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Thermal camera recommendation

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Well, I never thought I will ask such questions like "what is the best xxx for $yyy if I do zzz with it", but seems I have to ask one here.
Have been looking for a small, low cost thermal camera for a while, but still have not made the decision yet.
Here are my requirements and using cases:

a. Low cost, <$500,
b. Can focus on small objects since I will use it to find hot spots on my PCB, down to 0402 size,
c. Preferably smart phone or PC connected.

And here are my candidates:

a. Flir One Gen 2,
b. Seek,
c. Seek XR,
d. Seek with macro lens mod,
e. (Over budget, but acceptable) hacked E4,
f. You name it.

There are some tests and reviews out there, but I never found any of them focusing particularly at macro mode.
For me, seeing true hot spot (not the MSX interpolated fake spots) down to at least QFN 2*2 is crucial, down to 0402 is better.
I do not care about accuracy or battery life, since I will only use it occasionally for diagnosing only, not final reporting.
If possible, I want to avoid E4 since it is too expensive for me, and even if I need high quality images, I have access to a T640.

So, any suggestions?

Seek software is very, how do I put it, green.

But if you can get the SDK it has the highest range but that means a lot of work. I have the PC and Android SDKs that they released to signed in beta users. But things got in the way so I'm not playing much with it.

Flir has a lot of tools and a better SDK for what I hear since I have no direct experience with the tools,  but a lot of members like thomas and others have been doing amazing things. Less range but for electronics it might not matter. Not sure on how they can focus either for close ups.

I had an original Seek Compact and a lens without adapter but now the XR has a narrow field of view. The output is still noisy and not a lot of progress has been done lately but it does have potential. Flir will be less of a headache I think, but still not sure if it can be focused for electronics use, but I guess you can get a cheap IR lens and mod it.

So if you can do image processing (edit: and you can get a hold of the PC or Android SDK), I'll say the Seek XR, if you can't or even if you do, you might improve on the Flir if they have a mod that allows you to focus on small parts.

So at the end, I'm no help because I don't know the capabilities outside of the Seek original Compact and the new XR and I didn't have time lately to see how far they can be pushed.

I have experience only with the first model of SeekThermal.

With 50mm ZnSe lens and with this PC software:
You could get images like this:
(The height of the board is aprox 3cm)

But if the temp range is smaller the images are not that clear:

But on the other hand when you are searching for fault on electronic board, temp range is usually quite big.

If I was in your shoes... ;)

1. i3 ThemalExpert

Wait a few days to see the review of i3 ThermalExpert from schlafli:
If the verdict is positive then you could get smartphone module with resolution 384 x 288 for 820$.

2. Flir E4
This one has been proved to be really great value for the money (after you hack it).
I think you can even get a big dicount on some online stores.

3. Flir One V2
Tomas123 and cynfab are making a huge progress on the software side. See here:

Images that they are getting out of lepton 3 are looking A LOT nicer than images from SeekThermal...

The solution to industrial close up thermography has commonly been the addition of different auxiliary close up lenses. Inframetrics used to produce several focal distances to provide various levels of detail and magnification. My AGA 680 thermal microscope was amazing. It had a dedicated X15 close focus microscope lens assembly. Amazing quality but horrendously expensive. The cheap ZNSE CO2 laser lenses are a good option for use with most thermal cameras. The proper Germanium Close up lenses are great. I have the 6" and 12" versions that can also be attached to my X3 thermal telescope lens. They cost thousands of $ new and around $150 on the secondary market.

I recommend you find a thermal camera that has excellent image quality with low noise content. Then add an auxiliary close up lens if needed. Sadly the SEEK camera would not be my first choice for such when used with the OEM provided software.

You can work out the minimum resolvable target size from the specs of the microbolometer and lens FOV. 320 X 240 pixel resolution would be my minimum for the task that you are suggesting. That's easy for me to say though as I have suitable cameras already.


The F1G2 is at the minimum resolution that I would ever use for any PCB work. I own one and cannot recommend it for your application. The permanent MSX is annoying too.

It is great for its intended purpose though.



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