Seek Thermal Camera ? Review WORK
The Seek's design isn't as pleasing as the Flir One iPhone case, and its output photos are lower resolution and have less visual detail despite the use of a higher resolution thermal camera. However, the software is more powerful, the shots are slightly more useful, and the camera itself is half the price. The Flir One earned our Editors' Choice by making a functional, affordable thermal camera available. And the Seek wins it by offering a more flexible one for half the price, and putting it in reach of more than just iPhone users.
Seek Thermal Camera – Review
The Seek Thermal is a curious beast. While you can buy Android phones with built in thermal cameras, and dedicated devices, this is an add-on. Plug it into your existing phone, download an app, and off you go. In theory!
Winner: FLIRPhoto OverlayHere is where FLIR makes up ground. Seek may have higher resolution imaging, but FLIR uses the additional optical camera to blend the visual and thermal images. This way, the software can increase detail in the image and recognize the relationship between a heat signature and the related visual feature. FLIR has branded this MSX enhanced image processing, and it positively contributes to a smoother overall picture. However, in cases of night photography, such as spotting a wild animal, we have to rely on the thermal sensor alone.Winner: FLIR
The costs associated with thermal imaging systems have restricted their usage and kept it out of reach of the average consumer / impulse-buy territory. However, there have been some recent advancements in this field that have made the prices of such system more palatable to the non-professional users. Thanks to the advent of smart mobile devices, the costs associated with the storage, control and user-interface for these systems could be taken out for most markets. One of the first forays into this space was the $250 FLIR ONE personal thermal imager from FLIR Systems. Unfortunately, by restricting the hardware design to work only with the Apple iPhone 5 and 5s, they lost out on widespread market appeal. Seek Thermal entered the market with a splash by launching their first smartphone-attached infrared camera for just $199. Two distinct models carrying the same features and capabilities were launched, only differing in the connector - one with a microUSB interface for Android devices and another with a Lightning connector for iOS devices. Before talking in detail about the Android version of the camera and the associated mobile app, let us take a moment to understand how thermal imaging works - particularly since this is not something we have covered on our site before.
All materials emit infrared energy and the intensity is a function of its temperature. In simple terms, the higher the temperature, the greater the intensity. Thermal imaging systems utilize a sensor to convert the emitted infrared energy into electrical impulses for further processing. In general, these sensors are called bolometers - they are made of materials whose electrical resistance is dependent on the temperature. The heating is triggered by the power of the incident electromagnetic radiation. Note that bolometers can be used for any type of electromagnetic radiation, though they are typically best suited for infrared and microwave frequencies. A microbolometer is a particular type of bolometer suitable for infrared wavelengths, making them suitable for use in thermal imaging systems. The microbolometer in the Seek Thermal camera responds to long-wave infrared (i.e, wavelengths between 7.2 and 13 microns).
A microbolometer consists of an array of pixels. The Seek Thermal camera has a 206 x 156 array (for around 32K thermal pixels). Each pixel has multiple layers, as shown in the cross-sectional diagram below.
Unlike regular cameras (which use regular glass or plastic lenses), thermal cameras can't use materials that reflect thermal radiation. The commonly used materials for thermal lenses are germanium, zinc selenide, zinc sulphide and chalcogenide glass - all of these have good transmission capabilities for the infrared wavelengths. The Seek Thermal camera uses a chalcogenide lens (a type of glass containing one or more of sulphur, selenium or tellurium).
This camera offers a new feature from Seek, which they call SeekFusion. This gives the ability to blend infrared with real images, which promises to give images a better context. My preferred infrared camera for home inspections is the FLIR E6, so I compared the ShotPRO to that one several times in this post. I also did a video review.
I have long been paying attention to the thermal market as it relates to hunting and hunters. Several friends use thermal equipment for hunting hogs and predators at night. My purpose in seeking out these tools is to help me track game once the animal has been shot. Because I do not do much predator or hog hunting at night, I have little need for thermal scopes. My good friend, Hal Shouse, at Hogswat.com uses thermal scopes for hunting hogs at night and he is the person Seek Thermal is seeking out.
I like these two tools specifically for tracking game after the shot. I have yet to use these for deer hunting yet but it worked well to help find a pheasant this weekend. Using the Seek Thermal RevealXR or the CompactPRO requires the hunter to use these tools ethically. Could you use these tools to help you find deer in the dark? Absolutely, but please be aware that using thermal imaging to seek out game species is most likely illegal in your state. Check your local game laws because in certain states it may even be illegal to even use this tool to track deer once you have shot them. I think it is a great tool for tracking and a fantastic tool around the house and for basic safety on a day-to-day use.
The Seek Compact XR is a miniature thermal imager that attaches to a mobile phone. Only a few years ago purchasing a thermal imager was far outside the budget of hobbyist. Today with devices like the Seek, they are easily affordable. By using the screen, processing power and controls provided by a mobile phone, the imaging module can be purchased for just $210. The model I am reviewing, the Extended Range version, retails for $299.
The Seek Compact standard cost $210 on Amazon, the Seek Compact XR, which I have reviewed here, costs $299. In my opinion this represents incredible value and if you need a low end thermal imager for DIY work, I highly recommend them.
Today I get to look at one of the most affordable thermal cameras from Seek Thermal, which uses long-wave infrared (LWIR) to capture surface radiation and display it as an image. Thermal cameras are important in a wide range of industries; from home building (finding insulating leaks) to the military (identifying subjects without visible light).
While I am in neither of the aforementioned industries, I am in the business of analyzing and reviewing computer hardware. In the engineering field, thermals are very important in finding circuit weaknesses and even shorts. This new generation of affordable thermal cameras will allow me to fully objectively analyze circuits in a way I wasn't able to do before.
Our review sample came in a little while box. Upon opening the box, we find fitted foam that protects the camera and its case. The packaging is very high quality and should ensure the safe arrival of your Seek camera.
The next option is the typical centered spot, which takes an average of the temperature readings around the center spot. I like high/low, as the camera will detect the highest and lowest temperature readings on the screen. Threshold is useful if you need more accuracy, and it provides real-time adjustments in the thermal modes menu for highlighting only what you want at different thresholds.
Seek provides a dual mode which allows you to use your smartphone's camera to display part of the image on screen. The issue is that your smartphone's camera isn't in the same position as the thermal camera sensor, and thus it can be hard to produce comprehensible images.
I have always had the longing to see beyond what my eyes could, and as the new motherboard editor here at TweakTown, I asked if it was possible for me to get a thermal camera to use in my reviews. I went on a search for affordable units that provided good enough quality so that I could make out different chips on a motherboard. I decided that the Seek Thermal Camera was a good choice as the other alternative is only available on the iPhone and has a lower resolution, yet is $200 more expensive.
Needless to say, I am impressed with the Seek Thermal Camera - everything from its design and build to its performance is good enough for what I might use a thermal camera for. The camera has an automatic shutter which calibrates often. However, some shots, especially those with low variation in thermals, don't come out as crisp as other thermal cameras I have seen.
The high/low thermal mode allows me to let the camera do all the work in finding hot spots, and if I need more accuracy, then the threshold mode can do the job well. The dual phone camera/thermal camera mode is a bit hard to use since the phones camera isn't at the same location as the thermal camera, but if you want to remember what you took a picture of, you can try to level the phone's camera with the thermal camera.
The accuracy of the camera is very good, I used a laser thermometer and the readings were spot on, but what would make the Seek better would be some sort of scale on the side to tell the user the temperature at different colors. This camera is a very useful tool, and it is the most affordable fully functional thermal camera I have found, at $199.00 for either the Android or iPhone version.
A few months ago, I reviewed Seek Thermal's first thermal camera for smartphones, and I was very impressed with its performance, especially at its low price. To be honest, I wanted the thermal camera to use in my reviews of computer hardware; the ability to see how products perform thermally is an invaluable capability. However, while the original Seek Thermal camera was very affordable, it left me wanting more for macro circuit shots. I ended up purchasing a marco-lens off EBay which worked great, but limited the camera to only take pictures from exactly three inches away.