In our constant search to bring you the best products from the cheaper end of the global electronics market, sometimes we will pay attention to some gadgets, because when they appear, they are just a bit too expensive to be considered cheap.
Today’s theme is such a device, it is a minimalist infrared camera using 8 pixels x 8 pixels Panasonic AMG8833 Thermal sensor. This part has been around for a while, but even if the performance of any camera using it is orders of magnitude lower than more mature models, it is still a bit too expensive for casual purchases. In fact, the price of these mini cameras was over £50 (US$70) when they first caught our attention, but they have now fallen to the point where they cost more than £30 (US$42). Thirty pounds was cheap enough for the punt on the thermal imaging camera, so the order went to China, and the expected gray package officially arrived.
This is a small unit, 40 mm x 35 mm x 18 mm. It is composed of two laser-cut black plastic sheets, which are fixed together by a brass bracket. There is a PCB between the brackets. The front is the sensor cutout and the back is 35 mm. OLED display. One side of the PCB is a micro USB socket, which is only used as a power source. It can be said that this is a small unit.
Powered by a USB battery pack, a square color thermal image will appear on the screen, and a color temperature calibration bar will be displayed on the left side of it. The color adapts to the visible temperature range of the sensor. There is a crosshair in the center of the picture, and the temperature in Celsius is displayed at the bottom of the picture. This is a very simple and intuitive interface without any instructions, which is very convenient because the device does not have any instructions.
The thermal imager has some characteristics, once you have it, it will point to everything. People look like red spots, the outstretched hands grow almost unrecognizable fingers, and a small pool of burning alcohol looks like a bright spot. Pointing it at a powered circuit board will show the red spots where each chip is located, and hot spots can be easily identified with low resolution. Enough playing, how good is the instrument? The Prusa Mini heating bed is a convenient temperature reference, so it is heated to 86 degrees for PETG printing and is affected by the camera. This is a very rough and ready calibration, but the camera reads it as 71.2 degrees and the infrared thermometer reads it as 78.4 degrees. Unfortunately, I don’t have a thermocouple on hand to measure Prusa directly, but I tend to think that any numbers generated by this camera are low.
The fingers can almost be distinguished in this picture of the hand.
Compare the calibration with another thermometer and an 86-degree Prusa build board.
Another use of thermal imaging cameras is to observe buildings and see where it dissipates heat. You can definitely see the windows of the house when you take out the camera at night, but on a warm summer night, it may be more difficult to measure than turning on the heater on a cold winter night. It is worth noting that the maximum distance it can recognize humans is always around 5 meters.
After finishing the debugging of the camera, it is time to disassemble it. In this case, it is not a heavy task, just loosen the four screws and the PCB will come out. On it there are only sensors, connectors, a microcontroller that challenges our recognition skills, and some passive components. It is worth noting that the PCB is worn away between the sensor and the microcontroller, undoubtedly to prevent thermal pollution. This is a very simple device.
There is not much under the hood of this camera.
GigaDevices E230 ARM Microcontroller
Mini AMG8833 Thermal Imager: It is a powerful thermal imager at a very affordable price. Should you buy it? Obviously, compared to the more expensive thermal imaging cameras such as the FLIR Lepton-sporting tCam-Mini that we reviewed recently, anything using AMG8833 is just a toy. So it is meaningless to accuse it of not providing high resolution and other advanced features, because its price is only a small part of it.
It does provide you with a useful way to evaluate the thermal characteristics of electronic devices and other devices, although calibration is not entirely trustworthy. It would be nice to save the image or let the USB connection provide some way to retrieve the sensor data, but even without it, it can do as expected. Yes, it is a toy, but it is also a useful toy. Considering that you may spend more than £30 to build your own version from the module, I call it the rough diamond. I don’t regret that particular AliExpress order, and I don’t think you will either.