The purpose of this series of blogs has been to raise your comfort level in thermography regardless of which brand of camera you are using. But I get a lot of questions about how to select a good IR camera for the job. Most of these questions come from those of you who have never owned an infrared camera before. I have to admit that I am biased. We had to go through the same process that you have to go through to choose which camera to buy. We carefully examined cameras and companies and chose to go with Fluke. So, not only do I teach thermography but I sell Fluke cameras and am proud to do so. Here’s why! The opposite of “comfort level” is “frustration level”. It’s very important that you be comfortable with the principles of this technology but also comfortable with your equipment. If you have never used an IR camera and you are in the market there are a few practical things to keep in mind so that you don’t get frustrated later.
- Rugged – Most of us work in rough environments and, since time is money, we are in a hurry to get the job done and get it done right. I think it is safe to say that you will drop your camera some day, especially during those times that you are in a hurry and rushing around on the job. And, remember, dropping a camera is not covered by the warranty. Does that not make you a little nervous, since cameras cost thousands of dollars? So, it becomes important in your selection to make sure that it is built to withstand a reasonable drop. Some manufacturers try to focus your attention on the “weight” of the camera warning you that you will get tired carrying around a 2 lb camera verses a 1 lb camera. Remember, ”light” means “fragile”. I’m more “comfortable” using the Fluke pistol grip cameras because they are so incredibly rugged. (see video clip: http://www.moistureview.com/demo.html #9 Why buy a camera that breaks?) I saw a Fluke rep at a trade show beating the table with these cameras. I won’t do that but I was impressed. I know that, even if I drop my camera, it will never experience the beating I saw them give the cameras at that show. My “comfort level” went up.
- Reliable – Reliable means that you are comfortable that your camera will perform consistently every time. Reliable means that the manufacturer will take care of any problems expediently. Does the company have a good reputation for product quality and service quality for many years? Be careful about new companies, especially if they are made overseas, because you can get frustrated if it becomes necessary to get serviced.
- Easy to use – You’ll find that this is a very important point to take into consideration before buying a camera. Is it simple to use? Or will I have to read a huge manual to learn how to use all of the features? Sometimes a manufacturer will add a lot of features that sound good hoping that the potential customer will be impressed with all the things the camera will do. Do you really need those features? Really, how often will you use those features? The problem is that a complex menu can make the camera more difficult and confusing to use. And I find that a lot of the features are not that practical in our day-to-day use. In my opinion Fluke was very smart in the way they designed their pistol grip cameras (the TiS, TiR, TiR1, Ti25, TiR32, Ti32). I’ve seen cameras that have a lot of buttons and the buttons are very small and difficult to navigate if you have large fingers. The Fluke pistol grip cameras only have three buttons and they are big enough to allow for wearing gloves. And it is very, very easy to use. Fast and easy – that’s what I like! Easy, manual focus allows for precise image viewing control! Easy to record 60 seconds of voice annotation per image on the TiR1, Ti25, TiR32 and Ti32!
- IR-Fusion®– This is a highly recommended feature well worth the extra cost. This is one of the most practical features that you can buy. But be sure to get the original IR-Fusion® from Fluke because it is important that the visible light image and the infrared image are in alignment when you are perfectly in focus.
- Resolution – Get the 320×240 resolution if you can. You’ll never be disappointed that you paid the extra cost. 76,800 detectors in the 320×240 array is four times that found in the 160×120 array (19,200 detectors). However, the 160×120 resolution is the most popular due to budgetary constraints.
- NEDT (noise equivalent temperature difference) – This is a very important aspect of the camera. The better the sensitivity (NETD) the more the camera cost. Is sensitivity important? Yes! Sensitivity (NETD) tells you how sensitive the camera is to picking up thermal differences. And that’s the purpose of an infrared camera! It is used to provide images of thermal differences. 50mK is more sensitive than 70mK. 70mK is more sensitive than 100mK. 100mK works for most jobs but the 50mK works best for the professional.
- Full post analysis software – Fluke gives us a full post analysis software called SmartView. It is free and you can put it on as many computers as you want. All future upgrades are free, too.
How’s your comfort level in thermography?
(The above comments represent my opinion).
Rod Hoff / Restoration Consultants Inc
Thermography Instructor / IR camera sales
3284 Ramos Circle, Sacramento CA 95827
toll free 888-617-3266 ext 301
Provider of Fluke TiS, TiR, TiR1, Ti, Ti25, TiR27, Ti27, TiR29, Ti29, TiR32, Ti32, TiR3, and TiR4 infrared cameras.
See DEMO www.moistureview.com/demo.html