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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  • pulse - Sunday, May 3, 2015 - link

    "The pixel array in the microbolometer is usually encapsulated in a vacuum to increase the life of the device." this statement is half correct. Actually array has to be encapsulated in a vacuum or else the air will conduct heat and will prevent system to work as an imager. When you keep the sensor area under vacuum and connect it to read out circuit with very thin electrical connections you remove the conductive heat and let the sensor area heat up just with the radiative heat; hence the termal imager... It has nothing to do with longevity of the device. And also vanadium oxide is usually called as VOx in the industry instead of VO as many oxides of vanadium is showing thermal phase transition which is the physical basis of the system. Reply
  • pureengineering - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    anyone interested is messing around with a thermal sensor should checkout the flir lepton sensor.
    http://www.pureengineering.com/projects/lepton

    in my unboxing I compare the seek vs the flir. and the flir comes out on top in terms of noise and image quality. http://www.pureengineering.com/blog/seekthermalcam...
    Reply
  • aritai - Saturday, May 16, 2015 - link

    Someone should do the bench work comparing a range of cell-phone cameras after removing the IR filter (embedded in the covers) for each camera. And see just how well they do even with glass lenses. Especially in very dark (and cold) settings. I think we'll be surprised. I suspect purpose built cameras are needed only when there's a need to derive an actual temperature (not relative temp). Reply
  • Wwhat - Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - link

    Look at replies to a few other comments here that confuse the two ranges of what we call IR.
    Or check wikipedia.

    To be short: the IR of normal camera sensors don't see radiated heat like thermo cameras do, it's a different frequency range.
    A list of related frequencies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared#Commonly_us...
    Reply
  • thermalEntusiast - Sunday, May 31, 2015 - link

    can we buy this item if we live in asia? i thought this item is non exportable Reply
  • Beoir - Saturday, June 20, 2015 - link

    Ahhhhh. Anyone happen to remember that the older cheaper Cameras used for photography can also see in the NIR?
    I've an old 3 MP camera that would probably do a better job. I'll sell it to you for 5 bucks.
    Reply
  • FrancoB - Monday, August 31, 2015 - link

    nice gadget, for professional use i would probably look for one of the other devices available out there. like this one :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEImRa_zX-M Reply

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