Shopping for a thermal imager under $1000?
You’ve come to the right place!
For a long time, thermal imaging devices were not available to the general public due to their high price point.
However, thermal imaging manufacturers like FLIR, Fluke, IR and HT offer a series of powerful and affordable thermal imagers that are designed for a wide range of consumer and professional inspection situations.
To help you find an effective unit that doesn’t burn a hole through your pocket, we’ve reviewed some of the best thermal imagers under $1000 to come up with our best-of-the-best recommendations for several common applications.
Let’s dive in!
Who Needs a Thermal Imager?
Thermal imagers are able to detect objects that the naked eye cannot see to identify problems before they lead to costly failures.
Industrial and construction workers often use thermal imagers to spot equipment issues and leaks.
Many electrical problems, for example, can be easily identified by their heat patterns which, if not detected, can result in equipment failure or a serious electrical hazard.
If you specialize in weatherization, you can use a simple and affordable point-and-shoot thermal imager to find poor weather stripping, leaky windows, and missing insulation.
Similarly, if you work as an energy auditor, a more advanced unit can help you create professional and customized reports. You can also use a model with a Wi-Fi connection to send thermal images to an agency that subsidizes improvements.
Furthermore, HVAC technicians and building contractors often use thermal imagers to identify moisture & air leaks in walls, ceilings and floors caused by water damage, coolant leaks, and other problems.
Thermal imaging cameras are also helpful for predictive maintenance professionals. A simple point-and-shoot thermal imager can be used to conduct a quick safety check of electrical equipment before performing repairs.
In addition, high-resolution models are used by wireline workers to scan power lines and substations to gather accurate and detailed temperature measurements from a safe distance.
In all of these cases, thermal imagers help people diagnose and pinpoint problems quickly, reduce unscheduled downtime, and minimize damage & losses to buildings and structures.
What’s In This Buying Guide
With the wide range of thermal imagers and cameras available today, finding the right thermal imager for your application that doesn’t break the bank can be a time-consuming task littered with too many acronyms and outlier features that have no bearing on your requirement.
To help you make the right decision, we’ve reviewed four of best models available below to help you find an inexpensive thermal imager for under $1,000.
TIP: if you are going to use one of the smartphone units reviewed below, make sure you also check out the best thermal imaging apps.
Best Thermal Imagers Under $1000
Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com
Seek Thermal Revealpro
Temperature Detection Range
-40oF to 626oF
Best for electrical problems
Temperature Detection Range
-20oC to 300oC
FLIR ONE Pro
Depends on your smartphone
Temperature Detection Range
-4oF to 752oF
Depends on your smartphone
Depends on your smartphone
Temperature Detection Range
-20oC to 400oC
Depends on your smartphone
The new Seek Thermal Revealpro is one of the most impressive pocket-sized thermal cameras available today.
With an image quality that’s comparable to expensive, high-end models like the FLIR E6, it may not be the first pocket-sized unit, but it’s still one of the best ones in the market.
- 320x240 resolution provides high-quality pictures with precise thermal detection
- Large colorful LCD offers a high refresh rate and a clear, detailed view
- Comes with a 300 lumen LED flashlight that illuminates objects in dark areas
- Wide 32o field of view allows you to capture objects at a distance of 500 feet
- Uses spot detection to identify objects with prominent heat signatures
- Welcome guide includes limited information
- Does not hold a charge when it is turned off
- You can only remove SD card with very small tweezers, which is a bit difficult
Boasting a 320x240 px thermal sensor, the Seek Thermal Revealpro offers visible and clear imaging during the day and the night.
The model easily detects energy loss, water leaks, building problems, mechanical damages, and all other heat-related issues, so you can fix them as soon as possible.
With a temperature range of -4C to 330C, it identifies all types of thermal signatures perfectly.
The unit’s nine color palettes offer detailed images in different colors, while its 32 degree field of view and 9 Hz refresh rate provide clear and crisp image quality.
Moreover, it comes with four emissivity modes that ensure correct and precise temperature measurement. Ideal for both personal and professional use, the Seek Thermal Reveal Pro further features three different imaging modes. The normal or default mode features the smoothest frame rate, making it ideal for capturing moving objects.
The full-frame mode shows all temperature data of the scene, making it perfect for situations where you want to analyze a scene in complete detail.
Lastly, the span and level mode filters out objects that do not fall into the set temperature range, so you can only see the ones you’re interested in. This mode is suitable for applications like maintenance and inspections. All three modes offer a wide range of filters for you to choose from.
The camera also offers clear imaging from a distance of 500 feet and comes with a 300-lumen LED flashlight that helps illuminate dark areas. It operates on a Lithium-ion battery for durable and long-lasting performance and is enclosed in a rubberized case that protects it from accidents and unexpected drops.
With all these outstanding features, the Seek Thermal Revealpro certainly deserves first place on our list of top picks.
Issues and Limitations
The camera needs to be held at an awkward angle, so it might be difficult to position and point the unit to the desired place. You might even have to put your hand in front of the thermal imager to guide yourself.
The Revealpro also suffers from low battery life, but this is expected as it is designed with more powerful and power-hungry functions.
The PerfectPrime IR0019 is one of the newer additions to the IR series and boasts high-quality and crystal-clear thermal resolution.
Ideal for both home and professional use, it can identify hot or cold leaks, detect insulation problems, and quickly diagnose problems in HVAC units.
- Offers a high thermal resolution of 320x240 pixels
- 3.2-inch TFT display gives a crystal-clear view with a 9 Hz refresh rate
- 4 GB storage capacity allows you to save recordings and images safely
- Boasts a heat tolerance capacity of -20oC to 300oC
- 35-degree field of view enables you to clearly capture a large area
- Noise level of the sensor is quite high
- The lower and upper ends of the rainbow temperature scale are not labeled
- Instructions are incomplete and a bit difficult to understand
The PerfectPrime IR0019 features thermal detection with a 320x240 image resolution. Its 0.07oC sensitivity offers a longer run time and better picture quality.
Its rechargeable Li-ion battery further allows you to use the model for two to three hours with continuous recordings, while its 3.2-inch colorful TFT display and 9 Hz refresh rate give you crisp and crystal-clear images.
This unit is designed with 4 GB storage, enabling you to easily save and transfer files from one device to another with USB cables. Its large buttons ensure convenient and smooth operation, and the included temperature and emissivity values are easy to understand.
This thermal camera is perfect for both personal and professional use, so you can easily use it for an electrical inspection.
Moreover, this model boasts a high-end sensor that perfectly detects anomalous thermal signatures. It also features a wide 27o x 35o field of view that allows you to capture a large area at a short focal length of 0.5m.
With the thermal vision model of the PerfectPrime IR0019, you can easily identify and fix water damage, electrical problems, and all sorts of other heat-related issues.
Issues and Limitations
This IR camera might sometimes capture noisy images that may appear as if you're viewing them through a dirty screen door.
The answer to whether you can use these images ultimately depends on your application. If you’re planning on identifying any active water leaks or home energy losses, then these noisy images are perfectly suitable.
The company could also improve the design of this unit with a built-in laser that matches the actual physical location to the thermal image.
While this camera does include a visible image feature, it’s not of much use when you’re viewing a large featureless area, such as a large ceiling or a blank wall.
Without having a clear laser point as a reference, it can be difficult to associate the actual physical location with the thermal image.
Lastly, the PerfectPrime IR0019 does not come with a lanyard and has no way to attach one. So, you have to be careful that you don’t drop the camera while using it.
Whether you’re troubleshooting mechanical systems, finding water damage, inspecting electrical panels, or looking for HVAC problems, the FLIR ONE Pro can help you find invisible issues faster than ever.
It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful consumer-level thermal imagers available today with extremely accurate temperature measurement and remarkably high resolution.
- Powerful infrared camera processes images in great detail
- You can easily attach the camera to an iPhone or iPad with a lightning port
- Boasts a temperature range of 14oF to 302oF for maximum output
- Uses VividIR and MSX technology for clearer and better image processing
- Has been drop-tested to ensure it has a durable and long-lasting performance
- Offers plenty of powerful adjustment and metering options
- High-temperature mode is only useful in
- very limited situations
App lags very often
Specifically designed for iOS, the FLIR ONE Pro is the perfect thermal imager for iPhone and iPad users.
The unit includes a lightning port, so you can easily connect the camera to an Apple tablet or phone. Once the device establishes a secure connection, your phone will display the result in a stunning 1440x1080 resolution.
Furthermore, the unit can capture 500 radiometric images, enabling you to use the thermal imager in several different places. It also features a 4800-pixel rate and a temperature detection range of 14oF to 302oF, ensuring high-quality images every single time.
Moreover, this model features a VividIR and MSX enhanced system that develops and processes videos and images to a higher level.
This feature ensures that users see what they capture precisely and clearly. The processing also sharpens the images, so users have a better idea of what’s going on.
The FLIR ONE Pro allows you to capture videos, time-lapse recordings, and still photos with the FLIR app. All images and recordings are then stored at a 1440 x 1080 resolution. All videos are stored as MOV or MP4 files, depending on whether you’re using the iOS or Android version of the camera.
The application also saves all thermal imaging data and allows you to change palettes, meter specific temperatures, adjust temperature ranges according to the chosen palette, and toggle between thermal, visual, and MSX views.
All in all, the ONE Pro is one of the company’s most powerful consumer-level, phone-based thermal imaging cameras.
Its high resolution alone more than makes up for its price, while its ability to withstand and measure high temperatures makes it an essential tool for many.
The large amount of information provided with every shot, along with the numerous metering options that allow you to check the temperature anywhere on the screen, make it an excellent upgrade from the FLIR One.
Issues and Limitations
The unit does not come with the option of changing the color of the text. The default font is gray, thin, and very faint, so it might be difficult to read when you’re examining a hot area.
Although the MSX enhanced system is good, it’s not suitable for close work, such as electronics. Even if you set the camera at its closest setting, there is going to be a lot of space between the two images.
Overall, the FLIR ONE Pro is a good thermal imager, but its app still needs a bit of human touch.
4. Best for Android: HTI HT-301
The HTI HT-301 thermal imager is a second-tier tool that enhances the performance of your smartphone.
It boasts powerful thermal resolution, a 384x288 IR sensor resolution, and a temperature range of -20oC to 400oC.
It’s undoubtedly one of the most innovative products available today, providing you with the solution to most technical problems and everyday inspection needs.
- Large screen display gives a clear and detailed viewing experience
- Six different color palettes allow customizable thermal imaging
- Offers 384x288p thermal imaging at 25 Hz resolution
- Detects temperature from -20oC to 400oC, enabling you to fix all heat-related issues
- Compatible with only Android devices
- App is a bit difficult to understand
This model features 384x288p imaging and captures high-quality images with a 25 Hz resolution. Its adjustable focus offers an incredibly clear display in all conditions, while its USB type-C port allows you to quickly connect the camera to your smartphone.
However, make sure that your phone has at least an Android marshmallow or 6.0 operating system, so the app runs smoothly without any issues.
With a temperature detection range of -20oC to 400oC, you can identify and fix all sorts of heat-related issues.
Its adjustable emissivity further provides accurate temperature calculation, while its versatile settings make it extremely convenient to use.
It also comes with a temperature switch that enables users to change the temperature measurement unit.
Moreover, its large screen display offers high-quality, real-time imaging with an excellent refresh rate. The HTI HT-301 also gives you the option of setting temperature levels in the minimum, maximum, or center.
Lastly, it comes with six different color palettes so that you have a better idea of what the image represents.
Issues and Limitations
One of the biggest limitations of this model is that it only works with Android devices. The camera’s software has some issues, so it can be difficult to understand and use.
The app also does not have the option to retain a constant color scale, so every image uses a different and relative color range.
Moreover, the threads of the aluminum lens cylinder are loose-fitting and coarse. This makes it difficult to set the focus, as it relaxes just by touching the lens. You have to twist the lens gently and very carefully let go to set the focus.
What to Look for When Buying a Budget Thermal Imager
With such a wide range of models available in the market, choosing the right thermal imager can be a very confusing task.
To help you make the right decision, we’ve listed some of the factors you should consider before finalizing your purchase. Let’s take a look!
Sensitivity and Accuracy
The sensitivity of a thermal imager is the ability to calculate the temperature difference between objects that negatively affect the accuracy of the camera. The right sensitivity and accuracy depend on your usage and needs.
High-end thermal imagers usually have a thermal sensitivity of 50mK and an accuracy of +/-2%. But models with 100mK sensitivity and +/-5% accuracy work decently as well.
Most budget-friendly thermal imagers feature less pixel resolution than standard visible-light cameras. It’s important to remember that a camera with a higher resolution will create better and clearer thermal images.
A model with a 160x120 pixels resolution is considered to be of average quality, while a camera with a 320x240 pixels resolution is categorized as high-quality.
Every thermal imager comes with its own temperature detection range with a maximum and minimum value.
The ideal temperature range entirely depends on the application and use of your thermal camera. Normally, a unit that can measure temperature up to 600 degree Celsius is suitable for almost all applications.
If you want to view a larger image, you should opt for a camera with a wide display screen. It’s better to choose a display size above 3.5 inches, as it offers a clearer and more comfortable view of the images on the screen.
A larger display also makes it easier for professionals to analyze and explain the different readings on the camera screen to their clients.
Almost all thermal imaging cameras save images in JPEG format. This format is always preferable, as it allows users to easily transfer the pictures to a computer with a USB cable for further processing.
Models that save images in a bitmap format usually remove all temperature details before storing them.
Furthermore, choosing a thermal imager that stores images in an unpopular format is not advisable, as you’ll need a particular application to open and view the files.
Built-in Visible Light Camera
If your job includes inspections in low-light conditions, it’s better to go for a thermal imager with a built-in visible light camera.
This way, you won’t have to go through the trouble of bringing an extra torchlight for all the dark spots.
Moreover, if you’re going to submit detailed and clear customer reports, a visible light camera will definitely be necessary.
If you’re a professional technician, you should choose a thermal imager with long battery life, so you can complete your inspection without any interruptions. It’s also advisable to choose a model with a replaceable and removable battery.
Units with built-in batteries spell trouble because you’ll have to look for a power supply as soon as the battery runs out of juice, especially if you’re in the middle of an important task.
Bluetooth-Enabled Tests and Measurement Meters
Newer models are designed with advanced test and measurement tools that analyze more than temperature and give you a clearer picture of the severity of electrical issues and moisture damage.
These clamp and moisture meters wirelessly transfer important diagnostic data, like amperage, resistance, humidity, and voltage, directly to the thermal imager.
This data is further embedded into the radiometric JPEGs to provide additional support to your findings.
You can also use this extremely valuable information to properly determine the extent and urgency of the problem and then decide the best course of action.
The weight of the camera is an extremely important thing to consider, especially if you’re going to use it frequently or for long periods of time. A lighter model will put less strain on your back and shoulder during long inspections.
Fortunately, most budget-friendly thermal imagers boast a compact and lightweight design and fit snugly into utility belts, pouches, and toolboxes.
Some models also feature lens systems that rotate along a 120-degree axis, enabling users to comfortably keep the display screen in front of them while tilting the optical lens straight down or up to scan hard-to-reach places.
This feature is perfect for people who work on overhead duct inspections, look behind motors, and scan other spots from challenging angles.
You should also consider the interactive controls of the thermal imager. Check whether they come with direct-access menus, dedicated buttons, or both. A camera with a few extra buttons positioned strategically is easier to use than a model with a single button to scroll through various menu options.
Some thermal imagers are also designed with touch screens, allowing you to easily access features, functions, and text and sketch notations.
Furthermore, it’s advisable to choose a camera equipped with at least two batteries, so you can quickly and easily switch them out in the field and keep working without any interruptions.
Some thermal imagers are designed with a Wi-Fi connection that allows you to connect the unit to your tablets and smartphones.
You can then easily transfer IR images to your devices for detailed report generation, portable analysis, and sharing.
The advantage of wirelessly sending IR inspection reports and thermal images from one device to another is huge, especially if you work in a field where time is of the essence.
Limitations of Inexpensive Thermal Imagers
There are some situations in which an inexpensive thermal camera might be unable to successfully capture a clear, accurate, and usable image.
Most budget-friendly models feature a black and white camera, so make sure you decide whether you really want a color display before purchasing one.
Since cheaper thermal imagers are not designed with smart features, you can’t expect them to have a high sensitivity range. These units will only be able to find hot/cold spots and detect leaks.
Similarly, you can’t expect an HD or large display from a budget thermal imager. But don’t worry, as all inexpensive models have decent resolution and display.
Sometimes, an inexpensive thermal imaging camera might not capture a very accurate image, and the resultant photo might be hard to decipher.
For example, you may want to see the thermal signature of an area under a door to determine whether it is allowing heat to escape, but you may keep getting an unusable image.
While this can be a limitation of a cheap model, you can still try to get a better picture. You can do this by experimenting with different angles or getting up close to what you’re trying to capture.
Cheaper models might also capture disheveled and blurry images in certain scenarios. The best solution to this problem is to keep the camera as steady and balanced as possible and give it a couple of extra seconds before taking the shot. This will give you a much sharper and clearer image almost every time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are thermal cameras available at such a high price?
Thermal cameras are expensive because of the price of the material used for their lenses. Since glass is not completely clear in the range of wavelength of infrared sensors, a distinct and unique material is needed for the lenses.
The majority of thermal lenses are designed with germanium, which is a metal that costs around $1500 per kilogram in its raw state.
Furthermore, the materials used in the construction of a thermal imager’s detector are expensive. Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), Mercury Cadmium Telluride (HgCdTe), and Indium Antimonide (InSb) are all materials that are rarer and more expensive than those used in visible light cameras.
Do inexpensive thermal imagers have a lower life?
Thermal imagers boast an entirely unique design. All models use germanium instead of glass for the lenses to attune to the operational wavelength. This means that even inexpensive models have a longer lifespan.
Can I change my smartphone into a thermal imager?
If you carefully extract the IR filter from your smartphone without damaging any other components, you can use the phone as a thermal imaging camera. However, it’s advisable to first experiment with an old, unused phone to prevent any irrevocable damages.
Final Verdict: What is the best thermal imager under $1000?
With so many choices and options, it can be difficult to choose a thermal imager that suits your needs and budget.
Make sure you compare the aforementioned models so you have a better understanding of the features that are necessary and those that are not.
We found the Seek Thermal Revealpro to be the best thermal imager because of its large LCD, wide field of view, high-quality images, and accurate thermal detection.
However, make sure you go through all the aforementioned models to find the camera that best suits your requirements!