The 8 Best Thermal Imagers For Android
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in January of 2017. If you need to see more than what meets the eye, a thermal imager can open up a whole new realm of possibilities. These devices attach directly to any Android phone or tablet, and are invaluable if you are a professional in home renovations, security, heating and ventilation, or pest management, or if you just want your nature photos to reveal a hidden world of activity. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 29, 2020:
I mentioned during my update of thermal imagers that while Fluke makes some of the best full-sized thermal imagers and inspection cameras, it isn’t a player in the compact imager market. FLIR on the other hand - a company that designs impressive full-sized imagers - makes some pretty disappointing smartphone models, and the previous editor was right not to include either of the other two imagers from the FLIR One series.
The FLIR One Gen 3 is the basic and most compact option in the FLIR One series and probably the smallest model for android and IOS in terms of resolution that I’ve come across, and it comes in at a price that reflects its offerings. While the FLIR One Pro isn’t worth its weight in salt, for a little bit more than the basic model, you can acquire the FLIR One Pro LT, which combines the software functionality of the Pro with the resolution and thermal core of the basic model. I haven’t included it however, because I think there are simply better off-brand options out there like the CEM T-10, which I’ve added.
Most of the models in the list are budget-friendly, while I’ve set aside a few special honors for some ultra-high-end options, because I didn’t want this list to have an unreasonable product range. The most ‘upmarket’ model in this list, both in terms of quality as well as price, is the Therm-App TH, which isn’t even the most sophisticated model that Therm-App has to offer, and the company makes 4 options as far as I know.
While the first 2 models in their line are in the list, the 3rd model, the Therm-App HZ, isn’t. I have added special honors for the Therm-App Pro though, and it’s a little expensive, but notably less so than what you’d pay for a handheld wand with similar specs.
I’ve also taken out the Fotric 228 Pro, even though some people swear by it. In some senses, I agree that the quality of even a model like the Fotric 225 is as probably as good as handheld wands like the E8 or E75 from FLIR and for half the price at that - and that’s after considering the fact that they are seriously overpriced compared to similar Therm-App imagers.
All of the above should give you insight into the current state of the thermal imaging market. Just recently, traditional thermal imagers were still superior to compact smartphone imagers, but rapid improvements in smartphone resolution and software made it so that mobile imagers coupled with high-resolution phones nowadays can offer rendering quality on par with midrange thermal wands with comparable screen sizes, as well as more accessibility and flexibility, and all for a lower cost. Consumers who have for years been using old-school handheld imagers are now switching over to thermal imagers for smartphones. I don’t suspect that mobile imagers will ever be a challenge for larger models like FLIR’s T-Series imagers or Fluke’s TiX cameras, but I assume the market will evolve in some way.
Aside from Therm-App, both Xinfrared and Thermal Expert make professional-level models with high resolutions and frame rates. Like Fotric, Xinfrared is manufactured in China and used to be the easiest to get your hands on since it required no paperwork, but that may have changed. Thermal Expert on the other hand is from South Korea and an expensive nightmare to import, which kind of just negates the purpose of buying it. Thus, I’ve added a special honors for Xinfrared.
July 31, 2019:
Therm-App continues to make the best models on the market for this category, with reliable attachment mechanisms, great imaging, and a relatively wide selection of lenses. It's no surprise then that they kept hold of the number one spot on our list, and even snuck a camera into number three. That spot opened up due to the high price point of the Fotric 228 Pro slotting it back toward number four. There just isn't enough of a difference in the optical quality and ease of use (especially considering its size) to justify spending so much unless you're using it for military applications. That said, it's essentially a little mirrorless camera with a thermal imaging sensor built in, so if you're looking for the highest quality picture and you're willing to sacrifice both cost and convenience, it's your best bet. Rounding out our top three is the Pro model by Seek, which has been upgraded from the standard compact model previously ranked.
Xinfrared Xtherm Series There aren’t too many differences between imagers in Xinfrared’s Xtherm series, the main ones being that the T2S has a smaller lens and lower resolution than either the T3S or T3Pro. However, they all have vanadium oxide detectors, frame rates of 25Hz and NETDs below 60mK, as well as impressive picture-correction software, and as a result, they all deliver stunning, highly detailed infrared images of your surroundings, day or night. xinfrared.com
Therm-App Pro The company’s top of the line model, the Therm-App Pro combines a 25-Hz frame rate with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, which is hard to come by on compact imagers. This gives it the ability to detect human targets as far as 1000 meters away, and makes the model a powerful asset in law enforcement, security and search & rescue applications. opgal.com
A Brief History Of Thermal Imaging
Military applications would spearhead further development in the early 20th century.
Thermal imaging was introduced to the human race in 1987, when an advanced alien lifeform used it to hunt down an elite squad of Commandos in the jungle.
Wait — no. That's the plot to Predator.
The actual history of the technology begins in 1800 C.E., when Sir William Herschel discovered infrared radiation. This new discovery was mainly used to improve thermometers until 1829, when Leopoldo Nobili used it to fashion a crude thermopile, which is a device capable of converting IR radiation into electricity.
The next big breakthrough occurred in 1880, when Samuel Pierpoint Langley invented the bolometer. This device is basically a thermometer for IR radiation, allowing the user to tell how much heat is being produced by an object, and the first one was capable of detecting a cow from 400 meters away. At long last, the days of cows sneaking up on people were over.
Military applications would spearhead further development in the early 20th century. A Hungarian physicist named Kálmán Tihanyi made the first IR-sensitive camera in 1929, and the British used it for anti-aircraft defense in WWII. This wasn't a true thermal-imaging camera like we know them today, but more of a crude form of night vision.
A variety of American companies began to experiment with thermal imaging in the 1960s, including Texas Instruments, Honeywell, and Hughes Aircraft. These tests were highly classified and strictly for military use, and the technology was prohibitively expensive.
Thermal imaging would make its way over the private sector in the late 1970s, when an optics device developed by EEV and Philips allowed firefighters to locate flames in difficult-to-reach areas. Another company, FLIR, used thermal-imaging cameras to perform energy audits of vehicles.
The military took the reins back in the 1980s, using thermal imaging to create "smart sensors," which were intended to help alert decision-makers in the case of a nuclear attack.
After the Gulf War, the government declassified most of its research on thermal imaging, and the technology quickly became inexpensive enough to be viable for a wide range of civilian uses. Everything from medical diagnostics to building analysis began to integrate some form of thermal imaging.
Today, you can get your very own camera for relatively cheap, allowing you to use it for business applications or just to see the world in a whole new (infrared) light.
Most importantly, though, this finally levels the playing field with those pesky Predators.
Various Uses For Thermal Imaging Cameras
If you've never had the need to use a thermal imaging camera, you may think that they're only good for military use, or for finding ghosts in haunted houses. However, they have a wide range of uses in a great many jobs and other civilian applications.
Since the military has found such varied uses for this technology, it should come as no surprise that law enforcement has, as well. It turns out that it's much easier to find a suspect when he can't hide in the dark, and hostage situations aren't quite as perilous when you can know exactly where everyone in the building is at all times.
It can also help find any areas of ingress for pests, as well as any high-moisture areas that might be attracting them.
Speaking of buildings, contractors can use thermal imaging to find any areas where heat is escaping, allowing them to better target the installation and maintenance of any insulation. As a result, both homes and businesses can lower their energy costs, saving money and the environment.
Escaping air isn't the only thing that inspectors can use thermal imaging to look for. It can also help find any areas of ingress for pests, as well as any high-moisture areas that might be attracting them. Pest control professionals can use an IR camera to find the pests themselves, with everything from bats to mounds of termites showing up on the screen. Also, it should be mentioned that if you ever see a spider big enough to register on these cameras, it's time to burn your house down.
While your house is burning, you can take notice of how fire departments make great use of these cameras, as they allow firefighters to pinpoint the location of any smoldering conflagrations. They're also extremely effective for finding people in a building that's too flooded with smoke to allow for any visibility.
Thermal imaging is just another one of the seemingly-endless technologies that have found widespread use in the civilian world after initially being developed for the military. There are many professions that can find a way to benefit from these cameras — and if all else fails, they can make you absolutely unbeatable at hide-and-seek.
Benefits Of Having An Android-Based Thermal Imager
OK, so you might be convinced at this point that thermal imaging cameras are fairly useful gizmos — but do you really need one for your phone?
Before we answer that, let's address one thing first: most phone-based cameras aren't going to be as high-quality as standalone models. That being said, phone-based imagers offer two major advantages: value and convenience.
If you're someone who would have lots of use for a thermal imaging camera, don't overlook these phone-based models.
The absolute cream of the crop in thermal cameras can cost you thousands of dollars, and for many blue-collar professionals, there's just no way to justify that kind of expense. Android-based imagers, on the other hand, can be had for a fraction of that, and they're usually close enough in quality that you won't miss the difference.
It's also extremely convenient to have something small that you can keep in your glove compartment or console, and yet have it be ready to hook up to your phone whenever necessary. You can transform your phone — which you always have on you anyway — into a much more versatile tool in seconds. Also, having the data on your phone lets you easily send it to anyone else who might be interested via email, text, or some other means.
If you're someone who would have lots of use for a thermal imaging camera, don't overlook these phone-based models. They're compact, powerful, and a great value — and best of all, they let you know when your boss is coming before he's even in the room.