How Much Does A Thermal Camera Cost? Tips & Guide

How Much does a Thermal Camera Cost?
How Much does a Thermal Camera Cost?

If you have recently been asking yourself how much does a thermal camera cost? Then this article is definitely for you. Here we will discuss all the factors that determine the price of a thermal camera and also provide some helpful tips on how to choose the right one. We have also revealed some of the best cost-effective solutions for you.

In the past, thermal cameras have been too expensive for most civilians, they were bulky and complex to use. But with the massive leaps in technology over the last decade, thermal cameras are now much more affordable and widely available. You can find thermal imaging cameras at a range of prices, from less than $200 to more than $10,000.

You can get relatively decent Thermal Imaging Cameras for around $250. However, if you’re hoping to get the most out of your thermographic camera & Thermal Monoculars and want it to be able to perform a wide range of functions (such as measuring temperatures, identifying problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye, monitoring electrical equipment, detecting water damage & leaks, finding animals in the dark, spotting intruders in near-dark conditions, searching for missing people in search-and-rescue missions) then you will need to fork over at least $600 or more.

Factors That Affect the Price of Thermal Cameras

If you’re shopping for a thermal imaging camera, you may have noticed the huge price range between models. How can the price vary so much?

Thermal cameras are available with a range of features and specifications, affecting the price you pay. The more features and specifications that are included, the higher the price. Furthermore, the cost of the camera will also depend on the manufacturer and the model of the camera.

Thermal Resolution

The biggest factor that affects the price of the thermal imager is ” Thermal Resolution”. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image or you can say The more pixels a camera has, the more detail it can capture in an image. The cheap thermal camera has a resolution between 80 x 60 and 320 x 240, while the expensive thermal imagers may have a  resolution as high as 640 x 480 or more.

Some cameras also offer additional features that improve the image quality like a focal lens, focus control, an IR filter, or more. These additional features boost the cost of the thermal camera.

Sensitivity

This factor also affects the price of thermal cameras. Costly cameras can detect tiny temperature differences with high precision. These cameras have high thermal sensitivity of 70mK to 50mK. However, budgeted thermal cameras have a lower sensitivity of 100mK to 200mK. The lower the number, the best sensitivity it has. The cheap thermal cameras are not made to detect tiny temperature differences.

Temperature Range

Another factor that affects the price of thermal cameras is the temperature range that they can detect. Thermal cameras with a wider temperature range are more expensive than the ones that have a narrower temperature range.  Pro cameras can detect temperatures over 1000°F. A cheap thermal camera can detect temperatures as low as -4 °F  (colder end) to as high as 700 °F (hot end).

Controls and Settings

The cheap thermal cameras offer basic features like image capture, focusing, multiple palettes, a basic menu system, and multiple palettes. However, expensive cameras also offer autofocus, adjustable emissivity,  pre-programmed time delay,  an advanced menu system, span & level control, and more.

Additional Features

Some of the additional features include wireless connectivity, image storage, image analysis, time-lapse mode, color temperature correction, IR filter, and a built-in GPS receiver and focus control. These features add to the price of the camera.

Further enhancements can include an electronic compass, a laser rangefinder, a thermal image processing chip, a user interface, an onboard processor, and a camera control unit.

However, it’s important to understand which features are essential for the task you would like to accomplish with your thermal imaging camera, and then compare cameras within those parameters. This will help you avoid the costly mistake of overspending on features that you don’t need.

What is the Best Choice for a Cheap Thermal Imaging Camera?

When it comes to thermal imaging cameras, it’s fair to say that the “cheap” models are not what you would typically think of as a cheap products. A $500 thermal imaging camera is still a pretty big purchase!

Cheap doesn’t mean that the camera you buy will not be able to perform its task. The cost of a thermal camera is determined by the number of features it has. The best camera for thermal imaging is the one that you can use to accomplish the tasks you need to do.

There are many companies in the market that sell thermal imaging cameras at a fraction of the cost of the ‘cheap’ models. Of which the two most trustworthy companies are FLIR & Seek. We usually recommend getting thermal cameras from them. The reason is that these two manufacturers have a history of producing the best thermal imaging cameras and they’ve been in the thermal imaging camera market for a long time.

Product Name Price IR Resolution FOV Temperature Detection
Seek Thermal Compact Under $225 206 x 156 36° -40F° to 626°F
Seek Thermal CompactXR Under $250 206 x 156 20° -40F° to 626°F
Seek Thermal CompactPRO Under $450 320 x 240 32° -40F° to 626°F
Seek Thermal CompactPRO XR Under $600 320×240 24° -40F° to 626°F

 

FLIR Thermal Imagers

Product Name IR Resolution Temperature Detection Thermal Sensitivity Image Presentation Modes Frame Rate VividIR Image Enhancement
FLIR ONE

(Under $250)

80 x 60 pixels -20 °C to 120 °C (-4 °F to 248 °F) 150 mK MSX Only 60 No
FLIR ONE Pro LT 

(Under $280)

80 x 60 pixels -20°C to 120°C (-4°F to 248°F) 100 mK Infrared, visual, MSX, gallery 60 Yes
FLIR ONE Pro

(Under $360)

160 x 120 pixels -20°C to 400°C (-4°F to 752°F) 70 mK Infrared, visual, MSX, gallery 120 Yes

 

If we compare these three FLIR products with the four Seek units mentioned above, we see that FLIR offers a less thermal resolution. This may be one of the downsides of FLIR cameras. But on the other side, FLIR offers an “Image Presentation Modes” feature that delivers fine details of the image after merging regular image and thermal image.

All these cameras work well and we’ve had a good experience with Seek and FLIR thermal cameras.

Cheap Standalone Thermal Camera Options

If you don’t want to get a smartphone attachment thermal camera, you can always buy a standalone thermal camera. These standalone thermal cameras are usually a little bit more expensive than a smartphone attachment thermal camera. However, they do not have a phone mount.

Here are the best cheap standalone thermal cameras we’ve tested.

Best Cheap Thermal Imagers Best For IR Resolution Temperature Range Refresh rate Battery Time
 

FLIR TG165

(under $500)

 

Beginners

80 x 60 –13°F to +716°F 9 Hz 5 Hrs
FLIR Scout TK

(under $600)

 

Outdoor

160×120 Not Specified 9 Hz 5 Hrs
Hti HT-19

(under $ 550)

 

Basic Professional Needs

320 x 240 -4°F to 572°F 9 Hz 3 Hrs
PerfectPrime IR0005

(under $450)

 

Basic Inspection

220 x 160 -4°F to 572°F 9 Hz Not specified
HIKMICRO B1L 160 x 120 IR

(under $450)

Best Value 160 x 120 -4°F to 1022°F 25Hz 8 Hrs

 

All these Standhole Thermal Cameras are great for their price range. All these cameras are perfect for beginners and for initial building inspection. They offer quite generous IR resolution with good battery timings and temperature detection range. If you are still confused and want to see the detailed reviews of these thermal cameras, you can check here. We have personally tested and reviewed these thermal cameras and we are happy to recommend them.

Best Cheap Professional Thermal Cameras

If you are looking for a thermal camera for professional use, you will have to pay a little more. This is because the professional thermal cameras are usually a little bit more powerful and have a better thermal resolution.

For professional use, you must look for a thermal camera with an IR resolution of 640 x 480 or better. Most of the professional thermal cameras on the market offer a thermal resolution of 640 x 480. This is the most commonly used resolution for professional thermal imaging.

Here are the best professional thermal cameras we’ve tested.

Best Cheap Professional Thermal Imagers IR Resolution Temperature Range Refresh rate Battery Time Other Features
FLIR C3-X (under $530) 128 × 96 -4 to 572°F 8.7 Hz Not specified FLIR Ignite cloud library, MSX image technology,
FLIR C5

(under $710)

160 x 120 -4 to 752ºF 8.7 Hz Not specified Patented MSX , LED floodlight, visual Camera
FLIR E8 320 x 240

 

 4° F to 482° F Not specified Not specified Rough and tough, 3″  color display,Wi-Fi, picture overlay feature, MSX
Seek Thermal – ShotPRO

(under $630)

320 x 240 Not specified 9 Hz 4 Hrs  3.5″ Color display, Wi-Fi, Seek Fusion technology
Seek Thermal Revealpro

(under $610)

320 x 240 40F° to 626°  9 Hz  4 Hrs  LED flashlight, 9 Color palettes, rubberized
ATN OTS XLT

2.5-10x

(under $700)

160 x 120

 

Not specified  50Hz 10 Hrs 8GB storage, light weight, ergonomic
Parrot – Thermal Drone 4K

(under $2500)

160×120 (-14°F to 752°f) not specified 26 mins flight Two cameras, Thermal and Visible, Wi-Fi,180° camera  

 

All these are cheap but powerful thermal imaging cameras. 

FLIR C-Series is one of the best professional thermal cameras. It is an excellent thermal camera with the best IR resolution, high thermal sensitivity, and a good temperature detection range. They are rough and tough and can withstand any dirty work. Best suited for electricians, plumbers, roofers, and other building maintenance professionals.

This series also presents clear, crispy, and detailed imaging (MSX patented imaging) by combing together the thermal and visual spectrums. Here we have selected two of its models that are surprisingly good for professionals, FLIR C3-X and FLIR C5. Both are well-designed, easy to use, 3 inches of touch-screen, are weatherproof, and waterproof. However, C5 comes with a better resolution with Wi-Fi capabilities.

FLIR E-series is specially designed for professionals. We tested FLIR E8, quite reasonable in price with a powerful thermal detector and MSX thermal imaging. Its advanced model FLIR E8-XT is one of the best professional infrared cameras but is costly.

Seek also offer Seek Shot series for professionals. This series is budget-friendly and shows descent features to grab attention. Here, the best one is Seek ShotPro, and we would recommend it as we are completely satisfied with it. It comes with Seek fusion technology, it is more about the same as FLIR MSX enhanced imaging, it fuses regular images with thermal images presenting clearer results. This camera is best to diagnose problems, finding faults in buildings, pipes, and electrical systems.

The other companies also offer good professional thermal cameras of which we selected two as we tested them personally and we found them great within budget. ATNOTSXLT 2.5-10x is one of the best cheap thermal monoculars under $1000. It is best for outdoor adventures and hunting. It takes photos and videos with a 50Hz refresh rate and you can store as many photos as you want with its 8 GB onboard storage capacity. It offers a decent display and 10 hours long battery timings on a single charge.

We also added an ANAFI thermal drone option for builders and contractors. Here Parrot – Thermal Drone 4K is our top choice. It is one of the best thermal imaging drones that comes with two cameras, thermal and visible, Wi-Fi, a 180° tilt camera, and an LED flashlight. It is perfect for building inspection, surveying, and even thermal imaging. You can check our detailed review here.

Some of the most important specifications you need to consider before Buying a Thermal Imaging Cameras

Here there are some important specifications that you should look at before buying a thermal imaging camera.

Thermal/ sensor resolution

Screen/display resolution

Temperature Range

Field of View (FOV)

Thermal Sensitivity

Frame Rate

Durability

There is a difference between Sensor resolution and screen resolution. Sensor resolution means thermal resolution as discussed earlier while display resolution is the screen resolution of the thermal camera. Always consider the good thermal resolution. A thermal imaging camera with a high-resolution thermal sensor will have a better resolution than one with a high screen resolution. This is because a high-resolution sensor can detect a small change in temperature and therefore detect details that are too small to be seen on a screen. However, the thermal imaging camera with a high-resolution screen and high sensor will show a great result on the screen.

The field of view is the angle at which the camera can see. A wider FOV gives a wider angle of view, and a narrower FOV gives a narrower angle of view.

Here you can see the thermal resolution Comparison & FOV concept.

Thermal Resolution Comparison

Here you get more details

 

Thermal sensitivity and temperature range are discussed earlier. Frame rate is the number of frames per second that the camera can capture. High frame rates (60Hz) are useful for recording fast changes in temperature. A camera with a high frame rate will be able to capture those changes in temperature quickly.

Last but not least, durability is important. It is important that the thermal imaging camera is made of durable material. It should be made of durable material so that it can withstand all weather conditions

Final Thought

Thermal imaging cameras are invaluable tools for finding problems in a home or building and for hunting, but they’re not cheap. A good-quality thermal camera can cost $1,000 to $5,000 and up.

However, these days you can find budget thermal cameras for just a few hundred bucks. They might not have all the bells and whistles of a professional camera, but they’re less expensive and still useful for taking temperature measurements around the house.

In the end, though, the price you pay for a thermal camera depends on how much you need it. If you’re not sure how much you need one, we recommend starting with the thermal camera with the best reviews and best value.

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