Several years ago, I had access to funds from a grant to purchase a FLIR E40 IR camera for demonstration purposes for our science department. I use it every quarter in astronomy and physics when I discuss the electromagnetic spectrum and we have also used it for outreach, sharing the science of light and heat with the general public.
When I heard that the automotive department purchased a Seek Infrared thermal camera for use with their iPads, I couldn’t wait to check it out and compare it to our big IR camera.
The Seek camera is so cute and tiny. I had to remove my iPhone 6 from its cover to plug it in. I downloaded the app and allowed it access my photos and I found the app very intuitive and easy to use.
It has a focus ring that takes a little practice to get nice crisp images. There is no zoom so you have to move back and forth to frame your subject. It works forward-facing and, if you unplug it, turn it around and plug it back in, it works backward-facing as well.
Since the Seek camera attaches to the bottom of the iPhone, the regular camera taking normal photos is on the top which creates considerable parallax if you are close to your subject. Note the difference of position of the subject (Molly) in the frame for the IR and the regular camera.
I think she’s asking, “Do you have a snack?”
There is more detail and contrast with the FLIR and there is more depth of field in the image. The Seek camera does allow you to find the temperature of spots like shown on the FLIR here, but I didn’t have it set in that mode. The following sets of photos are from the FLIR and Seek cameras.
Light fixture with fan and compact fluorescent bulbs
Hand prints on the wall
With the Seek thermal camera, you can record videos as well as take photos, you can split the screen between the regular camera view and the IR camera view, and you can take measurements of temperature based on the IR readings.
The FLIR E40 was originally sold for $3995 and the Seek IR Thermal camera is sold for $249. It is worth noting that FLIR came out with an IR camera for mobile devices before Seek. The FLIR ONE can be found for the same price as the Seek and has many of the same functions, but has one neat feature where it blends the IR and Visible camera images so you get an outline of objects to help you understand what you are seeing with the infrared.
So, all in all, I am tremendously impressed that you can get the quality of the IR images on the cell phone, especially for the price of the device. If you are teaching a science class and do not have the funds to get an expensive infrared camera for demonstrations or classroom activities, the IR cameras for mobile devices may be a viable alternative.