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Handheld thermal imaging cameras are a great way to view a thermal X-Ray of a person or object, and these devices are used in a variety of industries such as construction, electronics, healthcare and food processing. What’s great about these devices is that they are easy to carry and allow the user to observe and capture photos for future reference.

In the list below, we have included some of the best handheld thermal imaging cameras available. We will consider their specs and talk about how they would best benefit your requirements.

What is a Handheld Thermal Imaging Camera

Handheld thermal imaging cameras are inspection tools used for monitoring temperatures. They are used as a non-contact inspection tool where users can measure the temperatures of certain areas or components from a safe distance.

Since these are handheld cameras, they are smaller devices that can be utilized and carried around by one person. Because of their compact form factor, it allows the user more freedom and flexibility than larger thermal cameras. (Speaking of which, here is our list of thermal security cameras.)

Handheld thermal cameras are accurate enough to be used for any application that requires users to detect heat signatures in their environment. They were initially designed for surveillance applications as a form of night-vision and later adapted for other industries.

Several practical examples of handheld thermal cameras include: monitoring the temperature of people to identify cases of Flu or Covid19, identifying overheating components in smartphones and tablets, and diagnosing faults in electrical cables.

Best Handheld Thermal Imaging Cameras

Data Type
IP
Resolution
2MP: 1600x1200
Power Options
Battery
IP Rating
IP54
Storage Options
eMMC

The FLIR TG165-X is our top pick for the best handheld thermal camera. It has a pistol-grip design with a 2.1-inch TFT display.

The infrared sensor is an uncooled microbolometer with a 7.5–14 µm spectral range, allowing it to detect temperatures ranging between -13°F to 572°F (-25°C to 300°C). The thermal module has an 80x60 IR resolution and an effective thermal sensitivity of <70mK.

The battery on this device allows for five hours of continuous scanning with a recharge time of six hours to reach 100%. There are 4GBs of eMMC storage which can store up to 50,000 photos.

Also, you can review the images from the device itself, thanks to the gallery function built into the software.

Pros
  • Power Options: Battery
  • Storage Options: eMMC
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
Cons
  • No smart home integrations
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • No two-way audio feature
Data Type
IP
Resolution
320x240
Power Options
DC PowerBattery
IP Rating
IP54
Storage Options
microSD

Our runner-up is Hikvision’s handheld thermal camera. This device includes an uncooled VOx sensor with an IR resolution of 160x120 and a NETD (thermal sensitivity) of <40mK.

One thing to note, however, is that the temperature range of this device is limited to 86°F to 104°F (30°C to 40°C). Therefore, it’s primarily designed for monitoring skin-surface temperatures in humans and livestock.

The housing of the device has a pistol-grip with an IP54 splash-resistant rating. The built-in battery has a continuous operating time of eight hours and uses Micro-USB as the charging interface.

Also, the display is a 2.4-inch LCD with support for four different color palettes. (Black hot, white-hot, Rainbow, and Ironbow)

Pros
  • Storage Options: microSD
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
  • Power Options: DC Power, Battery
Cons
  • Relatively Low Resolution: 320x240
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • Cannot stream data wirelessly or over cable
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • No smart home integrations
Data Type
IP
Resolution
320x240
Power Options
Battery
IP Rating
Not Weather Proof / Resistant
Storage Options
eMMC

The HT-19 handheld thermal imaging camera has a wider temperature range as it can measure temperatures ranging from -4°F to 932°F (-20°C to 500°C) with a ±2.5°C accuracy.

The device itself has a pistol-grip design with a 3.2-inch TFT display. There is support for five color palettes that include white hot, black hot, and rainbow, to name a few.

In terms of battery life, the device can run 2-3 hours continuously before needing a recharge. Fortunately, you can easily remove the Li-Ion 18650 cell from the device and swap it for another battery. (You can also recharge the battery via the Micro-USB port located in the device.)

There is 3GB built-in storage which HTI claims is enough to store 20,000 images.

Pros
  • Storage Options: eMMC
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
  • Power Options: Battery
Cons
  • Low IP Rating: Not Weather Proof / Resistant
  • No integrated microphone
  • No 24/7 recording option
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No night vision support
Data Type
IP
Resolution
5MP: 1920x1920
Power Options
Battery
IP Rating
IP54
Storage Options
Cloud

The FLIR C5 handheld camera is a compact device with a smartphone-like design.

The thermal camera has a 160x120 IR resolution, and it can record temperatures ranging between -4℉ to 752℉ (-20℃ to 400℃) with a NETD value of <70mK. The camera has a four-hour continuous battery life with a USB-C interface that fully charges the device in just a couple of hours.

Apart from the thermal module, it includes a 5MP optical camera that allows you to capture images in full color and integrate them into the thermal images as a picture-in-picture or as FLIR MSX®.

In FLIR MSX®, the thermal image is supplemented with the optical image, making the edges pop out so that different objects can be identified easily.

Pros
  • Power Options: Battery
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
  • Data Transmission: 2.4GHz WiFi
  • High Resolution: 5MP: 1920x1920
  • Storage Options: Cloud
Cons
  • No smart home integrations
  • No 24/7 recording option
  • No night vision support
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • No motorized tilt functionality
Data Type
IP
Resolution
320x240
Power Options
Battery
IP Rating
Not Weather Proof / Resistant
Storage Options
eMMC

Seek Thermal’s Reveal Pro is another versatile handheld thermal security camera. This device includes a VOx sensor with a 320x240 IR resolution and supports a temperature range of -40℉ to 1022℉ (-20℃ to 550℃).

The fixed-focus lens can measure temperatures at a maximum distance of 1800ft with thermal sensitivity of <70mK.

The device has a smartphone-like design with a 2.5-inch corning gorilla glass display and support for up to nine color palettes that Include grayscale and rainbow. The camera has a four-hour battery life and four GB of internal memory.

Also, a couple of other unique features include a 300-lumen flashlight and 4x digital zoom.

Pros
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
  • Storage Options: eMMC
  • Power Options: Battery
Cons
  • No 24/7 recording option
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No optical zoom
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Relatively Low Resolution: 320x240
  • Low IP Rating: Not Weather Proof / Resistant
Data Type
IP
Resolution
640x480
Power Options
Battery
IP Rating
Not Weather Proof / Resistant
Storage Options
eMMC

Perfect Prime’s IR00019 handheld thermal camera measures thermal radiation within a 320x240 IR resolution with a minimum sensitivity of 0.07℃. Its supported temperatures range from -4℉ to 572℉ (-20℃ to 300℃), and it can process thermal footage in five different color palettes. (Includes rainbow and both greyscale palettes.)

There is a 4GB MicroSD card included in the device, and you can easily swap it out for better storage. Also, the battery is a 18650 Li-Ion cell which can be swapped out or recharged from the device itself via Micro-USB.

Pros
  • Power Options: Battery
  • Storage Options: eMMC
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
Cons
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • No smart home integrations
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Low IP Rating: Not Weather Proof / Resistant
Data Type
IP
Resolution
256x192
Power Options
DC PowerBattery
IP Rating
IP54
Storage Options
eMMC

Hikmicrotech’s B10 handheld thermal camera utilizes the pistol-grip design to create a feature-packed device that includes an optical module as an additional feature.

The VOx thermal sensor has an IR resolution of 256x192, and it can measure any temperatures ranging between -4°F to 1022°F (-20°C to 550°C) within a <40mK NETD value.

The camera has 16GB of eMMC storage with a battery that can support the device continuously for a maximum of six hours.

The optical module allows the user to take color photos. Apart from that, it supports several image modes such as separate thermal or optical, picture-in-picture, or a combination of the two (called fusion), where the thermal image is enhanced with the aid of the optical counterpart. (Improves edges and finer details.)

Pros
  • Storage Options: eMMC
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
  • Power Options: DC Power, Battery
Cons
  • Cannot stream data wirelessly or over cable
  • No integrated microphone
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No night vision support
  • No inbuilt spotlight
Data Type
IP
Resolution
320x240
Power Options
Battery
IP Rating
IP54
Storage Options
eMMC

Our final item is Seek Thermal’s Shot Pro. It has a more compact smartphone-like design with a VOx thermal sensor, and its supported temperatures can range anywhere from -40℉ to 626℉ (-40℃ to 330℃ ) with a NETD value of <70mK.

The enclosure has an IP54 splash-resistant rating, and to keep things water-tight as much as possible: there are no removable batteries or microSD cards. Instead, the device has a built-in 4GB storage along with a non-removable battery that can last up to four hours on a single charge.

There is also an optical module that allows the user to combine both thermal and optical footage to process the image for better readability.

Pros
  • Storage Options: eMMC
  • Data Transmission: 2.4GHz WiFi
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map
  • Power Options: Battery
Cons
  • Relatively Low Resolution: 320x240
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • No night vision support
  • No 24/7 recording option

Things to consider when selecting a Handheld Thermal Imaging Camera

Temperature Range

Despite having a ton of specs that relate to the infrared sensor (such as the resolution and thermal sensitivity), a handheld thermal camera won’t be able to do much if it’s got a narrower temperature range. If you are looking for a thermal camera to check people’s temperatures, there are affordable options with a narrower temperature range. However, if you need a thermal camera to inspect electrical faults, overheating equipment, moisture levels, air leaks, etc., you need a device with a wider temperature range, preferably -40℉ to 626℉ (-20℃ to 330℃).

Battery Life

Since these are handheld devices, the battery life will have a huge impact on your overall experience. You don’t want the thermal camera to shut down while you’re in the middle of a worksite with no way to recharge it. Therefore, we recommend taking note of the continuous operating time of the device along with the recharging times, charging interface (Micro-USB or USB-Type C), and whether the battery is removable. (Some devices include a removable 18650 Li-Ion cell.) 

Form Factor

From the handheld cameras we’ve covered on this list, there are two form factors for handheld thermal cameras: the pistol-grip type and the more compact smartphone type. The pistol-grip design is more ergonomic and great for one-handed operation. However, it is less compact, and you need a separate case for storage and transport. Meanwhile, the smartphone-type thermal cameras can easily fit in your pocket, but they are expensive and don’t include removable storage and battery slots. 

Optical Module

An additional optical module (a conventional camera that records in the visible light spectrum) can help shed more light on the thermal counterpart. For most applications, a sensor with an optical module is mandatory because you might need to record letters, numbers, or symbols in the same scene. Also, in some high-end devices, the post-processing software can merge the thermal and optical footage to make the image more readable by highlighting edges, minimizing noise, etc. Therefore, we highly suggest going with a device that includes the second optical module.

Storage

Almost half of the handheld thermal cameras available on the market include an eMMC chip instead of supporting MicroSD cards. Although you can store thousands of thermal images on embedded storage as low as 4GB, it’s always better to have MicroSD card support.

Common Thermal Imaging Questions & Answers

Can handheld thermal cameras see through walls?

No. Unfortunately, thermal cameras cannot see through walls because IR radiation or heat cannot pass through walls.

Does aluminum foil block thermal imaging?

Yes, aluminum foil can block thermal imaging to some extent. Since it can reflect infrared waves without letting them pass through. However, heat can build up around a sheet of aluminum foil, and it can radiate around it.

Can smartphones perform thermal imaging?

Ordinary smartphones cannot carry out thermal imaging on their own. You need a separate attachment (that fits into your phone’s charging port) that includes a high-wavelength infrared sensor to be able to carry this out.

Do thermal cameras use infrared?

Yes, thermal cameras use infrared but not the same range of frequencies/wavelengths used for night vision in security cameras. Instead of emitting short-wave infrared rays and waiting for them to bounce back, thermal cameras detect high-wavelength infrared emissions passively. (Warmer objects tend to radiate these high-wavelength infrared waves as a byproduct of heat.) 

Can thermal cameras record videos?

Yes, a lot of thermal cameras can record video. However, for the use-cases of a handheld thermal imaging camera, it is not an essential feature. Therefore, it is not implemented in most of the cameras we’ve covered on this list.

Is thermal imaging harmful to the body?

No, thermal imaging cameras do not project any harmful radiation to the environment. Thermal imaging is a completely passive function that detects infrared radiation, and it does not make any contact with the surfaces of objects.

Can I export thermal imaging footage to a computer?

Yes. You can easily export images captured from a handheld thermal camera using the included cable and USB interface. Apart from that, modern devices also allow data transfer via Wi-Fi, where you can create a hotspot from the camera and connect smartphones and other devices to the hotspot to import captured photos.

Conclusion

In the list above, we went over some of the best handheld thermal cameras available in the market. These devices are highly accurate measuring instruments used in industrial applications. However, it doesn’t mean that these devices cannot be used by the average consumer.

So if you are looking for a handheld thermal camera, we highly suggest checking out the options we’ve laid out on our list. They are the most affordable and reliable options out there right now.

Which camera was your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments.

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