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


View All Comments

  • Phiro69 - Sunday, May 3, 2015 - link

    I think you nailed it on the head, thebeastie. It really smells like the reviewer was told to review it and has no passion/interest in the field.

    A review like this would never have seen the light of day under Anand; I believe this is a harbinger of the content of Anandtech now that Anand has left and the site was sold to Tom's Hardware and the new management consists of ex-executives from CNET and Ziff-Davis, I'm removing my Anandtech bookmark. It's been a great ~15 years (yes, I've been reading it that long), but all good things come to an end.

    -Kelly Schoenhofen
  • ganeshts - Sunday, May 3, 2015 - link

    Kelly, Thanks for your valuable feedback - which, btw, tells me nothing that should have been added to the review.

    As for the original comment - I added a new section with pictures after that comment was posted.

    I challenge you to find a review of the Seek Thermal camera on any other site which :

    1. Gives a concise overview of how thermal imagers operate
    2. Track power consumption numbers of a system to which the Seek Thermal camera attaches itself / app is activated.
    3. Continuous use of the Seek Thermal camera for other reviews (we use it in all our passive PC thermal design evaluation if you can follow the link that has been posted in the review)

    The only feedback aspect from other readers - that has been taken note of and immediately responded to (I actually have plenty of thermal images from the Seek Thermal - but, most were taken without the camera image at the same time - so not fit to present for comparison purposes)

    I look forward to your response.
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    "The Seek Thermal camera connects to the microUSB port of a smart device, and hence, the measurement of the power consumption of the camera is quite challenging."

    Rubbish. Use an in-line USB current monitor, together with the necessary adapters/leads (whichever is most convenient) to connect it to the Android device and the IR camera. That will give a quite accurate continuous reading of how much current the camera itself is using. Given that USB should be more or less 5V, converting that to Watts is straightforwards.

    Measuring the voltage and current drain from the Android device's battery as you did introduces not just factors related to the power the tablet itself is using, but also how efficiently it can provide the 5V to the USB socket, which will vary from device to device.
  • ganeshts - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    'Challenging' is always relative. Most people don't have the stuff that you mention at hand. Once I had the proper SSH server installed in the tablet, my script to track, record and plot the power consumption took less than 15 minutes. - all I needed was a PC to run the script / SSH client on.

    Also, tracking power consumption for the system as a whole makes sense - we don't really know how much of the post processing is done via software on the app side compared to the hardware inside the thermal camera.
  • ganeshts - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    Forgot to add: The tracking of the power consumption of the system helps in estimating how much battery life would be impacted if one were to keep, say, running the app's preview from the thermal camera continuously (obviously assuming that the battery capacity is known). Tracking the power consumption of the camera alone doesn't provide much benefit to the readers. Reply
  • Shalmanese - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    "A few cases are provided below. It can be seen that the temperature is not very accurate - for example, skin temperature is reported to be around 32 C, when it is obviously around 37 C."

    Your internal body temperature is 37C but exposed skin is much cooler, generally around 27 - 35C because it's constantly radiating heat. This can be trivially confirmed by noticing that you armpits and inside of your mouth are much warmer than the back of your hand or your forehead for example.

    I just checked with a reference thermometer and the side of my arm was 31C and my cheek was 34C, so a reading of 32C is fairly accurate.
  • ganeshts - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    Very much possible. Thank you very much for your feedback. I have updated the relevant section of the piece to refer to the obviously erroneous -13 C in the refrigerator compartment. Reply
  • sor - Sunday, May 3, 2015 - link

    Why is ice cream at -13C obviously erroneous? My freezer is set to -18C, and the solids in there are pretty close to that. I would expect the average freezer to be in the -10C to -15C (15 to 5F) range, unless we are talking about a crappy mini fridge/freezer combo. Reply
  • sor - Sunday, May 3, 2015 - link

    Oh, I see. You say your freezer is set to 0C, a setting that in practice probably doesn't even keep the contents frozen. In that case it IS off the mark.

    Sorry, most freezers I know of in the US have settings around 0F.
  • blue_urban_sky - Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - link

    It does look like you have something in the fridge at around 6 deg C which will kick on the cooling. I would imagine that it has a binary cooling system that is cycled to maintain the approximate temp. This may mean that -13 is not so far out.

    You could invest in a cheap thermometer from amazon ;)

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