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Best Budget Thermal Imaging Camera Reviews

The manufacture of the thermal imaging cameras is awash with numerous players and brands today, from cheapest to most expensive.

 Some of the top brands are Fluke, Flir, Milwaukee, and Seek. It is noteworthy that the Fluke and the Flir have invested plenty of resources and research in the field of thermal imaging.

Other than the home inspection products, you will also gain access to the specially-designed products which serve industrial applications, military and the aerospace science. Theirs are hence the best thermal imaging cameras on the market today.

What Should I Be Looking For When Choosing Thermal Camera?

With numerous kinds of thermal imaging cameras out there, it may be tricky for you to arrive at the most suitable one.

However, by adhering to the following factors, it may be possible for you to narrow down to the best cameras for your purposes:

  • How much money are you willing to spend on these cameras?
  • What roles do you intend to devote the camera to?
  • How often do you intend to make use of the cameras?

By knowing how much you are able and willing to spend, you will make the first significant step towards this goal.

After ascertaining the realistic amount of money you might spend on these gadgets, proceed to narrow to the cameras which exist in that price range.

Thereafter, you might want to contemplate just how you intend to apply the camera. If you intend to use it to detect unsealed windows or heating, air conditioning, electrical inspection, and ventilation issues in your home, you probably will not require an expensive camera with plenty of advanced features.

With regards to this, it is necessary that you be realistic and truthful with your expectations and what you intend to utilize the camera for.

Lastly, determine how often you plan to use the camera. If you intend to do so only a few times a year, probably in a non-professional setting, it is insensible to purchase an expensive thermal camera.

On the contrary, if you run a personal business of inspecting buildings and intend to use these cameras on a daily basis as a means of earning a livelihood, you may want to spend more to purchase a top-of-the-range camera.

 

Key Features to Look Up 

  • Detector Resolution

Generally speaking, you ought to settle for the highest resolution you can possibly afford. You may consider the 60 by 60 and well to the 640 by 480.

  • Camera

A good device should have a built-in camera which is used to capture the normal images. These serve as the references as well as the thermal images.

At the same time, these cameras should also be able to convert any image into the JPEG besides e-mailing the same to the clients.

  • Excellent Detections

Needless to say, the best camera ought to be able to detect the accuracy within the minimum range of +/- 2%.

  • Temperature Range

It is necessary that the right thermal imaging camera possess as wide temperature range as possible.

  • Laser Point

For the sake of easier navigation, find a camera that has a laser point.

  • Maximum Versatility

The camera of choice has to ideally be capable of combining visible light images and thermal images.

To guarantee this, the camera ought to ideally possess the Image Fusion and the FLIR’s MSX Technology, typically present in the high-end cameras.

  • Computer Apps

If possible, the camera should have an app that is compatible with the tablet or smartphone you have in mind. This app will often help you in generating appropriate reports.

  • Manufacturer’s Warranty

It goes without saying that the right camera should be backed by a generous manufacturer’s warranty. This is to shield you from unnecessary risks and dangers that ordinarily arise in the time of use.

  • NIST Certified

What is NIST and what does it have to do with thermal cameras?

NIST stands for National Institute of Standards and Technology and is non-regulatory agency of the US Department of Commerce established in 1901.

This agency is dedicated to advancing standards and technology around measurement science.

Again, you are probably asking why do we care; well if you are using or will be using a thermal imaging camera in commercial applications or as a firefighter you very well may need a thermal camera that is NIST certified.

Thermal cameras that have been NIST certified cost more but are essentially guaranteed to produce the most accurate data and information.

For example FLIR offers their As Received As Returned calibration certification ensuring that you get the most accurate thermal images.

This can be essential if you are a first responder using a thermal imaging camera to  locate people who may be trapped in a burning building or other emergency situation where visibility is very limited.

If you are monitoring multimillion dollar manufacturing facility or electrical equipment with very tight tolerances it can be essential that all the data being collected is as accurate as possible to ensure there are no breakdowns or damage to the equipment from operating temperatures that exceed the norm.

If you are just going to be using your thermal camera around the house and for small non commercial home inspections then you probably do not need a NIST certified thermal camera and can save a few dollars on your purchase.

 

Our Recomendation

Top 3 Best Budget Thermal Imaging Cameras

1.Fluke VT04A Infrared Imager

best thermal imaging camera for electrical inspections

 

On the whole, this camera is 40% smaller than most competitors. It is hence suitable for industrial and home applications. The device is mainly optimized for fragile objects and those that are remotely located.

  • Thermal Imaging Features

With this camera’s PyroBlend plus Optics, you are certain to obtain high-resolution objects. The sensor is the 31 x 31 which aligns with the thermal image to give you awesome visual pictures.

Other than this, the camera has an awesome field of view that measures 28° by 28° too. It also you to vary the temperature ratings and sets off the thermometer when the selected temperature is exceeded.

You are spared of the need to put in too much attention. This is not to mention that it blends images automatically courtesy of the one-touch button.

  • Performance

Though small, this camera is quite remarkable. It has a wide temperature detection range of around 140°F to 4820°F.

You will find it applicable for heating ventilation and air-conditioning systems, mechanical industries, and electrical inspections.

Given that its thermal sensor is uncooled, it takes measurements from afar off.

This is not to mention that it maintains higher accuracy levels due to its ability to align visible lights in near and far operational modes.

The camera stores up to 10,000 images due to its possession of 4GB SD card storage device. This combined with its SmartView software simplifies the process of accessing and editing images.

  • Battery Life, Warranty and Accessories

The camera requires four AA batteries to operate, unlike the VT04. You will thus enjoy a longer running time of around 8 hours. It is accompanied by a soft case and 2-year warranty. 

 

PROs

  • Contains quick hot and cold spot markers
  • Possesses a center measurement box
  • Has six color pallets
  • Battery-saver modes
  • Focus-free
  • Auto-monitor alarm

 

CONs

  • Occasionally generates inaccurate readings some by as much as 5° variation

 

 

 

Verdict

By its design, it greatly simplifies the troubleshooting activities. At the same time, it brings about professional quality readings and images without asking for any training. It is your best bet if you are on a budget as well.

 

2.FLIR E4 Thermal Camera

cheap thermal camera

 

The FLIR E4 thermal camera is a rugged device which is hand-held, sleek in design and rugged rubberized finish. It has the ability to withstand falls from 6 feet.

The 80 by 60-pixel resolution gives off detailed outcomes while viewing images. It brings together the thermal sensor and the 3.1 mega-pixel visible light camera. 

The latter captures high-resolution images which possess greater details.

The MSX image enhancement extracts finer details from the camera and embeds the same to the thermal image.

In all, the camera has a pretty wide (45°) field of view. Its fixed focus means you will have to adjust your distance accordingly to obtain the best images.

The camera is super easy to navigate courtesy of the one-button controls.

  • Wi-Fi Connectivity

This feature allows you to transfer your files wirelessly. By use of the smartphones and tablets, you can also edit those files and send the same to your clients wherever you are.

The feature allows for timely responses which save you some bit of time.

  • Accessories and Battery Life

It draws its power from the Lithium-ion batteries. This provides hours of uninterrupted services which is sufficient to analyze structures and perceive the alterations in the heat, plumbing cogs, and other pertinent details.

It is encased in a transport case which shields it from damages. This is not to point out that it has a USB cable for manual file transfers.

  • Warranty Information

Lastly, the camera comes with comprehensive warranty coverage. It is governed by the 2-5-10 warranty scheme which is valid for 10 years on the thermal detector, 5 years on the battery, and 2 years on parts and labor.

To qualify for this warranty, you have to register it on the customer care website. 

 

PROs

  • Wide temperature range (-4°F to +482°F)
  • 9Hz refresh rate
  • Four color pallets i.e. black, rainbow, iron, and white
  • Focus-free lens
  • MSX imaging provides further details in the images
  • One-button navigation
  • Four measurement modes i.e. auto cold spots, auto hot, center spot, area box
  • Great warranty provided that you register
  • A budget camera which can nevertheless serve commercial purposes

 

CONs

  • Limited resolution to cater for the heavy applications of thermal imagery in building inspections
  • Low refresh rate

 

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Verdict

You have this camera for your thermal imaging details, comes at a lower price, and great for key building inspections. Its compact size and a user-friendly design combine to provide optimal functionality.

It MSX technology, on the other hand, helps to generate realistic images which bring about conclusive reports.

 

3.FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imager

 

best thermal imaging camera for home inspection

 

The FLIR C2 is a highly sensitive detector camera which reveals heat changes from -140°F to 3020°F. You are hence capable of picking up the minutest changes in temperature.

This allows you to identify the hidden insulation leaks with ease. Generally speaking, this camera incorporates the detector and the thermal camera to produce detailed images.

It boats of possessing the VGA 640 x 480 pixels resolution camera. It further has an 80 x 60-pixel thermal sensor.

These two jointly generate images with resolution measuring 320 x 240. Lastly, it has space for around 500 radiometric images which are stored in the JPEG format.

Each image has a capacity of 4,800 individual temperature measurements.

  • Battery Life and Accessories

With a full battery, the camera can operate continuously for around two hours. It does have a charger which is easier to plug.

Moreover, it also comes along with the useful pieces of hardware which make work easier in the field. To transfer data, you will make use of a USB cable.

  • FLIR Software

The camera allows you to add relevant information and analyzing the images courtesy of the FLIR Tools Professional Reporting Software.

This suite is top-performing by virtue of possessing all the tools requisite for showing minimum, maximum, and average temperature information. Other than these, it contains change color palettes and adds spot meters.

  • Warranty Information

To spare you unnecessary losses, you have some 2-10 year warranty with this camera. The thermal detector is backed by a 10-year warranty whereas other parts get 2 years.

You have to register with the customer care to be eligible though. 

 

PROs

  • Contains plastic and rubber shells which enhance durability
  • Packed with the MXS image enhancement
  • Operable by buttons and touchscreen
  • Supported by the FLIR tools software for the analysis of images
  • Generates high-resolution images
  • Handles a wide temperature range comfortably
  • Has an optional LED lighting

 

CONs

  • Cannot transfer files wirelessly

 

 

Verdict

All factors considered, this is not an entry-level model as it possesses features which exist only in the high-end models. These notwithstanding, it does not cost too much. Get hold of it to save yourself some money.

 

Final Thoughts 

It is our hope that you will find this information worthwhile and helpful in enabling you to select the most perfect thermal imaging camera for your needs.

If you are still not sorted out with the information we have furnished above, or maybe you are looking to get to know more about these cameras as well as the most significant features take a look at our product reviews section.