Thermal imaging cameras were originally created for military use, but now their reach has extended even further. Firefighters use them to see through smoke, find trapped people and hotspots. Law enforcement uses them for surveillance, locating suspects, investigating crime scenes, and conducting search and rescue operations. They are also used by power-line maintenance workers, building construction technicians, home inspectors, and other types of workers.
These cameras aren’t cheap. A good thermal imaging camera can run you anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Here you’ll find five cheap, but quality, thermal imaging cameras that won’t put a dent in your wallet.
Top 5 Thermal Imaging Camera Options
This is an IR thermometer and camera that displays a digital representation of the heat over the video image. It gives you a virtually identical image similar to a full-fledged thermal imager, just cheaper.
It’s good for anyone who needs to spot thermal, air, and/or moisture leaks. If you’re a contractor this thermal imaging camera is handy because you can store pictures taken onto its SD card for later use in quotes and invoices. It also has built-in PC software and offers adjustable emissivity. This gives you accurate results with different surfaces.
- 12-Volt lithium-ion battery and charger that charges in 60 minutes.
- 3x zoom capability.
- Large 3-1/2 in. screen.
- Detachable LCD monitor for remote viewing.
- Removable microSD card.
- 12-Volt lithium-ion battery and charger included.
- Magnet and hook for retrieving small parts.
Price: $257.49 at Home Depot.
Battery(DCB120) and chargers (DCB100, DCB101, DCB119) sold separately.
This is a thermal imager, but not a stand alone unit. You must use this imager with either an Android or iOS device, making for an accurate thermal imager with a simple interface that’s easy to use. FLIR One connects through a phone or tablet’s charging port, and displays images onto your device. It’s good for smaller tasks like checking for air leaks, inspecting wall outlets. It’s also great for searching for an animal in the dark.
- Has two cameras: Lepton thermal sensor and VGA visible camera.
- 2.75 ounces with dimensions 2.8 x 1 x 0.7 inches.
- Battery switches to low-power mode when not in use.
- Takes battery 2 – 4 hours to fully charge.
- MSX Technology for top image quality.
- Automatic shuttering Lepton module.
- Provides time-lapse videos, panoramic images, MSX blending, and color pallettes.
Price: $327.85 on Amazon.
FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System
The FLIR C2 is a small, handheld thermal imager. It’s not much bigger than the average smartphone, and it functions in a way similar to the phone as well. It’s size makes it easy to carry around in your pocket. Its thermal sensor resolution is 80 x 60. It has a temperature range of -14 F to 300 F, which makes it great for reading temperatures in walls, pipes, ceilings, roofs, engines, and the like.
This thermal imaging camera is good for anyone to use, from the experienced thermographer down to the beginner just getting into thermal imagery. This is good for someone who wants high-quality images without the hefty price.
- Fully radiometric with high-sensitivity detector.
- MSX image enhancement.
- Amazing 3″ touch screen.
- FLIR Tools professional reporting software included.
- C2 JPEG images store 4,800 thermal measures you can process with FLIR Tools.
Price: $499 for the standard imager, $699 for one that’s WiFi enabled at Amazon.
Fluke Visual Handheld Infrared Thermometer and Imaging Camera
Despite the name, this thermal imaging camera gets the job done and comes with a thermometer. It’s cheap, durable, versatile, and easy to use, especially for contractors and property owners.
It has a wide range for temperature detection, with the range being between 14 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit, coupled with precision within several degrees in either direction. Its accuracy is pretty good, but for leak detection and inspection it’s an great thermal imaging camera.
- 4 pounds, product dimensions are 10.8 x 8.7 x 3.5 inches.
- 28° x 28° field of view.
- Near and far modes align visible light and thermal lenses from as close as 15 cm (6 in.).
- Temperature alarms alert to values outside the expected range.
- Center measurement box.
- Uncooled pyroelectric ceramic sensor.
- Intuitive interface requires no training. Start using it right out of the box.
- SD card can store up to 10,000 images per GB.
Price: $435 on Amazon.
Unlike DeWalt, this thermal imaging camera is not rechargeable. You need AA batteries for its operation. You should consider investing in rechargeable AA batteries.
The E5 is one of the cheapest thermal leak detectors FLIR offers, but it doesn’t mean that it’s of low quality by any means. And it’s still not cheap. This thermal imaging camera is amazing and affordable for insulators, HVAC specialists, electrical contractors, and automotive experts.
This is a true imager, meaning the visual you see is an authentic heat signature that’s being picked up, not a digital representation of a thermometer’s readout. You also have warranties for the following parts: 2 years for the parts and labor, 5 years for the battery and 10 years on the detector. This is why it’s a pricey option.
- Display: 3″ color LCD.
- On-board 640 x 480 Digital Camera.
- MSX Imaging Technology.
- Simultaneous storage of IR/Visual/MSX images.
- 2% accuracy.
- Area Box Measurement mode.
- Li-Ion rechargeable battery included.
Price: $1,199 at Amazon.
These are some of the cheapest thermal imaging cameras you’ll find. All of the following cameras are good for anyone, from beginners up to advanced users such as thermographer experts, HVAC specialists, firefighters, and the like. Hopefully, you will find one of these thermal imaging cameras to suit your thermal imaging needs. Be sure to choose wisely.