A few months ago we talked a little about Flir’s new line of E-series thermal imaging cameras, which feature decent imaging resolutions, MSX contrast enhancement, and reasonable pricing.
The E4 camera is priced at just under $1000 ($995 via Amazon), making it a great entry-level thermal imaging camera for those just getting started.
Over at the EEVblog forum, there is information on how to modify the E4 in order to get four times the camera’s native 80 x 60 px thermal imaging resolution. It seems that the E4 is built with the same thermal imaging sensor as Flir’s more expensive E-series cameras (e.g. E8), and modifying the on-camera configuration file can make the full 320 x 240 px resolution available for use.
E4 Modification Details(via EEVblog)
I did a quick walkthrough of the modification instructions the other day, and it seems like a quick and easy process that can also be easily reversed. Needless to say, I ordered an E4 and will be receiving it later this week.
I had been wanting to order a 320 x 240 px model for some time, but such cameras typically have a $5,500+ price tag, which is way more than I can justify. I had been previously looking at the E60 (review coming soon, as I was able to borrow one), and the A35s R&D benchtop kit.
There are reports of the E4 temperature measurement accuracy being a bit off, and the community over at the EEVblog is working to sort things through.
There are also concerns that Flir will build new firmware or software to squash the modifications that allow for an instant resolution upgrade, but such measures might not come.
Industrial users are going to be more inclined to order the particular model that has the features and specifications they need, rather than modify the E4 to unlock its sensor. Thus, I really don’t think that the E4, or any of the EX-series thermal imaging cameras, will cannibalize Flir’s higher-end sales. The EX-series cameras simply lack the features and capabilities of the higher-end and higher-priced EXX-series cameras. The E4 can be modified to capture images at the same resolution as the higher-priced E8, but this does not necessarily mean the performance or image quality will be the same.
I also bet that Flir is actually happy with the response they’re getting for the E4, as it is bringing droves of new users to their products. They’re still making money off the E4, and a poll on the EEVblog suggests that these users were not planning on buying a higher-end model anyways. The people spending $1000 on E4s to modify are mostly those that wouldn’t have spent more than $1000 anyways. I can attest to this.
As soon as my E4 arrives I will try to do some “before” and “after” testing, assuming the modification still works. Even if it doesn’t, Flir’s MSX image-enhancement feature should still make E4 images look a lot better than what other entry-level 80 x 60 px cameras output.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
P.S. If anyone wants to loan me a Flir A35s benchtop kit to test out, I’d still really appreciate it!
I’d call that 16x the resolution. 320 x 240 is 76,800 pixels, and 80 x 60 is 4,800 px – at 16x difference. Makes the hack and the post all the more impressive!
Doh! You’re absolutely correct!
What happens is I was working on a rough draft for another post comparing 15 x 15, 80 x 60, 160 x 120, and 320 x 240 resolutions.
The bump from 80 x 60 to 160 x 120 and 160 x 120 to 320 x 240 is 4X each way. I said quadruple so many times I didn’t think twice when I made the mistake in saying 80 x 60 -> 320 x 240 is only a factor of 4. It is in fact a factor of 16.
Thanks for the correction! I updated the headline accordingly.
Do you think there is a chance for increasing via software the HZ rate from 9 to something smooth?
Probably not. All EX-series thermal imaging cameras have 9Hz refresh rates, so this is not a feature that was scaled back for the E4. There is discussion about this over at the EEVBlog, and it seems that there is no way to boost the refresh rate from 9Hz to 30Hz.
The sensor does output digital 60Hz video, however, no one is interested in going into that territory. Why? Thermal Imagers are still export controlled by the USA and ITAR, and anything above 30Hz is considered a weapon. If you are outside the US, and do the enhancement to resolution, you betcha the distinctive “whoosh” of the black helicopters will be over your house.