Thermal Cameras Guide
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Airplane Thermal Image

What Are the Best Thermal Cameras on the Market?

Do you need a thermal camera to troubleshoot home repairs or to inspect equipment in your home?

Are you looking for an affordable, reliable thermal imager or infrared camera to use at work?

Then you've come to the right place!

In this buying guide, we review the best-selling, highest-rated thermal cameras and thermal imagers from leading brands including FLIR, Fluke, Seek and more.

We cover the best thermal cameras for a wide range of uses, from the most popular consumer smartphone cameras to high-end handheld thermal cameras designed for construction, industrial and scientific applications.

In this guide, we also explain the features that matter when selecting the right infrared camera or thermal imager for your needs.

And we do it all in plain, clear English


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Best Thermal Cameras & Imagers Compared

The table below lists & compares the top 8 thermal cameras and thermal imaging devices sold today.

Reading this on a smartphone? Use your thumb to see more products. 

Disclamer: All links below go to Amazon.com

FLIR ONE Thermal Imaging Camera for iOS
  • FLIR ONE Gen 3

  • Best smartphone thermal camera
  • Price:
    $

  • Resolution:
    80 x 60

  • Temperature range:
    -4 to 248°F

  • Weight:
    1.22 ounces

  • Special features:
    Thermal/visual image overlay

  • Image/video recording:
    Yes

Seek Thermal CompactPRO
  • Seek Thermal Compact

  • Best value smartphone thermal camera
  • Price:
    $

  • Resolution:
    206 x 156

  • Temperature range:
    -40 to 626°F

  • Weight:
    3.7 ounces

  • Special features:
    Wide temperature detection range

  • Image/video recording:
    Yes

FLIR-C5-Compact-Thermal-Camera
  • FLIR C5

  • Best handheld compact thermal camera
  • Price:
    $$$

  • Resolution:
    160 x 120

  • Temperature range:
    -4 to 752°F

  • Weight:
    6.7 ounces

  • Special features:
    WiFi connectivity & cloud storage

  • Image/video recording:
    Images only

Seek Thermal Revealpro
  • Seek Thermal Revealpro

  • Best value handheld compact thermal camera
  • Price:
    $$$

  • Resolution:
    320 x 240

  • Temperature range:
    -40 to 626°F

  • Weight:
    6.2 ounces

  • Special features:
    300 lumen flashlight

  • Image/video recording:
    Images only

FLIR TG165 - Spot Thermal Camera
  • FLIR TG165-X

  • Best budget handheld thermal camera
  • Price:
    $$

  • Resolution:
    80 x 60

  • Temperature range:
    -13 to 572°F

  • Weight:
    13.9 ounces

  • Special features:
    Laser ring for precise spot measurements

  • Image/video recording:
    Images only

FLIR-E5-XT-with-WiFi-MSX-E5-XT-Handheld-Infrared-Camera
  • FLIR E6-XT

  • Best handheld thermal camera for pros
  • Price:
    $$$$$

  • Resolution:
    240 x 180

  • Temperature range:
    -4 to 1022°F

  • Weight:
    20 ounces

  • Special features:
    Low NETD for high contrast thermal images

  • Image/video recording:
    Images only

PerfectPrime-IR0018-Infrared-Thermal-Imager-Camera
  • PerfectPrime IR0018

  • Best handheld thermal camera for home repairs
  • Price:
    $$

  • Resolution:
    220 x 160

  • Temperature range:
    -4 to 572°F

  • Weight:
    11.2 ounces

  • Special features:
    Live temperature readings via spot function

  • Image/video recording:
    Images only

FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imaging Monocular
  • FLIR Scout TK

  • Best thermal monocular for outdoors & hunting
  • Price:

  • Resolution:
    160 x 120

  • Temperature range:
    -4 to 104°F

  • Weight:
    6 ounces

  • Special features:
    Video recording

  • Image/video recording:
    Yes


Features to Consider

It can be overwhelming to buy a thermal camera or a thermal imager, today.

This is because the specifications and capabilities of thermal imaging devices vary greatly, and there are a lot of models to choose from.

Prices vary widely, too. You can pay anywhere from $200 to $20,000+ for one.

The best way to make a smart selection is to take 3 minutes to understand the most common features available in thermal imaging devices today, before making your selection.

Once you understand what these key features actually mean to you, it'll be easy to find the right one for your needs. 

Camera or Imager?

The first thing to consider is whether you need a real thermal camera, or just a real-time thermal imager.

If all you need to do is view the temperature of something in real time - and you don't need to store the image for later - then you will be happy with a thermal imager.

A thermal imager provides live temperature readings of the object you are viewing through the unit, but it does not store images. Thermal imagers are perfect for checking for hot spots on equipment & construction sites, during routine maintenance visits.

On the other hand, if you need to capture and store images to share with others or process later on, then you want to buy a thermal camera, also called an IR camera, an infrared camera or a thermal imaging camera.

Thermal cameras store images and/or video on a local SD card or other onboard storage. In addition, some thermal cameras offer the option of superimposing a thermal image onto a live digital photograph of the same object, to help with identifying issues.

NOTE: Whether you buy a thermal imager or a camera, pay special attention to whether the device is equipped with Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity. Network connectivity makes it possible to transfer images to another device in real time, thus eliminating or minimizing the need for native onboard storage. 

Smartphone or Handheld? 

Today, there are two basic formats of infrared thermal cameras.

You can purchase a smartphone thermal camera attachment like the popular FLIR One, or choose from more proven, higher-end handheld thermal camera made by leading manufacturers, FLIR and Fluke.

Smartphone thermal cameras like the FLIR One and Seek Compact XR offer incredible value and convenience, but the temperature range and image resolution of these units can be limiting.

For most professional applications, you'll want to purchase a handheld thermal imaging camera due to the increased sensitivity, broader temperature range, and the features and options available. Handheld thermal cameras and thermal imagers come in a number of model ranges suited for different applications.

In this buying guide, we review the top-selling, best rated thermal imaging products in all of these categories.

Image Resolution

Just like a regular camera, the whole point of a thermal imaging camera is to capture a thermal image of the area or subject you are viewing, so make sure the camera resolution is precise enough for your particular need.

Apartment Building Thermal Imaging

Some cheaper models have very low resolution that makes it difficult to discern temperature differences in detail, leading to somewhat blurred images.

Buy a higher-resolution thermal camera if you need to detect hotspots in complex spaces like wiring harnesses/junction boxes or in small spaces such as electrical boxes, small motors and electronic devices.

Screen Size

The larger the screen, the more detail you can see in real-time.

Imagers and cameras with larger screens often have touchscreen capabilities, as well.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of an IR camera can be an important factor if you use it frequently or have to carry it for long periods of time. Size also matters if you prefer to carry your thermal camera in a toolbox or on a tool belt.

The latest smartphone thermal cameras like the FLIR One and Seek Compact XR are incredibly popular right now, for this very reason. Both are small, lightweight and snap onto your smartphone - which makes it easy to text/transfer/store images using a device you already use, all day long. 

Temperature Range & Sensitivity

A thermal camera’s temperature range and sensitivity are also critical for many applications.

Temperature Range

The camera’s temperature range tells you the minimum and maximum temperatures the camera can accurately measure.  

The IR camera/imager you buy needs to cover a temperature range wide enough to accurately capture all of the objects or scenes you expect to monitor on a regular basis.

For many household inspections, a range of -4 to +220 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 to +110 degrees Celsius) is usually sufficient.

For industrial and scientific uses, and for firefighters and other emergency personnel, the required temperature range is often far wider and/or skewed into a colder or warmer range.

Temperature Range of Thermal Image Camera

Temperature Sensitivity

A camera’s temperature sensitivity, or thermal resolution, refers to the smallest temperature difference that a thermal camera can discern between two objects.  

The temperature sensitivity you need depends completely on the job you need it for and on the environment in which you're working.

For example, mechanical inspectors who need to monitor friction in rotating equipment know that a higher thermal resolution (temperature sensitivity) can make the difference between replacing a worn bearing every 5 years and replacing an entire pump, or worse. 

Firefighters need to detect warm bodies within a warm environment, so they also need a higher temperature sensitivity than most.

Thermal sensitivity is measured in degrees Celsius. Inexpensive thermal sensors can detect temperature variations of one or two degrees Celsius.  Higher-end units like the FLIR T420 can discern within +/- 0.045 degrees Celsius.

Image Overlay

Features such as picture-in-picture and image fusion let you overlay a visible light image onto a thermal image.

This creates a clearer and more meaningful image which is helpful in detecting heat issues in a complex space like a wiring box.

Image overlays also help to convey important information when showing thermal images to clients, customers and to your boss.

Other Features

Thermal imagers and cameras come in many different designs and offer a wide range of optional features.

Listed below are other features that may matter to you.  No camera has all of the following, so make sure you note the features that are important to your particular job or application.

Bluetooth and wireless connectivity let you send images to other devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones, and they allow for real-time streaming - all without the need for wifi or cellular coverage. This can be really helpful in situations where multiple people need to see the images at one time, or if you lack the time or ability to upload the images in a timely manner (in the field, etc). If you work in a large team environment or use thermal imaging remotely, you will definitely want WiFi connectivity. WiFi is also required for cloud-based storage devices.

File types used to store your images matter, too. The best thermal imager cameras store images in common picture formats such as JPEG and MPEG4 video.

Lenses: many higher-end models offer wide-angle view, manual adjustable focus or autofocus lenses.

Adjustments: Reflective Temperature, Emissivity, Temperature Range, etc.

Measurement Modes:  Many options here. More expensive thermal cameras can detect hot spots, let you create area boxes, display isotherm lines, identify hot/cold spots, display Delta temps, display mechanical or electrical data on screen, find the center of a hot spot and more.

Thermal Palettes: most professional thermal cameras let you select different color palettes to work within the standards of your team.  For example, the FLIR T420 offers 12 palettes: Arctic, Gray, Iron, Lava, Rainbow, and Rainbow High Contrast (plus all inverted)

Picture-In-Picture: the ability to display a thermal image inside a larger visible image; or, vice-versa.

Image & Video Storage: there are several storage options, and very few thermal cameras support them all. Make sure you select the right kind for your application. The most popular storage options include: 

  • No Storage (live imaging only)
  • Device Storage (smartphone or other)
  • Micro SD
  • Cloud Storage: streamed to and stored on remote servers

Image Format(s): JPEG, PNG, Radiometric JPG, GIF, RAW are the most popular.

MPEG 4 Video Recording

Video Camera w/Lamp & Laser: to assist with pointing your camera in dark environments.

Video frame rate:  less expensive thermal video cameras will record video at 15Hz; live HD streaming of thermal video requires a rate of 60Hz.

Viewable Distance: how far away from your target can you take thermal readings accurately?

Field of View (FOV): how tall and wide a viewing window can be captured on film; typically measured in degrees vertical x degrees horizontal. A narrow FOV is 10-20 degrees. A wide FOV is anything over 25 degrees.

Digital Zoom: some thermal cameras offer digital zoom of 2X to 4X

Display: the size of your live on-device display; most thermal cameras make do with 2" - 5" diagonal screens.

Image annotation: ability to write notes onto a thermal image, for use later. Some cameras also offer the option of automatically adding temperature, hot spots, isothermal lines, etc. 

Moveable Spot: the ability to identify hot spot(s) and track them automatically, as the camera moves.

Area Box: the ability to draw an area on-screen and measure the temperature within that area. Some cameras offer up to three simultaneous area boxes.

Image Blending: ability to merge visible and thermal images together, to create a composite image. Useful for presenting data to customers and teams.

Weatherproofing: some cameras are IP5 or IP7 compliant, suitable for outdoor use. 

Battery Life: most thermal cameras can run on their batteries from as little as 2 hours up to several days.

Warranty: smartphone IR cameras are typically warrantied for one year; industrial/professional thermal cameras and thermal imagers typically carry a 2-year or 2-5-10 limited warranty. 


Best Thermal Cameras for Your Smartphone

Thermal cameras are no longer limited to expensive, dedicated handheld models. They are now available as attachments for your smartphone.

The two best-selling and highest-rated smartphone thermal cameras on the market are the FLIR One for iOS and Android smartphones, and the Seek Compact for Android smartphones.

NOTE: For a deeper dive into a particular model, click on the "Review" button at the end of its review. If you want to view the latest price, click "See Latest Price".

Best Smartphone Thermal Camera: FLIR One Gen 3

Perhaps the most well-known smartphone thermal camera, the FLIR One gives beginners and hobbyists the convenience of basic thermal imaging for a really low price.

The latest  FLIR One Gen 3 introduces a OneFit adjustable connector that allows you connect the camera to your smartphone without removing the protective case. 

While the FLIR One lacks the temperature range and sensitivity of a conventional handheld IR unit, it’s still a highly-capable and super-convenient thermal imager that can be used for a wide variety of tasks around the home and at work.  

If the specs work for your application, then by all means buy the FLIR One - it will save you a ton of money.

best thermal camera

Key Features

FLIR has packed lots of impressive features into a small, incredibly portable package.

  • The FLIR One Gen 3 has a decent thermal image resolution of 80x60 pixels, which can be fused with the visible camera resolution of 640x480 to create a single image that accurately displays physical details and temperature variances. FLIR calls this feature MSX technology. It makes it much easier to spot exactly which spot is unusually hot or cold. 
  • The temperature range of the FLIR One is -4°F to 248°F (-20°C to 120°C) which is perfect for household use, construction and some industrial applications.
  • Temperature sensitivity of 0.18°F (0.1°C.), more than adequate for most applications.
  • Weighing in at just 1.22 ounces and measuring 2.6 x 1.3 x 0.6 inches, the FLIR One is truly tiny, making it easy to transport anywhere you bring your smartphone.
  • Available for Android and iOS smartphones.
  • The FLIR One Gen 3 stores images and videos in your phone. From there's it's easy to edit and share them. 
  • Seven different thermal color palettes are available.
  • The FLIR ONE App includes features like thermal panoramas and thermal time-lapse video.

Overall

The FLIR One Gen 3 is simple enough for anyone to use, and supports countless uses at home and work.

Nothing is as convenient as using your smartphone to search for hotspots around plumbing, circuitry, and appliances, as well as locating escaped heat around windows and doors.

Then, just text the images and notes to your contractor or yourself. 

best thermal imaging camera for hunting

The FLIR One has plenty of work-related uses as well, allowing you to take a screenshot of an object and send it through a text message, or share larger files and videos instantly as well.

While the FLIR One may not be as powerful and detailed as its larger, more expensive cousins, it has enough resolution and image clarity to fill many needs.

The small size and smartphone connectivity make it an easy choice for anyone looking for an easy and affordable entry into thermal imaging.

FLIR ONE Upgrade Options

If the FLIR One Gen 3 doesn't quite meet your needs, here are a couple more powerful alternatives. 

  • FLIR ONE Pro LT - The ONE Pro LT has the same 80×60 pixels thermal resolution as the ONE Gen 3. However, it has higher thermal sensitivity and VividIR image processing that increases image quality. The ONE Pro LT also comes with its own internal battery that lasts about 1hr. It doesn't drain your battery like the FLIR ONE Gen 3.
  • FLIR ONE Pro - This is the best FLIR smartphone thermal camera for pros. The high resolution (160 x 120), VividIR image enhancement and MSX technology provide a great thermal imaging experience. The ONE Pro also has a wide temperature range than the LT and Gen 3 models; -4°F to 752°F.

Best Value Smartphone Thermal Camera: Seek Compact Thermal Camera

Seek’s Compact thermal camera was one of the first smartphone thermal cameras on the scene, and they continue to improve their model with each new release.

Seek’s current model is a powerful device that offers clarity and resolution well beyond what you’d expect for one this size and price.

Key Features

The Seek Compact mixes in a capable and precise thermal sensor with plenty of added features that are perfect for smartphones.

Compact Camera as Add on to Your Smartphone
  • The Compact has an impressive image resolution of 206 x 156, far better than FLIR One's resolution.
  • The Seek Compact's field of view is a wide 36° (the Seek Compact XR has a narrow 20° FOV)
  • The temperature range is -40°F to 626°F, quite a bit more than the FLIR One.
  • Very small and lightweight, weighing just 3.7 ounces and measuring 1.6 inches long.
  • A waterproof case is included that you can be attached to a keychain when not in use.
  • Super-durable construction
  • The included Seek Compact phone app lets you change the thermal image color palette, set temperature thresholds and adjust the location of the temperature display in the image.

Overall

The Seek Compact is an incredibly capable thermal imaging solution, given how small and inexpensive it is. It also handily beats its closest competitor, the FLIR One, on temperature range, image resolution and viewing distance.

DIY types, homeowners and others who need basic thermal imaging will appreciate how easy this unit is to use with Android and iOS devices. They may also be amazed at how precise the images are.

The super-durable construction and waterproof keychain case makes it a great choice for outdoor use, too.

Seek Thermal Camera Image

The Seek Compact does have a few limitations. For example, it takes fairly poor quality thermal images if you move the camera. That's because it has a low refresh rate of just 9 Hz. You'll need to keep your phone as still as possible.

It also lacks the handy image overlay feature of the FLIR ONE. You only get a thermal image.

Even with the blurring issue and lack of visual image overlay, the Seek Compact is an easy and affordable way to get started with thermal imaging, or simply use as a preventative maintenance tool to keep around the house.

Seek Thermal Compact Upgrade Options

Similar to the FLIR ONE, the Seek Thermal Compact has two more capable siblings that are perfect for those seeking more features and better imaging performance. 

  • Seek Thermal CompactXR - The CompactXR is the best smartphone thermal camera for hunting and outdoors. It's narrow field of view (20 degrees) and extra-long detection range (1800 feet), allows you to identify and track targets from afar. It has the same high resolution and wide temperature range as the Compact. 
  • Seek Thermal CompactPRO - The CompactPro is the best Seek Thermal smartphone camera for professionals. It boasts a high thermal resolution of 320 x 240, an 1800-feet detection range, auto & span/level Control, and adjustable emissivity. 

Best Handheld Thermal Imaging Cameras

Handheld thermal imagers are the most common way to measure infrared radiation and the most powerful.

Most handheld thermal imagers are designed with a particular use in mind. As such, they vary quite a bit in terms of image resolution, temperature range, sensitivity and features. With these units, you want to start with the job you're trying to do, then match the unit to that job. 

Once you pick the right camera, the hard work is over. All of the handheld imagers and cameras reviewed here are easy to operate.

NOTE: For a deeper dive into a particular model, click the "Review" button at the end of its review. If you want to view the latest price, click "See Latest Price".

1. Best Handheld Compact Thermal Camera: FLIR C5

If you want more performance and features than a smartphone thermal camera offers, but with close to the same easy portability, we recommend the FLIR C5 compact handheld thermal camera. 

The C5 is part of FLIR’s compact Cx series that also includes the C2, C3 and C3-X. We’ll discuss these models briefly below. For now, let’s see what the C5 has to offer. 

Key Features

The C5 combines 3 functionalities, a wide temperature range and versatile adjustable parameters into one compact package. 

best thermal camera
  • The C5 has a thermal resolution of 160 x 120 pixels that delivers high quality and detailed thermal images especially from a close range.
  • FLIR C5 is a 3-in-1 tool for home inspection, HVAC repair, home restoration and other professional applications. It is primarily a thermal camera. It also comes with a visual camera as well as an LED floodlight. 
  • The C5 comes with FLIR’s popular MSX image enhancement technology. Thanks to its dual camera design, it’s able to overlay a visual image over the thermal image, making it easier to pinpoint where the problem is.
  • A wide temperature range between -4 and 752°F lets you inspect extra-cold and extra-hot surfaces. The C5 can go from inspecting a HVAC system to a car engine. 
  • The C5’s user interface, while not the prettiest looking, offers lots of settings and options via the 3.5” touchscreen. These include auto/manual span & level adjustment, emissivity settings, thermal palettes, spot and box temperature measurements, atmospheric temperature and others.
  • The C5 is WiFi-connected. This allows you to upload images to FLIR Ignite, FLIR’s cloud storage, where you can access them at any time from any device. 
  • The FLIR C5 is compact and lightweight. It weighs just 6.7 ounces and measures 5.4 x 3.3 x 0.94 inches, making the C5 a truly pocket-size thermal camera.
  • The FLIR C5 is designed to withstand rough environments. It has an IP54 dust and water protection and can withstand a 2m drop.
  •  The internal battery lasts about 4 hours. A battery life indicator on the screen tells you when it’s time to recharge it. A USB cable is included for recharging. 

Overall 

If you find the resolution of the FLIR One smartphone thermal camera limiting, or if you don't want to fumble around with a phone attachment, the C5 is a great alternative. 

The resolution is great for most professional applications, from appliance repairs to circuitry diagnostics. We love the wide temperature range and the ability to adjust various parameters. 

That said, we are not big fans of the WiFi connectivity and Ignite features. The biggest complaint from users of the C5 is that you cannot transfer images directly from the thermal camera to your phone or computer. 

You have to first upload images to Ignite (which means you have to create an online account), then download them to your device. Many users encountered issues and bugs during this process, including the camera failing to upload images. 

A basic thermal camera with manual data transfer via cable would have been perfectly fine. 

Something else to note is that the C5’s resolution is limited for certain applications, particularly those that require a long range like hunting or home security. All you’ll see are blobs on the screen. 

But the C5 is not designed for that anyway. For most pros, DIYers and home owners, it works great for their needs.

thermal imaging camera

FLIR CX Series 

Here are other options in the CX series.

  • FLIR C2 - this is an older model that has since been discontinued, though you can still get it from some sellers on Amazon. It has an 80 x 60 resolution, a 14°F to 300°F temperature range, MSX image enhancement and a 3” touchscreen.
  • FLIR C3 - the C3 is also an older product available only through third party sellers. It features a 80 x 60 resolution, 14°F to 300°F temperature range, MSX image enhancement and WiFi connectivity. 
  • FLIR C3-X - the C3-X is a cheaper alternative to the C5. It has a 128 × 96 resolution, a -4 to 572°F temperature range, MSX technology, and WiFi connectivity. 

2. Best Value Handheld Compact Thermal Camera: Seek Thermal Revealpro

While FLIR products are great, they don't always offer the best bang for your buck. This is the case with the FLIR One smartphone cameras. Seek Thermal Compact cameras offer better value. 

The same is true for compact handheld cameras. Again, Seek Thermal outdoes FLIR when it comes to value for your money. 

The Seek Thermal RevealPRO is a great choice for pros, hobbyists and homeowners looking for a cheaper alternative to the FLIR C5.

best thermal imaging camera for hunting
  • The Seek Thermal RevealPRO offers a 320 x 240 thermal resolution, double that of the FLIR C5. This means higher quality images, improved contrast between different temperatures and a longer detection range of up to 500 feet.
  • The RevealPRO has a temperature range of -40°F to 626°F. It doesn't detect as high temperatures as the C5 but it can record much lower temperatures than the C5’s -4°F minimum.
  •  The user interface provides a variety of settings and options. These include emissivity presets, thermal palettes, manual span and level control, and spot temperature measurements using a digital reticle.
  • The Seek Thermal RevealPRO lacks C5’s WiFi connectivity. But to be honest, we think that’s a good thing. Wireless connectivity in the C5 is a source of frustration for many users. By keeping it simple, the RevealPRO makes things easy.
  • Thermal images are stored in an internal SD card (instead of being uploaded to the cloud), and you can transfer them to your computer using a USB cable.
  • The RevealPRO weighs just 6.2 ounces and measures 7 x 3.75 x 1.75 inches, a great pocket-size thermal camera for pros on the go.  
  • Seek Thermal RevealPRO comes with a 4-hour rechargeable battery and has a built-in 300-lumen LED flashlight.

Overall 

Like the FLIR C5, the Seek Thermal RevealPRO is by no means a high-end professional thermal camera. It’s more of an entry-level professional thermal camera for inspectors, electricians, and other pros looking for an affordable thermal camera that’s good enough for basic thermal inspections. 

The RevealPRO is great for diagnosing electrical circuits, spotting insulation and moisture problems in a home, appliance repair and many other uses. 

The fact that it’s small enough to fit in your pocket is a big plus. 

Where we think RevealPRO could do better is the user interface. The FLIR C5 has a lower resolution but it offers a wider range of settings and options such as the ability to adjust ambient temperature, atmospheric pressure and emissivity. 

We also love FLIR’s visual/thermal overlay (MSX), which is not present in the Seek Thermal RevealPRO. 

Overall, the price difference isn’t that big between the two. If you prefer more options and think the MSX feature will be useful, get the C5. If you think you’ll benefit more from higher resolution or want to avoid the WiFi headaches of the C5, get the RevealPRO.

best thermal camera for android

Seek Reveal Series

The Reveal Series has two additional models

The Reveal FirePRO is designed for firefighters. It has a 320 x 240 thermal resolution and a -4F to 1,022F temperature range.

The Reveal ShieldPRO is designed for law enforcement. It has a 320 x 240 thermal resolution and an extra-long 825-yard detection range. 


3. Best Budget Handheld Thermal Camera: FLIR TG165-X

If you are shopping on a budget, we recommend the FLIR TG165-X. It’s cheaper than the two compact thermal cameras we’ve reviewed above. 

The FLIR TG165-X is especially suitable for pros, home owners and hobbyists looking for a gun-style thermal camera that takes quick thermal measurements of a precise area. 

best thermal imaging camera for hunting

Key Features

  • The FLIR TG165-X combines the functionality of a spot IR thermometer with that of a thermal camera. You can quickly measure the temperature of a particular spot, while also getting a thermal image to troubleshoot hot and cold spots.
  • A bullseye laser lets you target a precise area. The laser appears as a ring, letting you know the size of the measurement area.
  • The FLIR TG165-X has an 80 x 60 thermal sensor that can detect temperatures between -13F and 572F.
  • Thermal images appear on a 2.5” screen with a 320 x 240 display resolution. Because the FLIR TG165-X has MSX image enhancement, you can choose to overlay a visual image on the thermal image to make it easier to understand what you are looking at.
  • For improved precision on different surfaces, you can adjust emissivity settings to one of the three presets or select a custom value.
  •  The FLIR TG165-X comes with an integrated LED flashlight that’s handy when working in dark areas. The light also allows you to take visual images in low lit locations.
  •  The FLIR TG165-X can store up to 50,000 thermal images. A USB-C cable is included for charging and data transfer.
  •  The rechargeable battery lasts 5 hours without laser and 4.5 hours with the laser on.
  •  While it may not be pocket size, the FLIR TG165-X is still highly portable. It measures 8.3 × 2.5 × 3.2 in and weighs 13.9 ounces. It also has a rugged design with an IP54 dust and water protection and a shell that can withstand a 2m drop.

Overall

The FLIR TG165-X thermal camera is a great choice for pros who need to measure temperatures quickly and with precision. The thermal image is a nice bonus. You can see exactly where the anomalies are. 

With a distance to spot ratio of 24:1, the FLIR TG165-X lets you stand a safe distance away when measuring the temperature of hazardous objects such as a moving part or a hot surface.  

The thermal resolution is not the best, but it’ll do for basic thermal inspections. 

best thermal imaging camera for hunting

FLIR TG Series

Two other popular FLIR thermal cameras in the TG series are the TG267, TG275 and TG297

The FLIR TG267 offers a higher 160 × 120 thermal resolution and a wider temperature measurement range of -13°F to 716°F. It can also measure body temperature between 89.6F and 108.5F.

The pricier FLIR TG275 is designed primarily for automotive diagnostics and repairs. It has a thermal resolution of 160 x 120 pixels, and a temperature range between -13F and 1,022F.

The FLIR TG297 is the most expensive in the series. It is designed for industrial applications, hence it’s extra-wide temperature measurement range of -13F to 1,886F.

The FLIR TG267, TG275 and TG297 all come with bluetooth connectivity that you can use to transmit live images to the FLIR mobile app. 


4. Best Handheld Thermal Camera for Pros: FLIR E6-XT

All the thermal cameras we’ve reviewed so far are suitable as hobbyist, DIY or entry-level professional thermal cameras. 

For pros looking for a serious thermal camera with top-level performance and specs, we recommend the FLIR E6-XT. Of course, we are now in the thousand-dollar plus price range. So if you are shopping for a budget thermal camera, consider one of the other IR cameras above. 

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Key Features

  • The E6-XT has a 240 x 180 thermal resolution. The high resolution means super high quality images with clear details. Whether you are looking for leaky insulation, wall studs or faulty circuitry, it’s easy to spot where the problem is using the E6-XT.
  •  To make diagnostics and inspections even easier, the E6-XT comes with FLIR’s MSX image enhancement. The visual and thermal image overlay makes it easier to understand what you are looking at.
  •  The E6-XT IR camera has an extra-wide temperature range of -4°F to 1022°F, giving pros versatility on where they can use the camera. It’s perfect for diagnosing a HVAC system as well as a home boiler or heating system.
  •  The E6-XT is WiFi enabled. This allows you to link it to your smartphone via the FLIR Tools app. On the app, you can download and share thermal images, as well as create and send customer reports. By the way, the thermal images retain temperature data for further analysis.
  •  The user interface provides access to just about any settings and options pros need. These include emissivity adjustment, color palettes, image modes, reflected temperature correction, and below/above temperature alarms.
  •  As for measurements, the E6-XT can take spot temperature measurements as well as min/max box measurements.
  •  The rechargeable lithium battery lasts about four hours. For longer work projects, you can carry an additional battery in the included case.
  •  As for portability, the E6-XT is not too bad. It measures 9.6 × 3.7 × 5.5 in and weighs about 20 ounces (1.2lbs).
  •  The E6-XT comes with an integrated LED flashlight for illuminating dark areas when doing inspections or using the visual camera.

Overall

You may be wondering why the E6-XT costs much more than IR cameras with a higher resolution. But thermal resolution is not everything in a thermal camera. 

One spec that makes the E6-XT much better than other thermal camera is its thermal sensitivity, also called NETD. This is the camera’s ability to distinguish between small temperature differences. 

The lower the NETD, the more contrast you’ll see in thermal images. Higher contrast produces highly detailed images, and makes it easier to spot anomalies. 

The cheapest FLIR thermal cameras have a sensitivity of 100 mK or 150 mK. The FLIR E6-XT has a thermal sensitivity of less than 60 mK. For pros that need to spot tiny anomalies, this is hugely helpful. 

Overall, the E6-XT is a solid choice for most professionals. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it. 

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FLIR Ex Series

Looking for alternatives to the E6-XT? Here are some more professional FLIR thermal cameras in the Ex series.

  • FLIR E4 - A cheaper option for pros looking for a high-performance FLIR thermal camera. The E4 has a resolution of 80 x 60 pixels, a temperature range of –4°F to 482°F, and a thermal sensitivity of about 150 mK. Also, it lacks WiFi connectivity. 
  • FLIR E5-XT - Another great option for pros on a budget. The E5-XT has a 160 x 120 resolution, a temperature range of -4F to 752F, WiFi connectivity, and thermal sensitivity under 100 mK. 
  • FLIR E8-XT - The most expensive thermal cameras in the Ex series. Great for pros that want an IR camera with high resolution and contrast. The E8-XT has a 320 x 240 resolution, a temperature range of -4°F to 1022°F, WiFi connectivity, and a thermal sensitivity under 50 mK. 

5. Best Handheld Thermal Camera for Home Repairs: PerfectPrime IR0018

Coming down on the price, we have the PerfectPrime IR0018 that we think is the best handheld thermal camera for home owners doing home maintenance projects. 

It’s not expensive like the FLIR E6-XT, but offers plenty of great specs including high resolution and a wide temperature measurement range. 

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  • A 220 x 160 thermal resolution is more than enough to identify insulation gaps, leaky plumbing and faulty floor heating.
  •  Images are displayed on a 3.2” full color screen.
  • The PerfectPrime IR0018 has the same thermal/visual overlay feature found in FLIR IR cameras. You can blend the visual and thermal images to get the most detail out of the image. Options include 75% /25% thermal & visual, 50/50 thermal & visual, and 75/25 visual & thermal.
  • With a temperature measurement range of -4 to 572F there’s nothing at home you can’t inspect with the PerfectPrime IR0018. 
  • In the user interface, you can select from 5 color palettes and adjust emissivity and reflected temperature values to ensure accuracy.
  • You can use the PerfectPrime IR0018 as a spot thermal thermometer to measure the live temperature of a surface. It can also measure the max and min temperatures of an area.
  • Thermal images you capture are stored in an SD card. You can transfer images using the included USB cable.
  •  The IR0018’s compact size and lightweight design makes for easy portability. It measures 9 x 4 x 3.3 inches and weighs 11.2 ounces. It also comes with a carry case. 

Overall

The PerfectPrime IR0018 is a great bargain compared to FLIR handheld thermal cameras. It’s cheaper but offers lots of pro-level features and specs. 

The resolution is great and the temperature range allows for versatile applications. We love that you can adjust emissivity and other settings.

For homeowners looking for an affordable thermal camera that’s more capable than a plug-in phone camera, we highly recommend the PerfectPrime IR0018. 

That said, you won’t find it useful in long-range applications like hunting and home security. It does see further than basic 80 x 60 pixel IR cameras, but it’s still no match for a dedicated long-range thermal camera. 

If that’s what you are looking for, check out our next recommendation. 


6. Best Thermal Monocular for Outdoors & Hunting: FLIR Scout TK

All the thermal cameras we’ve reviewed above are suited for close-range inspections. If you want to objects from a distance, you’ll need a dedicated long-range thermal camera. 

We recommend the FLIR Scout TK thermal monocular. Its 160 x 120 thermal resolution and narrow field of view allows you to detect animals, people and objects from over 100 yards away. This makes the Scout TK suitable for outdoor applications like hunting, home security, and herd management for ranchers. 

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Key Features

  • The Scout TK has a 160 x 120 thermal resolution. Thermal images displayed on the 640X480 LCD screen have good detail and contrast. It’s easy to make out even small animals like a cat or rabbit.
  •  The TK’s narrow 20-degree FOV extends its detection range to 100 yards for human-sized objects.
  • The Scout TK offers several color palettes to suit different environments. 
  • You can record both videos and images. Use the included USB cable to transfer media from the internal memory.
  • Since it’s meant for outdoor use, the FLIR Scout TK is designed to withstand the elements and a bit of rough handling. It has a rugged and hardy that can withstand a 2m drop and has an IP67 water and dust protection rating. It can withstand being submerged in water for a limited period.
  • Don't worry about lugging around a heavy monocular outdoors. The Scout TK weighs only 6 ounces and measures 6.0" x 2" x 2".
  • The FLIR Scout TK has a 5-hour battery life. Battery is rechargeable. 

Overall 

If the main reason you want a thermal camera is to look out for intruders, search for lost pets or animals, or go hunting, the FLIR Scout TK is a good entry-level thermal monocular. 

It’s not the most capable around. There are thermal imagers and cameras that can see as far as 1,000 yards. If you want something more capable, check out our reviews of the best thermal monoculars and scopes, as well as the best thermal binoculars.


Consumer Uses of Thermal Imagers

While many associate thermal imaging with commercial and industrial settings, the truth is that they can be one of the most versatile tools you can have at home.

Thermal imagers are well-suited for inspecting your home for energy audits, to locate where heat is escaping through leaky windows and doors.

Thermal cameras can also be used for locating wall studs, areas with missing insulation, wet spots in walls and cool spots on a failing stove or oven.

Thermal Image of Green House Insulation

Electrical and fire hazards can be identified using thermal cameras, too, whether it’s an overheated outlet, a short in your wall, or overloaded circuits in your breaker box. 

There are many less serious uses for thermal imagers in your home, too. You can use them to check the temperature of almost anything, or anyone, for any use.  Check your baby's bottle, the temperature of your beer, the difference in temperature between rooms, and more. The uses are endless. 

Thermal imagers with distance capability can also be used for home security or locating a missing animal in the yard, at night.

Industrial Uses of Thermal Imagers

Thermal imagers are a valuable tool utilized in many industries to inspect equipment, to improve efficiency and to ensure safety.

Utility and industrial plants are common places you'll find thermal imaging cameras, due to the amount of electrical work, piping, and machinery that need constant monitoring.

Thermal imagers are like a second set of eyes for many industrial professionals. They can spot bearings going bad, motors about to fail, pumps that need maintenance and issues with circuitry and piping before they fail. Identifying problems like these before they get out of hand averts dangerous and costly incidents.

Thermal Image of Building Detecting Flaws in Construction

First responders use thermal imaging to locate victims in low light situations, and policemen use thermal imagers to spot dangerous subjects that may be in hiding and to assess a potential threat beyond a door or wall.

Of all industrial uses, however, thermal imaging is most helpful to contractors, building inspectors and home builders. HVAC issues are easy to spot and analyze, while water leaks and damage to a roof can be detected, avoiding more costly repairs or inspection failures, later on down the line.


FAQs 

How accurate is a thermal camera?

It depends on the quality of the thermal camera, and the type of surface or object being measured. 

Thermal cameras with adjustable emissivity (which can greatly affect measurement accuracy) are more accurate. Some professional thermal cameras allow you to adjust other parameters as well like ambient temperature, reflected temperature and atmospheric pressure to achieve more precision. 

Thermal cameras with lower thermal sensitivity or NETD will also be more accurate. A camera with 50 mK sensitivity can spot smaller temperature differences compared to one with 100 mK sensitivity. 

What is the range of a thermal camera? 

Temperature range for most thermal cameras is usually -4F to 572F. The max temperature is lower (200-300F) in cheaper models and higher in high-end professional thermal cameras (1000F or more). 

Can a thermal camera see through clothes?

No, it cannot. However, it can identify things on your body that have a high temperature difference such as a gun strapped to your waist or a necklace around your neck. 

Do thermal cameras work through walls?

Thermal cameras can see things in the wall such as a water leak, studs or electrical wiring, but cannot see through walls. 

That’s because walls are thick enough to block infrared radiation from anything on the other side. The same is true for glass. Because most IR radiation cannot pass through glass, a thermal camera can’t ‘see’ through a house or car window. 

Can I use a thermal camera during the day?

Many people confuse thermal cameras for night vision imagers. Night vision technology works only at night. 

Thermal cameras, on the other hand, can be used during the day and night. They do not need visible light to function. 


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About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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