back to top

13 Best Thermal Imaging Cameras in 2022

A- A+

Subscribe Below to Download the Article Immediately

You can also select your interests for free access to our premium training:

Your privacy is safe. I will never share your information.
Related course: Photography for Beginners

Access to a thermal imaging camera is likely now more important than ever. How come? As we all know, energy costs are at an all-time high. And thermal imaging cameras can help. Let’s use me as an example.

I have a sum of money I wish to spend on reducing heat loss from my house. But I have no way of knowing where the best savings are. My home has thick, solid masonry walls. And there are old-style central-European double-glazed windows.

So, where can I make the most savings? I can either replace the windows or insulate the walls. But how can I tell where I am losing the most heat? You guessed it—by using a thermal imaging camera! With one of these babies, you can see just where the heat is escaping. Plus, you can find dangerous hotspots in electrical wiring. And some thermal cameras are even sensitive enough to spot dampness.

A thermal imagine camera showing the thermal image of a house
DepositPhotos

How Does a Thermal Imaging Camera Work?

Nobody was more surprised than my physics teacher when I passed my O-level exams. So when we start talking about taking a picture of heat, I’m a bit lost. But bear with me.

Light is one segment of the electromagnetic spectrum—a tiny part. Imagine visible light is equivalent to one octave on a piano. The whole electromagnetic spectrum would stretch from Earth to the Sun.

Thermal imaging cameras work by “seeing” the Infrared (IR) section of that same spectrum. Heat produces IR. And a thermal imaging camera uses this infrared radiation to tell you how hot something is.

So, like a normal camera, a thermal imaging camera has a lens and a sensor. In this case, those sensors detect IR radiation. Like a conventional camera, they present that information on a screen and save it to a memory device. You can then see the various temperatures of everything displayed in the image.

A thermal image of two people
DepositPhotos

What Are the Important Features to Look Out For?

These are the key features to look out for when buying thermal imaging cameras:

  • Resolution: Like a normal digital camera, this is how many pixels there are. Pixel count isn’t nearly as crucial as it is in digital photography. You don’t need to see the pattern on your brickwork. You just want to know how warm it is. So the best thermal cameras have better resolution than cheaper ones. Just be aware it might not be as crucial as we are used to.
  • Sensitivity Range: This is the scope of maximum and minimum temperatures the thermal cameras can “see.” Even the cheapest camera in our review is very sensitive—from -40 F to 752 F (-40 to 400 C). The extreme ranges are cold enough for most and hotter than your pizza oven. But it’s not quite hot enough for the fire brigade!
  • Thermal Sensitivity: This is the smallest detectable temperature difference between two measurement points. Thermal sensitivity is measured with the cutest measurement unit in science. It is the milli-Kelvin (mK). Again, using our list’s cheapest camera as an example, it has 150 mK sensitivity. That means every pixel can tell the temperature difference between areas… of as little as 0.15 C! The lower the number, the more sensitive the sensor. But to find where the heat is escaping, 150 mK is way more than sufficient.
  • A Visible Light Camera: It’s helpful to see a conventional image and the infrared one. After an illness and eye surgery, Claude Monet developed the ability to see IR light. But we can’t. So overlaying the IR images on a normal photo helps us see where the hotspots are.
  • Style: You either have it, or you don’t. But here, I’m referring to the body that houses the thermal imaging camera. Some camera bodies are like barcode scanners. And others are like small, chunky mobile phones. And speaking of mobile phones, some attach via the USB or Lightning port on the base of your phone.
  • Screen Resolution: Does the thermal imaging camera uses your phone? Then the screen resolution will be good. Otherwise, check the camera itself so it won’t disappoint.
An engineer taking a thermal image of a HVAC unit
DepositPhotos

What Are the Best Thermal Imaging Cameras?

So let’s look at our top picks for thermal imaging cameras. Thermal image camera prices and capabilities vary so widely. We go through these in ascending price order (least to most expensive).

Remember that prices change, so they might not be in perfect order. And note that the first three are smartphone attachments.

1. PerfectPrime IR202

Perfect Prime thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 80 x 60 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -40 to 752 F (-40 to 400 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 150 mK
  • Smartphone Compatibility: Android (USB-C) and iPhone

The PerfectPrime IR202 is our best budget thermal imaging camera. And it makes you feel like James Bond. It attaches to the bottom of your Android smartphone via the USB-C socket or an iPhone via a Lightning port. So it uses your phone’s battery and screen. No worries about the screen resolution, then.

The idea is quite simple. Plug the IR camera into the phone, and use the phone’s processing power, battery, and screen to do the rest. This is a very small unit. It adds a shade over an inch (2.5 cm) to the length of your phone. You can easily carry it in a bag or even in your pocket. And it comes with a pouch to protect it.

The refresh rate of the image is 15 frames per second (fps) or 15 Hz. This is adequate if you’re looking for heat leaking from your house. If you want to identify prey on a hunt, then look elsewhere. A moving image with this low frame rate is tiring on the eyes.

It’s unlikely a daily building inspector would buy this. Not all industry people believe the product’s temperature range and sensitivity claims. But it’s worth considering this thermal imaging camera if you have an occasional need…. or if you fancy having a nifty thermal gadget to add to your collection.

There is another version available. It’s a pricer, higher-resolution thermal scanning camera.

2. FLIR ONE Gen 3

FLIR Onegen 3 thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 80 x 60 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -4 to 248 F (-20 to 120 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 150 mK
  • Smartphone Compatibility: Android (USB-C)  and iPhone

FLIR is a pretty dominant brand in the thermal imaging camera sector. They offer a wide range of cameras that caters to many budgets. This is one of their cheaper ones.

Like the PerfectPrime, the FLIR ONE attaches an IR camera to the bottom of your phone. But it has its own battery that needs to be charged. This could limit long sessions.

FLIR supplies an adapter to connect to Android handsets equipped with USB-C ports. Rather handily, you can adjust the connector. This means it should cope with a wide range of cases. So you don’t have to remove the case before using the thermal camera.

One reason FLIR is a popular manufacturer is its MSX (Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging) technology. Many thermal imaging devices allow you to see either thermal or visible light images.

Often cameras blend them to show more precisely where the particular hotspots (or coldspots) are. Remember, the thermal image is a much lower resolution than the visible light image. So having the detail from the visible light camera is a bonus.

MSX technology is slightly different. It takes the visible light images and uses them to emboss the thermal imaging. This can be very useful if you’re looking for a heat signature in a tangle of wires or pipes.

What the FLIR ONE Gen 3 doesn’t do is allow infrared or visual images to be shown on their own. But this is their entry-level device, so the features are bound to be limited.

The FLIR app allows you to record stills and videos and organize the files. If you’re one of several users in an organization, there is a cloud solution to storing and accessing everyone’s images.

3. Seek Thermal CompactPRO

Seek Thermal COmpact Pro thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -40 to 626 F (-40 to 330 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 70 mK
  • Smartphone Compatibility: Android (Micro USB and USB-C) and iPhone

Our final thermal imaging phone attachment is the Seek Thermal CompactPRO. You find some fun stuff when researching niche topics like thermal imaging cameras. For instance, the frame rate of the Seek Thermal CompactPRO could land you in trouble if you try to leave the US with it!

There are restrictions on IR devices above certain specifications. In case they are used for military purposes. So this is not an international travel option. Assuming your needs are more linked to finding the best thermal imaging camera for a home inspection, read on.

The refresh rate of 15 Hz is higher than the FLIR ONE, and the IR image resolution is significantly higher. Against that, you have to consider that there is no visual image blending or overlay. So the 320 x 240 resolution is the highest you get. This could be a deal breaker for you.

The Seek Thermal CompacrPRO is available in several different models. So it’s a consideration if you might change your phone soon. It also comes in cheaper Compact and Compact XR versions.

4. FLIR C3-X

FLIR C3-X thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 128 x 96 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -4 to 572 F (-20 to 300 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 70 mK

Like our second option, this is a FLIR. So you get MSX technology. This is also a standalone unit, so it has an IR camera and a visible light camera. It is a 5 MP device. It’s much less than we are used to in this day and age, but enough for these purposes.

The FLIR C3-X comes in a robust case, designed to survive two-meter drops. The touchscreen display is 640 x 480 MP, again low by phone and camera standards but adequate for the task. There is an LED light to help the f/1.1 visible-light camera see in poor light.

The C3-X offers good flexibility for viewing the images. You can view just what the IR sensors see or just what the normal camera sees. In addition, you can see the MSX or a picture-in-picture IR image on top of the visual image.

The FLIR C3-X uses a rechargeable battery, which should give you about 2 hours of use in normal circumstances. The refresh rate is 9 Hz. As with all FLIR IR cameras, the software is key to making the most of the thermal images and allows easy sharing.

This rugged, no-nonsense thermal imaging device meets most needs very well. I haven’t included a separate entry for the FLIR C5. It is very similar to look at but has an upgraded sensor. It also has a higher top limit of temperature detection of 752 F (400 C) and a better resolution of 160 x 120 pixels. This is a 50% increase. Both have IP54 weather ratings.

5. FLIR TG267

FLIR TG267 thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -13 to 716 F (-25 to 380 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 70 mK

This is another FLIR and another different body shape. The FLIR TG267 resembles a barcode scanner. The screen sits atop a pistol grip. With the same IP54 rating and drop resistance, the target market for these IR cameras is probably mechanics. It is easy to use single-handed and has a laser to show you where it is pointing.

The pistol grip allows for a bigger battery, giving up to 5 hours of use. MSX imaging is there, of course. But you are limited to the IR image or the MSX. There is no non-IR image available. But you can record visual images with temperatures overlaid.

There’s 4 GB of onboard storage. There is also a tripod mount, which is useful to have. There’s no Wi-Fi, so you must rely on the USB cable. You also use this to charge the camera, which takes 4 hours to 90%.

If you need to use your thermal camera easily with one hand, this is well worth a look.

6. Hti HT-19

Hti HT19 thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -4 to 932 F (-20 to 500 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 50 mK

The Hti HT19 is another pistol-grip camera for thermal imaging. It has 3 GB of onboard memory and a rechargeable battery. It should give you about 3 hours of recording thermal images.

The conventional camera records as usual. The refresh rate is 9 fps. The menus allow you to adjust the position of the images. This is because, like any similar camera, there is some parallax error. This varies according to the distance from the subject.

The 50 mK sensitivity is impressive. So is the high maximum temperature of 932 F (500 C). This might be a major selling point for you at this price point.

In other ways, there are some shortcomings. There’s no tripod mount, for instance. There is no wireless option, so you must transfer images via USB. And there’s no target laser for easy target pointing.

The 320 x 240 resolution is a plus. And combined with the high maximum temperature range, it might be worth a look for your specific needs.

7. Seek Thermal RevealPRO

Seek Thermal RevealPro thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -40 to 626 F (-40 to 330 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 70 mK

The Seek Thermal RevealPRO is a rugged palm-held device. Unlike the FLIR C3-X, it’s easy to use this one-handed. That’s because the lens is on the lead edge of the housing, not opposite the screen.

That screen is covered by Gorilla glass for ruggedness. The 15 fps refresh rate is good for moving objects. But paradoxically, there’s no video capability. You can store the images on a normal SD memory card.

There is a built-in 300-lumen LED light to help illuminate your subject if it’s in total darkness. And the shape of the Seek Thermal is helpful in places with very narrow access. Plus, the light will help you find the spot.

It’s an interesting combination of features. As always, when choosing gear, it is a matter of where you can or need to make compromises.

8. CAT S62 Pro LTE GSM Phone

Cat S62 Pro phone and thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -4 to 750 F (-20 to 400 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 50 mK

Take an Android phone, a FLIR sensor, Gorilla glass, and a world-renowned heavy machinery manufacturer. Mix them up, and what do you have? You have our choice of the best thermal camera on the list!

The CAT S62 Pro makes sure you always have your thermal camera with you. And it ensures you don’t have to treat it with kid gloves.

The FLIR Lepton 3.5 IR sensors sit alongside the rest of the parts on the CAT. It is a respectable spec for a 4G phone. So it can run all your usual apps.

CAT phones were engineered to withstand the rough handling of a construction site. It’s fully waterproof up to 5 feet (1.5 m) for 35 minutes and drop-proof from 6 feet (1.8 m) onto steel. It is also designed to work with wet gloves or fingers.

The FLIR sensor means that you get excellent MSK image rendering. And the CAT S62 comes with a 12 MP main phone camera and a 1080 x 2160 pixel 5.7-inch display.

We think the Cat S62 is a great solution if you need to change your phone. That’s especially true if you change phones because you keep dropping them!

9. FLIR Scout TK

Flir Scout TK thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -4 to 104 F (-20 to 40 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 100

Admiral Lord Nelson famously saw no ships. It if was because it was dark, then he needed the FLIR Scout TK. The Scout TK is yet another different way of using infrared sensors. This time in a monocular-style telescope.

The Scout is designed for a different purpose. This is not your tool if you’re looking for a central heating leak. It might be good if you’re a hunter looking for animals in the dark. You can see from the relatively low sensitivity range that it’s aimed at highlighting body heat against a colder target.

It should be able to spot warm-blooded creatures up to 262 ft (80 m) away, even in total darkness. It’s real James Bond stuff! But it’s an expensive toy unless you have a real reason for this capability. But it does this well.

10. Seek Thermal ShotPro

Seek Thermal Shotpro thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -40 to 626 F (-40 to 330 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 70 mK

With 4 GB internal storage and 4-hour battery life, the Seek Thermal ShotPro is aimed at serious users. It also has the Thermal company’s equivalent of FLIR’s MSX. Thermal calls it SeekFusion Technology, and it offers similar performance. An on-screen slider lets you adjust the blend of available light and IR light in any given image.

This thermal imaging device is shaped more like a compact camera than other infrared cameras we have looked at. It has a camera-like handgrip on the right-hand side. It also has a tripod mount for stable fixing.

If you need to share the images you are seeing, you can stream from the ShotPro via its built-in Wi-Fi. Rated at IP54 for bad weather use, it is a good choice for tradespeople who need regular and reliable thermal imaging cameras.

11. Bosch GTC400C

Bosch

  • Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: 14 to 752 F (-40 to 400 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 50 mK

Before we look at this Bosch in detail, it is worth noting one thing. So far, the prices of the IR cameras in this review have increased incrementally. Now, they increase mentally. This Bosch is roughly twice the price of the previous camera.

So what do you get for this money? First of all, the Bosch uses its own rechargeable 12v Li-ion batteries. This means that a tradesperson might already have the charger and spare batteries. If the 4-hour battery life is not enough, you can resort to 4 AA batteries as a backup.

This machine is pitched at professionals who recognize and value Bosch’s reputation for reliability and quality. It offers visible light and IR images which can be overlaid for clarity. And data can be transferred via Wi-Fi or USB. Images can be shared and viewed on smartphones or computers.

12. FLIR MR277

FLIR MR277 thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: 32 to 122 F (0 to 50 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 150 mK

The basic specs of the FLIR MR277 might not seem that impressive… especially because it is a little more expensive than the Bosch. But it has some additional tricks up its thermal sleeves.

Ordinary thermal imaging cameras can show you where damp spots might be. This relies not just on temperature differences but on the effect moisture has. An area of dampness is cooler because of evaporative cooling. But that is not infallible.

An area might be cooler because there is excess heat elsewhere. So thermal imaging cameras on their own might not be good enough. This is where the MR277 comes in. It doesn’t just measure infrared radiation. It has smart sensors to detect humidity and moisture. It also has moisture sensors for invasive and non-invasive damp detection.

FLIR combines this with 8-hour battery life and MSX imaging capabilities. This gives you a versatile workhorse for a building tradesperson.

13. FLIR E8-XT

Flir E8 XT thermal camera product photo

  • Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
  • Sensitivity Range: -4 to 1022 F (-20 to 550 C)
  • Thermal Sensitivity: 50 mK

This is our final FLIR and our final camera. And it’s another doubling of cost. Even priced over $3,000, this is not in the heavy-hitter league of thermal imaging cameras. The most notable feature of the FLIR E8-XT is the top end of sensitivity.

At 1022 F (550 C), this is clearly aimed at professionals who need to work with very high temperatures. As such, people in this market need specific features. And they are willing to pay for what they need because it is essential for their work.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this camera is how little it differs from the cheaper ones. That’s not to say it isn’t worth the money. It is to say how remarkably well-equipped even some of the cheapest thermal imaging cameras are.

Conclusion

So what is the best thermal imaging camera? Our top choice from this fascinating array of thermal imaging devices is the CAT S62 Pro.

We realize it involves having a smartphone. But the combination of a decent phone with very good thermal imaging capabilities is attractive. You can always have it with you. It’s rugged. And it is a good talking point at parties if sparkling conversations go flat.

If you only need an occasional thermal imaging device, then the FLIR One Gen 3 (Android or iPhone) seems a solid and inexpensive choice. It’s most certainly less costly than calling a contractor to find the cause of all your heat loss!

Show Comments (0)