Are IR-only Camera's close to extinction?

This technology is almost depressing for our career field but it really does make sense. There really isn’t all that much electronics packed into our current IR cameras an most of it is for the microphone, screen, focus, buttons, zoom, etc…or basically everything a smartphone already has built into it. A new smart phone is actually far more advanced in electronics than an IR camera is. Providing an IR lens/attachment to an Iphone or Ipad and then providing an App to compute with the IR Lens attachment will soon be the new way we’re using thermal imaging to inspect.

This camera can be bought right now for $150 through the below link. The pics look great and 120x160 isn’t bad for $150. The company is already working on new lens or IR attachments for higher resolution an lower sensitivity attachments. I’m sure they’re a ways off from anything close to 320x240 but as fast as technology is advancing, it could happen way sooner than later.

It want be too many more years before we’re pulling out our Ipads, hooking our high-tech IR attachment lens to them, and then scanning stuff while using the Ipad screen for viewing an operation.

Call me crazy but just wait, it’s coming.

Need to make that read Andriod.

That’s an awesome find Brandon.

I asked chuck Evans about that camera around a month ago. He said he said its crap. I trust Chuck.

Ummm… I don’t think this one is the magic bullet that brings IR to the world on the cheap :smiley: I imagine the sensitivity is about crap on it, maybe .25 (just guessing) like looking for marbles in milk.

Believe me, I’ve used cameras that were close to 4 grand and felt I was looking through fog when compared to the T series camera I use. That’s that for now.

Sounds too good to be true… we shall see.


“W’e’d love to see those docs now, if only to figure out how a thousand dollars of infrared sensor is crammed into a $300 device.”

Brandon has been lamenting the continued development of better/lower cost infrared imagers for years now, thinking it would be the death knell for professional thermography. Of course us “early adopters” came into the field due to advent of “cheap” uncooled microbolometer technology. My first imager was a $22,000 unit. You wouldn’t even want to consider what the price of the old cryogenically cooled short waver imagers of a few years prior were.

Technology development is unstoppable. Capabilities will continue to increase and price points will continue to decline. You can ride the wave or be washed over by it.

I personally believe that better, cheaper imagers will have about the same industry destroying affect on professional thermographers as the digital camera explosion has had in destroying the field of professional photography.

It’s time to move beyond the crap firmware/software and secret proprietary formats of existing offerings into a more open realm anyway.

Hadn’t thought of it that way… well said!

I just don’t see it…for a few reasons.

Our largest growing sales segment in IR is the $8k+ range and $20k+ range.

The demand for IR cameras will never be remotely close to digital demands. Which translates to higher production costs. Economics 101.

People taking digital images will never have to interpret them like we do.

People taking digital images don’t have to worry what their back ground is before they take an image.

Even in this day of 1080p video and 13mp cameras in phones, professional photographers still exist.

The cost of 160x120 and all but one offering in 320x240 has gone up, not down, in the past year.

Very interresting links guys.


I’ve been hearing the argument about how cheap digital cameras haven’t destroyed the professional photography career-field for years now but I just don’t see it.

If you look at the history of photography than you will clearly see that as digital cameras became cheaper and more advanced, the ability for someone to make a living as professional photographer rapidly declined.

Just look at the number of job opportunities that have been eliminated because of the availability of cheap advanced digital cameras. Professional photographers use to be absolutely essential where-as now 75% of the jobs that use to be done by professional photographers are now done by ordinary people with high tech cameras.

-Jails or prisons used to have to hire professional photographers to come out an photograph prisoners.
-People use to have to go into actual photography studios to get family portraits done.
-Students use to have to go to the photography studio to get their school pics made.
-Parents use to take their kids to professional photographers every year for portraits.
-People use to spend a small fortune on different picture packages provided by professional photographers.
-Kids sport teams use to hire professional photographers for team portraits where-as now the coaches wife or one of the kids parents take the portraits to save money.
-Professional photography use to be an actual career choice in the military but now it’s simply combined into the numerous other career choices.

I could go on and on and on with examples all day but you should get the point. Cheap, high-tech, easy to use cameras didn’t destroy the photography industry but they have nearly destroyed the opportunity for a new person to become successful choosing photography as a career path.

I don’t know of even one single professional photography studio that hasn’t closed it doors years ago. The tons of jobs that use to be done by a professional photographers are now done by ordinary people. 10x’s more people now go into photography as a hobby than an actual career choice. 100x’s more people buy a camera as a useful tool or an additional helpful item than something to try an make a living with.

I also understand the argument about the need to interpret thermal images, however, IR cameras are becoming so advanced that the knowledge needed to use them is rapidly declining. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to use today’s IR camera’s on basic jobs like finding moisture or air intrusions.

I’m not trying to say the thermal imaging industry is dying. I’m actually thinking it will be 20x’s larger within 20 years from now. Just look at the number of companies that have already started using their own in-house IR cameras vs. hiring outside professional thermographers. Potential jobs for professional infrared thermographers has already started it’s decline.

Thermal Imaging is taking the same path that digital photography has taken which is great for the manufactures and people selling the equipment but not so much for the people who are trying to make a career out of using it.

We also have the argument about how prices want fall all that much lower on high-end cameras. The camera I use today obviously wasn’t available 10 years ago but one with similar resolution would have been over $40k. Basically similar resolution cameras were able to drop $33k in price in the past 10 years. At the rate of current technology advancements, it would almost be crazy to think we want have .05mk 320x240 IR cameras available in 10 years for way less than $1k.

Say what you want but all major indications point towards IR cameras becoming a cheap common tool used by all trades vs. remaining a high-end tool used by mainly professional infrared thermographers.

None of this is anything new. Technology advancements have been eliminating jobs and careers since the beginning of time. It just kinda sucks thinking my job might be next in line. Only time will tell.

If one is simply looking at IR as an add on service for home inspections then I would agree with you. Cheap IR cameras coupled with minimal training will most likely kill this revenue source. Once the novelty wears off it will just be another service expected to be performed by HI’s with no increase in fees but a big increase in liability.
I do not agree that it will it will end the need for professional thermographers. Those that keep up with the advances in training and applications will stay in demand. There are many new fields that will open up as technology advances. Those that stay at the cutting edge will prosper.

A well stated argument I think!

The advent of better, more accessible technology will cannibalize the lower end, least trained of the professional market. If you are the thermography equivalent of a mug shot photographer, then perhaps your livelihood will be at risk. There are still plenty of professional photographers in the world.

I recently did an 800,000+sf 24x7 pipe manufacturing facility that had their own in-house electrical staff. We imaged over 800 devices. One of our finds was a 15,000kVA transformer that was about to go ballistic. It cost them over $100K to replace it, which they managed to do within a couple of days, but saved many times that in avoiding an unplanned plant shutdown. We will be repeating the exercise annually, based on their experience.

They never asked what kind of camera I had, they certainly had a budget to buy any type of imager that they wanted. What they cared about, were my qualifications.

Cheap imagers may whittle away at cheap business, but is that really where you want to focus your career? Why constantly moan about advancing technology, when you cannot stop it. You should be planning for it. The digital camera revolution created opportunities at the upper end of the market at the same time it eroded the bottom end of the market.

So yeah, if you’re a bottom feeder, you might be at risk.

Sounds like a good weeklong job. I bet you made almost enough on that one job to pay for that $10,000 camera you used for the job.
But the equipment is nothing without a qualified operator. Good job Chuck.:wink:

In my area thermal imaging is already just an expectation of the client for a home inspection, since almost all offer the service and are offering it complimentory.

I’m not necessarily moaning about advancing technology but instead doing exactly what you’re recommending and trying to keep up and prepare for what’s coming.

I wouldn’t say I’m a bottom feeder by any-means. In the past 5 years, I’ve spent over $40,000 on IR cameras, IR training, and IR conferences. I’ll never be a bottom feeder but unfortunately that isn’t going to be enough to ensure a long prosperous future as a professional IR thermographer. When tons of new people flood into a career field than it no longer continues along where-as the most experienced person gets the job but instead the person with the best marketing tactics.

I’m not arguing with the point your making and even agree with a majority of it. We’re on the same side. I realize that there will always be opportunities for professional thermographers but simply not on the same level as today.

I’m not wasting anymore money on IR classes revolving around moisture detection and basic IR applications that every tradesmen with little to no training will be able to provide (within 10 years) with a Home Depot IR camera. I’m trying to prepare for a longer future and look more into training on more advanced IR applications like gas analysis/detection and even breast cancer screening.

I believe your 100% correct about many new IR applications coming into play so we may be alright after-all. Who knows! I believe I worry about my future a tad bit more than many of you due to my age. I’m only 32 years old so I’m trying to look 30 years down the road where-as many of you are just trying to make it another 10 or so years. That makes a HUGE difference.

The below links sorta explain the direction we’re headed much better than my opinion. If you read some of the comments at the end than you’ll see that experience and training didn’t stop a large majority of the professional photographers to go belly up.

So many comments, so little time… :smiley:

What happened to your career as a helicopter pilot? Now you’re gonna buy a $80,000 camera to do IR gas detection? How much for a boob camera?

Same thing happened with Web Development. Back in the day when hardly anyone knew anything about getting an HTML page on line or how to design a web page, business and individuals hired someone to design build and host their web presence.

First there was Front Page and then came many others along with three dollar a month or free… hosting services. Pretty soon everybody and their mother were web developers in including the business owner who now had his 14 year old kid build a web page for his business for the tidy sum of his ten dollar a week allowance.

Sure, there are still pro photogs and web developers out there out there but not like it used to be. Back in CA I had a pretty successful event and aerial photography business. Aerials are still a bit more involved but shooting events? Say bye bye. Over time, every single person there was all of a sudden an event photographer and some had some pretty nice equipment, all sharing there photos for free on SmugMug or some other photo sharing service.

I suspect the same will happen with IR one day. Sure, the high end commercial stuff will be hired out just like pro photography but in time, general purpose IR cameras will be a dime a dozen just like pro grade DSLR’s. And cheap too.

No different than any other technology… they will bring it to the massess for less and less money.

IR is certainly a science and most won’t go that deep to really learn the technology. Doing basic qualitative analysis is fairly simple. I remember a time with computers were perplexing to most people. Now?