As with all the tools we test here at The Hub we like to get a few weeks of actual jobsite use under our belt before reporting back to you. About a month ago I started using the FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imager with MSX patented multi-spectral technology. Here are the facts and my findings.
It hasn’t been that long since I used to hire local inspection agency to come out to my jobs to do thermal imaging. At the time I would pay few hundred dollars for a couple hours of work which roughly equates to about half of what it costs to own a thermal imaging device today. The technology has advanced to a point where productions of more compact, very capable hard and software has brought these devices/cameras well below $1K. Wait, what?! Yeah, my first camera was a little over two thousand dollars and I went half in with a contractor friend to share the costs; not really knowing if the investment would ever pay off.
The FLIR C2 retails for $699 making it an excellent buy for any contractor looking to add the benefits a thermal imaging device brings to the ever-growing tool bag. After having owned a couple thermal imagers now I cannot imagine not having one available. Challenges such as locating radiant tubing embedded in a slab or below a floor and hot spots on heat exchangers are often effortless tasks when you’re armed with these devices.
Using the FLIR C2 Thermal Imaging Camera
Right out of the box the FLIR C2 is intuitive and extremely easy to use; producing excellent images straight away. Similar to any compact automatic camera the C2 captures digital image of a scene but simultaneously captures a thermal image with a simple push of one button. The C2 is auto-focusing.
Above are both the digital photo and the thermal image I captured of a radiant manifold in a client’s garage. Both images are captured simultaneously and can be compiled side by side with the free FLIR Tools software.
The rugged rubber like body cover of the C2 not only provides some level of protection but also makes holding on to the camera a little easier. The backbone of the C2 is the FLIR Lepton thermal core, which it shares with other recent products including the FLIR ONE for smart phones, and the FLIR TG165 Imaging Thermometer.
The resolution of the Lepton in the C2 is 80 x 60, for a total of 4800 pixels. Each pixel is sensitive to 0.10 °C temperature variations–that’s excellent thermal sensitivity for a camera that fits in your pocket. The overall imaging and measurement range for the FLIR C2 is from 14 to 302 °F (–10 to 150 °C). Most users will find this fits well within the needs encountered on the jobsite, whether diagnosing electrical or mechanical equipment.
The wide-angle lens on the C2 allows larger imaging of a scene at in one shot; most users will find this an asset because of the fixed lens [think smart phone camera] on the C2. The wide, fixed lens will produce a clear image of any object over 6” away. The C2 features a 3” capacitive touchscreen.
The C2 uses the visible light camera to create FLIR’s excellent MSX blending technology. MSX mines a visible image for edges, writing, and patterns, then etches these details onto the thermal image. The thermal image retains all of its coloration and information, while the subtle grayscale of the MSX details aid significantly in object identification. To ensure that MSX works even in dark conditions, the C2 includes a bright LED flash which doubles as a spotlight.
All thermal images on the C2 contain full radiometric data holding a ton of potential information. When downloaded to the FLIR Tools software [included free for both PC & MAC], each pixel in an image can deliver temperature data using multiple measurement options. You can add multiple spot meters, area boxes with min/max/avg and more. I’d be wrong not to emphasize how impressive it is for a thermal imager at this price point to offer radiometric data and full software support. Creating professional reports and organizing images is easily accomplished with FLIR Tools. Although I have yet to try it a surprising feature of the FLIR C2 is its ability to stream live video to a computer running FLIR Tools. This may be helpful when analyzing a problem across multiple load conditions. Video streaming from the C2 is not radiometric.
The FLIR C2 thermal camera can store 500 full sets of images (thermal, visible, MSX) to internal flash memory. A conveniently large button on the top of the camera, making one-handed use of the C2 quite simple, captures images. Images can be reviewed directly on the camera, easily toggling between the various versions of any image. All images are stored as JPEG files, giving users great flexibility in how and where to use the pictures. Download of the stored files is accomplished through a micro USB cable connected to any MAC or PC.
Overall the C2 is more than just a novelty and a huge step forward for thermal imaging devices priced below $1K. If you have been shopping for a portable, versatile camera and want it loaded with features offered by much higher cost models then take the time to check the C2 out. If you have anything to add to this review please do not hesitate to leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.