Nearly a year ago, Fluke introduced their VT02 visual IR thermometer, which provides thermal imaging capabilities for less than $1000. Fluke recently came out with an upgraded model, the VT04, which is said to output images four times sharper.
Update: Read about the price drop!
- -10° C to 250° C (14° F to 482° F) measurement range
- ± 2° C or ± 2% measurement accuracy
- Centerpoint temperature measurements (center spot mode)
- “True pocketable design”
- Built-in digital camera
- Visual and thermal heat map blending at 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and full thermal
- “Best in class field of view” – 28° x 28°
- Hi/Lo temperature alarm
- Time lapse image capture
- Auto-monitor alarm captures image after temperature alarm is triggered
- Stores up to 10,000 images per GB on SD card
- Powered by rechargeable Li-ion battery
- 8 hours of runtime per charge
- Focus-free optics
- .is2 format can be used in images or to export popular image formats via included SmartView software
- MSRP $1200
- 2-year warranty
The resolution on this IR thermometer is going to be low, so low that Fluke doesn’t publish the sensor’s resolution at all. Assuming the VT02 had a 15 x 15 sensor similar to Dewalt’s, then the VT04 would possibly then have a 30 x 30 resolution sensor according to Fluke’s “four times sharper” claims. Maybe the resolution is higher, but Fluke has been tight-lipped about this since the VT02 came out.
Nearly all of the VT04’s sample images on Fluke’s and distributors’ product pages are composite images with what looks to be 50% visual and thermal blending. To me, this emphasizes that Fluke strongly intends for the VT04 to be true in its role as a visual infrared thermometer and not quite an entry-level thermal imaging camera.
So they don’t tell you the thermal resolution in pixels, and don’t show you 100% thermal image samples without visual light digital camera image underlays.
I cannot help but look at Flir’s new EX-series thermal imaging cameras and wonder why anyone would purchase a visual IR thermometer instead. Flir’s E4 is priced at $995, and their E5 at $1495.
The Fluke VT04 looks to offer more built-in measurement options, but the new entry-level Flir models have high enough sensor resolutions that they can be considered thermal imaging cameras and not just visual thermometers.
Fluke boasts that the VT04 has “best in class” field of view of 28° x 28°, but the less expensive Flir E4 easily beats that with its 45° x 34° field of view. Fluke could definitely have matched this using different optics; it is the VT04’s limited resolution sensor that puts a constraint on the field of view.
Don’t get me wrong, the VT04 visual IR thermometer will definitely outperform IR thermometers, which can be thought of as having 1 x 1 pixel sensors and large spot sizes. But compare the VT04’s output images to those from even an entry-level thermal imaging camera, and the difference in thermal resolution will be quite striking.
Although the VT04 visual infrared camera looks to be as point-and-shoot and easy to use as Fluke describes it to be, I don’t quite like how you have to load up the output images into the SmartView reporting software in order to export them in jpg, gif, bmp, or other common file formats.
On the bright side, it looks like the VT02 ($756 via Amazon) has dropped in price now that the VT04 is available. In my opinion, the VT02 might be a better option for users not ready to invest in a true thermal imaging camera. Dewalt’s visual thermometer also remains an appealing middle ground option.