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The best thermal-imaging cameras in 2022

Man using one of the best thermal-imaging cameras
(Image credit: FLIR)

The best thermal-imaging cameras allow you to explore the world in a whole new way. That's because they let you see, measure and capture temperature differences, accurately and from a safe distance. 

Beyond the visible spectrum, there is an unseen world of heat radiation. Arty infrared film photographs aside, the practical uses of these devices – also known as infrared thermal imagers – traditionally belonged only to military and professional budgets. 

Nowadays though, anyone can access thermal imaging, whether you want to spot heat sources in dark places, or identify infected people from their high temperatures. (That said, if you simply want to measure temperatures, you may prefer our guide to the best infrared thermometers.)

How thermal-imaging cameras work

For the most part, the best thermal-imaging cameras work like regular ones, except that image sensor detects invisible IR light and it is translated to a visual “thermogram”. This is what you see through the creature’s perspective views in The Predator and Prey.

Like visual cameras, these images are made of pixels, but starting at lower resolutions such as 80x60 pixels, or 0.003 megapixels. That sounds limited, but it's enough detail to pick out hotspots in wiring, for example.

• See also Best thermal drones (opens in new tab)

Higher resolutions are always better, allowing you to work at a distance, which is especially important in security and rescue scenarios. Digitally overlaying the thermal image with a high-resolution, visible one can make understanding the picture easier, and many devices on this list do that.

The sensors are also of varying detail (150mK sensitivity means each pixel takes readings to the nearest 0.15˚C, so lower numbers are better). Meanwhile, refresh rates aren’t always high; 9Hz is typical, which is fine for locating hotspots, but not exactly cinematic.

Best indoor security camerasBest outdoor security cameras

Thermal imaging works in the dark, or through smoke, but can be fooled by the reflectiveness (emissivity) of a surface. Because IR is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, like visible light, it also has similar properties when it encounters lenses or rain. For professional use, it pays to read up a bit on understanding thermograms, but you’ll understand the basics the moment you power-on your thermal camera. Depending on the software, you can also take retrospective measurements from the thermal JPEGs. 

The best thermal-imaging cameras in 2022

(Image credit: FLIR )
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1. FLIR C-Series

The best thermal-imaging camera overall

Specifications

Resolution: 128 x 96 or 160 x 120 px
Sensitivity range: -10˚C to 150˚C (14°F to 302°F)
Sensitivity: 70 mK
Dimensions: 124 x 79 x 25mm (4.9 x 3.1 x 1 inches)
Battery: 2 hours rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
2m drop tested
+
Picture-in-Picture 

Reasons to avoid

-
Chunkier than you might expect 
-
Battery life could be better
-
Not ideal at close range

The FLIR C3-X and FLIR C5 (opens in new tab) are good-looking compact thermal imagers that are well suited to DIYers and contractors. 

With a rugged body that’ll survive a bit of workplace rough-and-tumble, both have two cameras and a 5 megapixel optical lens. The IR maxes out at 160 x 120 on the pricier C5, allowing it to take advantage of Flir’s MSX technology. This patented method uses an edge-detection algorithm on the higher-resolution visual light image, overlaying this with the IR image to make the picture easier to comprehend. 

The visual camera can also provide a picture-in-picture option. Of course the low resolution boosted with visual only works in good light, so a small LED light is provided, although that only offers limited assistance at night. 

Both versions have a 3-inch touchscreen and can store around 500 images onboard to transfer via Micro USB. The ability to type notes in via a touch keyboard can be handy, too. If you can stretch to it, the C5 model adds more analysis features and Wi-Fi so you can get images to your phone and to your software. 

FLIR’s analysis software, FLIR Tools, allows you to change the color palettes and take readings from 4,800 measurement points in the image files, a little like using the eyedropper in Photoshop. FLIR Tools is available for Windows, iOS and Android, though the Mac version has been discontinued (despite MacBooks appearing in FLIR’s promo shots). 

(Image credit: Seek)
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2. Seek Thermal RevealPRO

The best thermal-imaging camera for night use

Specifications

Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
Sensitivity range: -40˚C to 330˚C (-40˚F to 626˚F)
Sensitivity: 70 mK
Weight: 117g
Dimensions: 127 x 61 x 31mm (5 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches)
Battery: 4 hours rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
High resolution thermal sensor
+
High refresh rate
+
Built-in flashlight
+
Emissivity adjustment

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t capture video
-
No visual-light camera data

While the FLIR C-Series produces useful images in good light via MSX, this camera can do so at any time, since it doesn’t rely on visual light to boost its resolution. For our money, that makes it the best thermal-imaging camera for night use today. 

Combined with its 15Hz refresh rate (most are 9Hz), it can easily be used to spot animals or people in the dark, or through dense foliage. There’s also a 300 lumen LED light, should you want to surprise someone you’ve spotted in the dark. The simple menu system provides access to other useful features too, such as Level and Span adjustments (a little like manual exposure, allowing you to isolate a thermal range), and Emissivity adjustments (manual or pre-sets). 

The fixed-focus camera works between 30cm (12 inches) and 550m (1,800 ft) and the 2.4-inch color screen is protected with Gorilla Glass. The 4GB memory can capture as many images as you’d need to (you can hold the shutter down if you like). For distance temperature readings, you can use the 4x digital zoom, though be warned that the resolution suffers.

(Image credit: FLIR)
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3. Flir One Gen 3

The best phone connected thermal-imaging camera for value

Specifications

Resolution: 80 x 60 pixels
Sensitivity range: -20˚C to 120˚C (-4˚F to 248˚F)
Sensitivity: 150 mK
Dimensions: 34 x 67 x 14mm (1.3 x 2.6 x 0.6in)

Reasons to buy

+
Capture videos and stills
+
Case-friendly phone connector
+
iOS or Android versions

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs charging separately
-
Short battery life
-
Fixed focus

The Flir One is a camera that connects to your phone, and is compatible with both iOS and Android. Nicely compact, measuring just 1.3 x 2.6 inches, it offers a resolution of 80 x 60 pixels, and excellent value for the price.

Note that there's also a more expensive, ruggedized One Pro (opens in new tab) model, which boosts resolution to 160 x 120 and provides extra features including manual exposure, multiple measuring zones and sensitivity up to 400˚C.

Both include a timelapse function, limited – and it is limited – by the battery life. Weirdly the Flir One uses its own battery, and has an independent power switch, though that does mean that it won’t steal too much power from your precious phone battery. The knob which you might imagine to be a focus wheel actually adjusts the phone connector’s length to match your phone case thickness.

Busy contractors will want a iPhone power bank to keep this running longer, or to look elsewhere on this list. But for the average user this will be plenty to get a few shots or clips via the easy-to-use app. Your phone’s touchscreen is great for taking touch readings or, with the Flir One Pro, setting regions of interest.

(Image credit: Bosch )

4. Bosch GTC400C

Rugged pistol-grip thermal imaging camera for the jobsite

Specifications

Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
Sensitivity range: -40˚C to 400˚C (-104˚F to 752˚F)
Sensitivity: 50 mK
Dimensions: 95 x 63 x 233mm (3.7 x 2.5 x 9.2 inches)
Battery: 5 hours with lithium ion rechargeable pack; 2 hours with AA cells

Reasons to buy

+
Uses worksite rechargeable 12V batteries or 4xAA
+
Rugged build with built-in protective cap
+
Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity
+
Manual focus

Reasons to avoid

-
Bigger investment than less rugged devices
-
Micro USB for data transfer, not charging
-
Accuracy +/- 3˚C (At this price 2 would be better)
-
No SD Card slot

This thermal-imaging camera is easy to use in the workplace, but fully equipped with wi-fi and Bluetooth to share data with a phone. Held with a pistol-grip, the image can be frozen with a trigger and saved using the camera icon below the screen. The design, with built in lens cover and rubber guards to protect the 3.5-inch screen, is strong and IP53 dustproof. 

The device includes a picture-in-picture context function, which places the thermal image in the centre of a frame with a visual image around the outside providing context. Also useful on site is the lock feature which fixes the minimum and maximum temperature (like an exposure lock). Bosch also provide a supporting app so you can transfer images beyond the 600 the device will hold. This is great for additional analysis and report creation, and the radiometric data is there for later analysis (but it’d still be nice to store more onboard).

(Image credit: Seek)
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5. Seek Thermal CompactPro

The best phone-connected thermal-imaging camera for resolution

Specifications

Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
Sensitivity range: -40˚C to 330˚C (-40˚F to 626˚F)
Sensitivity: 70 mK
Dimensions: 41 x 20 x 15mm (1.6 x 0.8 x 0.6 inches)

Reasons to buy

+
Doesn’t need batteries
+
Mini USB or iOS Lightning
+
High-resolution IR sensor
+
Manual focus offers great range
+
High refresh rate

Reasons to avoid

-
Picture-by-picture parallax issue

This thermal-imaging camera also connects to your phone, but provide more resolution (320 x 240 pixels) as well as higher sensitivity (-40˚F to 626˚F) than the Flir One – even the Pro version. And while that pushes up the price, it does make it a great choice for contractors, engineers, inspectors and others looking for more detailed images. 

With adjustable focus, the lens can be set on subjects as far as 550m (1,800ft). That’s not only handy for outdoor pursuits, but allows you to take full advantage of the relatively high resolution to get sharp thermal images at any distance.

On the downside, while the FLIR One includes a visible light camera, the Seek CompactPro uses your phone’s camera to provide a split screen picture-by-picture function, which is subject to some parallax issues. 

On the plus side, the 15Hz refresh rate makes for better video (but can raise export issues when leaving the US, as it becomes “military grade”). Also, the app can give centre-spot measures, or automatically highlight the hottest and coldest spots in a scene. 

(Image credit: FLIR)
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6. FLIR TG267

The best thermal-imaging camera for spot measurement

Specifications

Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
Sensitivity range: -25˚C to 380˚C (-13˚F to 716˚F)
Sensitivity: 70 mK
Dimensions: 210 x 64 x 81mm (8.3 x 2.5 x 3.2in)
Battery: 5 hours rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
Great choice for industrial use
+
Spot measurement of temperature
+
One-handed operation

Featuring a laser and a continuous-scanning IR thermometer, the FLIR TG267 is a kind of hybrid between a non-contact thermometer and a thermal imaging camera. 

The grip shape is ideally suited to tasks like car maintenance, since one-handed operation is easy, and the cool bullseye-shaped laser dot makes it simple to direct the point of interest. The 2.4-inch color screen (refreshing at 8.7Hz) gives you plenty of confidence that you’re getting the right readings for your work, boosted by the MSX tech for a sharp view.

The generous battery will provide five hours' use in the workshop, and charges via the same USB connector, which can be used to offload the saved images – up to 50,000 of which will fit on the built-in 4GB. The system also allows for emissivity correction (manually or with four handy pre-sets), and includes a tripod mount in the bottom of the grip.

Enthusiast mechanics may prefer to hunt down the cheaper TG165, an earlier FLIR product aimed at this category which still features a laser and IR thermometer, while the near-identical TG275 can perceive an even greater temperature range.

(Image credit: Seek)
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7. Seek Thermal ShotPro

The best thermal-imaging camera for analysis tools

Specifications

Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
Sensitivity range: -40˚C to 330˚C (-40˚F to 626˚F)
Sensitivity: 70 mK
Weight: 205g
Dimensions: 80 x 140 x 28mm (3.1 x 5.5 x 1.1in)
Battery: 4 hours rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
SeekFusion image combination
+
Ruggedised design
+
Wi-Fi transfer
+
High-resolution camera

Reasons to avoid

-
Menus are not quite as elegant as FLIR C series

The Seek ShotPRO is a compact IR camera which boasts a much better thermal resolution than its immediate competitors but, unlike some other accessibly priced Seek products, also includes the ability to mix visual light. The technology, SeekFusion, allows you to adjust a live overlay with an on-screen slider, a little like changing opacity in Photoshop layers. It lacks the edge-enhancement of FLIR MSX, but on the other hand the greater thermal resolution means that isn’t really needed.

The Short Pro, like the FLIR C3, is capable of Wi-Fi streaming (it partners with a free app called SeekView), though still boasts 4GB memory to capture stills and video. Even without the app, the 3.5-inch touchscreen can be used with the built-in analysis tools; you can create up to three boxes and monitor minimum, maximum and average temperature in each. Using the tripod-mount, this can be handy for watching things change over time.

(Image credit: Flir)
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8. FLIR Scout TK

The best thermal-imaging monocular for value

Specifications

Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
Sensitivity range: -20˚C to +40˚C (-4˚F to 104˚F)
Sensitivity: 50 mK
Weight: 170g
Dimensions: 152 x 51 x 51mm (6 x 2 x 2in)
Battery: 5 hours rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
Waterproof
+
Good-quality optics
+
Can store images & video

Reasons to avoid

-
Range restricts tasks

Combining at 160x120 pixel sensor with a 640 x 480 pixel LCD display means the Scout TK has the resolution and tech to identify a mammal – a person or a deer, say – hiding at around 100 yards (91m) away, while being no harder to use than a traditional scope. That’s not a stunning level of detail, but without the scope your eyes might well not make out targets at a much shorter distance, giving this device a broad range of security and hobby uses.

The compact size and rechargeable battery boost the practicality; there will be no trouble fitting this into a decent coat pocket. The USB image download is convenient, and there's a cable included too, although no wireless transfer.

With a fixed field of view (20˚), the controls are not challenging: just brightness and the option to switch the color pallete (White Hot, Black Hot, InstAlert, Graded Fire and others). A single button handles recording, with a short press for a still and long for video. The 9Hz refresh rate is fast enough to make hand-holding practical.

(Image credit: CAT)
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The best thermal-imaging smartphone

Specifications

Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
Sensitivity range: -20˚C to 400˚C (-4˚F to 750˚F)
Sensitivity: 150 mK
Weight: 248g
Dimensions: 158 x 77 x 12mm
Battery: 4000mAh (Up to 2 days general use)

Reasons to buy

+
Super rugged construction
+
Fully waterproof
+
Full-feature Android smartphone
+
Indoor air quality monitoring

Reasons to avoid

-
Average visible-light camera
-
No 5G

CAT mobile phones are designed to take serious abuse, with a construction that means that they can be dropped without having to worry about dents or cracking its Gorilla Glass 6 screen. With IP68 rating, they can be submerged in 3m of water, too, without fear of ingress. And this industrial design also comes with some useful additional features that you don't find on a phone – including a very capable thermal imaging camera built on the FLIR 3.5 sensor (160 x 120). 

This is useful, because it reduces the things you need to carry and avoids any connecting with IR cameras via Bluetooth or cables. The phone, too, is a perfectly serviceable affair with 660 Octo Core 2GHz CPU that will run your favorite apps and 6GB storage for them. Even if it may lack some of the refinements of the top camera phones, it has a 12MP Sony sensor, comes with Android 10, and supports the Android Enterprise feature set. 

Note: the older CAT S61, still available in places, had a lower resolution IR camera, but offered laser measuring, offering an alternative with even more flexibility.

(Image credit: Flir)
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10. FLIR E8-XT

The best professional handheld infrared camera

Specifications

Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
Sensitivity range: -20˚C to +550˚C (-4˚F to 1022˚F)
Sensitivity: 50 mK
Weight: 570g
Dimensions: 94 x 244 x 140mm (3.7 x 9.6 x 5.5in)
Battery: 5 hours rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
High resolution
+
Extended temperature
+
Wireless data sharing

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Visible light camera only 640 x 480

FLIR’s rugged E-series, of which the E8-XT is the top of the line, offers the advantages of the company’s image enhancement, which merges visible light with the IR thermograph for easier-to-understand imagery. At this price it seems a little unfair that the visible light camera is only 640x480, but in the context it works well enough.

Of more concern to a working professional is the combination of Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and the FLIR Tools app, which enables timely delivery of your assessment, with imagery, to clients. This is well realized, easy to operate, and can also be used, via screen-recordings, to capture video from the camera.

When you’re regularly working in rough environments, the E8 represents the kind of reliability you need. The autofocus makes it easy to use and the lenses and 3-inch screen are well shielded in a drop-proof IP54 enclosure.

(Image credit: FLIR)
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11. FLIR MR277 Moisture Meter

A handy tool for building inspectors

Specifications

Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
Sensitivity range: 0˚C - 100˚C (32˚F-212˚F) Temp | 30˚C to +50˚C (-22˚F to 122˚F) Dew point
Sensitivity: 60 mK
Weight: 340g
Dimensions: 160 x 85 x 44 mm (6.2 x 3.3 x 1.7in)
Battery: rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
Moisture hygrometer
+
Higher-res FLIR camera 

Reasons to avoid

-
MR160 might be more cost effective

The benefits of MSX-enhanced IR imagery are clear in any scenario, but especially when you just want to get the job done. Here the extra contrast from the natural light camera combined by the detail (in line with FLIR’s patent) makes identifying moisture problems, air leaks, and insulation issues a relative breeze for anyone in the field. The 8GB of internal memory will store up to 15,000 images, and their associated hygrometer readings and measurements from the laser measure, the beam of which is directed from a lens near the cameras.

(Image credit: Perfect Prime)
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12. Perfect Prime IR202

The best cheap thermal-imaging camera for Android

Specifications

Resolution: 80 x 60 pixels
Sensitivity range: -40˚C - 400˚C (-40˚F-1832F)
Sensitivity: 150 mK
Dimensions: 56 x 30 x 14 mm (2.2 x 1.18 x 0.55in)

Reasons to buy

+
Accessibly priced
+
USB-C or Lightning versions available

Reasons to avoid

-
-Low resolution
-
You need to get the right one for your phone (and provide the phone)

The IR202 is an ideal home inspection tool, made extremely portable by its compact design and piggy-backing of the power from the host phone (Android only). At 15fps, the imaging is faster than some thermal images, though the 80 x 60 resolution means you’ll want to be relatively near your subject – meaning that hunters might want to look elsewhere for a tool to scan the woods. 

It is nevertheless a noticeably higher resolution than the device’s immediate predecessor, the IR0102, which had a 32 x 32 pixel resolution. As a low-priced device, adding this to your toolkit is a lot less painful than some of the devices on this list, and with fuel prices on the rise, locating leaks (an ideal task for this adapter) could cover the cost surprisingly soon.

Read more:

• The best inspection cameras and borescopes (opens in new tab)
• The best infrared thermometers (opens in new tab)
The best night vision goggles (opens in new tab)
Best laser measures (opens in new tab)
Best laser levels (opens in new tab)
• The best drones (opens in new tab)
• The best power banks (opens in new tab)
• The best macro lenses: (opens in new tab) get closer to your subjects than ever before!
• These are the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) you can get right now
• Looking to turn pro? We check out the best cameras for professionals (opens in new tab)

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 


Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 


He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones (opens in new tab), The Smart Smart Home Handbook (opens in new tab), 101 Tips for DSLR Video (opens in new tab) and The Drone Pilot's Handbook (opens in new tab)

With contributions from