IR vs. Thermal Cameras: Understanding The Difference

IR vs. Thermal Cameras

Thermal cameras and infrared (IR) devices are commonly confused in the community. 
This is owing to the fact that both are very capable – and do indeed share common uses – yet nonetheless, they are indeed ultimately different from one another. Accordingly, to understand how helpful each of these devices can be, it’s important to really understand how they differ. So let’s now look at each of these devices and what they can do. 

So What Does a Thermal Camera Do Exactly?

Put very simply, a thermal camera makes use of infrared light to create an image, which following this will then allow for the viewer to identify where heat is being emitted from nearby, depending on what the camera is showing via its display. Typically, the precise usefulness of a thermal camera is evidenced by their ability to locate hikes who have managed to get lost while out and about in the bush. This is owing to the fact human beings will of course emit more heat than trees. As a result, when search and rescue personnel look to make use of a thermal camera, it can be easier to locate someone missing with this imaging device, instead of by using the naked eye alone. 

IR vs. Thermal Cameras

OK Then, What Does an IR Device Do Precisely? 

An IR device operates by acquiring the infrared energy of a subject. With a thermometer for example, it utilises a specific process to acquire what is known as black body radiation. This accordingly helps to measure the temperature of a person.

What Is a Thermal Camera Made Of?

It’s no big surprise to say that each manufacturer can bring their own particular design to a thermal camera in their range. This notwithstanding, there are most certainly components of a thermal camera which shall commonly feature from one design to the next, and in turn facilitate the functions of a thermal camera, in terms of its core process. As a result, when it comes to understanding how a thermal camera works, it’s vital to know each one will have a lens, a sensor, housing, and electronics which process the imagery. 

What Is an IR Device Made Of? 

An IR device such as a thermometer works by acquiring infrared energy from a desired target. It then puts that energy through a component called a thermopile – which is a detector – and thereafter the information acquired via this process is converted for display in a digital format for the user. 

Taking Action With this Understanding Now In-Hand

Now that the numerous differences between thermal cameras and IR devices are clearer, it’s easy to recognise why having both of these immensely useful tools in an inventory can be so beneficial. While there can be some overlap in terms of the offerings of each of these gadgets, ultimately having both in-hand can provide the greatest amount of resources for pursuing a variety of tasks, in comparison to having just the one. Accordingly, it could be said every toolkit is not yet truly complete, until it holds both a thermal camera and IR device with it, just the same as any toolkit with an existing thermal camera or IR device could yet benefit from having another one or two added to the kit!

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