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With the Seek Thermal CompactPRO the docking thermal imagers for smartphones (Android and iOS) are pushing forward in the professional field. Compared to the Seek Thermal Compact XR, it has a significantly improved resolution and can therefore also stand out from the competition FLIR ONE.
In our extensive review, we have tested the device thoroughly and tell you whether the purchase of the “PRO” version is worthwhile and what the small high-tech gadget really can do.
The Seek CompactPRO – test
Unpacking, first use and impression
The Seek Thermal CompactPRO is a successor version of the Compact XR and is very similar to this plug-in module for smartphones. Essentially, the sensor resolution was significantly increased. The CompactPRO model is available in the USA for the first time since mid-2016.
The small addition “PRO” should make it clear that more professional users are addressed here. In fact – as our test shows later – this thermal imaging camera with sharp pictures in the price category 1000 euros really stands out. Nevertheless it is to be seen as a device for hobbyists and outdoor fans with high demands. For the “PRO” version, Seek thermal also requires a considerable additional charge compared to the Compact XR. The “FF” stands for “Fastframe” and is a new technology of the thermal sensor.
Compatibility and scope of delivery
There is a version for Android phones and for iPhones (5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6s, 6 Plus, 6s Plus). The connection of the smartphone attachment is therefore made either via the micro-USB port or the Lightning connector.
As with the “small brother” Compact XR, the scope of supply is sparse. The robust storage box is very difficult to open, but waterproof according to the manufacturer. With the supplied key ring it can be carried along at a key collar or belt. This protects the valuable CompactPRO. The actual manual is integrated into the app in the form of videos and documents.
A slight change, however, can be seen in the external appearance. The lens is slightly recessed in the wheel and is therefore probably better protected. Also the color was changed to red for distinction purposes.
For our test we use an iPhone 5 16 GB. The CompactPRO is recognized immediately after being plugged in. The operating system suggests installing the appropriate software.
It is only necessary to give the app the necessary rights and you can start in the shortest possible time. With Android users the whole process works similarly and one loads the appropriate app from the Playstore. The plug-in module can be connected to the lightning connector in two directions. This makes the iPhone version with the CompactPRO ready for thermal selfies.
What is immediately noticeable at the first recording is the continuous calibration, which is expressed by a click at a distance of 2 seconds. An internal shutter closes for a short time to compensate for self heating. For some this may be disruptive. According to experience, the noise is no longer perceived after some operating time. Unfortunately the autocalibration can cause jerks in the app while in the recording mode. Also the video is affected.
Pictures and test
When you take pictures, you have to ensure that the focus is set correctly. To do so, turn the rotary knob provided for this purpose – depending on the distance of the object – until clear edges appear in the image. You do not need to be a perfectionist here. Usually a certain margin is sufficient for most distances. Only in the case of very wide or near objects do you really have to turn a lot. After a short “learning phase”, the focusing is internalized by the user. However, you should take your fingers from the device every time in order not to generate thermal radiation going to the sensor!
The improved sensor resolution immediately becomes noticeable and you can detect many small details much better. Distortions in the images has improved significantly and the images look smooth and detailed. The graininess and the noise have largely disappeared. The CompactPRO can shine especially with close-ups. As an example, hairs (about 60 μm in diameter) are recognizable, which have a lower temperature than the skin surface.
The CompactPRO is based on the new version of the Seek thermal app in version 2.0. The surface looks somewhat slimmer and the symbols are (unfortunately) not so self-explanatory. However, anyone who has already worked with a thermal imaging camera quickly find the meaning behind the symbols that are not accompanied with text. New is the display of a temperature scale with the corresponding colors of the chosen color palette. This scale can also be configured in a corresponding setting.
In the following, we present some infrared images that have been taken during the test of the CompactPRO. They are intended to give an impression of the resolution and the sensitivity of the sensor in various test objects:
Rotation, battery and setup menu
If the rotation lock of the mobile phone is deactivated, the app turns with the rotation of the smartphone. The temperature scale always appears to the left.
The battery consumption subjectively seems to have been reduced compared to the Compact XR. If you take pictures you get with the iPhone 5 about 1 hour lifetime. In video mode somewhat less. Of course these values depend on the battery age, the running background services and the selected display brightness.
In the app, you can easily switch between image and video by wiping to the right or left.
True image-combining is unfortunately not on board at the CompactPRO. This would have required a second, visual camera in the module. Consolation, however, provides the good thermal sensitivity with which the smallest temperature differences can be detected. Also, the displayed absolute readings seem to be very accurate. In addition, you can set the emissivity coefficient in the app settings in four levels. It is great that the actual value of the emissivity coefficient is also given.
The settings can be adjusted to your own preferences. For the temperature units have the choice between Celsius, Fahrenheit and Kelvin. The display format can be set as either 16:9 or 4:3. Sending user data is opt-out. In addition to the already mentioned emissivity coefficients, there is also a submenu for “Picture & Video”. Optionally, the GPS meta data can be stored, the temperature scale can be switched on or off, activate image smoothing or switch on or off colors at edge temperatures.
There is also an additional submenu for the watermarks. Here are some options:
- Date and Time
- Seek logo
- Serial number
Unfortunately, the gallery view in the app looks a little thin. Sorry, no zoom possible. Fortunately, the infrared images are also made available at iOS under “Photos”, where you can view them at will.
As with all thermal imaging cameras, a function at night is just as possible as it is at daytime. Since no image-combining is available, ie no visual data is processed, only the infrared rays are detected. However, it is helpful if there are major temperature differences between target object and background. A running pet can be detected more easily in winter than in the summer. Often even at night larger temperature differences are to be reached, if one wants to absorb living beings with the thermal imaging camera.
Die verschiedenen Anzeige-Modi
A popular representation variant is the insertion of a crosshair in the center of the image for spot measurement. The measured temperature is displayed next to the measuring point. This allows you to simply direct the crosshair to the target object to immediately read the object temperature.
In this mode, the app software immediately scans for the coldest and the hottest spot in each frame and marks it visually. This is very helpful when tracing people from a distance or during the technical examination for hot spots.
As the name suggests, this is the default display when taking pictures. On the left side you can see the upper and the lower temperature points with the temperature scale displayed. According to the operating instructions, this display mode is optimized for maximum thermal consistency by means of automatic exposure control.
The full-frame mode is somewhat unclear. The temperature values associated with the temperature scale are decomposed more finely. The image is also somewhat finer granulated. This mode is useful for more accurate thermal analysis. In this mode, the maximum clarity of the thermal image is achieved.
Span and values
The app in version 2 even allows a free setting of the temperature scale as is also possible with the FLIR ONE. It is not only possible to set the upper and lower temperature points, but also to move the entire color palette up or down.
This function is very handy to test electronic devices and mechanical components. If components can not exceed a certain permissible operating temperature, just adjust accordingly with the rotary knob. Now pixels in the image are displayed which are “warmer” than the threshold temperature.
Here, only pixels with a previously set temperature are highlighted. This can be of help in chemical processes as well as in the food industry. It is important to remember that in reality there is no exact temperature and that this is a temperature range of 1 Kelvin!
This function is convenient in indoor spaces to quickly detect cold spots. If, for example, a piece of wall is not allowed to fall below 15 degrees Celsius, set the lower threshold accordingly. You get instant visual feedback and the cold places are displayed in blue when the right color palette is chosen.
Show visual data / split-screen
In this experimental mode, one can display the visual image of the digital camera of the smartphone. In the test, there was no great value to this. The alignment and the zoom are not so good, and unfortunately the border was not moveable.
Wide range of color palettes
With the new version of the Seek Thermal App the user of the CompactPRO has a similar selection of color palettes available as with the “little brother”.
In the test, we counted the following color schemes:
The right palette for every purpose
This selection is by no means a technical gimmick. A clever choice can significantly improve the display performance. The following example shows a macro image of a house spider whose body temperature has almost completely adapted to the environment. This “camoufles” them, so to speak, for preditors with infrared vision. In the “Iron” color representation, it is actually difficult to determine because the color sequences in the components change only slowly. Contrary to the palette “Prism” which has a high orthogonality and strongly hilights very small temperature differences.
If you want to use the thermal imaging camera as night vision equipment in the dark, use “White” or “Black”. “Amber” and “Iron” are quite good too, because they are easier to interpret for people than “Prism” with strong color fluctuations. If hot spots or technical defects are to be tracked, “Hi” or “Hilow” are suitable.
Video recording with the Seek Thermal CompactPRO
The quality of the frames in the test was quite positive and was comparable to individual recordings. Subjectively, the framerate is however much lower than the 15 Hz stated in the data sheet. In addition, intermittent interruptions occur because of the aforementioned calibration procedures in the video recordings. The following 83-second test video requires about 28 MiB of space on the iPhone. A glance into the file properties of the video on the PC states a framerate of only 5 Hz. The app was able to handle the landscape view very well in the test and there were no other difficulties with the video recordings.
The Seek Thermal CompactPRO FF has a resolution of 320 x 240 pixel. This is a high value for the price class. Further the manufacturer gives a range of 550 meters (1800 feet), up to which a 15 cm object can be detected.
The field of vision (FOV) is 32 ° and thus lies between the Compact Standard Range (36 °) and Compact XR (20 °). The covered temperature range has remained the same at -40 ° C to 330 ° C (-40° F to 626° F) and should be evaluated as praiseworthy.
The weight is 14 grams and dimensions of 25.4 x 44.5 x 25.4 mm (H x W x T). The lens consists of chalcogenide glass and the microbolometer of vanadium oxide.
The sensor achieves a thermal sensitivity of less than 70 mK with a spectral range of 7.5 – 14 μm. According to the manufacturer, the CompactPRO consumes 280 mW of power. FastFrame technology gives the manufacturer a refresh rate of more than 15 Hz.
The high resolution of the CompactPRO is great for any application. This makes it possible to detect and detect objects that are particularly distant. But at close-ups it helps with details too.
In our test, the CompactPRO was able to demonstrate its strength in the examination of electronics. Thanks to the freely adjustable focus, SMD components can be easily tested for thermal irregularities on printed circuit boards.
It is perhaps the ideal device for enthusiasts to audit a PC thermally. For the most common devices in the electronics, a powerful investigation with the CompactPRO can be achieved and you do not have to ponder – as with the <100 pixels thermal imagers – what you actually photographed.
In interiors, you should calculate for a certain distance, which is necessary, for example, to monitor a window or a door completely. In the test this application case was passed with satisfactory results. The missing image-combining has a negative effect, because you can not easily recognize borders and ends of windows, etc.
Animals and sports
The CompactPRO is, however, particularly suitable for veterinary or sports research. Details and temperature differences can be clearly seen. Image-combining is not necessary in these applications, since, of course, the investigated objects give edge-rich images. Inflamed spots on the movement apparatus can be detected due to the locally elevated body temperature of the animal.
In the case of the detection of missing animals and on the hunt, the achievable depth of sight can be compared with the Model Compact XR at large distances to the object.
Depending on temperature differences, small pets can be found behind bushes and branches.
At medium distances to the object, the CompactPRO provides good images. This is the case, for example, when examining solar modules on photovoltaic parks.
- Seek Thermal CompactPRO thermal imaging camera
- Hard plastic, splash-proof storage box
- Key ring for storage box
It is recommended to buy a mounting frame for this plug-in module. This allows the device to be mounted separately on a tripod and connected to the mobile phone with an extension cable. This results in sharper images because jitter is reduced. This maximizes the achievable image quality. Likewise, the object can be kept in the same field of view and slow processes can be followed beautifully.
Conclusion – Seek Thermal CompactPRO Thermal Imaging Camera Module
With the CompactPRO, the manufacturer Seek thermal is launching a new era in terms of resolution and price per pixel of thermal imaging cameras.
The plug-in module has become affordable for security services, hunters, hobbyists and builders and is a powerful device. You just need to have an Android phone or an iPhone 5 or better.
Small weaknesses are: the still somewhat difficult to use app and the lack of image-combining. For the price category, however, you probably will not get a thermal imaging camera with a better thermal resolution than the Seek CompactPRO. Therefore, there final rating is “excellent” and one can confidently this device.