So you’re thinking about purchasing an infrared camera to explore the thermal world of your facility or add infrared to your home inspection services?
Selecting the right camera for your application can be confusing, allow our experts to help you find one that’s right for you!
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To get the most value (ROI) from your purchase, here are some thoughts!
There are some key camera attributes to consider as you work through the long list of available cameras. I have listed a few key points to help you work through your decision process as you find the best and most affordable camera solution. Start by considering your answers to the following question:
- What is your application?
- Building envelop/energy efficiency
Special note: There are many other applications for infrared cameras. Here we’ll deal with the applications listed above. You may have specific questions regarding other applications, please feel free to contact us. We’re glad to help.
Consideration 1: An important thing to remember/consider is “thermal sensitivity”. In electrical and mechanical applications, having thermal sensitivity below 200mK is suggested and 100mK or lower in the building applications.
Here’s a little more explanation; the thermal sensitivity of cameras is often list as a NETD (Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference) value or as a temperature in °C. Here are a few examples you will notice as you review camera specifications on data sheets or the various manufactures web sites:
Electrical and Mechanical applications:
|200mK||=0.2°C||Adequate: 120mK to 200mK|
|100mK||=0.1°C||Better: 120mK to 80mK|
|50mK||=0.05°C||Best: below 80mK|
|200mK||=0.2°C||Will not be effective with this application|
|100mK||=0.1°C||Better: 100mK to 80mK (maximum RESNET std)|
|50mK||=0.05°C||Best: below 80mK|
Consideration 2: Consider the resolution. Resolution is loosely defined as the number of pixels available in a horizontal and vertical matrix, often shown as 160 x 120 or 320 x 240 in the camera specifications. There are other sizes available in the market place and the larger horizontal and vertical dimensions would be considered more useful and effective, depending on the application. Again, the larger arrays will add to the cost of your camera.
There is generally more consideration to think about than just the array size such as how and where you will be taking images. Here are just a few basic application considerations:
|Applications:||Resolution range options:|
|Building envelope – homes both interior * |
|80 x 80 to 160 x 120|
|Commercial buildings (roofs*)||160 x 120 to 320 x 240|
|Electrical / mechanical – in-plant |
|80 x 80 to 320 x 240|
|Power line – power distribution applications **||160 x 240 to 320 x 240|
*Building envelope and roof inspections – consider adding a wide angle lens to your camera
** Power lines and power distribution – consider adding a telephoto lens to your camera
The standard lens (somewhere just north or south of what we might call a 20mm lens) offered by the manufactures is sufficient to image 90% + of general applications. Think about where and how you will use your camera. If you have applications that require distances (30 feet or greater) or very small objects to view you may fall into the upper 5% or so you should consider lens options, either wide angle or telephoto, depending on the application.
My general “rule of thumb” with most specs is that a well-trained thermographer will be more effective with a cheaper camera that a top end camera in the hands ofsomeone with limited training. More on this in my section titled “Training Considerations” below.
Consideration 3: Think of the temperature ranges you will be trying to view while doing your job. The cameras developed for building scanning will have a smaller temperature range, such as -4°F to +212°F vs. a much larger temperature range, such as -4°F to +1200°F. Even greater temperature ranges are available for industrial applications.
Special note: If you expect to be doing work with applications in both the building envelope and industrial markets you might want to consider an industrial temperature camera. You will definitely want the temperature range of the industrial camera but stay with thermal sensitivity of 100Mk or less.
Consideration 4: Make sure the camera is right for your application, is it durable and easy to operate (if you are wearing gloves can you push the buttons!!) and let’s not forget the software. Pay attention to license requirements such as, if you buy a new computer do you need to purchase the software again and can I use it in the office as well as on my home computer (multiple licenses)? Not paying attention to this will most definitely adds to your overall cost of ownership.
The above four considerations are the very important decision points to consider. Review your application carefully and that will help you narrow your camera selection to the ones that fit your requirements based on the above considerations. Following that, the various camera manufactures offer a long list of options. Some may help you with your job but most options are just that, options. Like every other piece of electronic equipment you buy, most are packed with options you’ll never use.
Generally, they add initial cost to the product and increase your overall cost of ownership by adding maintenance costs in the years to come. Do not sacrifice a key“consideration” for a whiz bang option that someone says you “have to have”.