FLIR's Super Low Cost Thermal Cameras

By Ethan Ace, Published Apr 02, 2014, 12:00am EDT

FLIR has been hyping the future of super low cost thermal cameras seemingly forever. 

And yet, it has been a competitor, DRS, who a few years ago delivered a breakthrough in thermal camera pricing at $2,000, while FLIR thermal IP cameras remained $4,000+. 

Now, FLIR has announced a new line of low cost cameras starting at only $499 MSRP, plunging prices to the level of conventional cameras. In this note, we look at these new models, how they compare to existing options, and their potential impact.

New Camera Lineup

The photo below from FLIR's ISC West booth shows the new range of cameras, including the mini and full size bullet cameras, a form factor shared by both thermal and visible cameras (as well as visible light vandal and PTZ domes):

There are two new thermal options in this lineup, both planned to ship in Q2 2014

[UPDATE: Shipping is now expected in Q1 2015]

Mini Bullet

The mini bullet will be available with 25° and 50° lens options, using a low resolution 80x60 Lepton core [link no longer available], originally developed for consumer electronics (including their FLIR ONE iPhone thermal camera). Detection range was quoted by FLIR as about 150' using the 50° lens, though their marketing material states 100'. We plan to test these cameras' actual performance as soon as they are available.

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MSRP starts at $499 USD, far lower than other cameras in their line, and about 75% less than the DRS WatchMaster ($1,999 USD MSRP), previously the lowest cost thermal camera.

Full Size Bullet

The full size bullet will be available in 320x240 or 640x480 resolutions, using FLIR's typical Tau core. Lens options include 90° and 9° in 320x240 and 48° and 18° in 640x480.

FLIR tells us the highest MSRP on these models is ~$1,600 (VGA, 18° lens). This is substantially less than previous FLIR models, with the FC series starting at ~$4,500 for even 320x240 models. 

Existing Series

The FC series is mentioned in FLIR's marketing for this new line as a "PRO bullet", and current models will be maintained. However, FC series cameras are now available with built-in analytics and temperature monitoring (previously only available on the A series). Other models, such as the F and PT series, will be unchanged.

Potential Impact / Competitive Positioning

These new lower priced models are likely to make thermal an option in commercial installations where it was previously cost prohibitive, which typically limited thermal cameras to industrial and critical infrastructure applications. However, their acceptance depends upon detection performance, which remains uncertain without testing.

The main competitive alternative will be integrated IR IP cameras, whose options have dramatically grown at much lower prices over the last few years. We plan to test FLIR's new low cost models against an array of integrate IR ones.

What Do You Think?

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