Thermal Imagers


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MachIVshooter
December 9, 2012, 08:20 PM
Wondering if anyone has played with some of the less expensive handhelds. I can't afford to get into a thermal scope at $12k+, but something like the $1,600 Flir I5 or $2,200 Fluke Ti9 is within reach.

What I'm wondering is how well these industrial imagers work at range, since they're more designed for detailed imaging close up. I have a decent NVRS, but thermal is obviously superior for spotting critters, if not for identification.

Anyone?

Thanks!

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Shadow 7D
December 9, 2012, 08:41 PM
really different
and it depends on what you want

realize that most to all of them work via a cooled receptor
and, um, it's hard to describe, you are mostly dealing with an outline, and while you can see a 'warm' spot and gradients, actually positively identifying something can be difficult, a warm boulder (in say a desert) looks alot like a guy curled up at distance.

Like all the really cool (and expensive gear) I'm sure someone has done a writeup/buying guide

Also, industrial most likely will not have a range capability, as it's meant to be used 'close up'
Oh, and they are pretty fragile

56hawk
December 9, 2012, 08:43 PM
I've handled a few at trade shows, but didn't think to check the range on them. While it might not be in your price range thermal scopes are getting cheaper. Check out the ones they have at Brownells: http://www.brownells.com/optics-mounting/optic-gear/night-vision/thor-thermal-weapon-sights-prod54636.aspx

MachIVshooter
December 9, 2012, 08:45 PM
you are mostly dealing with an outline, and while you can see a 'warm' spot and gradients, actually positively identifying something can be difficult, a warm boulder (in say a desert) looks alot like a guy curled up at distance.

Yeah, I don't want to make a weapon sight out of it. I want to use it to spot the hidden critters, then go to my NVRS for ID and, if positive, elimination.

FLIR has their PS series monoculars, but I'd prefer the handheld LCD that I don't have to smash my eye into for scanning around. After glassing through NV for a few minutes, my normal binocular vision is FUBAR for a bit.

While it might not be in your price range thermal scopes are getting cheaper.

Yeah, they're coming down, but $6k is still a lot for something that amounts to a cool toy for someone like me. When they come down into the $2k-$3k range, I'll have a thermal scope. Or if I suddenly become wealthy....

taliv
December 9, 2012, 09:00 PM
I played with the flir ps24 this weekend. It is under $2000, handheld, and there was no eyecup mashing. I decided to hold out for one with longer range. I also didn't like the internal rechargeable battery.

hq
December 9, 2012, 09:06 PM
I've thought about getting a 3x magnifier for my PS24, but for just over $1000 I can't justify it unless there's some kind of guarantee that I can use it in the future on other thermal imagers as well. It would triple the detection range, though, which I don't think I need at this point.

Shadow 7D
December 9, 2012, 09:07 PM
A lot of it comes down to a question of range, how far are you looking, 100M or 500M?

MachIVshooter
December 10, 2012, 12:01 AM
A lot of it comes down to a question of range, how far are you looking, 100M or 500M?

100, maybe 150 yards. Further would be great, but that seems to come with a much higher price tag.

I wrote FLIR to ask about the display screen models like the I5 and how much range I could expect detection at. If it can pick up the heat signature of a hog at 100 yards, that's good enough for now.

We'll see what they say.

I played with the flir ps24 this weekend. It is under $2000, handheld, and there was no eyecup mashing.

I'm considering that one, but I'd really rather have a display screen that I can look at with both eyes. I'm not an operator, so I'm not worried about the glow of an LCD display giving away my position and getting me killed.

taliv
December 10, 2012, 08:06 AM
i figured it was to keep it from washing out in bright sunlight

hq
December 10, 2012, 10:02 AM
I'm not an operator, so I'm not worried about the glow of an LCD display giving away my position and getting me killed.

Are you planning to use the imager for hunting? I mean, illuminating yourself in any way is never a good idea. I looked (briefly) at FLIR I-series devices before making a purchase decision but the thought of having a bright - even at the dimmest setting - LCD screen as an unnecessary light source wasn't tempting at all.

MachIVshooter
December 10, 2012, 11:30 AM
Are you planning to use the imager for hunting? I mean, illuminating yourself in any way is never a good idea. I looked (briefly) at FLIR I-series devices before making a purchase decision but the thought of having a bright - even at the dimmest setting - LCD screen as an unnecessary light source wasn't tempting at all.

My experience has taught me that animals aren't particularly alarmed by light unless it is suddenly turned on/off or moving about significantly.

Critters have really good senses, they can always detect a human presence at closer ranges. It's whether or not they're alarmed by it. Sudden movement that they can cue on visually or auditorily is what spooks them.

I'm not saying there may not be disadvantages to the display for predator and pest hunting, but I see the advantages as greater for my needs (if it will work at moderate ranges). Like I said, looking through monoculars or scopes for any amount of time totally screws up my bino vision, especially if they're magnified. I can't afford the binocular thermal imagers, so the display screen is looking like the best option.

Besides, even if it doesn't work out for hunting, it has definite professional applications (I'm a mechanic). Sure would be great to be able to see an electrical problem up inside a dash. The 0.1*C detection of these imagers is a lot more sensitive than my fingers, and it gets tiresome having your hands cut to ribbons trying to reach up inside and feel around.

threoh8
December 10, 2012, 02:21 PM
Most of the modern industria inspection imagers I"m familiar with use uncooled microbolometers, instead of the older-style Stirling-cycle coolers, or, worse yet, the liquid nitrogen devices. The cooled detectors still have their place, though.

Detector resolution is key for spotting and identifying things at distance. The Ti9 uses 160x120 - not even cheap webcam quality images, but it might let you know something is out there. In this case, more is better.

The device I use most for work (inspecting live electrical switchgear, mostly) is a FLIR P640, a longwave imager with a 640X480 display. I haven't priced a replacement lately, but I'd expect around $35K. It's a little smaller than an old VHS camcorder. Not the best rig for hunting, but it will let me find all sorts of interesting things in the light or the dark.

Note that an animal's signature is sometimes not easy to pick out. As someone mentioned, the background, ambient, and reflected temperatures can confuse the issue. Long hair tends to stay cool, closer to air temperature. Open mouths, nostrils, and eyes are usually warm, but don't expect it to look like a photograph of the whole animal. You'll likely have to frequently change the temperature level and range as you scan.

No, I don't think my boss would like me taking the P640 on a hog hunt - unless a paying customer was involved. ;)

Here's my dog at a couple of yards, after a few minutes out on a cold night. Notice her paw prints still visible in the grass.

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y79/slantvaliant/IR_0251.jpg

Double Naught Spy
December 10, 2012, 04:42 PM
Detector resolution is key for spotting and identifying things at distance. The Ti9 uses 160x120 - not even cheap webcam quality images, but it might let you know something is out there.

Yeah, I used my FLIR PS32 as a spotting scope. I can distinguished deer from hog at 100+ yards if they are sideways. Much further and they are blobs. Within range, they look like Petronises (ala Harry Potter). Usually, I will spot an animal that looks like a potential target and then verify with regular night vision, though sometimes I can't see it with NV because the animal is actually in high grass and still quite camo'd from regular NV or illuminated NV, or from regular spotlighting, but can still be seen on thermal.

WardenWolf
December 10, 2012, 04:58 PM
I am honestly rather surprised how expensive thermal imaging is, given that it's a rather old technology. I've always wondered if it's deliberately kept expensive primarily to keep it out of civilian hands.

hq
December 10, 2012, 05:26 PM
Thermal imaging was kept in almost complete secrecy for about two decades, until the 1950's. It was really top secret back then and proprietary military technology.

I have to give kudos to FLIR for pricing PS series scopes lower than virtually anything else on market. Not cheap, but not second mortgage material either. I feel a lot like when I bought my first video projector over 20 years ago - many people hadn't even seen one, much fewer had one at home and now they're mainstream. I'm expecting the same thing to happen with thermal imaging in a few years.

Double Naught Spy
December 10, 2012, 07:12 PM
There is no price fixing conspiracy to keep thermal gear out of civilian hands. While the technology is not necessarily new, the demand for it is not very high. There isn't a lot of economy of scale in production. Low volume production results in higher per unit costs, regardless of technology level.

Shadow 7D
December 10, 2012, 07:49 PM
Don't forget how fragile and difficult to maintain the cooled units are....

MachIVshooter
December 11, 2012, 01:38 AM
Well, the good folks at FLIR called me back this morning. He didn't think the industrial imagers would work very well for what I want, so it looks like I'll be saving up for a PS24 or PS32.

Thanks for all the input, guys!

hq
December 11, 2012, 04:38 AM
Good to hear that you got the information you needed. While I usually try to avoid recommending products I've bought myself (you know, the bias factor), PS series thermals are great value.

If you insist on having a screen instead of a viewfinder, there is a solution. As you might know, PS24/32 don't have a hot shoe option for video out, but they have four contact points in the bottom of the unit, two of which ARE video out and you can build an adapter yourself. That, and a small LCD display with regular video input and built-in battery might just be what you're after.

I've thought about making a mold of the bottom half of the unit, cast a template and vacuum mold a DIY hot shoe frame with it. Slightly more professional than the plastic sheet + paperclips adapters that are all over YouTube.

cbuttre835
December 14, 2012, 12:04 PM
I use a FLIR EX320 at work. Shoot electrical substations, elbows, and pole top switches. We bought their long range lens, it was $2700 about 2005. But it is absolutely necessary on that 320x240 camera at 40' or better. A set of switch contacts 6" long at 40' is nothing but a blip on the screen on that one. A hog is a lot bigger than that but you get my point.

All new "readily available" longwave cameras are uncooled. Cooled cameras are for gas detection and other special applications, or really old.

640x480 would be nice for us, but I haven't priced them lately.

I agree with FLIR, their 100x100 un-focusable I5 will <not> be for you. We have a little fluke, I don't know the model, as well; and it is a toy.

modarmory
December 14, 2012, 06:08 PM
If you did not already committ to purchase the entry level FLIRS, we highly recommend the L3 X50 Thermal Eye or L3 X200xp Thermal. L3 is Eotech, Insight, Warrior Systems, etc.

On paper they do not look as impressive as the FLIR units but they work great and outperform the entry level FLIRS. The L3 X50 starts at $2950.00. We have found you can spot to about 500 yards. Most of the time you cannot distinguish at 500 yards but you advance on the target and judge it based on its movements.

As some one mentioned there are no rechargeable batteries for the L3 units which is great. They run on AA's. Thermals units in cold temperatures only have about 45 minutes of battery life no matter what the specification sheet attempts to tell you.

With FLIRS having a fixed focus, thumbs down.

You also need to look at HZ. Your eye sees at 24hz; anything less then that any moving target may seem to jump.

I hope that helps explain more about thermals.

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