Best Thermal Imaging Camera - Buyer's Guide

Gareth Otwell By Gareth Otwell · Last Updated February 01, 2019

Thermal imaging cameras are sophisticated machines that make use of cutting-edge technology to help users essentially see temperature.

According to Buildings.com, thermal imaging cameras manage to do that by deploying infrared wavelengths. The wavelengths then provide an accurate reading of the thermal energy emanating from the target area and you, the user, can then see that information presented in image form.

This may all sound like complicated stuff, and possibly even above the pay grade of the average homeowner, but the reality is that you can glean important information from a thermal imaging camera.

You can even use that information to make improvements around your home and possibly save a significant amount of money long-term.

If it sounds like you could use a thermal imaging camera in your home, then you're in luck. In this article, you'll get a chance to learn more about some of the top thermal imaging cameras currently available and even pick up some additional tips you can follow while shopping for one.

Without further ado, let's start learning more about thermal imaging cameras.

What is the best thermal imaging camera to buy in 2019?

Product Name Weight (In Ounces) Temperature Range Resolution Field of View
FLIR TG167 Spot Thermal Camera
(Editor’s Choice)
11.2 -13 to 716В°F 80 x 60 25В° x 19.6В° Check Price
FLIR E4: Compact Thermal Imaging Camera
(Editor’s Choice)
20.8 -4 to 482В°F 80 x 60 45В° x 34В° Check Price
Seek Thermal Compact Imager for iOS 0.5 -40 to 626В°F Uses smartphone display 36В° Check Price
Seek Thermal Reveal Thermal Imaging Camera 6.25 -40 to 626В°F 240 x 320 36В° Check Price
FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System 4.64 14 to 302В°F 80 x 60 41В° x 31В° Check Price
Fluke VT04 Infrared Imager 10.5 14 to 482В°F Not indicated by manufacturer 28В° x 28В° Check Price
FLIR C3 Pocket Thermal Camera with WiFi 4.64 14 to 302В°F 80 x 60 41В° x 31В° Check Price
Perfect Prime IR0004 Infrared Thermal Imager 10.6 -4 to 572В°F 220 x 160 27В° x 35В° Check Price

FLIR TG167 Spot Thermal Camera – Best Imaging IR Thermometer for Home Inspection

Let's kick things off by taking a closer look at FLIR's TG167 Spot Thermal Camera.

When running down the list of this item's features, the one that stands out most to me is its ability to detect such a wide range of temperatures.

The range goes all the way from -13В°F all the way up to 716В°F.

As pointed out by the folks from OMEGA, having that range is hugely beneficial because it will allow you to measure both the ambient temperature and the high-end temperature by just referencing the same image.

The kind of range offered by the FLIR TG167 is pretty incredible and that stands as one of its best selling points.

The field of view provided by this product is fine, especially if you're just planning it to use smaller rooms inside your home. It can obviously still be used for examining larger spaces, but doing so will be more time-consuming.

It will fit well in your hand thanks to the well-designed grip, though it is a bit weighty. This thermal imaging camera is also pretty easy to use. Even if you're a beginner, you should be able to quickly grasp the information being provided.

That said, reading the information may be a bit of a challenge. The display can be tough to read at times, and you may need to head somewhere with better lighting to understand what this imaging camera is trying to tell you.

Still, given how user-friendly it is, you won't have that many complaints about the FLIR TG167, especially if you're just starting to learn how to work with this particular type of tool.

Quick Start Guide

Pros
  • Easy to interpret the images and other information provided
  • Capable of detecting a large temperature range
  • Good choice for those not very experienced at using thermal imaging cameras
Cons
  • Display is not always easy to read

FLIR E4 – Best Handheld Thermal Imager for Building & Electrical Inspections

To better understand how well your heating/cooling appliances are working and to also see if your ventilation system is doing what it's supposed to, you will likely have to take the thermal imaging camera with you into dark places inside your home. You need to be focused on your surroundings when inspecting those areas, so having a thermal imager that's hard to operate is not ideal.

This is where the FLIR E4 can be very helpful.

What I love the most about this particular product is just how easy it is to use.

Making your way through the different options available is easy, and you can do so even if you're just operating this item with one hand. You can also take some time to familiarize yourself completely with the user interface so that operating this item even within dark spaces becomes very easy.

Once you've understood how to navigate properly, you should be able to scroll through measuring tools, screen settings, imaging modes, and saved images within seconds.

Wi-Fi With WiFi connectivity offered as a feature for this product, you can also send images and reports faster. The fact that this thermal imaging camera makes sending images and reports such a simpler task makes your work that much easier.

What I don't love as much about the FLIR E4 is that it often needs too much time to get ready. If you don't remember to power up this thermal imaging camera well before you intend to use it, you will end up having to wait for it, and that's just a waste of your precious time.

Still, as long as you don't forget to power up early, you should end up quite happy with what the FLIR E4 offers as a thermal imaging camera.

Introducing the FLIR E4 Infrared Camera with MSX

Pros
  • Navigation is incredibly easy, and you should be able to get the hang of it in no time
  • Being able to connect this thermal imager to your smartphones and tablets is a huge help
  • Sizable field of view
Cons
  • A bit heavier than the average thermal imaging camera
  • Startup can be slow

Seek Thermal Compact Imager for iOS – A Handy Option for Apple Fans

Smartphones are remarkable devices capable of executing a wide variety of commands and offering so many features. You would think that the smartphones of today should already be capable of thermal imaging given how advanced they are, but that's still a bridge too far.

The good news is that you still can turn your smartphone into a thermal imaging camera if you want to and that is precisely what the Seek Thermal Compact Imager is for.

As you would expect, this device looks significantly different from the other thermal imagers on the market. It's on the smaller side because it's supposed to be attached to an iPhone. Once attached, this item will instantly turn the iPhone into a thermal imager.

Don't be fooled into thinking this device is lagging well behind its competitors. Despite its size, it offers great range – it can detect temperatures from -40 up to 626°F - and as long as there's nothing wrong with your iPhone's screen, the images it provides should turn out well too.

To be clear though, the Seek Thermal Compact Imager still has its shortcomings. While the temperature range offered is indeed decent, this device still lacks the thermal sensitivity provided by more sophisticated alternatives.

You're also not getting as much information from this compact device as you would from standalone thermal imaging cameras.

Pick this item up if you need a thermal imager in a pinch and don't have a lot of money to spare or if you just have some things to check out and don't want to fully invest in a more professional thermal imaging camera.
Pros
  • Good cost-effective choice for hobbyists
  • Device offers solid performance despite obvious limitations
  • Very portable thermal imager
Cons
  • When compared to standalone thermal imagers, its specs won't hold up too well

Seek Thermal Reveal Thermal Imaging Camera – Best for Hunting

The majority of thermal imaging cameras are easy to grip and operate, but they're not necessarily portable. Seek Thermal's Reveal is very portable, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is difficult to operate.

The Reveal will fit perfectly in the palm of your hand, and to operate it properly, you just have to hold it like a flashlight.

Its temperature range and field of view are similar to what the other Seek Thermal product included in this article features. Whether its resolution is better or worse will depend on which iPhone you paired up with the previous Seek Thermal product.

The designers have prepared this thermal imaging camera well for outdoor use.

It's covered in rubberized casing. That keeps it adequately protected even if you end up dropping it. That's probably not going to happen a lot however because this item is incredibly easy to secure in your hand.

I also appreciate that they included an actual flashlight so that you don't have to stumble your way through the dark just hoping to find something with the thermal imager.

Once again though, it helps to have your expectations properly set for this item. It does not feature the same high-end features as larger thermal imaging cameras and it is best reserved for occasional usage as opposed to being a tool you turn to often.

If you're just looking for a thermal imager to use for finding pests in your garden or for rummaging around in your basement, this will work fine.

Pros
  • Incredibly portable, feels like you're holding one of those old flip phones in your hand
  • Specs are good for a portable thermal imager
  • Durable housing keeps it from breaking immediately when dropped
Cons
  • Lacks the high-end features present in many other thermal imaging cameras

FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System - Portability Is Its Main Selling Point

We move from one portable thermal imager to another, and this time around, we're taking a closer look at FLIR's C2.

The C2 weighs even less than Seek Thermal's Reveal, making it the kind of tool you can just keep in your car at all times so that you're prepared for anything that might happen while you're outdoors. This thermal imaging camera is so small that you can even keep it in your shirt pocket if you want to.

It's worth pointing out that this is not the type of thermal imager that you should be thinking about getting if your job actually involves frequent usage of that tool. The detectable temperature range offered by this imager is not that wide, and its operating distance also leaves a lot to be desired.

I do appreciate the fact that the folks at FLIR still included MSX Image Enhancement in this product because it benefits a lot from the inclusion of that feature. As it stands now, the images you'll see from this item are detailed enough to be useful. If the image quality was any worse though, you'd probably have a tough time actually figuring out what's going on.

It's best to think of this FLIR product as a kind of emergency option. Keep it on hand because you never know when a thermal imager might prove helpful, but you should probably lean on something else if you are looking for an item that can be useful for more applications.

Pros
  • Incredibly lightweight and portable, can even fit into your shirt pocket
  • Field of view provided is fine considering its size
  • Display is probably bigger than what you would expect from such a small thermal imager
Cons
  • Images produced can be difficult to interpret at times

Fluke VT04 Infrared Imager - Ideal for Inspecting Tight Spaces

Let's say that you're on the market for a thermal imager not to use outdoors but for just looking around the pipes in your basement and for finding any drafts that may be hidden around your home. A bulky thermal imager is not going to help you and you don't necessarily need something super portable either.

Your best option in that scenario may be Fluke's VT04 Infrared Imager.

This thermal imager is best used for inspecting confined spaces. Line it up carefully with the spot you want to get a reading on and you can be confident that you're getting the most accurate results. This imager works best when you are just focusing on smaller areas and it can even be used to monitor that spot so that you will know right away if the temperature there suddenly spikes or drops.

Hot and cold markers make it even easier for you to understand what exactly is happening in the area you're inspecting.

Fluke Thermal Imager

You're also getting plenty of storage space with this item, especially if you make use of an SD card. It's lightweight as well, meaning you can continue using it over extended periods of time if the need arises for that.

So, what are the drawbacks with this item?

As hinted at earlier, it does not work well outdoors thanks to its relatively narrow field of view. The images that show up on the display are also harder to interpret when you're outdoors.

Fluke's VT04 Infrared Imager is clearly made to be an indoor tool and as long as you play to its strengths, you're getting great bang for your buck.
Pros
  • Excels at providing accurate readings when used indoors
  • Center measurement box gives you the exact reading you need for the spot you're monitoring
  • Alarms will let you know if significant changes in temperature are detected
  • Lightweight and well-designed handle make this item easy to use for a long time
Cons
  • Field of view is way too narrow to be effective outdoors

FLIR C3 Pocket Thermal Camera with WiFi - Portable Yet Highly Functional

The last FLIR product we're reviewing in this article is the C3 Pocket Thermal Camera.

This product actually has a lot in common with the FLIR C2. They're both portable products, they have the same temperature range, resolution, and field of view.

Similarities also extend to the way they are designed to fit in your hands. They even weigh the same.

So, why did the folks at FLIR decide to come up with another portable thermal imaging camera if they were just going to design it in pretty much the same way they did an already existing product? That's because they wanted to put some more helpful features into the C3.

The most important and useful of these features is WiFi connectivity.

You would think that the size of this product would severely limit its functionality, but thankfully, the designers managed to find a way to include those WiFi-based features. Because they're included, using this thermal imager becomes so much easier. You can even share images right away if you want to.

I also appreciate the fact that the inclusion of WiFi connectivity did not require the sacrifice of other helpful features. Sure, you're going to have to pay more for this item, but you can live with that knowing that you're getting a more expansive feature set.

That said, some of the problems present in the C2 have returned in the C3. To be more specific, the images you'll see from this thermal imager may still be somewhat difficult to interpret.

Pros
  • For a portable camera, this FLIR creation has a pretty good feature set
  • The addition of WiFi is very helpful
  • This camera can still fit easily into your pocket
Cons
  • Image quality is still not great

Perfect Prime IR0004 - Best Budget Infrared Thermal Imager

Many of the thermal imaging cameras reviewed in this article are capable of producing images that are of decent quality and are fairly detailed, but they also tend to be a bit unclear in certain ways.

If what you're looking for first and foremost is a thermal imaging camera that can produce clear and highly detailed images, then your best bet may be the IR0004 Infrared Thermal Imager from Perfect Primer.

Its resolution of 220 x 160 is impressive, but still something you'll find in more than a few thermal imagers within the same price range. Even so, the images you can get from this item are incredibly detailed. By referencing them, you'll be able to quickly identify potential trouble spots inside your home or perhaps even find some animals out in the wild.

The display is a bit small, but you should still be able to examine the images that show up on it just fine. It's a good thing that it's a full HD display as that helps this item provide images that look way better than what you would see in numerous other products.

Unfortunately, the other features of this thermal imaging camera pale in comparison to the image quality it provides.

Its temperature range is kind of small relative to the previously reviewed thermal imagers and its field of view is also quite narrow.

You're clearly trading away some useful features in exchange for improved image quality. If you are fine with making that swap, then feel free to get this Perfect Prime creation.

Pros
  • Image quality is superb, details are clearly visible
  • Good amount of storage space available
  • Feels comfortable in your hands
Cons
  • You'll find larger temperature ranges and wider field of views in other thermal imagers

Buyer's Guide

There are all kinds of factors you need to consider before purchasing a thermal imaging camera, but I have found that the items that feature a wide temperature range, high resolution, and WiFi connectivity are the best ones to work with.

Temperature Range

As noted earlier, a thermal imager that is capable of detecting a wide array of temperatures is very useful because it enables you to identify ambient and high-temperature spots. You can save on so much time if your thermal imager is able to work along a wide range.

If your thermal imager can identify a large number of temperatures, that tool will also make it easier for you to locate the potential problem areas in your home.

Resolution

High resolution thermal imaging cameras offer two distinct advantages over their low-res counterparts.

As pointed out by OMEGA, a high resolution imager can provide you with clearer and more detailed images. That will come in handy when you are trying to pinpoint specific spots in your home that are causing issues with the temperature.

Furthermore, a high resolution thermal imager is also better suited for getting a read on smaller targets that are located far away. That means high resolution thermal imagers are great for outdoor use.

WiFi Connectivity

Wi-Fi A thermal imaging camera that is WiFi-enabled is so much easier to use than its offline counterparts. Using the WiFi connection, you can quickly share images with your other smart devices and you can also report any problems you find if you are working with other people.

If WiFi is not enabled on the thermal imaging camera you're using, then you'll have to do more things before you can share your images, and you'll also have to rely on the device's memory to keep the images safe.

Conclusion

Thermal imaging cameras are helpful in numerous scenarios. Whether you are just trying to make improvements inside your home or heading out for hunting, a thermal imaging camera can be a highly useful tool.

Don't be intimidated by how these devices look. With just a bit of practice, you should be able to get used to them.

Just remember to hone in on the key features such as temperature range, resolution, and WiFi connectivity and you should be able to find a great thermal imager.

I hope that you've been able to pick up some valuable information from this article and that you are now better equipped to find the thermal imaging camera that will meet your needs.

Gareth Otwell

About Gareth Otwell

Gareth Otwell is a 28-year-old tech geek. Currently working at a big IT company. He chooses to widen the topics he writes about so as to provide his readers with an all-in-one go-to platform that they can use to research for just about anything. Read more

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