C2 Comparison and review.... Dave Andersen, This is for you! :-)

Before purchasing, I knew the C2 was more of a consumer grade device rather than professional use. I was hoping that it could at least be used as preliminary investigation tool with limitations. Unfortunately, I can’t even endorse the product for that. The resolution is so bad that the only useful purpose in a professional diagnostic realm would be quick scans of conveyor bearings to find already failed bearings or otherwise high contrast applications… and certainly not for predictive maintenance inspections.
The really surprising fault was the MSX technology and the fact that it introduced false visual artifacts into the thermal image which appear to be thermal data. That can certainly lead to misinterpretations of the thermal data for those that are inexperienced or lack quality training. In all honesty, I didn’t see this fault until I put the two images (with and without msx) side by side for this thread! According to Flir, MSX stands for “Multi Spectral Dynamic Imaging”.
From their website:
“MSX produces better texture in a thermal image. Thanks to this new feature more anomalies can be detected, analyses can be done more detailed and conclusions can be drawn in a split second. MSX incorporates real-time thermal video enhanced with visible spectrum definition. It produces exceptional thermal clarity to highlight exactly where the problem is. MSX ensures easier target identification without compromising radiometric data. The quality of the thermal images is excellent. There is almost no need anymore for a separate digital image. FLIR’s new MSX embosses digital camera detail onto thermal video and stills. Due to the new MSX feature, thermal images look sharper, the orientation of the target will be done quicker, the reports are clutter-free and it ensures a faster route to solutions.”
(Bold red is my edit)

While it is true that the images look crisper, I find the rest of their claims to be misleading at best… and dangerous to the inspector with very little training or experience in thermal imaging. The embossing by nature will add artifacts to the image that either aren’t present in the thermal spectrum, or become over-exaggerated apparent anomalies/exceptions. By Flir’s indication, MSX does not compromise the radiometric data in the image. So in a low contrast application (small delta T), you end up with a crisp embossed photo over an otherwise poor quality thermal image. Exaggerated shadows, artifacts, and all.
Because of the time sensitive nature of real estate transactions, inspectors who utilize thermal imaging (myself included) aren’t always going to have optimum thermal inspection conditions. In fact, a large majority of time the conditions are poor or in a state of transition when we perform the inspection. It’s inevitable and often beyond our preferred control. Someone with poor training, little experience, and certainly a low resolution camera under these conditions,** will** have a difficult time, miss things, or worse yet, interpret them incorrectly. And just because you have Level I or II training doesn’t necessarily equate to having gained adequate experience in residential and commercial structure applications, and that you are immune to the shortfalls of the C2 limitations. In fact, not long ago I researched an inspector offering thermal imaging for a client who was level II certified; however, his sample report lead me away from referring him to the client. He was using a higher resolution camera than the C2, but he had images of just about every window in the structure reported as active moisture intrusion. In the image examples, he had arrows and circles identifying the doubled or tripled framing below the window corners as the active moisture and leaks. It was clear that he had little construction or inspection experience with the thermal camera based on his misinterpretation of the thermal data. The detail in his images was clear enough to discern framing from moisture. The detail in a C2 image would not be as clear even with MSX, and could easily be misinterpreted as moisture and register a false positive with a moisture meter.

I provide this example as I have heard from other inspectors that they are trained level X or XX and can accurately interpret the C2 findings. As an experienced thermographer, I find that statement humorously optimistic. While quality training is necessary, *experience *and *quality equipment *is as important if not more so. And in my humble experience, using the C2 in my own home was like donning a pair of glasses that blurred my vision. I could clearly discern the exterior wall studs and drywall screws with the Fluke TiX520, but could barely even locate the studs with the C2. Conditions were ~70°F inside and 51°F outside, which was more than adequate for my TiX520. Using the C2, I felt severely limited in my ability to accurately identify even known insulation deficiencies in my own home.

I can certainly appreciate the low cost attraction to the C2 for inspectors wanting to add thermal imaging to their services… but as the saying goes… “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low cost is forgotten.” My advice to those who already own this or are considering a purchase of the C2 or Flir’s new offering of C3 with wifi capability… use caution and tread carefully! Just because it’s made by Flir or is called a thermal camera doesn’t necessarily mean it is an ideal choice for professional inspectors and finding concerns you otherwise couldn’t “see”. Flir makes some EXCELLENT cameras! As does Fluke, and Testo, and several other manufacturers. The C2 (or C3 for that matter) is not intended for inspectors to make accurate calls or interpretations by any means. The MSX technology is nice, but with an 80x60 detector resolution, it will not improve the thermal results. It simply converts a really poor radiometric image into a really poor embossed radiometric image with false thermal-appearing artifacts. Nothing more.

For many more comparison images, please visit: http://nacbi.org/community/index.php?threads/flir-c2-review-and-comparison.1726/#post-4452


Thank you for your insights Bill.

You’re welcome Chuck!

Oh man lol…but nice post Bill!

Thanks Bill, nice and informative post. I haven’t tried the C2, and really don’t plan to, even as a backup. I do like the fact you can you just put these in your pocket though.

Good post, thanks for sharing Bill!

Thanks for your analogy Bill, well done.