Gadget Review: Seek Thermal Compact Infrared Camera

by @edent | , , , , , | 1 comment | Read ~147 times.

Winter is coming! And, as such, I want to check which parts of my house are leaking heat. So, the natural solution is to buy an Infrared Camera and point it at things!

The Seek Thermal is a curious beast. While you can buy Android phones with built in thermal cameras, and dedicated devices, this is an add-on. Plug it into your existing phone, download an app, and off you go. In theory!

A small camera with a big lens.

Here's a quick selfie!

Why a selfie?

It's backwards!

If you get the USB-C version, you can plug the camera in for either direction. Great! If you have the micro-USB version, you're stuck in selfie mode. Boo!

Quite why Seek decided to put the connector on this way, I have no idea. There are only a handful of phones where this orientation makes sense.

Improvise Adapt Overcome!

I picked up a cheap OTG adapter. Note: make sure that it is a sync or OTG adapter. Otherwise the camera won't work.

Camera connected to a dongle connected to a phone.

A bit ramshackle, but it works!

Here's a photo of my wife drinking a hot cup of tea.

Photos are 960x1280 resolution and about 600KB - so won't take up too much space on your phone. Weirdly, images are stored in /Pictures/Seek Thermal/ rather than the more normal /DCIM/ folder.

Accuracy

Here's a photo of a mug of boiled water and an ice-cube tray.

The mug glows red, an indicator shows the contents are 77 degrees. The ice cube tray is black at 4 degrees.

That's pretty good! To be honest, I'm not using this for precise measurements - I'm looking for thermal disparities. You can set it to Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.

App

The Seek Thermal app is a little basic. It works, but isn't great to look at. It mostly links to lots of videos on how to use it.

You will need to set your device to USB OTG mode - and give the app permission to talk to the camera.

Pop up asking for OTG permissions.

You can choose a variety of overlays - including max and min temperature. You can also add location metadata to the photos and, for some reason, the camera serial number.

If you don't like the default colour palette, that can also be changed.

My face rendered in lots of colours.

Usage

Again, basic but workable. The camera makes a constant clicking noise while in operation. Apparently that's normal - but sounds a bit weird. You're unlikely to take surreptitious photos with it. Their FAQ says:

There’s no need to worry, this is simply the noise your camera makes while you are shifting it between different fields of view. The noise you are hearing is the camera focusing and calibrating the image to achieve the highest resolution possible.

There is a manual focus wheel on the camera. It seems to adjust the picture, but I'm not sure how yet.

Video

It also does video.

Apparently, the frame rate is restricted to 15fps due to international munitions sanctions...!

Compare and Contrast

This is a cheap camera. Here's what an expensive FLIR camera produces:

That's much clearer - but about twice the price. Speaking of which...

Cost

About £260 for the micro-USB version. If you want higher resolution, expect to pay significantly more.

Youch!

Verdict

This is a bit of a luxury purchase. If you want to see where your house is losing heat, or if there's a hot wire in your walls, or if your radiators are heating up - it's a cool gadget. The app is a bit basic, but works.

Being able to tell the body temperature of strangers leads to some interesting privacy questions.

Would I pay full price for this? No. But if you can pick one up second hand, or borrow one from a hackspace, they're fun and useful. As winter draws in, I'm going to be seeing just how good our home is at retaining heat.

Thanks

Many thanks to Brie for the generous gift.


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