Product Review: FLIR One Pro Thermal Camera Attachment

FLIR was established in 1978 with the aim of developing high-performance, low-cost thermal imaging systems primarily for airborne applications. After various developments and company acquisitions FLIR was able to expand their product solutions to what we see today. FLIR is now a global leader with products aimed at various industries from military and security to products that are well suited to the construction and maintenance sector.

In this review I will be taking a detailed look at the FLIR One Pro for iOS using an iPhone 7. The device is also sold for android with both USB-C and micro USB variants. There is also a LT version of this device which as you would expect comes with a more basic specification. In a nutshell, the FLIR One Pro allows the user to take, analyse and send thermal pictures, videos or time-lapse videos.

Setting up

The FLIR One Pro comes with the following:

  • Thermographic camera attachment
  • Small carry case
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Quick start guide and its packaging

There has been allot of attention to detail on the design of the packaging and as you are opening it up to reveal the device you really get a sense that you are dealing with a premium product. The small black ridged non slip carry case with foam insert holds the device perfectly giving which leaves you with a sense of reassurance when transporting the FLIR One Pro.

Flir One Pro 7

The quick start guide doesn’t provide a great deal of instruction other than to direct you to download the companion app. I would recommend downloading the online user guide from FLIR’s website as this gives a fairly decent overview to get you started.  After downloading the app and giving the camera attachment a quick charge I was ready to go. Check out the quick start guide below:

Initial impressions

The charging cable is a USB-C type which is quite handy as this is a very common cable type. The device uses its own battery so it will not drain the battery on your phone when using it. The battery life is around an hour which doesn’t sound like allot but I feel like it is more than ample to complete a survey.  Within the app you will see an indication of the remaining battery life at the top corner. The battery charge time is 40 minutes, so not too prohibitive.

The FLIR One Pro has an adjustable connector controlled by a twistable cog which extends the lightning adaptor up to 4mm. I originally thought this cog may have been to adjust the viewable temperature range or some sort of camera focus however after realising its purpose I was quite pleased as it allowed me to use the FLIR One Pro without the need to remove my phone case. This is important as iPhones tend to be quite slippery without a case which increases the chances of accidentally dropping and potentially damaging the phone and any attachment.

To hold the phone without obstructing the thermal camera or your phone flash can be a little tricky at times so it could be a good idea to purchase a cheap iPhone camera handle grip which will keep your hands nice and clear.

The unit is quite slim line and lightweight and feels like a robust little device with its rubber top and bottom trims. Weighing in at a 36.5g and a modest 68 x 34 x 14mm it is far from a cumbersome device to carry and use. The FLIR One Pro could be even more slim line if it used the phone camera and battery as a pose to having its own although I wouldn’t necessarily consider this as a negative quality.

Flir One Pro 4

 

Using the FLIR One Pro

As per the overview video, the FLIR One Pro is very easy to use after getting to grips with the core settings. Some of the main features when using the app include:

  • Camera type (Standard, Thermal or combination)
  • Palettes – the colour palette representing the temperature
  • Lock span – this will lock the IR Scale
  • IR Scale – this creates a temperature bar along the side of the screen
  • Camera flash
  • Temperature reference points

The FLIR One Pro utilises an auto focus feature to provide an optimal image however it has the flexibility of allowing the user to tweak settings like the MSX alignment and IR scale to adjust the image to suit. The FLIR MSX technology overlays visual details within the thermal image which lends itself to creating a much better overall image.

You can add multiple temperature reference points (spot meters) or regions of interest (ROI) which allow you to check various areas of temperature simultaneously. The spot reading gives a single reading,  the rectangle or circle ROI gives an average reading within that area. Although quite pernickety, you can adjust the size and shape of the ROI to suit what you are looking for.

When you add temperature reference points it shows on the screen in white writing and can sometimes be difficult to make out depending on the brightness of the thermal image. Playing about with different Palettes and the IR scale can alleviate this issue in most cases.

The lock span setting allows you to lock the IR scale which could be useful if you are looking to cross reference similar areas against a locked temperature range.

I was able to test the FLIR One Pro in a few situations, one of which was during a damp survey which found a large cold spot on the ceiling which coincided with where some mould was accumulating. This new information opened up a new line of enquiry as there could have been various causes for the temperature differential such as missing loft insulation or a possible leak. Similar to a moisture meter, the information alone will not necessarily give you all of the answers but it will build up a more holistic picture of what might be going on.

Flir One Pro 8

Further app features

On the home page of the app you will find the following sections:

  • Gallery
  • Tips and tricks
  • Community
  • News
  • Other FLIR apps

I did not personally find the tips and tricks section to be that useful and act more like promo videos for the device rather than detailed tutorials. The news and community sections are what you would expect and look like they are updated on a regular basis.

This takes me on to the gallery which is in my opinion is the strongest and probably most overlooked feature of the app. Within the gallery you can edit, analyse and send images at your leisure. You can switch between the standard and thermal images, alter the palettes, add temperature reference points and change the IR scale. You can swipe the thermal image up or down to reveal the underlying standard photo and all this can be done without the FLIR One Pro being attached. This means you can take plenty of pictures and take the time to properly analyse them later when back in the office.

As someone who works with building defects on a daily basis I find the flexibility of the post editing to be excellent as it will allow for precise pictures to be developed which can then be sent on to a contractor or colleagues.

One criticism I do have of the app is that if you are looking to create a report using the thermal pictures taken you will need to download a separate app called FLIR Tools. The FLIR One app would benefit from integrating the reporting features to create an app that can handle all aspects of professional use.

Flir One Pro 5

Comparison

I happen to have access to the now discontinued FLIR E40bx which was bought for well over £4k at the time purchase. This is a big difference to the price point of the FLIR One Pro which comes in at £370+vat at the time of writing this review.

After a quick glance through the specifications of each I was really surprised to see that the FLIR One Pro not only holds its own weight but also matches the E40bx on the likes of IR Resolution. For such a tiny device the FLIR One Pro really does pack a punch and you can see how this technology is really progressing.

FLIR E40bx FLIR One Pro
IR Resolution 160 x 120 160 x 120
Accuracy ±2°C ±3°C
Camera Resolution 2048 × 1536 1440 × 1080
Frame Rate 60Hz 8.7 Hz
Battery Use 4h / Charge 4h Use 1h / Charge 40min
Weight 869g 36.5g

comparison 1

Conclusion

The FLIR One Pro is a solid device and has the potential for being very useful for various maintenance applications such as damp surveys and assessing electrical safety.  Given its price tag I think the FLIR One Pro really represents good value for money especially when you compare it against stand-alone thermographic cameras.

The FLIR One Pro is fast to set up and really easy to transport in its compact carry case. Whilst the FLIR One app could do with some minor improvements including the addition of reporting functionality, it is still a very competent companion app.

The resolution of the FLIR One Pro’s cameras are perfectly suited for the iPhone screen and with the addition of the MSX feature, the thermal image has an extra level of  detail.

They say a picture can paint a thousand words, well the FLIR One Pro’s thermal images have the potential to paint even more.

 

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