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What Is the Right Handheld Thermal Camera for You?

What Is the Right Handheld Thermal Camera for You?

When deciding on the most suitable thermal camera to include in your tool bag, there are key factors to consider, primarily revolving around the camera's intended purpose and frequency of use. It's worth noting that FLIR thermal cameras cater to various applications, including residential, commercial, and industrial settings, with prices ranging from a few hundred US dollars to high five figures. Notably, there are notable performance enhancements available at different price points. The ideal handheld thermal camera will offer the necessary features and functionalities required by the user while remaining within their budgetary constraints.

Understanding which specifications are the most valuable to consider becomes essential when evaluating the different series of thermal cameras offered by FLIR, as there are numerous aspects one can compare between the cameras.

Here are four of the most important factors to consider:


Typically, cameras with lower costs also have lower resolutions. While such cameras can still be useful for examining nearby and easily accessible targets, they may fall short in providing sufficient visual detail for making informed decisions regarding very small targets or objects located at a considerable distance.


In lower-end cameras, the focus is often fixed, necessitating the user to physically adjust the camera's position to obtain a clear image. This can pose a challenge when precise measurements are required. An image that is out of focus can result in less accurate temperature measurements, regardless of the camera's actual thermal resolution.

Field of View (FOV):

When working in close proximity, a lens with a wide-angle field of view (FOV) of 45° or higher proves more advantageous compared to a telephoto lens with a narrower FOV (typically 12° or 6°), which is more suitable for longer-distance tasks. For individuals needing inspection capabilities for both nearby and distant objects, a device equipped with interchangeable lenses offers the greatest versatility and usefulness.


When making a decision, it is crucial to consider the battery standby time, the anticipated battery life during continuous usage, and the convenience of quickly swapping out batteries. For individuals who only need occasional and brief use of a thermal camera, the standby time becomes a priority. On the other hand, those who expect to use the camera extensively throughout the day may prioritize long battery life and the ability to easily exchange batteries to ensure uninterrupted work.

Considering this, the following three handheld thermal camera models can be a useful starting point for identifying the most suitable camera based on price points and features: the FLIR E96, the FLIR E8-XT, and the FLIR C5.


Unparalleled Versatility: The E96 Combines the Best Features

Considering the significant impact resolution has on the price of a camera, it is crucial to consider the desired resolution and the camera's focusing capabilities for inspecting both nearby and distant points of interest.

Among handheld, pistol-grip thermal cameras, the FLIR E96 stands out with its superior resolution. It is the first camera of its form factor to offer a true thermal resolution of 640 × 480, priced at $9,999 USD. With more pixels, the E96 provides exceptional detail, resulting in highly accurate temperature measurements for various targets.

To fully leverage this remarkable resolution, the E96 offers a range of autocalibrated interchangeable lenses, enabling dynamic focusing options. By incorporating three optional FLIR AutoCalTM lenses, ranging from telephoto (14°) to wide-angle (42°), the camera ensures comprehensive coverage for inspections at both short and long distances.

Additionally, the E96 boasts a high-capacity, interchangeable battery system that offers utmost flexibility for all-day use.


The FLIR E8-XT: An Affordable E-Series Camera Designed for Close-Up Use

The FLIR E8-XT, with a similar pistol-grip design to the E96, offers an impressive range of features at a fraction of the cost, priced at just $2,999 USD. Although it has a reduced resolution of 320 × 240 true thermal resolution and lacks the ability to adjust focus, the E8-XT's fixed 45° lens provides a suitable field of view for close-range inspections. Please note that the lens cannot be swapped out for different options.

However, the E8-XT compensates for these limitations by allowing users to easily swap batteries for external charging, making it ideal for all-day use. Additionally, it boasts a broad temperature range of -20°C to 550°C (-4°F to 1022°F), enabling high-temperature inspections across various applications.

While the E8-XT may not cater to long-range inspections that require a narrower field of view and adjustable focus, it remains an excellent choice for those seeking a rugged, high-quality handheld camera for close-up inspections.


Affordable Excellence: The FLIR C5, the Ultimate Handheld Thermal Camera Under $1,000 USD

Priced at just $699 USD, the FLIR C5 offers exceptional value compared to the E8 and E96 models. With a true thermal resolution of 160 × 120, this device features a compact and user-friendly point-and-shoot design, complete with a touchscreen that works seamlessly with gloves. Its portable size allows for easy pocket storage.

Don't be deceived by its small form factor—the FLIR C5 is rugged enough to withstand drops from two meters and effectively shields its components from dust and grime commonly encountered on job sites.

For those currently using the FLIR ONE Pro, the C5 presents an excellent upgrade option. It offers a significantly longer battery life, lasting up to 4 hours on a single charge, and provides approximately 30 days of standby time for quick and occasional use at close range. All these features are packed within a sturdy casing, complete with Wi-Fi connectivity for added convenience.

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