NO, THIS ISN’T the all new all thermal camera review site. It’s still the same old Dot Physics. However, I have trouble saying “no” when someone asks if I want to look at their new infrared camera that attaches to a smartphone. I know, it’s my weakness.
This week’s camera is the Therm-App for Android phones. The other IR cameras I reviewed (Flir One and Seek Thermal) were great. They both allowed you to look at things in a different light (literally). However, this Therm-App is a little bit different in two different ways. It has a higher resolution (384 x 288) as well as a 19 mm lens for viewing objects in the distance. But wait! It’s also quite a bit more expensive. The base price is around $1600 dollars.
Before I get into more details about the Therm-App camera, let me just remind you of my summary of what infrared is and what you can use it for.
What is the Therm-App like?
This camera (like the other smartphone cameras) attaches on the outside of a phone. However, this one only works with Android phones. The camera is large enough that it needs some sort of mounting onto the phone. The Therm-App comes with a small clamp-like thing so that it can fit on any Android phone.
Oh, a quick note. The Therm-App only works on Android phones that support USB OTG (onTheGo). Here is a list of supported phones. The camera also comes with a pistol grip—which I like quite a bit. You can see that the Therm-App is much bulkier than the other smartphone IR cameras. It’s especially bigger once you include the pistol grip.
There is one thing that all of these smartphone cameras are missing – a bypass charger. For all of the IR cameras I have reviewed, you can’t use the camera while the phone is charging. It might not seem like a big deal, but in case you haven’t noticed, smartphone batteries suck. If there was a way to both use the IR camera and charge the phone, you could use this for extended periods of time. That would be cool.
Once you get the camera attached to the phone and download the Android app, it works as you would expect. It gives you a nice IR image – there are a few different color palettes to choose from, but I always like “iron”. Here is an image.
Another big difference with the Therm-App is that the 19 mm lens has a manual focus. Adjusting this lets you get very sharp images at different distances. I guess I should also add that there is also a 6.8 mm lens that would make it much easier for you to see things that are much closer, but this lens must be purchased separately.
There is also the option to measure the temperature using cross hairs in the middle of the screen. The accuracy of these measurements is about the same as the other cameras: +/- 3°C. One big difference I noticed is the lack of shuttering to calibrate the temperature measurements. The Therm-App is factory calibrated and doesn’t need a closed shutter every once and a while like the other IR cameras.
Does it record video too?
Of course it does. This is my dog.
I probably should have used a tripod, but I didn’t have time. I think it is awesome that you can both see where the dog was on the floor as well as see his footprints where the floor gets warmer.
How far can it see someone?
Really, this is mostly a question of resolution. You can detect IR light from very far away – in fact you can see the clouds and moon and they are both far away (though the moon is much farther). So, in order to detect a person you mostly need the camera to have high resolution. The magnification power of the 90 mm lens helps. So, with this, Therm-App claims you can detect a person around 500 meters away.
Here are some kids at soccer practice. I’m not sure how far away they are, but they aren’t close.
Wait, this is even cooler.
This is a Blackhawk helicopter that flew overhead. Notice that the rotor blades are warm (that’s why you can see it). I wonder what this would look like on a very cold night.
So, this can be used for night vision?
Yes. It actually does a very nice job of seeing things in the dark. It seems that the resolution is high enough that small changes in temperature in the background let you still see a lot of stuff. I was really surprised at how well this worked.
Are there other cool apps for the Therm-App?
As far as I understand, right now there is just the one Therm-App app. However, there is a SDK so that other applications could be created.
For the review on WIRED website click here