In many Hollywood movies like James Bond or Mission Impossible, thermal cameras are often seen as the ultimate game-changing tools which are used only by highly paid and professional assassins. This would be true a few years ago when these devices cost more than a mid-sized vehicle. However, technical advancements have now allowed for more affordable models. That’s why they have increasingly become an indispensable tool for many hunters and biologists to spot the wildlife at night. Thanks to highly advanced sensors and other functions, thermal cameras would produce clear images in the darkness or other weather conditions.
After searching and testing different products, we’ve compiled this list of top 5 best wildlife thermal cameras on the market these days. Let’s check it out.
What Is A Wildlife Thermal Camera?
Unlike tradition devices which capture visible light, thermal cameras use infrared radiation or emitted heat, which is omnipresent yet invisible, to form the images. This can be done with the integration of advanced sensors which can capture the wavelength of up to 14000 nanometers.
As a result, these devices can ignore visual camouflage and see through any warm-blooded animals in the total darkness or any weather conditions. Though the resolution of those thermal cameras is typically lower than that of other visual devices, the high contrast it provides is great for tracking the wildlife.
Why Do You Need A Thermal Camera?
1) Nighttime Vision
Many animals are typically active during the night and use the darkness to protect themselves. This makes it challenging for video makers or hunters to track with just binoculars. But with a thermal camera, you can take clear images without any light source.
2) Ignore Camouflage During The Day
In addition to providing exceptional vision at night, wildlife thermal cameras can also be helpful during the day. Many animals have their own mechanism to blend in with the surroundings, making it challenging for wildlife enthusiasts or hunters to find with traditional tools. A thermal wildlife camera, however, would make these camouflaged species clearly visible.
3) Great Range Performance
Another benefit of using a wildlife thermal camera is that you can use it to take photos from a long distance. In most case, a standard unit can spot an animal at around 20 to 100 meters, which would be enhanced with the use of an extender. This is really useful for those who want to keep track of highly sensitive or aggressive animals at night.
For these reasons, a wildlife thermal camera can be a great investment for any hunter or wildlife organisations to keep track of animals at night.
What To Look For When Purchasing A Wildlife Thermal Camera?
Below are a few important factors that you should consider when choosing a wildlife thermal camera:
a) Durability and Portability
Since you will mostly use a wildlife thermal camera in darkness and many weather conditions, it is important to choose a model with a rugged, waterproof, shock-resistant, and durable construction. Also, a compact and portable design will make it easier to carry in your backpack when hiking in different terrains.
b) Black & White versus Colour Camera
Basically, a black & white device would be more affordable and simpler to track the animals. However, you can’t detect the ranges of temperature based on the colour, which can be useful for hunters to know if a deer has been dead or not. The decision will totally depend on your needs and personal preferences.
c) Battery Time
Another important feature to consider is the battery time of the camera. As a rule of thumb, it should last at least a few hours without recharging or replacement. Currently, lithium-ion is perhaps one of the most popular types because it can last from 8 to 12 hours and requires only 2 or 3 hours to recharge.
Again, the resolution that you need for your wildlife thermal camera will depend on your budget and personal preference. Higher resolutions will certainly allow you to take clearer pictures, but these units can be much more expensive. In general, 384 x 288 is an acceptable level, but you should aim for 640 x 480 to ensure ideal quality.
e) Refresh Rate
In general, the refresh rate will determine how quickly an image would refresh. A higher refresh rate means that the thermal camera can make more precise images in a smoother manner, but it also increases the costs. Ideally, you should choose a device with a refresh rate of at least 30 HZ to allow for ease of use and smoother operation.
f) Digital versus Optical Zoom
This is perhaps one of the more important factors that you should spend a little time researching. While both types of zoom have their own pros and cons, an optical unit basically doesn’t pixelate as its digital counterpart. If you often spot animals from a long distance or shoot long-range photos, then an optical zoom or the combination of the two might be suitable for you.
Leading Brands of Wildlife Thermal Camera
Currently, there are two market leaders in the wildlife thermal camera industry:
Flir is undoubtedly the most popular brands in the wildlife thermal camera industry. They provide a diversified portfolio which serves a variety of applications. With innovation sensing solutions, their products are used widely in thermal imaging, video analytics, visible-light imaging, or advanced detection systems.
ii) Seek Thermal
Founded 40 years ago by industry pioneers, Seek Thermal designs, engineers, and manufactures high-quality thermal imaging devices for commercial and consumer applications. They are devoted to applying professional-grade thermal advancements to develop breakthrough serious for different consumers.
Top 5 Best Wildlife Thermal Cameras
1. Flir 431-0012-21-00S TK Scout Camera
- Range: 90 meters
- Dimensions: 15.2 x 5.1 x 5.1 centimeters
- Weight: 227 grams
The Flir STK Scout is a pocket-sized thermal monocular which is ideal for exploring the nature in lowlight conditions. With a 90-meter range, you can use it to spot animals or search for your missing pets easily. The design is intuitive and simple with only 4 buttons, making it easier for beginners to use without training. You can choose between 9 different video palettes, such as graded fire, installers, or black/white hot to meet your needs. Also, it comes with a lightweight and durable construction which could endure splashes or bumps on the trail. The manufacturer provides a five-hour rechargeable lithium-ion battery to ensure long-lasting operation.
2. Seek Thermal Camouflage RevealXR 15Hz Thermal Camera
- Range: 275 meters
- Dimensions: 12.2 x 6.1 x 3.4 centimeters
- Weight: 181 grams
Designed for the realities, the RevealXR thermal camera by Seek Thermal offers a powerful thermal vision in a durable, compact package. It features a 206×156 sensor which can spot animals accurately from the distance of 275 meters. Also, the inclusion of a 300-lumen light ensures the ultimate visibility and safety during your trip. With a fast frame rate at 15 Hz, the unit can deliver smooth imaging in any condition. The built-in library comes with 7 colour palettes so that you can select the right option for your needs. With the MicroSD card, you can capture, transfer, and store your images to your personal computer or laptop via a USB cable.
3. Flir 431-0009-21-00S Scout II Wildlife Thermal Camera
- Range: 130 meters
- Dimensions: 25.4 x 22.9 x 10.2 centimeters
- Weight: 340 grams
As an upgrade, the Flir 431-21-00S features many advanced features to bring you the best experience. Firstly, it comes with a 2x zoom which allows users to get in much closer to the target. This is immensely enhanced with a high-quality 19mm lens and a 336×256 pixel detector that would create clear images in total darkness. The unit can be started within seconds so that you can capture the most valuable moments in the wildlife. Its display is large and can replay videos to any compatible device. With a rugged, shock-resistant, and waterproof design, this thermal camera is a great option for your outdoor excursions.
4. Flir TG130 Black Spot Wildlife Thermal Camera
- Range: 50 meters
- Dimensions: 11.2 x 4.8 x 16.8 centimeters
- Weight: 209 grams
The Flir TG130 thermal camera is a great combination of single spot thermometers and other leading models in the camera industry. It features an 80 x 60 IR resolution which can spot any heat patterns emitting from the animals so that you can detect them during the night. The temperature range is from -250C to 1500C so that you can precisely locate and measure the target. The LCD screen is large and has an extended field of view to take better photos. It also comes with 3 AAA batteries to allow for long-lasting operation. With a portable and lightweight, you just need to grab it and start your trip.
5. Gosira 16MP Infrared Wildlife Thermal Camera
- Range: 20 meters
- Dimensions: 14 x 12 x 10 centimeters
- Weight: 599 grams
What differentiates the Gosira thermal camera from other options is its fast shooting speed. You can a picture between 0.4 seconds without delay, thus ensuring to capture all moments of the animal. More importantly, it features great velocity and stability for better image quality. This camera supports different modes to allow you to record 1080p HD video with sounds or 12MP images. Thanks to the latest infrared technology, it can provide an excellent night performance so that hunters can visually keep track of any animals in any conditions.