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Flir C3 Thermal Imaging Camera Review

This is the detailed review of the Flir C3 compact thermal imaging camera designed for professionals.

The Flir C2 was a popular device that the Thermogear team loved using. The C3 is the next edition of the pocket-sized thermal camera from Flir.

Surprisingly, Flir has kept the major technical specs the same as that of the C2. One significant addition is the WiFi functionality. That allows the easier sharing of images and reports, a big improvement over the USB transfer in the C2.

On the face of it, the C3 is a highly practical device. It’s extremely effective in determining problems related to heat leakage, electrical circuits, or plumbing. 

But does it offer the right value?

We tested all the features of this thermal camera in-depth to find the answer for that.

Let’s take a closer look and find out.

FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera
  • Portability Pocket Portable Thermal Camera with Msx Enhanced Thermal Images providing stunning detail to help you identify problem areas easier
  • FLIR One displays live thermal infrared imagery using the FLIR one iPhone app so you can see the world from a thermal perspective
  • Wireless connectivity Wi-Fi Connectivity transfers images wirelessly to mobile platforms. Standard is 802.11 b/g/n. Operating temperature range is minus 10 to 50 degree Celsius. Digital camera is 640 x 480 pixel
  • Measurement Modes – Center Spot or Area Min/Max allowing you to quickly measure within a defined area box
  • Image Modes: “MSX” adds key details from the on board digital light camera to the IR image adding detail and clarity; "Picture in picture" overlays a fixed Section of a thermal image onto a digital photo to clarify problem locations and enhance documentation. Spectral Range: 7.5 - 14.0 µm. Storage Temperature Range:–40°C to 70°C ( 40°F to 158°F)

Pros

  • An ultralight thermal camera
  • User-friendly interface
  • Picture in picture feature
  • A rugged design
  • Wi-Fi connectivity

Cons

  • Too pricey for hobbyists
  • No upgrade in Image Resolution
  • Can not shoot videos

A Few Things to Consider Before Buying a Thermal Camera

The fact is, not all thermal cameras are designed in the same manner. When you need a device for outdoor use, it needs to be a professional tool with the right level of durability.

So here are a few points to keep in mind while shopping for a thermal imaging camera.

  1. A camera that can’t handle a few knocks and tumbles isn’t tough enough for field use. So, make sure that the device is ruggedly built and comes with the right level of durability.
  2. The sensor resolution is an important aspect that you need to consider. The image quality should be crisp enough for examining the details. But the high resolution also means a higher price tag. So striking the right balance between performance and price is important.
  3. For first time users and field technicians, ease of use and handling are important factors. Complicated menus that need more time to get the setting right can be a frustrating experience when you want fast results.
  4. A device that blends visible light images with thermal images is a practical choice. This makes it easy to locate the source of the heat-related problem.
  5. The battery life is another factor that you can’t ignore while in the field. A rechargeable battery that offers a slow discharge rate is the right choice.

Why Should You Consider the Flir C3 Camera

Let me say this straight. The Flir C3 camera isn’t a device that offers a high image quality ideal for conducting a detailed thermal inspection. But look closely, and you’ll find enough features that make it an exciting option in this price range.

So let’s begin.

Build Quality

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What really sets this camera apart from the rest is the form factor. The aesthetically designed exterior makes it look almost like a smartphone.

The device is extremely compact, measuring just 7.87 x 2.54 x 12.45 cm. The 4.8 ounces weight makes it convenient for carrying in the pocket.  It also comes with a lanyard, international charger, starting guide, USB cable, and memory stick.

The durability is as good as the older C2. The rubberized polymer and aluminum exterior make the device rugged. We dropped it from a height of 6 feet for testing and the device emerged unscathed. 

The rubber body also offers an excellent grip. So using it in industrial environments isn’t a problem.

At the top of the device, there is the power button and a large photo capture button. Just like the C2, the 3-inch touch screen offers smooth operation. There is also an LED lamp for capturing images in dark places. 

On the whole, the overall ergonomics is spot-on. If you’re looking for one-hand usage, the C3 is the right pick.

Coming to the downsides, Flir doesn’t mention any IP rating for the device.  Also, there’s no protective cover for the screen. We didn’t notice any scratches during our tests, but it can be an issue in the long run.

FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera
  • Portability Pocket Portable Thermal Camera with Msx Enhanced Thermal Images providing stunning detail to help you identify problem areas easier
  • FLIR One displays live thermal infrared imagery using the FLIR one iPhone app so you can see the world from a thermal perspective
  • Wireless connectivity Wi-Fi Connectivity transfers images wirelessly to mobile platforms. Standard is 802.11 b/g/n. Operating temperature range is minus 10 to 50 degree Celsius. Digital camera is 640 x 480 pixel
  • Measurement Modes – Center Spot or Area Min/Max allowing you to quickly measure within a defined area box
  • Image Modes: “MSX” adds key details from the on board digital light camera to the IR image adding detail and clarity; "Picture in picture" overlays a fixed Section of a thermal image onto a digital photo to clarify problem locations and enhance documentation. Spectral Range: 7.5 - 14.0 µm. Storage Temperature Range:–40°C to 70°C ( 40°F to 158°F)

The Camera Performance

The C3 uses a combination of a thermal sensor and a digital camera to capture an image. The visual camera comes with a resolution of 640 × 480 pixels (0.3 MP) and the IR sensor resolution is 80×60 pixels. 

The sensitivity of the FLIR Lepton® thermal microcamera is 100mK. The powerful microbolometer makes the camera highly sensitive to small temperature variations. The 41-degree wide FOV also makes it a good choice for capturing images in narrow spaces.

The image quality is good enough for an entry-level device. Combined with the MSX imaging and the Flir analysis tools, the images are perfect to “wow” your customers after an inspection.

Note, the sensor can detect a temperature range between -10 to 150 °C (14 to 302 °F). The accuracy levels at 25°C are ±2°C (±3.6°F) or 2%, whichever is higher. If you’re looking for a device with top accuracy levels, the C3 won’t disappoint.

That said, the Flir C3 range isn’t good enough for long-distance photography. Beyond a distance of one meter, the image quality will start coming down.

Pros

  • An ultralight thermal camera
  • User-friendly interface
  • Picture in picture feature
  • A rugged design
  • Wi-Fi connectivity

Cons

  • Too pricey for hobbyists
  • No upgrade in Image Resolution
  • Can not shoot videos

Wireless Connectivity

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The Flir C3 can connect with mobiles and tablets through Wi-Fi functionality. This is a big advantage it has over the C2.

To do that, you need to use the FLIR Tools Mobile app, available for free. You can download images from the camera through the app or even mirror the screen of the camera. This makes it easy for two people to inspect an issue in real-time.

For a team working together on a job site, this is a great addition that saves time and delivers fast results. Also, you can create professional reports using the Flir app and email them instantly.

Beyond that, you can also stream videos through the Flir application. Quite simply, a great feature that makes this entry-level device extremely versatile.

Temperature measurements

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One of the best features of the Flir C3 infrared camera is non-contact temperature measurement. This is extremely helpful for professionals inspecting critical equipment or circuits.

For that, the camera has some useful spot measurement tools. Some of these are usually found in higher-end cameras from Flir. We liked the hot-spot feature where the cursor automatically goes to the hottest spot in the view.

In addition, there’s also a span lock feature to isolate a specific temperature range that lies within your interest. The other feature the C3 brings on board is the area measurement mode. It allows you to determine the maximum and minimum temperatures in a marked area.

The good news is, the whole range of radiometric data is stored for all the pictures taken by the camera. The wide variety of tools in the FLIR Tools software makes it easy to analyze the data after the images are downloaded. They can also be stored in standard jpg format for use in reports.

FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera
  • Portability Pocket Portable Thermal Camera with Msx Enhanced Thermal Images providing stunning detail to help you identify problem areas easier
  • FLIR One displays live thermal infrared imagery using the FLIR one iPhone app so you can see the world from a thermal perspective
  • Wireless connectivity Wi-Fi Connectivity transfers images wirelessly to mobile platforms. Standard is 802.11 b/g/n. Operating temperature range is minus 10 to 50 degree Celsius. Digital camera is 640 x 480 pixel
  • Measurement Modes – Center Spot or Area Min/Max allowing you to quickly measure within a defined area box
  • Image Modes: “MSX” adds key details from the on board digital light camera to the IR image adding detail and clarity; "Picture in picture" overlays a fixed Section of a thermal image onto a digital photo to clarify problem locations and enhance documentation. Spectral Range: 7.5 - 14.0 µm. Storage Temperature Range:–40°C to 70°C ( 40°F to 158°F)

Things to Know About the Flir C3 Camera

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MSX technology

This is a patented feature that overlays a digital image of the object over the thermal image. The result is excellent image clarity from a high-contrast visual image.

That makes the C3 a great device for fast target identification and easier detection of the problems. The device is set to MSX mode by default. But it can be turned on or off as you need.

With MSX technology, you don’t need to carry a separate digital camera for a field inspection.

Picture in Picture

This is another feature that sets the C3 apart from the C2. You can easily place a square box over the normal digital camera image. The box captures the necessary thermal data for a specific target.

As a result, you can inspect the thermographic data, without losing the view of the surrounding.

Ease of Use

The 3-inch touchscreen is another highlight of the Flir C3. The intuitive interface along with a crisp display makes it a great choice for outdoor use. We found the display bright enough for use, even under sunlight.

Basically, this is a plug and play device and the main menu and the submenu are very easy to use. The camera also auto-rotates the image just like a smartphone. There are four color palette options, iron, grey, rainbow, and rainbow HC. 

The lithium-ion battery is charged through the USB cable. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to get fully charged. As expected, the continuous use time is close to two hours. However, we noticed a quicker battery drain when using Wi-Fi streaming.

LED spotlight

The addition of an LED spotlight is a practical feature. It offers additional illumination for working in dark environments. Not only does it improve the image quality, but also assists in the visual inspection.

We found the spotlight doesn’t add any shadows to the image. That’s a big plus as it doesn’t affect the image quality.

Seek Shot PRO vs Flir C3

The ShotPro is the most advanced handheld thermal camera from Seek Thermal. Both the cameras are compact and can easily fit inside your pocket. 

You also get Wi-fi functionality with both the devices. Seek offers the SeekFusion image blending that functions similarly to the MSX technology.

The Shot PRO comes with a slightly larger touchscreen measuring 3.5 inches. It offers a wider FOV of 57° and an excellent 320×240 thermal sensor. The battery life is very good- close to 4 hours. Also, the device also comes with 4GB of internal storage. Apart from that, the Shot PRO has an IP54 rating.

However, Seek doesn’t offer any software that helps in reporting and image analysis. So you are restricted to third-party softwares.  This is a drawback that bridges the gap in terms of sensor and built quality.

Flir C3 vs Flir One Pro

Need a device that is even more compact than the C3?  The Flir One Pro is a good choice. The only problem is, it isn’t an independent thermal imager. The One Pro needs to be connected to a smartphone as an external accessory.

On the whole, both the devices are great options for home or factory repairs and HVAC or electrical circuit repairs. But point is, the Flir C3 infrared camera is specially designed for industrial use.

Want to know more? Check out our Flir One Pro review for a complete idea.

Flir C3 FAQs

Pros

  • An ultralight thermal camera
  • User-friendly interface
  • Picture in picture feature
  • A rugged design
  • Wi-Fi connectivity

Cons

  • Too pricey for hobbyists
  • No upgrade in Image Resolution
  • Can not shoot videos

Can I use the Flir C3 for thermal screening?

Flir has some special thermal camera models that are specially designed for elevated skin temperature screening. These include the Axxx-EST series, T5xx-EST series, and Exx-EST series.

Does the C3 come with a warranty?

The Flir C3 comes with the standard 2-10 warranty. This means a 2-year part and labor coverage and a 10-year warranty on the IR detector.

Can you put an SD card in the Flir C3?

Flir mentions that the camera can hold 500 images. However, it doesn’t support an SD Card. So there’s no way to expand the memory. To get more space, you need to delete the images or transfer them to another device.

Is it normal for the C3 to make clicking sounds on its own?

Actually, such sounds are a result of the non-uniformity correction or NUC that the camera conducts automatically. It’s a common feature in cameras that contain a microbolometer. In reality, the heat generated from the camera itself can interfere with the temperature readings. So, the camera measures its own IR emissions and makes the necessary adjustments to improve accuracy.

Is it normal for the C3 to make clicking sounds on its own?

Actually, such sounds are a result of the non-uniformity correction or NUC that the camera conducts automatically. It’s a common feature in cameras that contain a microbolometer. In reality, the heat generated from the camera itself can interfere with the temperature readings. So, the camera measures its own IR emissions and makes the necessary adjustments to improve accuracy.

What are Radiometric JPEG images?

These are special JPEG images that contain temperature data embedded in the individual pixels. These data can be analyzed only by using the FLIR Tools software. Keep in mind that you can’t interpret the thermographic data by using applications like  Microsoft Paint or Adobe Photoshop.

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Final Words on Our Flir C3 Review

Without a doubt, the Flir C3 pocket thermal camera offers a range of exciting features for professionals. 

When you compare the Flir C2 vs C3, the image quality doesn’t get any better. But with the addition of Wi-Fi, Flir has made it a top-notch entry-level device.

We have to say it’s a smartly designed package that’s easy to use for detecting various household and industrial problems.

It lacks SD card support and a long-lasting battery. But with the solid build, good image quality, and user-friendly interface, it offers the right bang for your buck.

Think about it this way…

If you’re looking for an ultra-portable thermal camera that delivers good image details, you can’t go wrong with the Flir C3.

Now the choice is yours.

FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera
  • Portability Pocket Portable Thermal Camera with Msx Enhanced Thermal Images providing stunning detail to help you identify problem areas easier
  • FLIR One displays live thermal infrared imagery using the FLIR one iPhone app so you can see the world from a thermal perspective
  • Wireless connectivity Wi-Fi Connectivity transfers images wirelessly to mobile platforms. Standard is 802.11 b/g/n. Operating temperature range is minus 10 to 50 degree Celsius. Digital camera is 640 x 480 pixel
  • Measurement Modes – Center Spot or Area Min/Max allowing you to quickly measure within a defined area box
  • Image Modes: “MSX” adds key details from the on board digital light camera to the IR image adding detail and clarity; "Picture in picture" overlays a fixed Section of a thermal image onto a digital photo to clarify problem locations and enhance documentation. Spectral Range: 7.5 - 14.0 µm. Storage Temperature Range:–40°C to 70°C ( 40°F to 158°F)
About Patrick Hardi

Patrick Hardy is a graduate of the Inspection Certification Associates online home inspection course. He has gone on to start H & H Home Inspections, a multi-inspector home inspection company based in Central Florida that performs home inspections, commercial property inspections, WDO, wind mitigation inspections, and 4-point inspections. In addition to performing classroom training for ICA, Patrick also teaches continuing education classes for home inspectors.