Seek Thermal - Hardware, Setup and Usage Impressions

The Seek Thermal camera comes in a nicely packaged box which includes a compact storage case. The gallery below shows the packaging and the camera housing. The housing is made of magnesium and the lens has a 36 degree field of view. The camera is quite lightweight at 0.5 ounces. In terms of dimensions, the unit has a length of 2.75", depth of 0.84" and height of 0.84".

The Android version of the camera works on any Android device with a micro-USB port supporting USB OTG (On-the-Go) where the USB port can be in the host mode. Unfortunately, Android phones don't have a standard orientation or placement for the microUSB port. On the HTC One M7 and M8, for instance, the thermal camera tags on to the phone facing the same side as the screen. With the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy phones as well as the Dell Venue 8 7000 series tablet, there were no issues in getting the orientation of the camera right.

The Seek Thermal Android app has gone through multiple feature updates and bug fixes over the last few months. In the initial days, the app would consistently crash, but it has recently been rock-solid on the multiple devices that I have tested it with (LG G2, HTC One M7, HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Dell Venue 8 7000).

The gallery below shows some screenshots of the app in action on a LG G2 back in November. Note that we have emissivity control - i.e, the software is aware of the efficiency with which infrared energy is radiated depending on the material. This helps in determining the correct temperature of the material. The reference 'black body' has an emissivity of 1. The Seek Thermal camera has a shutter that passes in front of the lens periodically for recalibration based on the surrounding temperature. This makes a clicking sound which is frequent during the initial usage. After warm-up, calibration frequency is reduced.

In any case, this emissivity control seems to be missing in the latest screenshots taken while the app was running on a Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet.

The various interesting aspects of the app are evident in the screenshots above. It is possible to take still images as well as videos. In the latter case, 16:9 settings provides us with 720p video at 13 fps, while 4:3 gives us a 832 x 624 video at 14 fps. However, the real frame rate is less than 9 fps due to export restrictions on VO-based microbolometers. The photo / video can be in different thermography modes - normal (regular thermal images), spot (average temperature around the center spot), high / low (highest and lowest temperatures in the focus area) and threshold (different color for temperatures above/equal to/below a particular temperature).

Seek Thermal's target market includes a host of applications:

  • safety and security (scanning areas at night before venturing out)
  • home improvement (heating / insulation evaluation, water damage tracing, clogs tracing)
  • pet maintenance
  • cooking
  • boating and other outdoor activities

PC builders and DIY enthusiasts are not in the list provided by Seek Thermal. However, regular readers of our passively cooled PC reviews must have seen seen photographs from the Seek Thermal camera in the thermal performance evaluation section. The camera provides an affordable way to monitor the temperature of the chassis in order to ensure that things are not overheating and creating a hazard.

Introduction to Thermal Imaging Sample Thermal Images
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  • soccerballtux - Monday, May 4, 2015 - link

    oh, sorry, I def don't bother reading before commenting, and I'm not trolling, I really don't Reply
  • III-V - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    There's some in the second gallery, with the images from the camera hooked up to the Dell tablet. But yeah, the LG gallery was basically useless... Reply
  • icrf - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    I bought one a few months ago and took a variety of pictures. I initially got it to check for water infiltration behind my basement wall, and to check for insulation problems in my new house. Didn't find much in either case, but it's still a neat toy.

    Here's a wood fire in my fireplace, doors half closed. It shows the cropping of out of range heat sources: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-0nI7vvE2kss/VMF...

    Here's the piping from my water heater (it's a forced induction model, the large diagonal pipe is the exhaust, and the house originally had radiators, hence the distribution block above, but is still using the hot water for hydronic heating, ie, pipes going across the room is going to the forced air system): https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-DOkKb4enigY/VMF...

    Speaking of the force air system, here's the piping that is the radiator: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ZpLEEC3JM40/VMF...

    Here's the poor circulation in my hand: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-S_2o-FJkBF0/VMF...

    A friend's dog: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ZfoakkyVmZg/VMF...

    My gas range after cooking something: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-vWoxkzCWCAs/VMF...

    Cooking a sandwich on an aluminum griddle: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-IpDCRdtM_24/VMF...

    Selfie, mouth open, but inhaling through my nose (it was neat to see the change when inhaling/exhaling): https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-SAf2x2-4vMk/VIR...

    My girlfriend wearing a down jacket and glasses taking a drink of water from a bottle: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-T6RqL-dhM0Q/VIR...

    I have a neat video of water boiling, but that's a little harder to link to.

    Also, I have a Moto X and a Nexus 7, and their USB plugs face opposite directions. I use the phone for normal pictures, and the tablet for selfies. Works out pretty good.

    Any requests?
    Reply
  • edwpang - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    Pretty cool! Reply
  • bp2008 - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    I have two of these for Android, and a $20 Nubee non-contact thermometer from Amazon. The Seek thermal cameras are both the same; they read consistently about 8 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the Nubee.

    After months of inaccurate readings, there is still no way to calibrate the temperature shown on-screen and in snapshots or videos.

    I have not measured properly, but the frame rate feels like it is below 6 FPS (even on FAST android devices), and it drops a frame every time it self-calibrates (every few seconds) so its video is inconsistent and choppy.

    It also does a poor job of seeing fine temperature differences, compared to more expensive thermal cameras. Sure, it will pick a cat out of the bushes just fine, but it will not show you the studs behind drywall nearly as well as a more expensive thermal camera.
    Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    ICRF , do you by chance have an empty field or something, that you could see if a dog, or cat shows up at 100 ft, or more in the dark? Reply
  • icrf - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    There's a gallery up on the mfg's website with a bunch more random photos: http://www.thermal.com/gallery/

    I remember when I bought it, pre-user gallery, they specifically had one of a guy hopping a fence from 50 feet away. I'm leaving on vacation tomorrow for a week, so probably won't have the option to find something nice. Best I could do are my neighbor's dogs in their fenced in yard.

    Daylight or dark shouldn't make much difference. If anything, dark would be easier to spot, thermally, because the background might be cooler.
    Reply
  • blue_urban_sky - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    I have 2 requests, Could you take a pic of boiling water with the reported temperature and also a glass of water with a lot of ice cubes in again with the temp reading. Thinking ice in water should equalise to roughly 0 deg C.

    Looking to get accuracy so also altitude of the tests if you have it :) or your rough location and I'll find it.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    How does it do if you point it inside your desktop? It would be interesting to find hot spots that aren't being cooled properly. Reply
  • FYoung - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    Those photos are neat, icrf. Especially the one of your hand. Reply

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