In the lab: FLIR’s One thermal camera

Observant gerbils will recall that we've been thinking for some time about using a thermal camera to try and glean some additional insights about the hardware we review. FLIR's One cameras have offered an accessible way into thermal imagers for some time, and we've gotten our hands on one of the second-generation One cameras today. This $250 add-on plugs into the Lightning port on iOS devices, turning them into thermal imagers with FLIR's companion iOS app. An Android version is also available.

The One works by combining a visible-light image with thermal data to provide a more detailed image than the relatively low-resolution thermal data alone would present. This technology, called "MSX," is the same special sauce the company uses in its more expensive discrete imagers.

In my informal testing on cats, people, computers, and refrigerators, the One has proven to be remarkably sensitive. It can show where people have been walking on carpeted and wood floors, and its spot-metering mode can show just how much of a temperature gradient exists between the hotter and colder parts of objects. Glossy metal things are the only objects the One has trouble with, although a built-in profile for glossy stuff can help. The company tells us that some glossy objects (like polished metal) are so reflective in the infrared spectrum that they give all thermal cameras fits, so this isn't a limitation that's unique to the One.

While $250 may seem like a lot to ask for an iPhone add-on, the FLIR One is far from a toy. It seems just as capable as FLIR's more expensive imagers, even if it's not as high-resolution as those devices. I do wish the temperature metering spot could be moved around the screen in real time, not just after an image is taken (although it's pretty neat that the FLIR One app can show temperatures anywhere in a thermal image after the fact). I also wish FLIR's image-processing algorithm didn't add artifacts to the already relatively low-resolution images from the camera. Screenshots of the FLIR One app actually look better than the images saved from the camera, strangely.

No, those aren't ghosts—those are thermal reflections in my living-room window

We'll be exploring possible uses for the FLIR One in our testing, especially in our case and cooling reviews. We're also open to suggestions for how we might use this gadget in our work. Let us know what sorts of information you might want to see us gather with this thing, and we'll see what we can do.

Updated 11/30/2015 with clarifications from FLIR regarding glossy objects and movement of the temperature metering spot.

Comments closed
    • NeoForever
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]the One has proven to be remarkably sensitive[/quote<] [quote<]Glossy metal things are the only objects the One has trouble with[/quote<] Lies! TR is spreading lies about me! Also, Jeff Kampman, I challenge you to a xiaolin showdown!

    • TheMonkeyKing
    • 4 years ago

    So now we can see these images on all of your GPU tests?

    • Crackhead Johny
    • 4 years ago

    I was going to get one of these when they were on sale for 200$ but after I mentioned I’d take a pic of myself in a Predator mask with it and then take thermal dick pix and use the handle “Sexual Predator” on a dating site my wife said “No”.

    So sad. Now someone else will do it and I will miss out on internet fame 🙁

    • Eversor
    • 4 years ago

    I’ve always wanted one of these things to monitor the “naked” chips on motherboards, GPUs and even PSUs. Too many times the point of eventual failure is a small chip that could simply take a small heatsink and live a long life.

    • Musafir_86
    • 4 years ago

    I just came in for the cats! Where are that pair of cats featured on the front page?!

      • ultima_trev
      • 4 years ago

      No doubt. Super Saiya-jin kitties!

    • Mr Bill
    • 4 years ago

    1) I suggest this would be interesting for showing heat flow comparisons between different heat CPU/GPU heatsinks. e.g. how well the heat is getting out to the distant ends of the heat pipes and fins or even if all the heatpipes are utilized since the CPU cores are so small compared to the CPU package size.

    2) It might be interesting to make visible the air flow paths and temperatures in a PC using different arrangements of fans to push/pull air flow in the case. I, for example, use the CPU fan sensor to control the case fan speeds as well as those of the CPU heatsink. Because I suspect that simply ramping up the CPU heatsink fans is not usefull if one is not also moving more cool air through the case.

    3) It might be interesting to get shots of the radiators and the CPU/GPU water heatsinks to see how much a particular system is being pushed compared to the size of the radiator.

    • Mr Bill
    • 4 years ago

    Pretty cool in appearance, but for $250 I would expect EITHER some PC software to do something useful/interesting/mapping with the pictures or video, OR a useful data format so the pictures and video can be massaged into something comparable to a meaningful standard.

      • mnecaise
      • 4 years ago

      $250 is a steal for a FLIR camera. You need to price a hand-held calibrated (calibrate-able) one, which does come with the software you mention… I think the one we have in our lab cost upwards of 20x that price.

        • Mr Bill
        • 4 years ago

        Well yessssss, but actual reproduceable data versus just a pretty picture is what I would want even for a mere $250.

      • mctylr
      • 4 years ago

      The thermal sensor as a raw component is $175 (in single quantities from Digikey), so $250 for an entire product is a very reasonable price point. The Seek Thermal’s smartphone attached camera is $200 for a similar device.

      As far as I know FLIR and other companies has worked hard to make low-cost sensors and products available to non-professional markets. A simple (longwave) thermal sensor costs $50-70 that only measures a single point value, so $200-ish for an entire array is excellent. (ref: Melexis MLX90614).

      raw sensor at Digikey [url<]https://www.digikey.com/product-search/en?keywords=500-0643-00-ND[/url<]

    • FireGryphon
    • 4 years ago

    Thermal reflection? Are you sure the camera didn’t pick up visual data, then assume it must be hotter and artificially paint it thermally?

      • 90º to Reality
      • 4 years ago

      Most windows do tend to reflect Infrared wavelengths. Thus given the FliR One’s sensor is sensitive to these wavelengths “Thermal Reflection” would be an appropriate description.

        • hendric
        • 4 years ago

        Definitely. Go stand in the sun on the inside of a window, and then go outside and stand where the reflection off the window lands on the ground. The difference in heat is very noticeable.

    • jackrabbit
    • 4 years ago

    We need to know if this thing can see farts.
    Human, dog, cat, it should not matter.

    • TruthSerum
    • 4 years ago

    “(screenshots of the FLIR One app actually look better than the images saved from the camera, strangely)”

    How are you taking screenshots exactly? Could you show us a side-by-side maybe?
    Have you tried to ensure you eliminate motion during the snap, like a rig mount?

    • Freon
    • 4 years ago

    Neat stuff. Looking forward to what you guys come up with in testing. I’d love to see some investigation on various cooling configurations. Pick a case, see the effective of various fan setups, or how CPU tower coolers are aimed, things like that.

    Obviously there’s too much to cover with so many cases out there but a sort of initial shotgun approach might be kind of enlightening.

    • TwoEars
    • 4 years ago

    Someone is going to use this for something inappropriate, probably a teenage boy. That’s all I’m saying.

      • DoomGuy64
      • 4 years ago

      I’ve heard rumors that you can use this on an ATM to see people’s pin numbers. What a wonderful product to bring to the general public. I’m sure people will use it responsibly.

    • Wirko
    • 4 years ago

    Different materials have different thermal emissivities. How does this camera account for that? Indeed, how do other thermal cameras account for that?

      • relmerator
      • 4 years ago

      On the Flir Ex series, the emissivity can be set in the menus. I’d assume this is also possible on the Flir One above.

    • Wonders
    • 4 years ago

    Awesome!

    • Unknown-Error
    • 4 years ago

    How does this compare with Seek Thermal Compact/Compact XR?

    • TopHatKiller
    • 4 years ago

    OOHh! The UK CustomPC magazine, years ago, did a case group test using FLIR cameras as a primary metric. They borrowed it, and used Intel’s testing labs for room temp control. It was a fantastic type of test, they never repeated it. I can’t imagine a better way of testing cases.
    Providing a strict methodical control of ambient temps, starting and ending points… this is something TR should consider.

      • Wirko
      • 4 years ago

      I had to go through your post three times to actually read “case” as “case” (not “cat”).

        • TopHatKiller
        • 4 years ago

        OOHh! The UK FELINEPC magazine, years ago, did a CAT group test using FLIR cameras as a primary metric. They borrowed it, [the CAT, from me] and used Intel’s testing labs for room temp CAT-PEST CONTROL. It was a fantastic type of CATtest, they never repeated it. I can’t imagine a better way of testing CATS.
        Providing a strict methodical control of ambient temps, PURRING and STREATCHING points… this is something ALL CAT LOVERS should consider.

        Happy now?
        [and only re-read me 3 times? I must be slipping.]

    • SoM
    • 4 years ago

    that’s one hot pu$$y

      • duke_sandman
      • 4 years ago

      You must be a fan of Ms. Slocombe on “Are You Being Served?” I applaud you knowledge of late 70’s BBC comedies.

      (Edit.: punctuation & capitalization.)

        • FireGryphon
        • 4 years ago

        Mr. Humhries, are you free?

      • albundy
      • 4 years ago

      that deserves a fully unadulterated Giggitty Gittitty Goo!

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        We’re entering the quagmire of how to determine what is and isn’t acceptable for front page comments.

          • Firestarter
          • 4 years ago

          this is a family friendly website!

            • Chrispy_
            • 4 years ago

            Don’t be that guy!

    • Legend
    • 4 years ago

    This video shows how these devices can be good for finding faulty components or trouble areas in electronic equipment…skipped ahead to the actual use of thermal imaging.

    [url<]https://youtu.be/JvYA4X58Xuw?t=1326[/url<]

    • brucethemoose
    • 4 years ago

    Can it see smoke? You should try feeding smoke/vapor into the intakes of a case with a side window, then track it as it moves through the case.

      • 90º to Reality
      • 4 years ago

      Smoke doesn’t have much in the way of thermal energy. A better way to observe air movement is by introducing small particles.

        • Crackhead Johny
        • 4 years ago

        So use hot tar instead!

    • Firestarter
    • 4 years ago

    slightly related, guess where the warmest spot in our house is: [url<]http://i.imgur.com/kBMwVyO.jpg[/url<] I guess the FLIR One could also be helpful in finding out where the insulation is sub-par

      • UnfriendlyFire
      • 4 years ago

      Cats have a higher body temperature than humans.

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        Really? As often as they snuggle up to me at night, I have my doubts.

          • ludi
          • 4 years ago

          Around 2F degrees warmer than you. They like to snuggle against other bodies such as yours, because the temperature differential between you and the cat is just 2F degrees, whereas the unoccupied guest bed and the couch in the living room are about 30F degrees cooler.

      • CuttinHobo
      • 4 years ago

      Radiant floor heating, I’m guessing? Nice.

      The big question is: how do you plug a cat into an iPhone to inspect the rest of the house?

        • Firestarter
        • 4 years ago

        I guess Lightning is right out

          • CuttinHobo
          • 4 years ago

          I suspect it requires connecting to the Feline User Zero-latency Interface (FUZI port, for short) D:

          [url<]http://cheezburger.com/837147904[/url<]

      • UnfriendlyFire
      • 4 years ago

      You could also try mounting the camera on a borrowed drone, and fly around to look for and hot spots on the exterior of your house (likely source of heat loss).

    • south side sammy
    • 4 years ago

    what’s the range? let’s go deer hunting.

      • UnfriendlyFire
      • 4 years ago

      Why not mount the FLIR on a drone to scout the forest?

        • albundy
        • 4 years ago

        because most drones are loud enough to be heard miles away…well not miles, but you get the idea.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    Dude on the right is a thermal VIKING.

      • Anovoca
      • 4 years ago

      I think the one on the left is an academy award.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This