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Best Thermal Imager Under $1000: 2021 Reviews and Buying Guide

Are you looking for the best thermal imager under $1000? You’ve come to the right place!

Thermal imagers were only employed by the military a few years ago. Firefighters began to use them to navigate through smoke and pinpoint hotspots later on.

Then, thermal imaging cameras were introduced into law enforcement to investigate crime scenes. For a long time, these devices have been unavailable to the general public due to their high price point.

However, the entry of several new thermal device companies has led to the development of a series of powerful and affordable thermal imagers that any electrician or technician can use for electrical and building inspections.

To help you find an effective unit that doesn’t burn a hole through your pocket, we’ve reviewed some of the best thermal imagers under $1000. Let’s dive straight into it!

Who Needs a thermal imager?

Thermal imagers may identify things that are invisible to the naked eye. They aid in the detection of the minor issues before they become major failures.

Most industrial workers can spot equipment problems through unusual sounds and vibrations, but some problems are hidden and don’t give out any clear warning signs.

The majority of electrical problems can be easily identified by their heat patterns, which, if not detected, can result in equipment failure or a serious electrical hazard.

If you specialize in weatherization, you can use a simple and affordable point-and-shoot thermal imager to spot poor weather stripping, leaking windows, and missing insulation.

Similarly, if you work as an energy auditor, a more advanced unit can help you create professional and customized reports. You can also use a model with a Wi-Fi connection to send thermal images to an agency that subsidizes improvements.

Furthermore, HVAC or restoration contractors can benefit from thermal imagers as they can analyze moisture meter data, give a better idea about the extent of the damage, and even detect coolant leaks and other condensation problems.

Thermal imaging cameras are also suitable for predictive maintenance professionals. A utility trouble man might only need a simple point-and-shoot thermal imager to conduct safety checks of electrical equipment before performing any repairs.

Meanwhile, some workers might need high-resolution models to scan power lines and substations and gather accurate and detailed temperature measurements from a safe distance.

Electricians and facility maintenance personnel might also benefit from thermal imagers with flexible ergonomics as they’ll be able to comfortably point the unit down behind motors, around tight corners, and straight-up for inspecting equipment overhead.

In all these cases, thermal imagers can diagnose and pinpoint problems quickly, reduce unscheduled downtime, and minimize damage to buildings and structures.

What’s in This Buying Guide

With such a wide range of models available today, finding a powerful thermal imager that doesn’t break the bank is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming task.

To ensure you make the right decision, we’ve reviewed some of the best models available in the market and even included a comprehensive buying guide, so you don’t regret your purchase!

Make sure you also check out the best thermal imaging apps before you purchase a thermal camera. If you want to set up a complete thermal tool kit, feel free to go through our review of the best cheap night vision goggles as well!

Best Thermal Imagers Under $1000

Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com

budget thermal camera
  • Seek Thermal Revealpro

  • Best Overall

  • Image Resolution
    320x240 pixels

  • Display
    2.4”

  • Temperature Detection Range
    -40oF to 626oF

  • Storage
    4 GB

  • Weight
    0.176 oz.

best cheap thermal camera
  • PerfectPrime IR0019

  • Best for electrical problems

  • Image Resolution
    320x240 pixels

  • Display
    3.2”

  • Temperature Detection Range
    -20oC to 300oC

  • Storage
    4 GB

  • Weight
    11.2 oz.

budget thermal camera
  • FLIR ONE Pro

  • Best for iPhone

  • Image Resolution
    160x120 pixels

  • Display
    Depends on your smartphone

  • Temperature Detection Range
    -4oF to 752oF

  • Storage
    Depends on your smartphone

  • Weight
    1.27 oz.

best cheap thermal camera
  • HTI HT-301

  • Best for Android

  • Image Resolution
    384x288 pixels

  • Display
    Depends on your smartphone

  • Temperature Detection Range
    -20oC to 400oC

  • Storage
    Depends on your smartphone

  • Weight
    1.58 oz.

1. Best overall: Seek Thermal Revealpro

inexpensive thermal camera

The new Seek Thermal Revealpro is one of the most impressive pocket-sized thermal cameras available today.

With an image quality that’s comparable to expensive, high-end models like the FLIR E6, it may not be the first pocket-sized unit, but it’s still one of the best ones in the market.

Pros

  • 320×240 resolution provides high-quality pictures with precise thermal detection
  • Large colorful LCD offers a high refresh rate and a clear, detailed view
  • Comes with a 300 lumen LED flashlight that illuminates objects in dark areas
  • Wide 32o field of view allows you to capture objects at a distance of 500 feet
  • Uses spot detection to identify objects with prominent heat signatures

Cons

  • Welcome guide includes limited information
  • Does not hold a charge when it is turned off
  • You can only remove SD card with very small tweezers, which is a bit difficult

Our Review

Boasting a 320×240 px thermal sensor, the Seek Thermal Revealpro offers visible and clear imaging during the day and the night.

The model easily detects energy loss, water leaks, building problems, mechanical damages, and all other heat-related issues, so you can fix them as soon as possible.

With a temperature range of -4 °C to 330°C, it identifies all types of thermal signatures perfectly. The unit’s nine color palettes offer detailed images in different colors, while its 32° field of view and 9 Hz refresh rate provide clear and crisp image quality.

Moreover, it comes with four emissivity modes that ensure correct and precise temperature measurement. Ideal for both personal and professional use, the Seek Thermal Revealpro further features three different imaging modes. The normal or default mode features the smoothest frame rate, making it ideal for capturing moving objects.

The full-frame mode displays all of the scene’s temperature data, making it deal for instances when you need to examine a picture in great detail.

Lastly, the span and level mode filters out objects that do not fall into the set temperature range, so you can only see the ones you’re interested in. This mode is suitable for applications like maintenance and inspections. All three modes offer a wide range of filters for you to choose from.

The camera also offers clear imaging from a distance of 500 feet and comes with a 300-lumen LED flashlight that helps illuminate dark areas. It operates on a Lithium-ion battery for durable and long-lasting performance and is enclosed in a rubberized case that protects it from accidents and unexpected drops.

With all these outstanding features, the Seek Thermal Revealpro certainly deserves first place on our list of top picks.

Issues and Limitations

The camera needs to be held at an awkward angle, so it might be difficult to position and point the unit to the desired place. You might even have to put your hand in front of the thermal imager to guide yourself.

The Revealpro also suffers from low battery life, but this is expected as it is designed with more powerful and power-hungry functions.

2. Best for Electrical Problems: PerfectPrime IR0019

affordable thermal camera

The PerfectPrime IR0019 is one of the newer additions to the IR series and boasts high-quality and crystal-clear thermal resolution.

Ideal for both home and professional use, it can identify hot or cold leaks, detect insulation problems, and quickly diagnose problems in HVAC units.

Pros

  • Offers a high thermal resolution of 320×240 pixels
  • 3.2-inch TFT display gives a crystal-clear view with a 9 Hz refresh rate
  • 4 GB storage capacity allows you to save recordings and images safely
  • Boasts a heat tolerance capacity of -20°C to 300°C
  • 35-degree field of view enables you to clearly capture a large area

Cons

  • Noise level of the sensor is quite high
  • The lower and upper ends of the rainbow temperature scale are not labeled
  • Instructions are incomplete and a bit difficult to understand

Our Review

The PerfectPrime IR0019 features thermal detection with a 320×240 image resolution. Its 0.07°C sensitivity offers a longer run time and better picture quality.

Its rechargeable Li-ion battery further allows you to use the model for two to three hours with continuous recordings, while its 3.2-inch colorful TFT display and 9 Hz refresh rate give you crisp and crystal-clear images.

This unit is designed with 4 GB storage, enabling you to easily save and transfer files from one device to another with USB cables. Its large buttons ensure convenient and smooth operation, and the included temperature and emissivity values are easy to understand.

This thermal camera is perfect for both personal and professional use, so you can easily use it for an electrical inspection.

Moreover, this model boasts a high-end sensor that perfectly detects anomalous thermal signatures. It also features a wide 270 x 350 field of view that allows you to capture a large area at a short focal length of 0.5m.

With the thermal vision model of the PerfectPrime IR0019, you can easily identify and fix water damage, electrical problems, and all sorts of other heat-related issues.

Issues and Limitations

This IR camera might sometimes capture noisy images that may appear as if you’re viewing them through a dirty screen door.

The answer to whether you can use these images ultimately depends on your application. If you’re planning on identifying any active water leaks or home energy losses, then these noisy images are perfectly suitable.

The company could also improve the design of this unit with a built-in laser that matches the actual physical location to the thermal image.

While this camera does include a visible image feature, it’s not of much use when you’re viewing a large featureless area, such as a large ceiling or a blank wall.

Without having a clear laser point as a reference, it can be difficult to associate the actual physical location with the thermal image.

Lastly, the PerfectPrime IR0019 does not come with a lanyard and has no way to attach one. So, you have to be careful that you don’t drop the camera while using it.

3.  Best for iPhone: FLIR ONE Pro

cheap thermal camera

Whether you’re troubleshooting mechanical systems, finding water damage, inspecting electrical panels, or looking for HVAC problems, the FLIR ONE Pro can help you find invisible issues faster than ever.

It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful consumer-level thermal imagers available today with extremely accurate temperature measurement and remarkably high resolution.

Pros

  • Powerful infrared camera processes images in great detail
  • You can easily attach the camera to an iPhone or iPad with a lightning port
  • Boasts a temperature range of 14°F to 302°F for maximum output
  • Uses VividIR and MSX technology for clearer and better image processing
  • Has been drop-tested to ensure it has a durable and long-lasting performance
  • Offers plenty of powerful adjustment and metering options

Cons

  • High-temperature mode is only useful in
  • very limited situationsApp lags very often

Our Review

Specifically designed for iOS, the FLIR ONE Pro is the perfect thermal imager for iPhone and iPad users.

The unit includes a lightning port, so you can easily connect the camera to an Apple tablet or phone. Once the device establishes a secure connection, your phone will display the result in a stunning 1440×1080 resolution.

Furthermore, the unit can capture 500 radiometric images, enabling you to use the thermal imager in several different places. It also features a 4800-pixel rate and a temperature detection range of 14°F to 302°F, ensuring high-quality images every single time.

Moreover, this model features a VividIR and MSX enhanced system that develops and processes videos and images to a higher level.

This feature ensures that users see what they capture precisely and clearly. The processing also sharpens the images, so users have a better idea of what’s going on.

The FLIR ONE Pro allows you to capture videos, time-lapse recordings, and still photos with the FLIR app. All images and recordings are then stored at a 1440 x 1080 resolution. All videos are stored as MOV or MP4 files, depending on whether you’re using the iOS or Android version of the camera.

The application also saves all thermal imaging data and allows you to change palettes, meter specific temperatures, adjust temperature ranges according to the chosen palette, and toggle between thermal, visual, and MSX views.

All in all, the ONE Pro is one of the company’s most powerful consumer-level, phone-based thermal imaging cameras.

Its high resolution alone more than makes up for its price, while its ability to withstand and measure high temperatures makes it an essential tool for many.

The large amount of information provided with every shot, along with the numerous metering options that allow you to check the temperature anywhere on the screen, make it an excellent upgrade from the FLIR One.

Issues and Limitations

The unit does not come with the option of changing the color of the text. The default font is gray, thin, and very faint, so it might be difficult to read when you’re examining a hot area.

Although the MSX enhanced system is good, it’s not suitable for close work, such as electronics. Even if you set the camera at its closest setting, there is going to be a lot of space between the two images.

Overall, the FLIR ONE Pro is a good thermal imager, but its app still needs a bit of human touch.

4.  Best for Android: HTI HT-301

best budget thermal imaging camera

The HTI HT-301 thermal imager is a second-tier tool that enhances the performance of your smartphone.

It boasts an incredibly powerful thermal resolution accessory, a 384×288 IR sensor resolution, and a temperature range of -20oC to 400oC.

It’s undoubtedly one of the most innovative products available today, providing you with the solution to all your technical problems and everyday issues.

Pros

  • Large screen display gives a clear and detailed viewing experience
  • Six different color palettes allow customizable thermal imaging
  • Offers 384x288p thermal imaging at 25 Hz resolution
  • Detects temperature from -20°C to 400°C, enabling you to fix all heat-related issues

Cons

  • Compatible with only Android devices
  • App is a bit difficult to understand

Our Review

This model features 384x288p imaging and captures high-quality images with a 25 Hz resolution. Its adjustable focus offers an incredibly clear display in all conditions, while its USB Type-C port allows you to quickly connect the camera to your smartphone.

However, make sure that your phone has at least an Android marshmallow or 6.0 operating system, so the app runs smoothly without any issues.

With a temperature detection range of -20°C to 400°C, you can identify and fix all sorts of heat-related issues.

Its adjustable emissivity further provides accurate temperature calculation, while its versatile settings make it extremely convenient to use.

It also comes with a temperature switch that enables users to change the temperature measurement unit.

Moreover, its large screen display offers high-quality, real-time imaging with an excellent refresh rate. The HTI HT-301 also gives you the option of setting temperature levels in the minimum, maximum, or center.

Lastly, it comes with six different color palettes so that you have a better idea of what the image represents.

Issues and Limitations

One of the biggest limitations of this model is that it only works with Android devices. The camera’s software has some issues, so it can be difficult to understand and use.

The app also does not have the option to retain a constant color scale, so every image uses a different and relative color range.

Moreover, the threads of the aluminum lens cylinder are loose-fitting and coarse. This makes it difficult to set the focus, as it relaxes just by touching the lens. You have to twist the lens gently and very carefully let go to set the focus.

Buying Guide

thermal imager thermal night vision camera under $1000

What to Look for When Buying a Budget Thermal Imager?

With such a wide range of models available in the market, choosing the right thermal imager can be a very confusing task.

To help you make the right decision, we’ve listed some of the factors you should consider before finalizing your purchase. Let’s take a look!

Sensitivity and Accuracy

The sensitivity of a thermal imager is the ability to calculate the temperature difference between objects that negatively affect the accuracy of the camera. The right sensitivity and accuracy depend on your usage and needs.

High-end thermal imagers usually have a thermal sensitivity of 50mK and an accuracy of +/-2%. But models with 100mK sensitivity and +/-5% accuracy work decently as well.

Resolution

Most budget-friendly thermal imagers feature less pixel resolution than standard visible-light cameras. It’s important to remember that a camera with a higher resolution will create better and clearer thermal images.

A model with a 160×120 pixels resolution is considered to be of average quality, while a camera with a 320×240 pixels resolution is categorized as high-quality.

Temperature Range

cheapest thermal camera

Every thermal imager comes with its own temperature detection range with a maximum and minimum value.

The ideal temperature range entirely depends on the application and use of your thermal camera. Normally, a unit that can measure temperature up to 600 degrees Celsius is suitable for almost all applications.

Screen Size

If you want to view a larger image, you should opt for a camera with a wide display screen. It’s better to choose a display size above 3.5 inches, as it offers a clearer and more comfortable view of the images on the screen.

A larger display also makes it easier for professionals to analyze and explain the different readings on the camera screen to their clients.

Image Format

Almost all thermal imaging cameras save images in JPEG format. This format is always preferable, as it allows users to easily transfer the pictures to a computer with a USB cable for further processing.

Models that save images in a bitmap format usually remove all temperature details before storing them.

Furthermore, choosing a thermal imager that stores images in an unpopular format is not advisable, as you’ll need a particular application to open and view the files.

Built-in Visible Light Camera

If your job includes inspections in low-light conditions, it’s better to go for a thermal imager with a built-in visible light camera.

This way, you won’t have to go through the trouble of bringing an extra torchlight for all the dark spots.

Moreover, if you’re going to submit detailed and clear customer reports, a visible light camera will definitely be necessary.

Battery Life

If you’re a professional technician, you should choose a thermal imager with long battery life, so you can complete your inspection without any interruptions. It’s also advisable to choose a model with a replaceable and removable battery.

Units with built-in batteries spell trouble because you’ll have to look for a power supply as soon as the battery runs out of juice, especially if you’re in the middle of an important task.

Bluetooth-Enabled Tests and Measurement Meters

Newer models are designed with advanced test and measurement tools that analyze more than temperature and give you a clearer picture of the severity of electrical issues and moisture damage.

These clamp and moisture meters wirelessly transfer important diagnostic data, like amperage, resistance, humidity, and voltage, directly to the thermal imager.

This data is further embedded into the radiometric JPEGs to provide additional support to your findings.

You can also use this extremely valuable information to properly determine the extent and urgency of the problem and then decide the best course of action.

Ergonomic Design

The weight of the camera is an extremely important thing to consider, especially if you’re going to use it frequently or for long periods of time. A lighter model will put less strain on your back and shoulder during long inspections.

Fortunately, most budget-friendly thermal imagers boast a compact and lightweight design and fit snugly into utility belts, pouches, and toolboxes.

Some models also feature lens systems that rotate along a 120-degree axis, enabling users to comfortably keep the display screen in front of them while tilting the optical lens straight down or up to scan hard-to-reach places.

This feature is perfect for people who work on overhead duct inspections, look behind motors, and scan other spots from challenging angles.

You should also consider the interactive controls of the thermal imager. Check whether they come with direct-access menus, dedicated buttons, or both. A camera with a few extra buttons positioned strategically is easier to use than a model with a single button to scroll through various menu options.

Some thermal imagers are also designed with touch screens, allowing you to easily access features, functions, and text and sketch notations.

Furthermore, it’s advisable to choose a camera equipped with at least two batteries, so you can quickly and easily switch them out in the field and keep working without any interruptions.

Wi-Fi Enabled

Some thermal imagers are designed with a Wi-Fi connection that allows you to connect the unit to your tablets and smartphones.

You can then easily transfer IR images to your devices for detailed report generation, portable analysis, and sharing.

The advantage of wirelessly sending IR inspection reports and thermal images from one device to another is huge, especially if you work in a field where time is of the essence.

Limitations of Inexpensive Thermal Imagers

There are some situations in which an inexpensive thermal camera might be unable to successfully capture a clear, accurate, and usable image.

Most budget-friendly models feature a black and white camera, so make sure you decide whether you really want a color display before purchasing one.

Since cheaper thermal imagers are not designed with smart features, you can’t expect them to have a high sensitivity range. These units will only be able to find hot/cold spots and detect leaks.

Similarly, you can’t expect an HD or large display from a budget thermal imager. But don’t worry, as all inexpensive models have decent resolution and display.

Sometimes, an inexpensive thermal imaging camera might not capture a very accurate image, and the resultant photo might be hard to decipher.

For example, you may want to see the thermal signature of an area under a door to determine whether it is allowing heat to escape, but you may keep getting an unusable image.

While this can be a limitation of a cheap model, you can still try to get a better picture. You can do this by experimenting with different angles or getting up close to what you’re trying to capture.

Cheaper models might also capture disheveled and blurry images in certain scenarios. The best solution to this problem is to keep the camera as steady and balanced as possible and give it a couple of extra seconds before taking the shot. This will give you a much sharper and clearer image almost every time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are thermal cameras available at such a high price?

best cheap thermal camera

Thermal cameras are expensive because of the price of the material used for their lenses. Since glass is not completely clear in the range of wavelength of infrared sensors, a distinct and unique material is needed for the lenses.

The majority of thermal lenses are designed with germanium, which is a metal that costs around $1500 per kilogram in its raw state.

Furthermore, the materials used in the construction of a thermal imager’s detector are expensive. Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), Mercury Cadmium Telluride (HgCdTe), and Indium Antimonide (InSb) are all materials that are rarer and more expensive than those used in visible light cameras.

Do inexpensive thermal imagers have a lower life?

Thermal imagers have a one-of-a-kind design. To attune to the operational wavelength, All models employ germanium instead of glass for the lenses. As a result, even low-cost versions have a longer lifespan.

Can I change my smartphone into a thermal imager?

If you carefully extract the IR filter from your smartphone without damaging any other components, you can use the phone as a thermal imaging camera. However, it’s advisable to first experiment with an old, unused phone to prevent any irrevocable damages.

Final Verdict: Which is the Best Thermal Imager Under $1000 and Why

With so many choices and options, it can be difficult to choose a thermal imager that suits your needs and budget.

Compare the aforementioned models to have a better idea of which features are essential and which are optional.

We found the Seek Thermal Revealpro to be the best thermal imager because of its large LCD, wide field of view, high-quality images, and accurate thermal detection.

However, make sure you go through all the aforementioned models to find the camera that best suits your requirements!