About 10 years ago, I bought my first thermal imaging camera. It came with a hefty price tag of about $6000. It took a long time to convince me of the value it would bring to my business but I have never regretted the investment—not only because of the services it allowed me to offer my clients but also because of what I have learned about buildings from using it.
Cost and quality
As Moore’s Law foretells, the price of such diagnostic tools is dropping year over year while their capabilities grow. HIKMICRO is a relative newcomer to the broad market here in the U.S. When I first became aware of them, I was a bit skeptical; I knew they could easily be another low-quality importer that would leave me dissatisfied. So, I reached out to the company and learned that they are one of only two global manufacturers of the infrared sensors that are used in these types of tools; and they are a large and trusted company outside of the U.S. They talked the talk, but I wondered if they walk the walk. I have now had my hands on four different infrared (IR) cameras from HIKMICRO and have found all their tools to be of excellent quality and functionality.
The HIKMICRO’s Pocket 2 model, which retails for $600, is meant to be an entry-level option that slips right into a messenger bag or truck console. It’s approximately the size of a smartphone with a touchscreen display on one side, lenses on the other, and two buttons (power and camera shutter) along its top edge. It’s charged via the increasingly common USB Type-C connector system, and it comes with a durable protective case.
Features and practicality
Don’t let the camera’s size fool you; its performance capabilities are significant. The strength of any thermal imager lies with the IR sensor, and this one has more than enough resolution to accomplish any task that a builder or energy analyst would need. The sensor has nearly the power of my original multi-thousand-dollar camera that now collects dust in my office. The onboard control menus are simple and intuitive to navigate. Images can be downloaded via USB-C sent via WIFI or Bluetooth to the HIKMICRO app. The app is super useful too. On a recent investigation, a team member took the camera into a tight crawlspace, where it live-streamed what he was seeing directly to my phone. I was able to guide his work, take image captures remotely, and hear him through the onboard mic; there’s even a way to communicate through a phone to whoever is holding the camera.
In the past few years, there have been a handful of small-form IR cameras coming onto the market, so why should you consider this one? For me, the key factor with any IR choice is sensor resolution—the more the better. The Pocket 2 offers more than double the resolution (49,152 pixels vs. 19,200 pixels) compared to its competitor (Flir C5) and it does it for $100 less.
My Pocket 2 has been in my work messenger bag since I got it about a month ago, and it’s going to stay there for the foreseeable future. It’s an essential tool for a price that should be attainable for most small business owners.
Ben Bogie is a second-generation high-performance-building obsessive working as a project manager for BPC Green Builders of Wilton, CT.
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