Infrared Cameras Inc. Thermal Imaging and Infrared Camera Systems

How to Purchase a Thermal Imaging Camera

Interested in buying an infrared thermal imaging camera but not sure where to start or what to look for when purchasing? Perhaps you want to start an infrared inspection business or need information for purchasing a thermal imaging camera for research, process control, medical, electrical, or other applications?

ToughCam EL Thermal Imaging Camera PhotoAt Infrared Cameras Inc. we have been designing, manufacturing, training, and selling infrared cameras for over 15 years now.  Our CEO has been working in thermography for over 31 years and has experience in every infrared application in the world and outer space.  

We are dedicated to the end user and build thermal imaging cameras for professional thermographers.  We build extraordinary cameras that consistently beat our competitors in independent studies. 

If you have any questions please feel free to call us at anytime to discuss your application and how our infrared cameras can work for your application.  Feel free to call our staff of trained thermographers at 1 866 861 0788

Thermal Imaging Camera Buyers Guide

Many factors should be weighed when purchasing an infrared thermal imaging camera. This guide goes over some of the basic factors to be considered as well as tips to purchasing the correct thermal camera for your application.

Thermal Imaging Buiyers Guide PDF download

Download Thermal Imaging Camera Buyers Guide

Thermal Imaging Buyers Guide Contents

  1. General Information
  2. Qualitative or Qualitative?
  3. Portable, Fix Mounted, or Pan and Tilt Thermal Imaging Unit?
  4. Ensure the software has the functions neccessary for your applicaiton.
  5. Ensure the thermal camera has the built-in features needed for your application.
  6. Other Considerations and helpful tips.

General Information

  • Infrared Thermography is the discipline concerned with the acquisition, storage and analysis of radiated energy using a thermal infrared imaging system.
  • Infrared Instruments DO NOT Measure Temperature!
  • They measure Infrared Radiated Energy only!
  • Typically you will hear both infrared and thermal imaging. They are really the same thing. Thermography, however, refers to active collection and interpretation of infrared data. Thermography is the measurement of temperature remotely to indicate equipment health and assigning a color based on the temperature.

Qualitative or Qualitative?

Determine the Type of Infrared Camera that best suits your application; qualitative or qualitative?

  • Qualitative Measurement - the process of obtaining and interpreting thermal images based on thermal contrast in order to identify anomalies; the purpose is more to determine where a temperature difference exists than what the temperature difference is between the target and its surroundings.
  • Quantitative Measurement - the process of obtaining thermal images with correct temperature readings. Especially useful in situations when the exact temperature or temperature difference of the target determines whether it falls in or out of a determined criteria or range of acceptability. Also important to R & D and process control situations.

Basically Qualitative means that you will not get a temperature reading, but will be able to view thermal differences, while a quantitative thermal camera will give you accurate temperature readings.

  • Do you need to be able measure temperature, or just see differences in thermal energy?
    Most thermal imaging cameras are qualitative; meaning that they have the built in software (when the correct
    variables are input by a thermographer) to produce an accurate temperature reading.

Several times a week we get calls in the office asking about security cameras; they do not necessarily need temperature measurement or radiometric cameras and are usually just as well off with night vision or infrared illuminator ccd security cameras for a fraction of the cost of an infrared fully radiometric camera.  We do not sell these types of ccd security cameras and would not suggest someone buy a radiometric infrared camera if it is not needed for their application. Read more about Night Vision

Thermal Image of Qualitative thermal measurement

Example of Qualitative Measurement

Thermal image of quantitative thermal measurement

Example of Quantitative Measurement

Portable, Fix Mounted, or Pan & Tilt Thermal Imaging Unit?

At ICI we offer a variety of infrared cameras and enclosures ranging from airborne vehicle mounted, fix mounted, vehicle mounted with stabilization, pan and tilt, and handheld thermal imagers. 

Portable Hand Held Thermal Imaging Unit - ToughCam
Portable Hand held thermal imager - ToughCam EL image

Portable Handheld Thermal Imager – The most popular thermal imaging cameras are our handheld units.  These types of thermal imaging cameras are generally useful for a number of applications including research, electrical, mechanical,  medical, veterinarian, fire fighting, process control, building inspections, and energy audits.  Their ease of use, portability, and light weight make them ideal for many jobs and applications.  When purchasing a handheld camera the buyer should be aware of the design and weight of the hand held thermal camera.  Ruggedness and environmental protections should be considered as well.

  • Weight and Design can be a be factor if the camera will be used for any extended period of time.
  • Battery Charge time, accessories, etc. should be considered depending on the job at hand.
  • There are literally 100's of different types of hand held thermal imaging cameras. Each with a unique set of functions and features, below are some features to consider::
    • Voice Annotation
    • Size of LCD - ability to rotate or move screen for difficult angles
    • Lens size
    • Image storage capacity
    • Video output
    • Resolution
    • Image Refresh rate

Fix Mounted and Pan & Tilt – When buying a fix mounted or pan and tilt thermal imaging camera, many factors should be considered.  

ICI Flare Monitoring Fix Mounted Thermal Imaging Camera
X32 Fix Mounted Thermal Imaging Camera Image
  • Does the camera need to have any special environmental protections, will it be exposed to extreme heat/cold or humidity?
  • Does the camera need to be fix mounted or should it be able to pan and tilt.  Does the system need to be autonomous? Depending upon your particular application, there are several designs and models to choose from.  At Infrared Cameras, we will custom design and manufacture to your specifications. 
  • If a thermal imaging camera is to be in one position, all weather and environmental factors should be weighed into the purchase of a thermal imaging camera.  For certain environmental conditions, heating and/or cooling for the camera may be required.   
  • X32 Dual Pan & Tilt Thermal Imaging Camera System
    X20 Pan & Tilt Thermal Imaging Camera
    Other considerations should be how thermal camera will be hooked up to power and monitoring stations.  We can modify our thermal cameras to run on alternative power sources; such as solar panels.  An addition of  Wifi can then allow thermal cameras to be placed in remote locations.
  • Vehicle mounted thermal imaging cameras require specially outfitted enclosures. Mounting to vehicles, aircraft, and boats will also require stabilization as well as conversion to run off the vehicles power. Thermal Imaging Cameras can be mounted on practically any vehicle, including robots, satellites, etc.


If your application requires a portable fix mounted unit, there are several fix mounted units that are small enough to be easily packed and moved from location to location.

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