Gadget Porn: Thermal Cameras Getting Cheap!

August 24th, 2012

Cheap is a relative term, but let us discuss it first before dealing with the sticker shock.

Back about ten years ago, I spent nearly $6000 on a used FLIR thermal camera and generation 3 military night vision goggles (PVS-7B), with 3/4 of that on the thermal camera.  I spent too much on the thermal, but the $1500 on the night vision was an excellent buy.

What can you do with the gadgets?  Well, for an astronomer, the night vision is totally awesome.  You can spot the Andromeda galaxy at a glance, see meteors and satellites too faint for the naked eye, pick out binaries and star clusters with ease, and see the evil clouds coming up sooner rather than later.

The thermal camera has been fun out camping and for different kinds of demos in class, for instance:

The thermal infrared is something like wavelengths of 7-14 microns.  Convention night vision (when you see those green images, like my PVS-7B goggles) only goes out to about a micron — it’s light amplification, NOT mid-infrared or the thermal infrared where warm objects radiate.

The light-amplifying night vision technology has not gotten a lot cheaper.  If anything, it’s had slight improvements in capability and in price.

Thermal cameras on the other hand…

I’m astounded that the prices have continued to drop and it’s now less than some of the night vision.  Now, it’s low-resolution, and you’re not going to see objects in the sky, but it’s a damn cool gadget at a thousand or two thousand dollars, if you must have toys like this, like me.

You might do a little better than amazon going to ebay, where I originally bought my cameras.

I’ve linked to FLIR products, but there are some competitors. I”m familiar with FLIR who made my camera, and less familiar with some of the others, but they’re probably fine, too, if you’re just looking for an awesome toy.

I always am!

 

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