Author Topic: Flir clamp meter review thread  (Read 583 times)

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Offline David C

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Flir clamp meter review thread
« on: January 29, 2018, 04:39:52 am »
Hi, a few months ago while I was looking into a new clamp meter, I noticed Flir's offering. However I found very little info from users on the different models available and I'd like to start gathering comprehensive reviews here, as FLir's clamp meter do offer some one of a kind features at a decent price point, but accuracy and reliability as well as ergonomics also play a lot into choosing a clamp meter.

At this moment, Flir North America offer the following clamp meters, divided in 5 series :

CM4x series with Accu-tip

CM42
CM44
CM46


CM7x series with narrow jaws

CM72
CM74
CM78

CMx7x series with IGM

CM174
CM275

CM8x series with phase rotation

CM82
CM83
CM85

CM5x series flexible clamp meter

CM55
CM57


Each of the meter have been designed for a specific user and each series have their own unique features. Documentation and technical data on the meters dimensions and specs are often contradictory so for many meter is it hard to determine exactly what it can and cannot do, as the Flir's "Clamp meter selection guide" brochure will says AC/DC amps for one meter while the website says AC only and the data sheet says AC/DC for the whole series. Looking at the 4x, 7x and 8x series, I had to cross-reference 3 different spec source for each meter in order to figure one out which of the 8 meters had the desired specs and features. Then trying to figure out physical dimensions, as very little information was provided on how big or small each meter was, which is pretty important when you are looking at a meter that can fit within a certain pouch, fit into a certain cabinet, feel good in the hand, etc. The picture are deceiving regarding this issue.

For those who own a Flir clamp meter, it would be great if you could post information that you find relevant that isn't obvious from the available description from Flir, as well as size comparison to some more popular meter (like Fluke) and also what made you choose this particular meter and the highlight of it's uses.


********************************


I personally bought the CM74 600A AC/DC clamp meter in december 2017 during the Flir holidays promotion ($180 USD) from Flir USA website, despite having the same overall price in Canada ($260 CAD) but availability was very scarce, which is why I bought it during a trip in the USA (and declared it back at customs).

Working as an electrician and also doing a lot of maintenance and custom fab, I wanted a true RMS meter that could reach into tight places (long, narrow jaws) as well as being able to measure AC and DC amps down to a 0.01A resolution and a 1000V rating to safely measure and work on 600V installations. In-rush current and backlit displays were also important. Added features like capacitance, diode check, LoZ mode, flex probe preset, frequency, work light, max/min, 1/4" female threaded insert for attachment, easy to replace batteries, etc were also a plus.

Looking at the Fluke meters, I was tempted by the 381FC with remote display and iFlex probe or the 376FC, however the 0.01A resolution was lacking and price point was over twice as much as Flir, which further sparks interest into the CM74. I'm aware that performance wise, the Fluke is on top and you'll probably get more for your money too, however for my current needs, the Fluke is actually big and expensive to lug around and safely lend to coworkers.

Here's what it doesn't say on the box of the Flir CM74 Commercial/Industrial TRMS AC/DC clamp meter :

It will give an AC/DC resolution of 0.01A at least up to 30A (haven't had yet the occasion of measuring current between 30A and 100A to see when it drops the resolution to 0.1A).
The jaws are narrow, but the body is thicker than expected, which makes for awkward handling at first and isn't "compact" below the jaws, whereas the Fluke 381 or 37x have a slim, profiled body and jaws that add up to a longer meter and jaws and better handling, although the jaws are thicker and longer than the Flir.
The work light isn't a gimmick and been using it several times already when taking measurements, Fluke would benefit from this.
You can't mesure frequency with the jaws, only with the test leads. Surprisingly, there no mention of this even in the user manual, making it misleading that one could measure frequency with the jaws.
The moving jaw spring tension is very light, making it a breeze to hold open, however it also make it hard to fully close the jaws in a crowded cabinet where you have to force the jaws trough the mess of wires to clamp around the target wire. The Fluke is way better.
There is no exposed metal at the tip of the jaws, meaning no rust or bad contact, the surface is easy to wipe.
There is no carry case included, only batteries and test leads. There's a 1/4" female threaded insert in the back to attach a magnetic backplate or belt clip, but no loop for a tether or wrist band.
The meter body is rather thick, an inch or so, despite Flir calling it "compact".
The screen display is easy to see, however the soft buttons underneath are also easy to hit when trying to squeeze the meter in a thigh spot, thus changing the modes or settings without noticing.
LoZ mode is for voltage measurement with test leads, when you suspect the regular reading isn't right, like ghost tensions or induction (ex: 30v AC reading from neutral to ground). Very useful feature for troubleshooting, totally worth having.
Build quality is between good and solid, mostly due to the rubber overmold and the satin black plastic that feels light but not brittle. However it doesn't that unbreakable feel of a tonka truck Fluke to it, although it does look much nicer and less dirty being all black.
The serial number as well as several specs are either printed on quality sticker in a recess or of a good depth in the plastic mold, making it easy to read and looking like they actually care about traceability of a unit. Battery compartment has a simple quarter turn latch that can be open with a regular flat head screwdriver or a coin, very easy to line up and solid.
Test leads are quality too, although durability is yet to be determined.

Overall this meter meets all my expectations and pack a lot of features at the price point. It matches the specs of the Fluke 376 and is ready to be used with the flexible clamp probe from Flir.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 04:41:28 am by David C »
 

Offline gby

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  • Country: us
Re: Flir clamp meter review thread
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2018, 02:13:29 am »
I recently did a bunch of research on clamp meters that also measure power.  The only ones I found tended to be focused more on electricity/utility use rather than electronics.  So, for example they tend to have a minimum resolution on Watts of 1 W and less range on Ohms than would be ideal for electronics.  In my research I found the following meters to basically all be the same in terms of size, functionality, specifications.  I highly suspect they all use the same chip set if not a number of them are re-brands:

   - Amprobe ACD-52NAV   http://www.amprobe.com/amprobe/usen/clamp-meters/industrial-navigator%E2%84%A2-clamp-meters-/amp-acdc-52nav.htm?pid=73106
   - Yokogawa CW10          https://tmi.yokogawa.com/us/solutions/products/portable-and-bench-instruments/portable-power-monitorrecorder/model-cw10-clamp-on-power-meter/
   - Seaward Solar Power Clamp http://www.seawardsolar.com/products/solar-power-clamp
   - FLIR CM83                  https://www.flir.com/products/cm83/

There are small differences between them like some have a capacitance scale (FLIR, Amprobe, Seaward) and some have Bluetooth (FLIR) but in the main they are the same with the following capabilities:
   - 600 A ac/dc     2%/2%
   - 1000 V ac/dc   1%/0.7%
   - 100 kOhm max resistance    1%
   - 600 kW    3%
   - NCV detector
   - Total harmonic distortion and harmonics
   - Power factor
   - 3-phase rotation indication
   - backlight and flashlight
   - fairly big at 10 inch/250 mm tall
   - CAT IV 600 V, CAT III 1000 V
   - Power is 6 AAA batteries

What tilted me to the FLIR CM83 was that Amazon is selling it at $101 while all the others are $200 and up to $350.  Interestingly enough the FLIR CM82 (=CM83 minus the Blue tooth) is $300.  So, if anyone is interested in a clamp meter with clamp DC A and power functions the FLIR CM83 is a great bargain right now.

Overall, given what it is, I am happy with it.  Everything works as advertised and the readings have easily been more accurate than data sheet specs.  I could wish it had resolution to 0.1 W but none of the others can do that either.  I like the leads which are nice silicon ones.  I like the continuity test which is fast and latched.  The Amazon reviews basically like it but complained of battery life and cost/value which I assume was based on the earlier $300 price level.

M J Lorton reviewed the FLIR CM83 and more or less liked it but thought the display lens covers was too easily scratched:
   

If you can get it at $101 it is a great value.
 
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