Product Type: Camera Accessory | Manufacturer: FLIR Systems | Price: From £395.99 | Where to buy: FLIR |
The FLIR ONE Pro is a big improvement over last generation with a much better companion app, though the innovative design can make it feel a little flimsy sometimes.
Flir stands for ‘forward looking infrared cameras’, a thermographic camera which captures infrared radiation. You’ll see this sort of technology implemented on airplanes and helicopters, particularly those used by the police. If you’ve ever watched crime shows where they track the perpetrator with black and white cameras, it’s using flir technology. Not to be confused, FLIR Systems is the world’s largest commercial manufacturer of thermal imaging technology, distributing these components to everyone from government agencies to military. In fact, the company currently supplies a Black Hornet micro drone to the British armed forces which includes three FLIR thermal cameras.
The FLIR ONE range carry two sensors which work together and create an overlayed image called MSX, allowing for edge detail to be combined with thermal data. It’s a clever effect which overcomes the shortcomings of traditional thermal technology. It’s possible to use both of these sensors independently, though we found MSX to be most useful. The FLIR ONE Pro is the flagship model in the range, featuring a thermal sensor with double the resolution (60 x 120) and a visible light sensor with more than double the resolution (1440 x 1080) of its predecessor. The standard FLIR ONE has a 80 x 60 thermal sensor which is the same as its predecessor, however visible light resolution has been increased to 1440 x 1080. Both offer improvements over the last generation models, though FLIR Systems say that the Pro is for people who want to use the technology for serious applications.
Presentation is a big deal for products and we have to commend FLIR on some solid packaging for the ONE Pro. It looks like a premium product which justifies the asking price. Dive into the box and you get all the basics, including a USB-C charging lead and carry case. The latter is well constructed with a removable inlay for keeping the FLIR ONE Pro secure. There’s also a a mesh pocket for the cable, meaning you can comfortably carry everything around at once. The overall footprint for the case is a little over 3.5-inches in length and 1-inch width, making it a good fit for the pocket.
Build quality is very good, with rubberised edges and a strong metal finish. It feels like a unit you would take to a building site, though that’s probably not a good idea. Unlike FLIR’s more upmarket cameras, this one isn’t reinforced to take big hits by mistake. It’ll take a drop from 1.8m but won’t withstand water or heavy abuse. A subtle dial sits underneath the USB-C connector, a new edition for 2017. This allows for adjustment of the connector, making it protrude more/ less depending on the handset it’s used with. It’s a clever idea which makes the camera compatible with pretty much any phone on the market, providing you buy the model with the correct connector. On the top is a power button which houses an LED light underneath for overall charge. If it’s green you’re good and if it’s red… you better plug it in.
Charging is done via the USB-C socket directly beside it and during our testing, it didn’t take long to juice up at all. Putting it on for just fifteen minutes was often enough to get well over 50% charge, which is good for professionals on the move. You’ll get about an hour of constant use when the FLIR ONE Pro is fully charged, depending on how much you use it. Since the device also requires USB power to function fully, it will eat a bit of battery from your smartphone too. This can again range from frugal to greedy, with the result varying wildly depending on usage.
While the FLIR ONE Pro is a very small and neat device, we did notice a couple of issues with the design. When plugged into the handset, the FLIR ONE Pro just hangs there with no real support. The connection can be very wobbly, making it feel like the camera could fall out at any time. Adjusting the dial so that the connector protrudes just right can be quite difficult, as overshooting it will result in the camera popping out of the handset altogether. Integrating the FLIR technology into a secure case would’ve no doubt solved this issue, though it would require lots of variants to be produced and limit overall compatibility. It seems that in an effort to make the camera work seamlessly with as many handsets as possible, it’s an understandable design choice.
While we don’t necessarily need a thermal camera for any particular use, it’s quite surprising how handy the FLIR ONE Pro can actually be. You start by downloading a compatible application from the Google Play Store, since the camera won’t work standalone. There’s currently only a handful available but more are in the works. Applications range from thermal painting to virtual reality, however it’s the official FLIR ONE application that is most useful. Designed to take full advantage of the thermal camera, it has a simple user interface that should feel familiar for smartphone users. All of the options are arranged along the side of the screen within a collapsible panel. Different colour palettes can be selected for multiple uses, including direct visualisation of hot and cold spots. It’s possible to use spot metering for direct temperature measurements in the center of the screen, or general thermal imaging with an infrared meter. It’s also finally possible to control the parallax effect, which allows manual re-alignment of the two sensors.
With the One Pro, FLIR Systems isn’t just targeting professionals, they’re actively trying to encourage hobbyists and creatives alike. If you’re a keen photographer, there’s a community page within the application which encourages snapping. It curates content from all the major social media websites into a handy timeline feed, showcasing some of the more interesting ways to use the camera. It adds an extra dimension to the FLIR ONE Pro and demonstrates that it’s more than just a tool for checking pipes. In fact, the colour palettes can be used as filters to distort and create some very unique images.
At £395.99, the FLIR ONE Pro is hardly a cheap investment. The price could easily deter casual users who are worried about parting the cash. That said, it’s still a very competitive price when compared to other thermal devices from the company. Arguably, the portability factor alone makes this a worthwhile investment if you don’t need the more rugged build of dedicated thermal cameras. The FLIR ONE Pro is an excellent thermal camera that will appeal to professionals who want something compact. Hobbyists who want something more than the standard model will also find interest in the capabilities of the Pro, which offers a 2x increase in resolution.
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