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milwaukee thermal imager review

Milwaukee 2260-21 M12 Thermal Imager Review

While the demand for thermal imagers has dramatically escalated in the market, the Milwaukee M12 thermal imager has all the bells and whistles to take you by surprise.

Milwaukee is a well-known and renowned name in the power toolindustry, gaining immense popularity due to its innovative and thoughtful product range.

Having a superpower to diagnose problems where the human eyes fail, the Milwaukee M12 infrared-thermal camera allows you to explore things around you with high precision and technological supremacy.

With applications extending to various domains, you can use the M12 imager for domestic, industrial, scientific, and electrical applications.

Paired with the M12 software, this camera provides a detailed analysis so that you can look for leaks, circuit overloads, energy loss, electrical defects, and heat issues.

Whether you need to inspect a house for maintenance or detect machinery malfunctioning, the 2260-12 will get the job done quickly and efficiently.

We believe that contractors, building inspectors, weather inspection teams, firefighters, energy auditors, HVAC technicians, plant maintenance teams, electricians, military men will benefit most from the Milwaukee 2260-21.

So, what makes it so unique and versatile after all?

A professional tool packed in a rugged, portable hard case, this thermal camera is straightforward to use with quick, promising results. The point-and-shoot design gives an upper hand to make the tool easy to use and navigate.

We love how the software is also pretty basic and simple, allowing laymen to navigate and analyze findings with ease.

The overall construction of the M12 is solid and sturdy, designed to survive common falls on rugged worksites.

Featuring a pistol shape, it allows a one-hand grip, which is further strengthened by a rubber padding all over.

Designed to capture images with the pull of a trigger, this unit demands hardly any time to become familiar with the functioning. Just below the screen, you’ll come across five buttons and a directional pad for simplified navigation.

In addition, the high-resolution images captured are sharply pixelated at 160 x 120 to deliver high-quality images with no blurring or hazy edges. You can instantly store the images in JPEG format on the 2GB SD card.

The M12 captures both regular and thermal pictures for further facilitation, allowing you to draw up a comparison and make conclusions accordingly.

Ideal for both indoor and outdoor projects, the M12 imager is designed to tackle a broad spectrum of temperatures for you to make the best call on the field.

Refreshed 60 times per minute for more accuracy, it can measure temperatures as low as 14F to as high as 662F.

The 0.1°-30°C thermal sensitivity is also pretty impressive, making it suitable for working in all kinds of climates and situations, even when the object is nearly at the same temperature as the surroundings.

The M12 is upgraded with a wide sighting area of 25 x 19 degrees to further complement its versatility. This guarantees accurate and reliable readings even at a large distance or up close to 4 inches.

The readings are displayed on a 3.5-inch wide color LCD. This screen size is optimal when working in a team for better readability and vision clarity.

The M12 operates on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and Milwaukee has thoughtfully incorporated an energy-save feature to prolong battery life.

All in all, the M12 is an excellent device for electricians and homeowners because of the instant startup, plain-sailing software, and even a flashlight for dark environments.

Pros and Cons

milwaukee thermal imager review


  • Quick results delivered on a single trigger pull.
  • Solid grip with an ergonomic pistol design.
  • 160 x 120 pixels high-resolution, defined images.
  • Broad temperature ranging from 14°F to 662°F for all environments.
  • Thermal sensors sensitive to 0.1°C at 30°C.
  • 12V battery with a continuous 4-hour run time for extensive usage.
  • Color LCD with iron, rainbow, and gray palettes.
  • Easy readability with a 3.5-inch wide screen.
  • Suitable for large fields with an area coverage of 25 x 19 degrees.
  • Sealed SD card and USB port for protection.
  • Auto and manual range mode for span scaling.
  • 2GB SD card for storing thermal and visual images.
  • Simple software for non-tech-savvy users.
  • Bright LED flashlight for working in low-lit or dark areas.
  • Hinged lens cover to prevent damage from fall.
  • Quick charge time of 30 minutes.
  • 5-year warranty.


  • Software isn’t compatible with Mac.
  • Device freezes for 15 seconds when you take a picture.
  • Battery might run out quickly.
  • No specific tool for opening the battery compartment.

Unique Features

milwaukee thermal imager review

Here are a few highlights that set the Milwaukee 2260-21 a class apart from other units in the market.

Sturdy and User-Friendly Design

Designed for all kinds of fieldwork and inspections, the M12 can withstand harsh work conditions and common falls. It is over-molded with rubber for a secure grip and raised corners to protect the LCD and engine if dropped.

A media door covers the SD card and USB connection port, whereas a hinged lens cover further seals the camera at all times.

The M12 is not just a power tool but endlessly useful too. It is fully capable of withstanding all outdoor weather extremities such as water splashes and dust.

In addition, the M12 thermal imager is very user-friendly. It has basic controls and a pistol-style grip to quickly capture images.

Crystal-Clear LCD

Is a thermal imager any use if you can’t view the images clearly on the screen?

The Milwaukee M12 has a color LCD with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. This high resolution imprints a sharp and clear display with minimal blurring or distractions.

The 3.5-inch screen dominates the unit, ensuring better visuals to enjoy the thermal imaging features. This makes it a suitable option for teamwork at worksites or maintenance projects.

Three color palates form the visual foundation of this imager; iron, rainbow, and gray. Iron is better at revealing narrow temperature changes, unlike rainbow that caters to a wide variety of temperatures. If you’re working at night, the gray palate is an excellent choice to reveal most details.

Accurate Temperature Sensors

milwaukee thermal imager review

To play around with heat radiations, the M12’s temperature sensors are wildly accurate and reliable. This imager is sensitive to 0.1°C at 30°C, which indicates that the camera can discern between two objects with nearly the same temperatures.

It also features a wide temperature range from 14°F to 662°F, which translates to -10 to 350°C. This allows the imager to tackle different situations, from extreme cold to firefighting scenarios.

You can count on the device because the display refreshes 60 times per second to keep the monitor up to date.

Enhanced Image Quality

Equipped with an instant startup and a 160 x 120 thermal sensor, this Milwaukee thermal imaging camera delivers crisp, high-resolution pictures with clarity and sharpness.

Advertising a dual-sense pixel technology, the M12 imager eliminates all blurs, hazy edges, or obscure corners. This is important in increasing the level of detail in the image so that you can instantly detect hotspots in complex or small areas.

As you point the device towards a particular spot and pull the trigger, the camera instantly captures two images; a thermal image and a visual image.

The visual image helps identify objects, particularly when you have large amounts of data, whereas the thermal image provides a detailed analysis of infrared radiations to detect lurking complexities.

Wide View Field

For uncompromised performance in dark areas or to work at night, the M12 features an LED flashlight to illuminate the work site. It has a nice 25 x 19 degrees sighting area to detect radiations on a large scale, even if you’re at a distance.

The distance-to-spot ratio of 56:1 indicates that you can record accurate images from as far as 56 inches. On the other hand, you can take measurements from as close as 4 inches.

The M12 offers an upper hand with the level and span scaling features for troubleshooting electrical problems or defects in equipment. You can manually focus the sensors to find objects with a specific temperature for a more targeted approach.

Sleep Mode

In the sleep mode, the LCD screen turns off with no activity in 5 minutes, and within the next 15 minutes, it shuts down entirely to save up on battery.

M12 Software

The M12 software is so straightforward and easy that almost everyone can navigate their way through it.

Start by installing the SD card on your computer from the CD given. Then, export the pictures from the SD card into the software using a thumb drive.

The 2GB capacity might not be sufficient for some users, but you can upgrade it to up to 32 GB.

Once you upload the images, you can view them on the laptop to derive conclusions, take notes and information, make analyses and comparisons, and even print out PDF documents for a comprehensive perspective.

Issues & Concerns

milwaukee thermal imager review

Although the M12 thermal imager has some impressive specifications, like all power tools, it is not immune to faults. Some issues you are likely to come across with the M12 include:

Battery Life

Powered by a single lithium-ion rechargeable battery, the M12 is designed to run for 4 hours continuously.

However, many users complain that the thermal engine is power-hungry and that a single battery might not suffice for 4 hours. The battery indicator blinks when it’s time to replace the battery before the thermal imager shuts down.

Confusing Images

They might feel like a nifty tool, but thermal cameras have their own limitations too.

Glass or any reflective surface can block the thermal sensor and disrupt the heat radiations, so you won’t be able to capture a clear image.

At times, environmental factors with temperature divergences can hinder the formation of an accurate picture.

In such cases, it is advisable to opt for the trial-and-error method. Try moving around the object by switching the camera's angle, getting closer, or moving farther away.

The higher the temperature difference between the object and the surroundings, the easier it is to obtain a precise reading.

Care and Maintenance

milwaukee thermal imager review

Although the M12 is a well-built device constructed with rugged use in mind, you need to follow some instructions to enhance its longevity.

Recharge the battery with the given M12 charger only because using a different charger can incite a fire. Only use specific batteries designated for power tools and connect them with their specific chargers.

Make sure to keep the battery isolated and safe from metal objects because the terminals can connect and cause a burn or a fire.

For storage, it is advised to keep the thermal imager protected from harsh environments, so a dry and cool place is preferable.

In summers, don’t keep the tool in hot areas above 50 degrees Celsius.

In winters, avoid rain, snow, and wet locations.

Also, strictly avoid using the unit in flammable or explosive conditions.

Taking such environmental precautions is necessary if you want uninterrupted use of the imager without any damage.

Comparing the 2260-21 and 2258-21

The two popular models of the Milwaukee thermal imaging camera reigning the market are the 2260-21 and the 2258-21.

Here’s a quick comparison of the different features both offer.

The 2258-21 is modestly priced and features a notable distance-to-spot ratio of 83:1, which is the prime reason it functions well for long-range and down-to-detail measurements.

But what impressed us the most was the wide 26.8 x 35.4 field of view to tackle large observable areas. A 320 x 240 LCD resolution lends superior image visuals and fine sharpness.

When it comes to durability, this model surpasses a 6-inches drop test, unlike the 2260, which survives only 3 inches. The buttons are concealed in a push-panel, maximizing the protection.

It is worth mentioning that the 10-hour run-time also exceeds the 4-hour battery life of the 2260-21.

Having said all that, the 2260-21 model is a winner when it comes to capturing crisp images of 160 x 120 pixels, considerably higher than the 102 x 77 (7800+) pixels of 2258-21 imager.

A manual focus ring, LED flashlight and 60 Hz refresh rate are also remarkable additions to promote user-friendliness.

The major breakthrough is the 3.5-inch wide LCD screen to better analyze and visualize leakages.

Nonetheless, in both models, Milwaukee left no distinct difference in the temperature ranges, sensitivity, color palettes, warranty, and dual laser targeting.


A generous 5-year warranty backs the 2260-12 M12, so you can contact a Milwaukee service center for a qualified repair anytime.

The company’s professionals provide a quick solution with free replacement, repair, and cover any defect in the construction or workmanship of the thermal imager.

It is recommended to visit a Milwaukee service center for annual calibration and check-ups.


  • 1m fall on concrete on drop test
  •  Uncooled microbolometer focal-plane array (FPA) IR detector type
  • 160 x 120 pixels resolution
  • 14°F to 662°F (-10°C to 350°C) temperature range
  • 0.1°C per 30°C NETD thermal sensitivity
  • 25° horizontal X 19° vertical field of view
  • Screen refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Minimum distance in focus: 3.9 inches (10cm)
  • Distance to spot ratio: 56:1
  • 2.7 mRad Instantaneous Field of View, spatial resolution
  • Accuracy: ±4°F (2°C) or ±2%
  • Milwaukee M12 Series rechargeable Li-Ion removable battery
  • Battery run time: 4 hours
  •  Battery charge time: 30 minutes
  • Auto and manual ranging
  • Iron, gray and rainbow color palettes
  • 2GB SD card installed (upgradeable to 32GB)

  • Color TFT-LCD screen measuring 3.5 inches (9 cm)
  • 640 x 480 LCD resolution
  • IP54 rating
  • 5-year warranty 

Where to Buy

You can get the Milwaukee 2260-21 M12 thermal imager from Amazon!

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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