Products > Thermal Imaging

Is it worth to get an old cooled MWIR camera for hobbyists?

(1/5) > >>

Hi. Just a open discussion here.
Cooled MWIR cameras are known for their outstanding performance comparing to uncooled LWIR cameras in the same era. But due to their price, it's usually not pratical to get a new or modern one, if you are paying it yourself (not your company). Some older ones are affordable, but they are so rare comparing to uncooled cameras.
However after a longtime wait and watch, I just have a new question: Even if you're lucky enough to get a working one with reasonable price, and you don't care about the size, would the old cooled camera performance really beat modern uncooled cameras? By how much?
Welcome to discuss.

Just share my 2 cents and SWIR pricecheck 3y ago.

If MWIR have same usage "popularity" (i see only "contact us" for the pricing..), i'm afraid it could be same, but, hope i'm wrong.

When it comes to vintage cooled mid-wave vs new tech uncooled long-wave thermal cameras, the key advantage of the cooled camera is sensitivity. In all other areas, the newer camera will out preform.

Let's compare an Indigo Merlin ($1,899.00)  built in ~2000 versus a moderately priced FLIR A700 ($4,454.00), versus INFIRAY P2 Pro ($270.00)

1. Sensitivity: Merlin NETD 10-20mK, A700 NETD 30-50mK, P2 Pro <50mK.
2. Resolution and frame rate: Merlin 320 x 240@60Hz, A700 640 x 480@30Hz (Spec says 60Hz, but this is not possible to achieve because the A700 lack Jumbo Packet support), P2 Pro 256 x 192@25Hz.
3. Interfacing: Merlin requires a separate Pleora LVDS to Ethernet interface (iPort?). A700 Streaming uses Genicam/GigE Vision over ethernet. A700 Smart streams RTSP and ONVIF over ethernet, MODBUS, EthernetIP. P2 Pro features a proprietary image format streamed over USB-C. The camera can be made to appear as a USB Composite device, making it essentially a web cam.
4. Special Features: The Indigo sports analog video output, so you can connect it to composite analog video displays. It also has a detachable control pendant for navigating menus to enable features like overlays. There is also an RS-232 serial port. The FLIR A700 can have several features active (Streaming, Smart, EST, Color Visible camera, GPS, etc.) depending on the firmware it is running. This is only installable by FLIR at this time. P2 Pro comes with a detachable Macro lens.

Other tidbits:
Some sterling coolers from back in the day are still functioning. I have one. This is quite rare in newer FLIR cooled cameras, whcih tend to need servicing after 2 - 5 years.
Thermal cameras from China with decent NETD values are a relatively new thing. I'm not sure when it happened, but the quality is really on par these days. You can also get broad band cameras from some vendors, which has many special applications.

Infiray P2 pro it's a LWIR camera.

This article may answer some of your questions…….

MWIR cameras remain quite a specialist product and usually cost more than uncooled Microbolometer based LWIR cameras (unless you find a used bargain). The MWIR spectrum does offer a different spectral view of a target but whether that is enough to justify the added cost comes down to the use scenario. Cooled MWIR cameras remain a firm favourite for long range thermal surveillance.

I own a few cooled MWIR cameras and they are things of beauty in terms of their engineering and low noise, but a modern Uncooled Microbolometer based LWIR camera would meet the general needs of most civilian and non specialist users these days. My cooled FLIR  SC4000 MWIR/SWIR science camera was originally purchased to image and measure targets through both toughened glass and visibly opaque ceramic plates. For that application there was no other option but to buy a very specialist MWIR camera with the optional extended SWIR coverage that was a special order. The cost ?….. around $150K plus taxes and duties for import to the UK. At that sort of cost, your need has be be justifiable. The SC4000 is also capable of very high frame rates to image fast moving objects and this is another specialist realm not normally covered by common general use LWIR cameras.

Another feature of cooled MWIR cameras is the ability to use slower (smaller) optics due to greater sensitivity. From memory my SC4000 has a stated thermal sensitivity of 18mK. Cooled thermal cameras normally produce very clean low noise images that do not require the advanced video processing and noise reduction that is essential for decent uncooled Microbolometer based imaging systems. With modern image processing the noise may be greatly reduced in the microbolometer based system but we do need to consider the purity of the result if using a thermal camera in a demanding science or industrial application. Sometimes an image can undergo too much processing and may not be as desirable in some use scenarios. Pretty pictures Vs highly accurate radiometric imaging. I always advise caution when reading manufacturers NETD specifications. That is a specification that can be somewhat misleading, especially when one manufacturer is trying to ‘out-spec’ their competition. You may also see a statement after the NETD stating that it is “post processing” which can be confusing.

I personally could not justify buying a cooled MWIR thermal camera, even a used one, for my present imaging needs. To be honest, even an inexpensive entry level 256 x 192 pixel LWIR dongle camera like the P2 Pro could meet my electronics repair needs. I am retired now so do not need the cutting edge technology anymore. Where I differ from the generic user is in my interest in the technology and my collecting of the equipment used for thermal imaging over the years. I absolutely love fine engineering and that is often to be found in older thermal cameras that cost a small fortune to buy new.

There is little doubt that a modern LWIR thermal imaging camera can produce the required results in most general applications, if of adequate resolution. Specialist applications sometimes require more specialist cameras as you would expect.



[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

There was an error while thanking
Go to full version
Powered by SMFPacks Advanced Attachments Uploader Mod