Friday, 12 September 2014

FLIR One now available in US

FLIR's iPhone add-on thermal camera, the FLIR One, which I discussed back in January is now available from the US Apple Store. Availability in other territories should follow.

It turns out that the resolution of the thermal camera is 80 by 60 pixels but this is merged with a 640 by 480 pixel visible light camera and the image is enhanced depending on which mode you use. The image below is a composite image used by FLIR for promotion.

You can see the softness of the thermal information but I have to admit the blend with the visual image makes for a quite usable result.

The cost in the US is $350 and you have to use an iPhone 5 or 5s. The device will not fit on either iPhone 6 and it would seem that FLIR have no plans to produce a new one. That was always the risk but this still brings thermal imaging into a completely new area of use, appealing to small businesses and hobbyists alike.

Gizmodo got their hands on one in August and explain just what you might want to do with it (if you don't know already). They also did a review, but they were unsure whether it's worth the money. Given the usual way tech prices inflate as they cross the Atlantic that may be a bigger issue over here in the UK. That said, to echo one of the commentators on the review, it's still cheap for a thermal imager.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

RPS award for Andy Finney and Infrared 100

I'm honoured to have been awarded a Fenton medal at last night's Royal Photographic Society Awards in London. The award was given partly for the Infrared 100 project, celebrating the centenary of Robert Williams Wood's paper on Photography by Invisible Rays, given to the RPS, and of the first published infrared photograph.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Simon Weir infrared images of Yellowstone Park

I've occasionally dipped into the infrared work of Simon Weir, who self-published a book of infrared landscapes a couple of years ago and takes fine infrared landscapes. Besides his own web site he is working extensively with Fuji X System cameras and has a blog devoted to that work. I mention this because he's taken an IR-modified Fuji X-E1 to Yellowstone National Park and achieved some stunning images.

Of course you can't think Yellowstone and photography without considering Ansel Adams. He wrote, in 'The Negative', that the haze penetration and bright foliage in an infrared image "does not necessarily achieve more than a superficially startling effect". He did take some infrared photographs, but I don't recall any of Yellowstone. Adams's comment on infrared photography may seem dismissive but he went on to "freely acknowledge that, in imaginative hands, infrared film can produce magnificent images." I think Simon's shots from Yellowstone fit that bill.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Animals as thermal 'detectors'

Thermal imaging cameras being as expensive as they are, it's interesting to see how observation of animal behaviour can provide clues to some aspects of temperature distribution in the environment. The classic is how to detect that a car has only recently arrived at a property ... if you can't touch the bonnet (hood). A thermal camera will show a warm spot on the bonnet, or (in classic detective mode) you might see that a cat has decided to lie there. Pigeons can also be useful detectors. You will often see birds roosting on top of one building in a group and this is often simply because that roof is warmer; either because of a local heat source such as an air outlet or because that roof is less insulated than the others. Snow will fulfil the same function.

A similar, but inverse, phenomenon has been observed by researchers in Australia. They were using thermal imaging to study how koalas regulate their body temperature, given the hot climate. Hugging trees was one mechanism, the tree trunk being cooler than the surroundings. The animals were observed moving from the top leaves where they feed in winter down to cooler parts of the tree in summer. Conveniently this would provide a perch where the koala could either lie spread on top of a shady branch (as some big cats are seen to do) or wedge themselves in a junction between a large branch and the trunk. Thermal imaging revealed how the koala uses the tree trunk and/or branch as a heat sink.

The study is published (freely accessible) in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters [Biol. Lett. June 2014 vol. 10 no. 6 20140235] and you can read (and see) more on the BBC web site which also outlines other research into how animals can exploit microclimates in trees and other means to combat high temperatures.

Similar themes can be explored from an earlier blog post on toucans and trees.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


As I was in the West End last week I went over to the new Photographers Gallery just off Oxford Street to have a look at Richard Mosse's extraordinary infrared photographs from the Congo (see the previous post). The good news is they look stunning in the huge prints on show. I was very surprised by just how small the grain in the film is, so I have to assume the aerochrome was actually developed using the 'correct' aerochrome process rather than the E6 most of us used. The bad news is that there are only a handful of the prints on display and I had hoped to see more.

So, I went down to the bookshop in the basement and chatted with the very helpful sales assistant. I had hoped to get a copy of either of the books of Mosse's photos but that was not to be. They are completely sold out, not just at the Gallery but everywhere it seems, and are now selling for high prices.

Despite being disappointed by this (and kicking myself for not buying his Infra book online from Aperture when I could) I got to thinking that this took the book into the realm of photographic collectors items. They may well be the first books of infrared photography to truly get there, and prize-winning photography at that. I know there are a couple of other IR photo books that go for high prices but I think these are in a class of their own.

Changing wavelength, I am getting a little worried that FLIR's inexpensive iPhone add-on thermal camera may be having difficulties. The general consensus in the Apple rumour mill is that the iPhone 6 will be along soon and will have a larger form factor. This means that the FLIR One, as publicised, will be designed to use an obsolescent smart phone body. I still hope that the promise it showed when previewed at CES in January will be realised and it would definitely be a game changer for a wider use of thermal imaging.