What to Look for When Buying an Infrared Camera

What to Look for When Buying an Infrared Camera

Infrared camera photo above by Minea Petratos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

IR cameras, also known as thermal imagers, allow you to get a much different view of the world around you. A regular point and shoot camera only captures light waves from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, when it comes to IR cameras, they go beyond the visible spectrum and capture info that is invisible to the naked eye.

By using special infrared sensitive sensors, these cameras can sense black body IR radiation and then offer a visual representation of it. Thanks to this amazing functionality, you can see easily see the thermal characteristics of literally any object.

Why is this such a big deal?

Thermal imagery is very useful, especially for professionals such as electricians and mechanics who need to locate overloaded circuits, detect overheating parts and fix issues before they get worse. Home inspectors also use these types of cameras in order to detect the specific parts of the house that aren’t properly insulated and therefore cause various problems.

What to look for in an IR camera

There are quite a few things you should be looking for when you want to purchase an infrared camera. So if you’re interested in getting one as soon as possible, then the tips below will help you make the right choice.

Image Quality

This is by far the most important trait to look for in an IR camera. Typical cameras have a resolution of 10-12 MP and more, but the truth is that when it comes to IR cameras, the standard resolution is only 120 by 120 pixels. So if you want to go for one such camera, then no one will stop you, but the truth is that low resolutions aren’t going to help you capture enough detail for professional applications.

In order to help you get as much detail as possible, a lot of IR cameras feature a visible light camera which is there for two reasons: one of them is for combining with an infrared image for a more detailed and clearer image and secondly, to capture photographs that can offer some context to the scene.

The quality of the IR images is also influenced by the type of focus the camera features. For instance, if you go for a budget IR camera, then it can be focus free or have a fixed focus. What this means it that its lens was optimized to capture images across a wide distance without having to adjust or fine tune the focus.

Fixed focus does sound and can be convenient in a lot of applications, but a camera with a manual focus can help you focus on things that are generally out of range of fixed focus cameras.

Thermal Precision

Thermal Precision is generally influenced by a camera’s sensitivity, temperature range and accuracy. There are of course many other factors influencing a camera’s precision, but these are the most important factors you should focus on.

Accuracy specs are usually measured as a percentage and they let you know more about the accuracy of the temperature readings your camera is capable of. In general, IR cameras have an accuracy rating of + or + 2%. So when you use them to make measurements, you won’t have to worry about them being off more than 2%.

The temperature range is measured in degrees Celsius and most IR cameras have a range of minus twenty degrees Celsius to two hundred and fifty degrees Celsius. This means that within those readings, the camera is able to obtain an accurate reading.

Lastly, a camera’s sensitivity refers to its ability of distinguishing between various temperatures. So if you want to use an IR camera for work where even the most minutest temperature changes matter, then you should get a camera that can recognize temperature differences of point zero 5 degrees.

Auxiliary Features

Some IR cameras have features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, radiometric video or built-in illuminator lamps which undoubtedly are going to help you take a final decision on which model to get. On top of that, some cameras can also allow you to record or stream video with embedded thermal info. With this kind of functionality, you’ll be able to measure changes in temperature in real time and also record them.

A Wi-Fi capable IR camera allows you to share thermographic info via Wi-Fi easily and fast. Some cameras can also feature embedded laser points or built-in flashlights which help you easily identify the problem areas in your images.

Design

The good news is that most IR cameras feature a very similar design, so you should never select yours based on this trait alone. They also have a rugged outer shell design and an LCD screen that ranges in size from three to three and a half inches. If you go for a high end model, then it’s also going to have a touch sensitive LCD screen for simple use.

In terms of battery, IR cameras feature lithium ion batteries that usually offer about 4h of continuous use. But depending on the model you’re getting, some may also come with extra batteries.

Help and Support

The majority of manufacturers are going to offer you a 2-year warranty when purchasing an IR camera, which means that during this time you’re going to be protected from defects in the detector and in the battery as well. Warranties also cover labor and parts, but there are also manufacturers that split up their warranty to cover only specific components of the camera for different periods of time.

On top of warranty info, you should also look at the calibration options. That’s because in order to remain accurate, IR cameras have to be calibrated periodically. Therefore, before you go ahead and purchase a camera, you should make sure to compare the amount of time it takes to calibrate it and the cost of calibrating it as well.

By helping you to diagnose various problems before they become serious, IR cameras can save you a lot of time, stress and money. Using them, you can easily spot inefficiency in your house, overloaded circuits or overheating machinery. While they may be complex in nature, getting the right one doesn’t have to be a painstakingly difficult process and now that you know what to look for in one, you can definitely make a better decision based on your specific needs.