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Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China

Posted by thecrazy 
Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 17, 2014 04:55PM
Hi everyone, for a long time I have wanted to get one of those thermal / infrared camera to help with our constant R&D process...

BUT they are SOOOO expensive so I forgot about it. Then, I stumbled onto this:


The same unit over here sells in the 800 to 1000 $ range.

The guy is ready to sell me one for 165$ shipping included.

Of course, I smell a scam but then again, even if its a cheap rip off, if it does provide a thermal image (even a bad one) this could still be very usefull.

What do you think? Ever had experience with one of those chinese flir camera?

Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 17, 2014 05:30PM
I'm in the same boat as you - always wanted one but couldn't justify the cost.

It looks like they are using low-resolution IR sensors, if you read the specs it is 640x480 normal spectrum video with 60x80 IR overlaid on it. So resolution is not comparable with a "real" FLIR camera. I think I'll pass.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 17, 2014 08:55PM
I noticed to get those prices shown you need to buy 50-60 pieces.

A pro Flir camera starts at like $2,500 from what I've seen. I too would love to have one.

I also always wanted a digital bore scope, they use to be $700+ and now they are like $100 at Home depot, don't know how good they are but I am tempted.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 18, 2014 12:19AM
So, bottom line is you just have to sign up for the army, make one disappear and then take your leave winking smiley

Haha, okok, I'm not trying to set one up for illegal activity, but for this price it's just 'too good to be true'. What crispy1 says; 4800 pixels (80 x 60) just will not cut the cake, nor the cookie.
Anonymous User
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 18, 2014 10:23PM
nor the cheese
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 18, 2014 11:20PM
60x80 wow, I did not see that. That is rough.

Moving on....
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 08:10AM
80 x 60 is low but if you check the comparison here its not that bad actually, could still be quite useful:


What worries me a lot more is that they are selling it for 165$ and YES the guy is willing to sell one to me without those large 50+ orders.

Also regarding the resolution, read this: [hackaday.com]

Seems like the internals of the E4 are the same as the E8 and a firmware hack can unlock the full resolution of 320x240

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/20/2014 08:12AM by thecrazy.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 08:16AM

Seems like the internals of the E4 are the same as the E8 and a firmware hack can unlock the full resolution of 320x240

That's for the brand-name FLIR cameras. You're assuming that these clones are using the same IR sensor and cripple their hardware the same way. I don't think these are good assumptions.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 01:18PM
Yea... I guess your right. They may not even work.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 02:41PM
You can get a Fluke VT02 for $450, it looks useable from the videos I have seen and a reputable brand. Not anywhere close to the resolution that an E4 has but its less than half the price of the E4.

Here is a video comparision of the two that does a good job showing the resolution and features of the Fluke.

Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 06:23PM
Another option is to wait until this comes out. Not sure how much it costs though.

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Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 06:52PM
i know here in canada, canadian tire started to carry a IR thermal camera, still a lot more than that guy though...oh if i could only get that winning lottery ticket.

Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 20, 2014 07:01PM
I'm a great fan of Chinese clones and cheap Chinese products from AliExpress, eBay, DX, Buyincoins etc but you need to know what you're getting in to, have some idea of what's possible, what exists and and not have unrealistic expectations and also know what you need to look out for and how to communicate with sellers.

One notable thing is Chinese manufacturers are very prone to over inflating or just making up specs. Often the sellers will get in to the game too. But even with good sellers they often have no way of telling the truth even if they wanted to since they only know what the manufacturer says. AliExpress is a little better than eBay, DX, Buyincoins and such places since you are generally (but not always) dealing more directly with the manufacturer. But evem with AliExpress and when you're dealing in small quantities (as opposed to AliBaba and when you are thinking of large quantities), you're still generally dealing with a lower level sales person who may not know much about the engineering side and may not have much ability to get genuine info from those who deal with the engineering and manufacturing. Heck even those on that side may not really know themselves.

Cameras (like battery numbers and LED light output) are one area prone to extreme inflation by the Chinese manufacturers particularly in the resolution. I was initially thinking with such a low resolution perhaps it couldn't be much lower but with the resolution of the Fluke VT02 [www.eevblog.com] (15x15) I guess it can.

And one thing about resolution is that it's easy to flub. With digital cameras (including those in phones) you sometimes get the complete bullshit where even the software doesn't allow you to output the promised resolution. But more commonly you have the case where it can, but an analysis of the image suggests the sensor probably isn't capable of the stated resolution (or if it can the lens isn't, but I'm thinking of the case where it can't even do more than VGA so I think it's more commonly the sensor). From what I understand this sort of thermal imaging usually combines a visible light image with a low resolution thermal image, so the output resolution will definitely be higher than the thermal resolution and so only the images will be of any use in trying to work out the real resolution.

It is possible it may really have close to that thermal resolution 80x60 (see also later). But I wouldn't count on higher. Personally before proceeding, I would at least ask if they can provide a sample image. Since you're only intending to buy one, they may not oblige but then again, if they have one on hand, it's not that uncommon they will. Make sure you ask them for specific sample images, one that it's unlikely they could just download. They could of course have a real FLIR and use that for samples, but there's a good chance they don't. You can also try to evaluate from what they say and send you if they're faking. (For example, one concern I have is most of those sellers seem to be claiming their devices are 'original FLIR'. And the specs and details are just a complete copy from Flit. This is common but I'm much more comfortable dealing with sellers who at least acknowledge their devices are knockoffs and provide their own stuff. In fact, getting in to my earlier point, it's interesting none have even provide images, even simple copies.)

Even if the resolution is close to what's promised and while I know next to nothing about thermal imaging, I would have some concerns about the accuracy and precision. Particularly since it's likely that depends a lot on the software. In other words, I wouldn't count on being able to use it to tell the temperature within 2 degrees C or 2%. I would also wonder about the contrast and range and how well it combines the thermal and visible data (but you should be able to see that in samples to some extent). So if any of that matters to you, may not be the best solution.

I said it's possible the resolution may be close to real. One of the reasons is it sounds like the price isn't as cheap as it seems. I don't know if you heard, but FLIR is promising an iPhone case for $349 (probably) with the same thermal resolution [blog.ivytools.com] & [www.gizmag.com] & [www.flir.com] (Android version supposed to be coming later). It intended for the consumer market and has some limitations (and I guess uses the iPhone for some of the processing although it sounds like it's mostly internal which I guess isn't surprising since they don't want people stealing it).

BTW, the Flir One appears to primarily to demonstrate their new Lepton sensor. I dunno if they're interested in dealing with hobbyists. But if you have the skills, you could try seeing if you could get your hands on one [www.flir.com] . I imagine the cost for a sample would be the same or probably lower than the iPhone case when they launch the sensor, if you can convince them to deal with you.

In any casem getting back to what I was hinting earlier, if Flir can do it for that price, it wouldn't surprise me if a Chinese clone could do something vaguely similar for about half that (and as you've said, the genuine E4 sensor apparently is actually just an E8 which sort of tells something about what they're producing and the markup).

But as said I know next to nothing about the thermal imaging or microbolometer market. The Chinese are great at cloning stuff but they can't do magic and if they haven't yet got in to that market then you shouldn't expect stuff which doesn't exist. The fact that the Lepton is seem as somewhat revolutionary and there's little competition to Flir does make me wonder about this. It seems the Chinese are starting to enter the market [www.eevblog.com] & [www.dali-tech.us] but more at the mid end. Of course it doesn't matter if the microbolometer is Chinese or American, it could be someone is selling microbolometers of that resolution at a good price, it's just that no one has really made a dent in to Flir's market for various reasons.

You may want to do a bit of research on AliExpress and AliBaba and see what's out there that aren't just copying what Flir says. I do see a bunch of stuff on AliBaba for example although of course they have no prices and most seem higher speced (at least 160x120 or at least they claim to be) and I'm not sure if they have the combining visible with thermal feature. TaoBao is also a decent place to get an idea if prices, if you can work out how to search for what you want. (Possibly 热像仪 although if so, things aren't looking good. The lowest seems to be ~3000 Yuan or USD500 which makes it seem like there's nothing in the USD200 price range that anyone even in China would trust although it could just be too specialised for TaoBao.)

P.S. Whatever you do, follow the basics at least. Ask them about their return policy. Make sure you only use AliExpress Escrow not Western Union or direct transfer to them and don't confirm unti you're sure the product is what you expected. And keep track of dates, if the item is taking too long to arrive, look in to it and don't let the transaction auto conifrm.

P.P.S. You can sometimes get AliBaba sellers to sell you one if you ask. They may talk about a sample or whatever. If they have any stock left over from production, it's not a big deal. I think it helps if you avoid mentioning that you aren't actually planning to buy a lot/running a business, most seem to just assume you want to :-P


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/20/2014 07:07PM by Nil Einne.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
January 22, 2014 11:21AM
That's some good info Nil, thanks.
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
July 13, 2015 10:21AM
Don't buy on Alixpress i got some scam, all products are not original, are all copy of FLIR products, if need information about FLIR products check here: [goo.gl], dont buy from Alixpress
Re: Cheap FLIR (thermal camera) from China
July 13, 2015 04:39PM
Here is one recommended to me....FLIR Camera for your phone
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