This post first appeared in the December 2022/January 2023 issue of Fine HomeBuilding Magazine.
Thermal imaging tools used to be so expensive, the only people to own them were researchers and specialty tradespeople. That’s not the case anymore. Anyone can get a decent thermal imaging camera for under a $1000, my latest camera is a good example.
I was introduced to Hikmicro at the most recent International Builders Show, a newer manufacturer to the industry, Hikmicro had several of their products on display where interested people could try them out on the show floor. I gravitated towards the Pocket Series of cameras. This style of camera looks closer to the traditional digital camera, or a smart phone than the pistol grip thermal imagers we are used to seeing. Compact but filled with features, the Pocket 2 I purchased has the resolution of a more expensive camera (256×192). By comparison, my first thermal imaging camera had a resolution of 60×60, and the Pocket 2 is one-third the price of that camera.
Other features of the Pocket Series, there are four selectable image modes, straight thermal, optical (digital photo without thermal, up to 8MP), picture in picture and “fusion”, a mode that blends the optical and thermal picture to show greater detail (the photo below was taken in fusion mode). This camera will also record video and live stream to a phone or tablet.
I have two small complaints with the camera, first is the touch screen lag. There is a short lag in the time that I touch an icon on the screen and the time it registers in the software. The second is the manufacturer’s listed battery life, up to 4 hours of continuous run time. On large building diagnostic projects or multiple projects during the same day, I have had my other cameras operating for more than 4 hours. So far there hasn’t been a problem, but it may be a good idea to carry a portable charging station. Neither issue is a deal breaker, just a concern.
There is a learning curve in using any thermal imaging camera, understanding what the picture is telling you takes some practice. There are several companies that offer training, both online and classroom. Taking a class will help. You can read more about thermal imaging basics here: https://www.northernbuilt.pro/diagnostic-tools-thermal-imaging-the-basics/
Many in the construction trades can benefit from owning a thermal imaging camera, the Pocket 2 is valued so anyone can afford one. Retail price $600.