What To Consider When Purchasing A Thermal Camera

What To Consider When Purchasing A Thermal Camera

When considering to purchase the right thermal camera for your application needs, the quantity of parameters offered for a thermal camera might be daunting. Any one spec won't tell you anything about the camera; instead, the capabilities of a thermal imager are determined by a combination of elements.

All specifications are helpful, but here are the essential ones to ensure you choose the right camera for your application:


The range refers to the temperature range that the thermal camera is calibrated for and capable of measuring.

Some thermal cameras have numerous ranges to monitor a wider range of temperatures more accurately. Know what temperatures you'll be dealing with in your application; choosing a thermal camera with a wider temperature range is especially crucial for industrial applications like measuring high-temperature equipment like boilers, kilns, or furnaces.

wide temperature range of voltrium thermal cameraA camera with a wide temperature range is required for applications like measuring the temperature of kilns (left). An * next to the temperature shows that the camera is estimating the temperature when it is out of range.

Field of View (FOV)

The camera lens determines the field of view, which is the size of the scene that the camera can observe at any given time. A lens with a wide angle FOV (45° or above) is required for close-up work. A telephoto lens (12° or 6°) is required for long-distance operations. Depending on the use, some cameras may come with multiple lenses.

checking camera view with thermal cameraThe FOV of a camera controls how much it can view and from what distance. A telephoto lens is better for distance measurements (left), while a wide angle lens is better for close-up work (right) (right).

IR Resolution

The camera's resolution refers to how many pixels it has on the scene. Each image with a higher resolution carries more information: more pixels, more detail, and a higher chance of achieving an accurate measurement. You may be able to get away with a lower-cost, lower-resolution thermal camera depending on your application, especially if you can get near to the target. When measuring smaller targets from a distance, a better resolution is required.

low and high resolution thermal camera differenceLow-resolution cameras are excellent for measuring targets in close proximity (left). For distance measurements, you'll need a high-resolution camera (right).

Thermal Sensitivity (NETD)

The lowest temperature difference that the thermal camera can detect is called thermal sensitivity, or Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference (NETD). The thermal sensitivity of the infrared system is better when the number gets lower. A word of caution: low-cost thermal cameras may be concealing weak sensitivity by taking NETD at 50°C rather than the industry standard 30°C.

A thermal camera with a low NETD is probably not necessary if the targets you need to measure often have large temperature differences. More sensitivity is required for more subtle applications, such as identifying moisture issues.

Thermal sensitivityHigh thermal sensitivity is required to detect small details such as studs in a wall.


Cameras can be fixed focus, which means they are always in focus; manual focus, which means the user adjusts the focus on the camera; or automatic focus, which means the camera will autofocus based on what it sees for contrast in the scene. In general, more entry-level cameras will have fixed focus, while high-performance cameras will have either manual or automatic focus. The difference between manual and automatic focus comes down to personal preference.

focused thermal cameraFor accurate temperature measurement, an image in focus is required.

Spectral Range

The spectral range of a thermal camera is the range of wavelengths detected by the sensor, measured in micrometers (µm). The majority of gas detection cameras (such as propane, methane, and butane detectors) have a spectral range of 3 µm to 5 µm. Almost all other thermal camera are longwave, with spectral ranges ranging from 8 µm to 14 µm. Longwave thermal cameras are suitable for a wide range of other applications, from electrical inspections to firefighting.

thermal camera detect gasesMidwave cameras (left) detect gases such as propane, methane, and butane, whereas longwave cameras are used for the majority of other applications (right).

When deciding which thermal imaging camera is appropriate for your needs, keep these crucial specifications in mind. Remember that a single spec value does not provide an accurate view of a thermal camera's capabilities. If you need to identify subtle concerns like moisture, for example, great resolution won't help unless the camera also has high thermal sensitivity.

Discover more on different spectral range of Thermal Camera Cores

Learn more on How Do Thermal Cameras Work? or contact us about your thermal application needs.

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