The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Seeing in the Infrared: The Seek Thermal Camera

I have neglected this blog for a while, but vow to do better! And I have a really fun entry today.

Infrared cameras have been around a long time but have always been very expensive. Even a low cost Flir camera starts at about $1000. I have had the opportunity to borrow infrared cameras for work and have always enjoyed playing with them and wanted one for myself.

Earlier this year, Seek Thermal announced a new camera that attaches to your cell phone (both Android and IOS) for $200. It looked promising and I decided to take a chance and order one from Amazon.

The first thing I will say it it took a while. They were overwhelmed with orders and it was backordered for several weeks. Part of the reason I ordered from Amazon is they won’t charge you credit card until the product ships (some people complained they ordered from Seek directly and their credit cards were immediately charged even though the camera was backordered).

My camera finally arrived on Monday. I downloaded the app for my cell phone (free), plugged in the camera and it took right off giving me infrared images. As you can imagine, the first thing you do is take a selfie.

img_thermal-1107409294You can clearly see warmer and cooler parts of my face. It’s hard to take a selfie since the camera points away from you! The resolution of the camera is pretty low…only about 32,000 pixels (compare to many megapixels for modern cameras). However, that is normal for infrared cameras to have a much lower resolution and some of the entry level Flilr cameras have resolutions of under 5,000 pixels (such as the Flir E4 which starts at $995) so I would say they are doing pretty good for the price point.

When I got home, of course the cats were instantly the subject of pics. They both have cold noses.

img_thermal1550530536img_thermal992005676

A picture of my television and entertainment center. I believe you can tell where the LCDs are located behind the screen from the heat signature. The big heat source beneath the television is my stereo receiver and the DVR is on the shelf below that.

img_thermal-1910200754

I went outside. The camera works in the dark of course since it detects infrared instead of visible light. You can tell the difference between the lower level of my townhouse which is exposed brick versus the second story that has siding.

img_thermal1302672591

Last night I went to Jersey Mike’s subs here in Tucson since I didn’t have time to go home for dinner. Couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the grill. I believe that is meat for cheesesteaks on the grill. Looks like the one on the left will be done first!

img_thermal-745333136I have been playing with it. I have managed to see footprints in the infrared and can tell if someone has been sitting in a chair recently. You can also use the camera to measure temperatures of objects. I have used this feature but not done any testing to see how accurate the readings are.

Two minor issues with the camera. I find that if you bump the camera while it is plugged in, it is easy to jostle it enough for the software to lose contact with it. It always finds the camera again quickly so that is not a major issue. The second issue is a software nag. When you plug the camera in, a pop up window appears and asks if you want to allow the phone to access the camera. There is a little box you can check that says always allow this connection. I check that box but it always shows up again and asks the same question every time I connect the camera. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future software release.

The camera will record video as well. However, the refresh rate is only 9Hz so the video will not be very smooth. Again, I have found this true even with the $1000 (or more) IR cameras so you have to pony up a pretty penny to get around this!

Overall, my first impressions are positive andI hope to play with it for a long time! I will take it with me when observing/photographing outside so I have something to entertain myself with while my camera clicks away.

The other issues I should mention is with the iPhone version. According to Seek’s facebook page, Apple has not approved it for use with the iPhone so shipments of the iPhone model are on hold currently and people waiting for that version are not happy. It looks like they are almost caught up with the backlog of orders for the Android version.

You definitely can’t beat the price…this is the first time a decent IR camera has been available at this cost and I look forward to seeing what people can do with it!

November 19, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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