FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System Review

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Its been about a year now since the company FLIR launched its new calibrated light weight thermal camera, the C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System at CES 2015.

This device really has caught on with people like contractors and electricians due to its very specialized thermal capture abilities, not to mention home users who are interested in taking better care of their homes. 

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Flir C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System

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Some people out there have said you can’t use the C2 for professional use, but we beg to differ.  In fact, that’s mainly what people do use it for, but you’ll have to read on and be the judge for yourself.  

At a glance, this device appears to be some sort of pocket-sized camera and you might even think, once the box arrives, that you’ve just received the latest iPhone, when it fact it is something entirely different.

Ok, what does the FLIR C2 do?  Well, lets start by saying that it is very much like a camera, in that it “sees” things, but not what most cameras see. 

In this case, what you see is a “thermal” world, or you can say you basically “see” temperature, where things are divided into hot and cold. 

Simply turn on the FLIR C2 and touch the screen anywhere and you will get six icons which provide access to the camera’s main functions: Image mode, Image Playback Menu, Measurement Mode, Lamp, Colour Palette, and Settings.

Sounds interesting, right!? Stay with us to find out more about this amazing thermal camera. Here is what we are going to cover today:

Ok! First thing first: Image resolution…


Image Resolution

In regards to the C2’s resolution, if you’re expecting this thing to have the resolution of your average high-tech camera, it doesn’t have that.  But for what it does, it does it very well. 

Images are clearly recognizable and functionally speaking, the FLIR C2 is actually quite amazing. 

You have several different views to choose from, and each one is easy to select and these options make it very easy to do the job that the camera is meant for, which is to assess structures for any sort of issues such as drainage issues, poorly sealed windows, inadequate weather stripping, and more.

Next, we move on to the Hardware. Let’s see what this big boy is made of.


FLIR C2 Hardware

If you are familiar with the FLIR TG165 Imaging Thermometer, or the FLIR ONE, you might know about the FLIR Lepton thermal core, which is like the brain of the unit, and a smart one at that. 

In terms of resolution, thanks to the Lepton, we get 80 x 60, giving us up to 4800 pixels per shot. 

Maybe this does not impress you on its own, but when you combine this with the fact that each pixel of this camera has a sensitivity of variations in temperature up to 0.10 °C, you’ve got yourself a highly useful little device that fits right into your pocket. 

In terms of an overall temperature range for the FLIR C2, it ranges from 14 to 302 °F (–10 to 150 °C).  This will do nicely if you are going to be using it for what you might expect – assessing the condition of a building, or looking at electrical or mechanical problems.   

The FLIR C2 has a wide angle lens, which most customers are happy to see, and which allows for a bigger picture to be captured all at once. 

It will enlarge the pixels slightly but it can be done.  The FLIR C2 is similar in a way to a smart phone camera, with a fixed lens, and it can provide a thermal image detailing anything in front of it that is over six inches away from it quite clearly.

Most users will be thankful for the C2’s wide angle lens, allowing more of a scene to be imaged at one time, even if pixel size is slightly enlarged.

The lens is fixed as on a smart phone camera, and will give a clear thermal image of any object over 6” away.

The C2 aloso features FLIR’s amazing MSX that adds important details from the visible light camera to the infrared image in real time. Stay with us to find out more about this unique feature.


MSX Image Enhancement 

Along with the thermal detector there is a built-in 640 x 480 visible light camera.  When you record a thermal image with the FLIR C2, a visible image is also captured. 

If you are creating a report of any kind, this will come in handy in many ways. 

Even better though is the MSX blending technology that comes built-in to the FLIR C2.  What does it do? 

MSX is designed to help you identify objects by recognizing and then passing on visible details such as writing, edges, and patterns onto the thermal image, resulting in easy to recognize objects. 

If you are using this camera in a darker area, the C2 cameras also comes equipped with an LED flash which can be used as a spotlight.

Next, we move on to the camera storage.


Storage

To capture an image (take a picture), there is a big button on top of the camera with which to do so, and its easy to do this one-handed due to the convenient size of the device. 

The FLIR C2 is able to store up to a maximum of 500 complete sets of images including thermal images, as well as visible and MSX images. 

flir c2 interface

You can review these images directly using the camera, with a menu that is easy to use and toggle between the various images. 

Images are captured and stored as JPEG files, allowing users to have a lot of flexibility with where these images will be stored. 

You can easily transfer them over to your personal computer with the help of a USB cable.

High quality hardware requires high quality software. Keep reading to find out more.


Software

Once you’ve captured an image, you can see that it gives full radiometric data, supplying the user with a great deal of useful information. 

This device comes with FLIR Tools software, where (once its downloaded) you can see that each individual pixel from an image can be measured in various ways. 

The user can even add additional spot meters, showing various min/max/avg information, and more. 

For the price you pay (generally around $700), you are getting a full thermal analysis toolbox in one camera, with detailed radiometric data as well as software support. 

The FLIR Tools software gives you the ability to make professional-looking reports as well, which is a great ability to have if you are using the device for professional purposes – reports definitely come in handy with clients. 

One feature that we really love about this camera is that if you have another computer which has FLIR Tools installed, you are able to live stream to it using your FLIR C2. 

While the video may not be radiometric, a thermal video can still prove very useful if you are trying to assess any kind of issue under one circumstance or another.

Moving on to…


Managing Temperature

While working on the job with the FLIR C2, you can use the standard spot meter with crosshairs to measure temperature. 

If you do not wish to use this feature, you can turn it off at your leisure. 

As it happens, the C2 camera is a consumer application which has the first use of the Lepton core to handle measuring temperature, as opposed to the TG165 which measures temperature through an infrared thermometer on a side mount, and the FLIR ONE does measurements but they are admittedly somewhat generalized, according to its manual. 

With the C2, accuracy is within around 2%.

It is also worth mentioning that the C2 is very easy to use thanks to its capacitive touchscreen.


Menus And Touchscreen

Featuring a three inch capacitive touch screen, the C2 is really quite simple and enjoyable to use because of its interface. 

Only extremely expensive cameras have been able to combine such ease of use with practical functionality, but the C2 here does so at a fraction of the cost. 

Using a menu system has been dubbed “Dark Precision” (now standard), the UI for the C2 is extremely intuitive. 

The way it toggles between thermal to visible, to MSX, to its image gallery is a piece of cake. 

You can also change up the color palette so that it suits you best, including Rainbow, Rainbow HC, Iron, and Black & White (great for night vision). 

There are also menu fields used to correct the emissivity of material as well the reflected apparent temperature. 

In terms of batteries, this unit includes a lithium-ion battery which is rechargeable in about 1.5 hours and lasts for about 2 hours.

So, is this thermal camera worth the money?


The Verdict

While thermal analysis systems using come with a pistol-grip, the C2 challenges convention by using an aesthetic similar to a smart phone-style thermal camera, and lays down a standards that basically says to similar devices “Top this!” 

There isn’t much to dislike about this camera, as some users have mentioned, this camera is set up almost to cater to left-handed users based on where the main button is on the top of the camera, and one other small gripe is the lack of tripod mount. 

There is, of course, always room for improvement perhaps in the resolution department, but considering what you do get, it is rather remarkable. 

Aside from these two things, this camera basically offers you all you might ask for from a thermal tool like this.  Its compact, durable, and highly functional. 

The sensitivity rivals cameras that cost twice as much.  Overall, it is a combination of both form and function that makes this device so appealing, and it comes at a price that is basically quite hard to ignore. 

Our bottom line is if you are looking to analyze thermal patterns either professionally or not, this device is definitely a worthwhile investment.

Thanks for reading!
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