonomically with the rubberized materials on the outer to make it stay in the palm for a long period of time and feature an angled head up display. The product is rugged and reliable to perform functioning.

Also, the unit has advanced infrared technology and a powerful 300-Lumen LED light with the help of which you can use it even in the low lighting conditions and in the darker areas to identify the defects and problems precisely.

The device captures images in 7 different color palettes and it comes with an expandable memory using the SD card so that you never run short of memory. Further, the USB cable that comes as an attachment, helps in transferring the files to any device that is USB compatible and share your reports time to time.

Seek Reveal Handheld Thermal Imager

Key features: rubberized exterior, ergonomic design, angled head up display.

Pros: Advanced IR technology, 300 Lumen LED light, USB compatible.

Dewalt DCT416S1 Imaging Thermometer Kit

The unit comes as a kit with the carry case in order to carry it anywhere you require working. It is a thermal imager which can produce fusion type of image format by giving both the thermal and the visual images.

They are capable of measuring thermal measurements from 14°F to 480°F which enables in producing images with accurate details and is easy to be used over a certain distance. The product combines the use of the cooled and uncooled detectors to be useful in detecting defects in both the temperatures.

Further, the product enables you to capture the images on the SD card which can be later transferred to any other device compatible with the USB function and can be shared as a report without hassles. With the use of Lithium-ion battery, it can be operated at any situations without running out of power.

Dewalt DCT416S1 Imaging Thermometer Kit

Key features: carry case, Lithium-ion battery.

Pros: Expandable memory, Produce images in any temperature, battery efficient.

Fluke VT02 Visual IR Thermometer

The device is designed with the thermal imaging capacities that are suitable for using in the electrical, mechanical, industrial, and automotive field.

They are useful for measuring thermal temperatures from -10°C to 250°C with an accuracy of -2°C and a thermal sensitivity of 250mK. It uses an uncooled thermal detector which is pyroelectric and helps in measuring thermal images at a distance of 50cm.

As the product comes with an LCD screen of 28°×28°screen, that can be useful for viewing both the thermal and the visual images effectively. Further, with the help of the temperature alarm, the unit alerts the users when in the case of deviations from the expected range.

With the expandable memory using the SD card, you can store the images without running out of space in the camera.

Fluke VT02 Visual IR Thermometer

Key features: pyroelectric detector, LCD screen, SD card support.

Pros: for viewing thermal and visual images, temperature alert, expandable memory.

In A Nutshell

The thermal imaging cameras are those that are useful for detecting images to visualize the defects in the pile systems, wiring, or any other places. They have a wide range of applications in almost every field. They work with the help of the detectors that are built with it and with respect to which the temperature they are capable of working with depends on upon.

When purchasing a thermal image camera for usage, you have to consider all the above factors and choose the one that has the most reliable qualities. Consider purchasing a product only according to your needs and necessities which will prevent you from spending extra bucks.

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