FLIR's 12 Things to Know Before Buying an Infrared Camera

When purchasing an infrared camera, everyone has different considerations in mind. For some, the cost is a critical element of the decision, whereas others focus on certain features of the camera. No matter what though, high quality and good value are almost certainly at the top of all wish lists. Based on key tips from camera manufacturer FLIR, we’re here to run you through the top things you should consider before making your first thermal imaging purchase.

1. “Choose an infrared camera that delivers accurate, repeatable results"

Producing accurate and repeatable results is a basic requirement of an infrared camera, and so is one of the most important things you need to look out for. The accuracy spec your camera should meet is the industry standard of ±2% or 2.2°c, whichever is greater. You also need to be able to input both emissivity and reflected temperature parameters on your camera. Without this option you cannot guarantee accurate results, rendering the camera essentially useless!

2. “Buy an infrared camera with high detector resolution/image quality”

Similar to an ordinary digital camera, more pixels mean higher resolution, which in turn means a sharper infrared image. However, you need to be sure you always distinguish the detector resolution of a camera, and the detector pixel count. No matter the display resolution, if the detector resolution is low, your thermal image will not be ‘high definition’.

3. “Look for a product where you yourself can change the battery”

Rather than having to charge your camera, something that can be time-consuming (and potentially costly), why not look for a camera that has a ‘pop-in/pop-out’ battery, making it quick and easy to change the battery yourself. Some manufacturers also offer car/truck chargers, allowing you to charge your camera whilst on the go.

4. “Get an infrared camera that outputs standard JPEG format”

Having to convert proprietary thermal image formats into a standard JPEG through additional software, because your camera doesn’t have the ability to do it itself, is a time consuming and frustrating step. Therefore, it is advisable to ensure that your camera delivers fully radiometric JPEGs as standard. This means that your thermal images can be emailed and sent out with their data still intact.

5. “Look for a lightweight, ergonomic camera for extended or frequent use”

If you will be using your camera frequently and for extended periods, one that is lightweight is essential. Even just a pound or two overweight could cause back and arm strain quickly. The physical interface of a camera is crucial to its ease of use. Different models and makes will have different amounts of buttons, some may even be touchscreen. Make sure you choose the camera that you ca use and understand the easiest, and most effectively.

6. “Buy a camera with built-in visual camera and lights to help clearly document your work”

In a commercial setting, you are likely to encounter dark and poorly lit environments. A built in LED light on your camera can make a huge difference in the quality of your images taken in these situations.

7. “Choose an infrared camera with a built-in laser pointer”

Laser pointers are included in most camera models, except for those at the real entry-level end of the market. A laser pointer allows you to point out an area of concern, without having to physically touch the equipment, and allows you to see precisely where your camera lens is focused. They are, therefore, an invaluable addition to your thermal imaging camera.

8. “Buy an infrared camera with software upgrade potential”

Most infrared cameras come with software that will help you to create reports based on your images and data collected, and then to analyse them accordingly. Whilst the entry level programmes are highly useful, many find that ultimately they need a few more features to truly get the most out of their thermal imaging camera. Therefore, it is important that you check that you have the ability to upgrade the software on your camera if you so wish.

9. “Find an infrared camera with adequate image fusion capabilities”

If you’re looking for fusion capabilities built-in to your camera, our advice would be to ensure that they are advanced and flexible enough to fit your needs. If the Picture-in-Picture (PiP) functionality is too simple, meaning that you cannot alter images or move the infrared overlay ‘box’, you may quickly feel that your camera is not helping you as much as it could.

10. “Get a camera with a wide temperature range”

It may go without saying, but when you buy an infrared camera, be sure that the temperature range it operates in is appropriate for the temperatures of the targets you will be viewing!

11. “Go for a product that can be upgraded”

Many infrared camera will allow you to upgrade the firmware to increase pixel counts and infrared resolution, as well as some of the camera features and functionality. Due to the quickly developing nature of infrared technology though, it is not always possible to physically upgrade an existing camera. We offer a Used-for-Sale service, allowing you to sell on your camera whenever you are ready for a new one, a perfect (and less costly!) solution to upgrading.

12. “Buy an infrared camera from a manufacturer with strong post-sale technical support and certified training”

If you are new to the world of thermal imaging, support and training is likely to be high on your list of priorities after you’ve purchased. We are agents of FLIR’s Infrared Training Centre (ITC). Guided by the ITC staff, you will become an effective, proficient and certified thermographer. Visit the training section of our website for more information on courses and dates.