Please note, if you click and buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More

A thermal security camera is not the same as "infrared night vision" which is found in most conventional security cameras. Thermal cameras utilize a higher wavelength of the infrared spectrum resulting in a much longer range and are more reliable at detecting motion and other events.

Top 10 Thermal Security Cameras

What is a Thermal Security Camera

A thermal security camera relies on heat, or technically, infrared radiation, to detect objects and motion. Basically every object in the environment can emit heat; hence, they have some amount of infrared radiation emanating out from them. However, warmer objects tend to radiate significantly higher amounts of infrared radiation, making it easier to distinguish these objects.

This is where thermal cameras come into play. They utilize advanced sensors that passively detect these infrared radiations, differentiating between the warmer objects in the environment; hence, they can easily detect heat sources. (Whether it's a human, vehicle or even a campfire.)

Thermal night vision technology differs from infrared night vision in two significant aspects. One of them being that the thermal cameras seek out higher wavelengths of the infrared spectrum. (specifically between 1,000nm to 14,000nm.) Consequently, they have more range (almost as far as 490ft) and can pass through smoke, mist, fog and light rain. (Although, they cannot detect heat through walls.)

Also, the other noticeable difference is that they have a passive process where they don't actively emit infrared radiation and wait for it to bounce back. Therefore, thermal cameras are more precise and don't need to rely on external light sources for better accuracy.

Top Pick
DS-2TD2637T-15/P
Awards
  • Only camera listed with 4MP: 2688x1520
  • Only camera listed with True WDR
  • Highest rated camera listed with AC Power option
Data Type
IP
Resolution
4MP: 2688x1520
Power Options
PoEDC PowerAC Power
Night Vision Type
InfraredFull Color (via Low Light Sensor / Tech)
IP Rating
IP66
Storage Options
microSDNVRNASFTP

Our top pick is the Hikvision 4MP thermal security camera. (Otherwise known as the Thermographic Thermal & Optical Bi-spectrum Network Bullet Camera.)

The thermal module on this camera supports infrared wavelengths ranging from 8,000nm to 14,000nm (8µm-14µm). It has a thermal sensitivity of less than 35mK (milli-Kelvins) at 25℃ and uses uncooled Vanadium Oxide focal plane arrays for the image sensor. Also, the infrared FOV is 24.5° horizontally and 18.5° vertically.

Since these have a 15mm focal length and a 384x288 infrared resolution, these cameras are better suited for long-range industrial applications. (Such as monitoring wide areas in factories, power plants, farms, etc.)

The optical module i.e, the conventional camera system, includes a CMOS sensor with 2688 × 1520 maximum resolution with a 51.7° horizontal and 28° vertical FOV.

Pros
  • Night Vision Support: Infrared, Full Color (via Low Light Sensor / Tech)
  • High Resolution: 4MP: 2688x1520
  • Storage Options: microSD, NVR, NAS, FTP
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection
  • Great Image Clarity: True WDR
  • Data Transmission: PoE
Cons
  • No optical zoom
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • No smart home integrations
  • No integrated microphone
Runner Up
M232
Awards
  • Highest rated camera listed with IP67
  • Highest rated camera listed with Motorized Pan Feature
  • Highest rated camera listed with Motorized Tilt Feature
Data Type
IP
Resolution
320x240
Power Options
DC Power
IP Rating
IP67
Storage Options
NVR

Our runner-up is the FLIR M232 pan & tilt thermal marine camera. The camera consists of a thermal module built from a Vanadium Oxide Microbolometer uncooled sensor. Thermal footage is recorded at a resolution of 320x240 and includes a FOV of 24° horizontally and 18° vertically. Unfortunately, the device does not incorporate an additional optical module. (For recording in color.)

The PT capabilities include continuous 360° panning and 110° tilting. There is no optical zoom feature; instead, it utilizes a 4x digital zoom. (Which is relatively effective considering the high resolution.)

The camera is built for marine vessels; hence, it includes a corrosion-resistant ASTM B117 coating, IP67 rating, and an operating temperature range of -13°F to +131°F. Also, the camera can detect human heat signatures from as far as 1,500ft (457m) and small marine vessels from a maximum distance of 4265ft (1500m).

Pros
  • Motorized Tilt Feature
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection
  • Power Options: DC Power
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • Storage Options: NVR
  • IP Rating: IP67
Cons
  • Relatively Low Resolution: 320x240
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No night vision support
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • No optical zoom
  • No smart home integrations
DH-TPC-BF5401N-B
Awards
  • Highest rated camera listed with Heat Map
Data Type
IP
Resolution
720p HD: 1280x720
Power Options
PoEDC Power
IP Rating
IP67
Storage Options
microSDNVRNASFTP

The Dahua Thermal Network Bullet Camera is another reasonably priced alternative for recording thermal signatures.

The thermal system incorporates an uncooled Vanadium Oxide Microbolometer sensor with a maximum resolution of 400x300. The lens is a fixed-focus type (or, as Dahua like to call them: an athermalized focus-free lens) with three options for focal lengths ranging from 7.5mm, 13mm, or 25mm.

The enclosure has an IP67 rating and is meant for large-scale industrial applications such as power plants, airports, and farms to monitor intruders and accidental fires. The <40milli-Kelvin thermal sensitivity, fire detection, alarm interfaces, and ePoE support are just a few features that help this camera achieve such precision over long distances.

Pros
  • Storage Options: microSD, NVR, NAS, FTP
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection, Object Detection, Heat Map
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power
  • IP Rating: IP67
  • Two Way Audio Functionality
Cons
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No optical zoom
  • No night vision support
  • No smart home integrations
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • No inbuilt spotlight
Data Type
IP
Resolution
768x576
Power Options
PoEDC Power
IP Rating
IP66
Storage Options
microSDNVRNASFTP

Axis’s Q1941-E camera is an add-on thermal security camera that’s supposed to be mounted on the AXIS T99A11 Positioning Unit (PT base).

The AXIS T99A11 PT mount supports continuous 360° horizontal panning with 135° ground-to-sky vertical tilting. The PT base includes RJ45 (Ethernet) and SFP (Fiber Line) interfaces for long-range wired communication. Also, it has a built-in heater that warms up the device when it’s freezing outside.

The Thermal camera (AXIS Q1941-E) utilizes an uncooled Micro Bolometer sensor with a thermal sensor resolution of 384x288. However, the exported footage is upscaled to a maximum resolution of 768x576. (Although this depends on the focal length of the thermal camera and the processing power of the PT mount.)

With a <70mK thermal sensitivity and a maximum focal length option of 60mm, the camera system can detect humans from as far as 1.7km (5820ft). Hence, the primary use-cases for these thermal cameras include on-land industrial applications such as airports, factories, and power plants.

Pros
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection
  • Motorized Tilt Feature
  • Storage Options: microSD, NVR, NAS, FTP
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • IP Rating: IP66
Cons
  • No smart home integrations
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No night vision support
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No optical zoom
TNO-3010T
Awards
  • Highest rated camera listed with Sound Detection
Data Type
IP
Resolution
320x240
Power Options
PoEDC PowerAC Power
IP Rating
IP66
Storage Options
microSDNVRNASFTP

The TNO-3010T is Hanwha’s alternative to a more budget-friendly and general-purpose thermal camera.

The thermal module on this camera includes an Uncooled micro-bolometer sensor with a maximum resolution of 320x240 at a 2.7mm fixed focal length. Although these mixed specs do not qualify for most conventional (long-range) industrial applications, it is a more attractive solution for SMB (Small to medium-sized businesses) zones.

Also, the thermal sensitivity is slightly higher at <60mK with the thermal camera monitoring a wider 92° horizontal and 65.5° vertical FOV.

The camera system has an IP66 rating, IK10 impact protection, and a corrosion-resistant NEMA4X, making it a viable alternative for most on-land SMB sites such as workshops, farms, estates, and offices.

Pros
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power, AC Power
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Heat Map, Sound Detection
  • Storage Options: microSD, NVR, NAS, FTP
  • Two Way Audio Functionality
  • IP Rating: IP66
Cons
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No smart home integrations
  • No night vision support
  • Relatively Low Resolution: 320x240
  • No inbuilt spotlight
TB9330-E
Awards
  • Only camera listed with Integrated Microphone
Data Type
IP
Resolution
384x256
Power Options
PoEDC PowerAC Power
IP Rating
IP67
Storage Options
microSDNVRNASFTP

Vivotek’s TB9330-E is another thermal imaging camera with focal length options ranging from 8.8, 19, 35, and 50mm. The system utilizes an uncooled VOx sensor with thermal sensitivity of <50mK.

The resolution for the thermal camera is 384x256, while the upscaled resolution maxes out at 960x640. Also, the camera has a typical spectral range of 8-14µm.

Unlike many other thermal cameras on this list, the Vivotech TB9330-E has ePTZ functions with 5x built-in zoom and 4x additional digital zoom via the browser application (IE plug-in). Hence, maxing out at 20x digital zoom with electronic panning and tilting.

This thermal camera is better suited for long-range industrial applications such as electrical substations, farms, factories, etc., especially when considering the (relatively) high resolution and the mid-range focal length options (8.8-50mm).

Pros
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • IP Rating: IP67
  • Two Way Audio Functionality
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power, AC Power
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection, Sound Detection
  • Integrated Microphone
Cons
  • No night vision support
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No optical zoom
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Cannot automatically pan
Data Type
IP
Resolution
640x480
Power Options
PoEDC PowerAC Power
IP Rating
IP66
Storage Options
NVR

The FLIR FB-695 O is a solid industrial-grade thermal camera with Long-Wave Infrared support. Therefore, this device can detect infrared radiation within the 8-14µm wavelength.

The thermal sensor is the well-known VOx Microbolometer with thermal sensitivity of <50mK. The camera has an athermalized lens with a 4.9mm focal length. Therefore, it is a relatively low-range thermal camera best utilized for SMB installations.

Also, it has an effective thermal resolution of 307x200 with a 12µm distance between each pixel. Regardless, the exported upscaled resolution value is 640x480.

Pros
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power, AC Power
  • IP Rating: IP66
  • Storage Options: NVR
  • Data Transmission: PoE
Cons
  • Relatively Low Resolution: 640x480
  • No integrated microphone
  • No night vision support
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Cannot automatically pan
NHT-8001-F17VS
Awards
  • Only camera listed with Ethernet data
  • Only camera listed with People Counting
Data Type
IP
Resolution
640x480
Power Options
AC Power
IP Rating
IP66
Storage Options
microSDFTP

The Bosch DINION IP thermal 8000 is another high-end option that utilizes an uncooled VOx sensor with a pixel density of 17µm. Also, its thermal sensitivity is <50mK and exports the final footage at 640x480 resolution.

The system is available for purchase within 9, 16.7, 35, and 65mm focal lengths and it supports a maximum framerate of 60fps with fixed 37.5° horizontal and 28° vertical FOV. Also, it can detect humans from as far away as 1033ft. (According to the DORI designation).

Considering the wide range of focal lengths and the resulting maximum distances it can detect objects, this thermal camera is a highly feasible solution for long-range industrial applications such as factories, substations, power plants, etc.

Pros
  • Storage Options: microSD, FTP
  • Two Way Audio Functionality
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Object Detection, People Counting
  • IP Rating: IP66
  • Data Transmission: Ethernet
  • Power Options: AC Power
Cons
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No smart home integrations
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • No optical zoom
Data Type
IP
Resolution
2MP: 1080P / HD: 1920x1080
Power Options
PoEDC Power
Night Vision Type
InfraredFull Color (via Low Light Sensor / Tech)
IP Rating
IP66
Storage Options
microSDNVR

Alibi’s ALI-NT4002R model code designates its dual-lens thermal and optical 2MP security camera.

This Alibi thermal camera is more reasonably-priced than other industrial-grade thermal cameras. However, it has a lower effective thermal resolution (160x120 upscaled to 320x240) with a 6.2mm focal length. Therefore, it has a relatively lower range and detail, making it more ideal for SMB applications. (Office buildings, residential zones, estates, workshops, etc.)

Nonetheless, one of its more attractive features is the picture-in-picture preview, wherein it combines the optical footage and thermal footage to create a more detailed final result. Everything is captured in full color, with the significant thermal signatures highlighted for better readability.

Pros
  • Night Vision Support: Infrared, Full Color (via Low Light Sensor / Tech)
  • IP Rating: IP66
  • Storage Options: microSD, NVR
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection, Object Detection, Heat Map
Cons
  • No optical zoom
  • No smart home integrations
  • Cannot automatically pan
  • Does not have an integrated siren
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No inbuilt spotlight
H4
Awards
  • Only camera listed with Battery option
Data Type
IP
Resolution
640x512
Power Options
PoEDC PowerBatteryAC Power
IP Rating
IP67
Storage Options
microSDNVR

Avigilon’s H4 thermal camera utilizes an uncooled VOx microbolometer lens with an effective resolution of 320x256 with the ability to upscale it to 640x512. The thermal sensitivity of the system is <60mK with a spectral range of 8µm to 14µm (conventional long-wave infrared).

The device can be purchased in varying focal lengths of 4.3mm, 9.1mm, 18mm, and 36mm; hence, depending on your requirements, you can set up this camera in either SMB or long-range industrial locations. Also, the footage is captured at 8.6 frames per second.

The 4.3mm lens can detect humans from 224ft away, whereas the 36mm lens achieves the same level of detection but with almost four times the distance. (from 1017ft away)

Pros
  • IP Rating: IP67
  • Data Transmission: PoE
  • Smart Motion Detection Features: Person Detection, Vehicle Detection, Object Detection
  • Storage Options: microSD, NVR
  • Power Options: PoE, DC Power, Battery, AC Power
Cons
  • No smart home integrations
  • No two-way audio feature
  • No integrated microphone
  • No inbuilt spotlight
  • No motorized tilt functionality
  • Does not have an integrated siren

Decision Factors when Choosing a Thermal Security Camera

Spectral Range

Spectral range denotes the infrared wavelengths that the thermal camera can detect. Most industrial-grade sensors have a spectral range of 8µm to 14µm, which generally implies a temperature range of -4℉ to 302℉ (-20℃ to 150℃). So if you are going through the specs, we highly recommend making sure that your preferred thermal camera system meets this range.

Camera Range

If you have a specific requirement, say detecting humans from a kilometer away (3280ft), you will need to check for the effective DORI ranges in the camera spec sheet. Most brands will give you a comprehensive list of the human and object DORI ranges (detection, observation, recognition, and identification). However, if no such information is provided, you will have to rely on external sources. Fortunately, the bulk of thermal cameras on our list offer several lens options ranging from 7mm-50mm. (Which is the industrial-grade standard for long-range detection.) 

Field of View

Since horizontal and vertical FOV angles change with focal length (and most brands offer thermal cameras with different focal length options), it’s not accurate to say that a certain model has an exact FOV value. Therefore, it’s best to check the spec sheet for the FOV that matches the focal length. Typically, for low to medium-range video surveillance, we recommend going for cameras with a horizontal FOV that averages at 50° and a vertical FOV that sits around 45°. Lower FOVs are used for extreme-range telephoto applications and are not common in thermal security camera systems.

IR resolution

Similar to conventional optical resolution, the thermal resolution also gives us an accurate value on the number of pixels the thermal camera can record. Higher resolution will always imply more pixels and greater accuracy. However, most thermal cameras (especially ones without a bi-spectrum lens configuration) will upscale the resolution to a higher value, such as 640×512, for better readability. Therefore, make sure to note down the effective infrared resolution apart from the resolution that the footage is exported in. (Typically, this is almost half of the upscaled resolution value.)

Thermal Sensitivity (NETD)

Thermal sensitivity, otherwise referred to as the Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference, denotes the minimum temperature difference you can observe through the thermal camera. The smaller the NETD value, the more sensitive your thermal camera is going to be. (Regarding temperature changes in the scene.) For most surveillance applications (detecting intruders, fires, and abnormal temperature changes), a NETD of <40mK is more than adequate.

Common Questions related to Thermal Security Cameras

Can thermal cameras work in sunlight?

Yes, thermal cameras can work in daylight without any issue because they look for heat instead of light.

Can thermal cameras see through smoke?

Yes, as infrared waves emitted due to heat can easily pass through smoke, rain, mist, and fog, thermal cameras can easily see through smoke, making it very versatile over short-wave conventional infrared night vision.

Can thermal cameras see through walls?

Unfortunately, walls are where thermal cameras draw the line since heat/infrared waves will not be able to pass through walls effectively.

Do thermal cameras record footage in color?

No, thermal cameras cannot record footage in full ambient color. Instead, they utilize several preset color palettes, with the black and white scale (White Hot) being the most commonly used for video surveillance. Other well-known palettes include Ironbow and Rainbow (the red, yellow, and blue palettes). However, the available color palettes change with the brand and model of the thermal camera. However, most of them default to the White Hot palette. 

Can I use thermal cameras for my home?

Although we haven’t listed many of them on our list, there are thermal cameras that are dedicated to the SMB and the residential consumer sector. These usually have low focal lengths (less than 7mm) and include lower effective resolutions (typically averaging at 160×120). Nonetheless, they are still more expensive than the usual low-wavelength infrared night vision cameras, and their high-range capabilities will be underutilized. 

How do I size up a thermal camera?

Thermal cameras are mainly categorized according to their maximum detection distances. More often than not, thermal cameras with focal lengths of 2mm-10mm are recognized as short-range devices. These are typically used for SMB locations where the maximum range need not exceed 328ft (100m). Cameras with greater focal lengths (ranging from 7mm-50mm) are used for industrial applications, with maximum detection distances peaking at around 3280ft (1km).

Conclusion

So, that is our list of the top ten thermal security cameras. Hopefully, you learned about the notable differences between thermal and short-wave infrared vision and caught a glimpse of some of the widely-used industrial-grade security cameras.

What do you think of our top pick? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Hikvision

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Thermal Security Cameras”

  1. Hi
    I am looking for Thermal PTZ cameras -5 km detection range for surveillance use.
    Can you suggest the best choice available .
    Thank you very much

    Reply
  2. Hi
    I am looking for a thermal camera to monitor heat sources like electrical cabinets and equipments. This means that the camera is positioned at a close range with the object, like 20 – 100 cm away from the heat source.
    Can you suggest some camera for this purpose

    Reply

Leave a Comment