FLIR has its fingers in a whole host of pies within the realm of thermal imaging, creating tech for everything from military and industrial applications to something your garden-variety geek can slap onto their smartphone.
The company’s FLIR One consumer cameras have become the go-to offerings for individuals who want to add a taste of thermal imaging to their assorted gadgets without an insane price tag, with the second-generation (2015) FLIR One being a mainstay of Recombu’s own testing and review pipeline.
Two years on and the company is back with not one but two new third-generation offerings; a new FLIR One and the FLIR One Pro.
If you’re in the market for a device like the FLIR One, you’re likely one of three general user types: the first is simply an enthusiast who likes the idea of toying with a thermal camera because let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to have a go at playing the Predator?
Second is a hobbyist or handyperson looking to leverage a thermal camera in a DIY-based situation for added safety, whilst the third is someone such as an independent tradesman or contractor who, most likely, carries out electrical, structural or plumbing work and would benefit from adding thermal imaging to their personal arsenal of kit. Anything more involved will likely be covered by one of the company’s more robust (but costlier) solutions.
FLIR One Pro Review: Should you go Pro?
For most, the standard third-generation FLIR One should fit the bill, but for that third user type the Pro is the way to go, even if it still needs a little work.
Both new systems share in their support for reversible Lightning or USB-C connectivity (giving you iOS or Android compatibility respectively) and you can now thankfully adjust the amount of parallax between the thermal and RGB cameras, however, it’s only the Pro that benefits from superior image fidelity by using the company’s own VividIR technology.
You can also adjust the gain to more easily distinguish between different temperature ranges, making it better suited for use in a wider array of environments as well as being able to toggle between a thermal-only or an RGB-only view in place of being locked into the combined MSX (FLIR’s brand of multispectral dynamic imaging) view offered up by the standard FLIR One.
The Pro also lets you view on-screen metering of the actual temperatures in real-time as either a repositionable rectangular or circular ‘region of interest’, or as up to three spot meters that can each track independent values simultaneously and be moved anywhere within the viewfinder.
FLIR One Pro Review: The app
The early access version of the new FLIR One app we tested alongside the FLIR One Pro is definitely still in need of tweaking before its final release; that said, it’s a nice upgrade on the existing App/Play Store offering in a number of ways. We’re just hoping the outstanding ‘quirks’ are ironed out before it officially goes live.
FLIR has done a great job placing detailed how-to and use-case videos front and centre when you first open the app up, as well as placing additional tips and tricks alongside links to supported third-party offerings all on one screen. FLIR’s also clearly looking to build a community now, aggregating the knowledge of its existing user base over social media and the like so that others can more readily learn about the benefits of the company’s latest wares.
Plug in the camera and you then have full access to the app’s viewfinder in camera mode. Along the top (in portrait) you’ll find options for metering points, controlling the flash, setting timers and a battery readout for the FLIR One Pro’s integrated cell, whilst tapping the slider icon in the bottom right brings up additional options that let you switch view mode or thermal colour palette, adjust the parallax, flip the image for selfie-style shots or adjust between high and low gain for working closer to the upper and lower fringes of the Pro’s thermal range. You even have the option to view what the Pro is seeing via your smartwatch (Apple Watch or select Android Wear devices).
Lastly, the FLIR One Pro supports three modes: photo, video and time-lapse, accessible from above the shutter button, whilst there’s a gallery shortcut to the side of it.
Photos viewed from within FLIR’s own app retain both the thermal and visible light data captured from each of the Pro’s two sensors, so you can drag over the thermal still to reveal the more conventional RGB photo.
Despite its logical layout the only real hiccups with the app in its current state is that select menus like the settings and time-lapse options can clash atop one another, making it nearly impossible to select the element you want, whilst the ‘home’ section doesn’t always land you back on the app’s primary screen without a bit of tapping around or simply relaunching.
Provided FLIR can iron these bumps out before launch, however, the app’s functional layout and design are intuitive enough that it should simply be a case of plug-and-play for most new users.
FLIR One Pro Review: The hardware
The Pro is arguably the toughest of the FLIR One range thus far, featuring a hardy plastic design with strengthened corners and edges meaning it can withstand drops from up to 1.8 metres, although FLIR does include a protective case in-box for good measure too.
Along with the new FLIR One the Pro is also easier to plug into a wider range of handsets versus its predecessors thanks to the company’s new OneFit adjustable connector; letting you alter its height with a twist so that you can even slot into case-laden smartphones without issue; a smart move considering the conditions it’ll likely be used in and the likelihood of users already protecting their phones with a case.
On the performance side, the Pro’s thermal sensor captures in a 160×120 resolution, making it the sharpest in its class with a temperature read range of -20°C to 400°C. The visible light sensor meanwhile shoots in 1440×1080, although actual image quality isn’t going to give your smartphone’s native snapper cause for concern and in low light, using the flash will almost always be the recommended course of action.
The FLIR One Pro charges via its own USB-C port on the underside, next to the power button and can be fully replenished in about 40 minutes. As for longevity, the start-stop nature of real-world use makes it hard to pinpoint just how long it’ll last on the job, with a 15 minute time-lapse draining the cell by 20 percent in our tests and FLIR promising an hour of use between charges.
FLIR One Pro Review: Verdict
Both the FLIR One Pro’s camera and software still feel a little unfinished at this early stage but the primary functionality is intact and overall it delivers on what FLIR promises by giving you a significantly improved and more accurate smartphone-friendly thermal camera than we’ve ever seen before.
At £329.99 the FLIR One Pro isn’t going to be approachable for most hobbyists but that’s where the more affordable (£179.99) third-generation FLIR One comes in instead. If you’re still looking for a genuinely useful thermal imager for your work, however, the Pro is an impressively competent and versatile offering.