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12 Best Thermal Monoculars That Actually Work (2022)

Thermal imaging equipment allows the user to see heat signatures by detecting the infrared output of an object. Useful for making out living objects in dark conditions as well as spotting hidden objects in daylight, a good thermal monocular provides sharp clear views, reads and maps heat accurately, is easy to operate, and has reliability that you can count on. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of our picks for thermal monoculars that really deliver.

We Recommend

Best Thermal Monocular

Pulsar XM30

Best Rugged Option

FLIR Scout III

Best Budget Option

FLIR Scout TK

Thermal Monocular

1. Pulsar Axion Key XM30 2.5-10X24mm Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The Pulsar Axion Key XM30 is a versatile thermal imaging tool for hunting and surveillance. Conveniently pocket-sized, the Axion Key weighs less than nine ounces but still manages to pack a decent punch optics-wise.

The Axion Key XM30 has a magnification range of 2.5-10. This is larger than the Axion Key XM22 model and an impressive range for a thermal imaging tool This amount of zoom allows even distant objects to be brought into sharp focus.

The image resolution of the Axion Key is 720X980 with a 50 Hz refresh rate. One of its most convenient functions is the one-click built-in video recorder. While certainly not a necessity, this feature is a nice user-friendly perk.

With IPX7 rated waterproofing, a wide range of safe operating temperatures, and a compact sturdy body, the Pulsar Axion Key MX30 is a great tool and a fantastic choice for a beginner entering into the world of professional quality thermal imaging equipment. While this tool is far from cheap, thermal monoculars can run very expensive, so the Axion Key is more affordable than you might guess at first glance.


What we liked

  • Best all-around thermal imaging monocular
  • Highest magnification in class
  • Video recording functionality
  • High refreshing rate
  • Better dim light performance
  • Inbuilt rangefinder
  • Image intensifier for better coloring
  • High range of detection

What we didn’t like

  • Nothing noteworthy

Resolution: 720 pixels to 960 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2x to 8x digital zoom
Battery: 4 hours
Dimensions: 5.6-inch x 1.6-inch x 2.7-inch
Operating Temperature: -25 to 40C
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Features: video recording, high resolution, water resistivity, high magnification

2. FLIR Systems Scout III 640 Thermal Night Vision Monocular

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The FLIR Scout III thermal monocular is built for extreme conditions and intended to withstand the demanding conditions of the field. Made with law enforcement, hunters, and outdoorsmen in mind, the Scout III is impact resistant and waterproof.

The Scout III comes from a trusted optics brand and provides reliable and durable thermal imaging performance. One possible drawback is the fact that this monocular has much less zoom capability than the previous entry. The Scout II has just 2x magnification and 320X640 pixels resolution. But the diameter of its objective lens is 35mm. So, this monocular can be expected to deliver exceptional performances in low light settings.

Weighing just twelve ounces, the Scout III is a fantastic thermal monocular that can handle anything that nature can throw at it.


What we liked

  • Top in the class thermal image
  • Long-range of detection
  • Rugged design (drop and waterproof)
  • 5-hour battery life
  • Large 35mm objective lens 
  • Excellent dim light performance
  • A decent combination of magnification and resolution
  • Good operating temperature range

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price tag
  • No recording features (accessory sold separately)

Resolution: 320 x 640 pixels
Refresh rate: 30 Hz
Magnification: 2x digital zoom
Battery: 5 hours
Dimensions: 6.7-inch x 2.31-inch x 2.44-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 12 ounces
Features: wide field of view, waterproofing, large objective lens

3. FLIR Systems Scout TK Mini Thermal Monocular

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The FLIR Scout TK is shares many of its specifications with the previous FLIR entry, however unlike the Scout III, this thermal monocular is affordable, tiny, and designed to provide a beginner-friendly experience.

The FLIR Scout TK is great for camping, hunting, and outdoor exploration on account of its miniscule six ounce weight.

This thermal vision monocular can conveniently detect various thermal signatures from a distance of 100 yards and produce a highly accurate image. 100 yards is not a long-distance, so users hoping for a monocular that can spot game from across fields of distance will want to go with another option. For under 650 dollars, though, the Scout TK is a bargain.

The design of this thermal vision scope is straightforward to operate and you only need one hand to use it. It comes with a very intuitive interface that delivers necessary information in a fashion that is concise and accessible.


What we liked

  • Unbeatable price
  • Very easy to use
  • Simple interface
  • Excellent field of view
  • Durable construction
  • Excellent for outdoors
  • Waterproof design
  • 100-yard detection range

What we didn’t like

  • No zooming option
  • Slow refresh rate

Resolution: 480 pixels to 640 pixels
Refresh rate: 9 Hz
Magnification: None
Battery: 5 hours
Dimensions: 6-inch x 2-inch x 2-inch
Operating Temperature: -15C to 55C
Weight: 6 ounces
Features: different video palettes, waterproofing, wide field of view

4. AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro Short Range Thermal Imaging Monocular

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This AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro is impressively affordable at under 400 dollars. Thermal monoculars do not typically come this cheap, so it is always a pleasure to find such an inexpensive tool that manages to deliver solid thermal images.

AGM ASP-Micro thermal imaging monocular can track targets, measure distances, and mark hotspots. The ASP-Micro also integrates WiFi connectivity.

This impressive thermal monocular supports a zoom range that includes 1x, 2x, 4x, and 8x magnification. Unfortunately, when a deal seems to good to be true it often is. The ASP-Micro is refreshingly affordable, but as such it simply cannot compete with more professional thermal monoculars when it comes to sheer quality. For a beginner, though, the Asp-Micro is a fantastic start.


What we liked

  • Professionally built
  • Durability quality
  • Simple operation
  • Feature wi-fi connectivity
  • Target tracking
  • Distance measurement
  • Marks hotspots in high temperatures

What we didn’t like

  • Some users report issues with quality control and general functionality

Resolution: 120 pixels to 160 pixels, 288 pixels to 384 pixels
Refresh rate: 25 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 8x digital zoom
Battery: 7 hours (Wi-fi off)
Dimensions: 6.3-inch x 2.4-inch x 2.2-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 55C
Weight: 9.5 ounces
Features: Wi-fi, video recording, distance measurement, marks hotspots

5. Pulsar Axion Key XM22 2-8X18mm Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The Pulsar Axion Key XM22 is another good option if you are looking for a device that can provide you with a high magnification features even in low lights. The XM22 is very similar to the Axion Key XM30 but slightly smaller and with a more limited power range.

This thermal monocular has a built-in rangefinder as well as magnification of up to 8x. For users who liked the XM30 but felt that its impressive 10x magnification was excessive, the XM22 is a slightly less specialized option.


What we liked

  • Variable magnification
  • Waterproofing
  • High refreshing rate
  • Better dim light performance
  • Inbuilt rangefinder
  • Image intensifier for better coloring
  • High range of detection

What we didn’t like

  • Battery could last longer
  • Short eye relief

Resolution: 720 pixels to 960 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2x to 8x digital zoom
Battery: 4 hours
Dimensions: 5.6-inch x 1.6-inch x 2.7-inch
Operating Temperature: -25 to 40C
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Features: video recording, high resolution, water resistivity, high magnification

6. FLIR Systems Ocean Scout 240 Thermal Scope

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The FLIR Systems Ocean Scout 240 Thermal Scope might be lacking versatility, but for ocean rescues and general marine purposes, this thermal monocular is unbeatable.

The Ocean Scout is built for detecting heat in water. For search and rescue purposes, quickly locating bodies in the water through debris or difficult visibility is a lifesaving feature.

Relatively small and affordable, the Ocean Scout is waterproof, rugged, and ready to face rough waters. For general surveillance, hunting, and outdoor activity, a less niche tool might be better. When it comes to marine purposes, though, the Ocean Scout is the ideal thermal monocular.


What we liked

  • Good lightweight design
  • Simple operation
  • Wide field of view
  • Long-range performance
  • Crystal clear results
  • Adjustable brightness
  • Waterproof construction

What we didn’t like

  • No zooming
  • Somewhat slow refresh rate

Resolution: 180 pixels to 240 pixels
Refresh rate: 9 Hz
Magnification: None
Battery: 5+ hours
Dimensions: 6.7-inch x 2.31-inch x 2.44-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 12 ounces
Features: Long distance operation, waterproofing, quick charging

7. Bering Optics 1X19 Prodigy-X 348×288 Thermal Monocular

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The Bering Optics Prodigy X is a lightweight and compact thermal monocular that is ideal for a range of outdoor activities as well as tactical applications. Bering is a trustworthy optics brand that has earned respect and loyalty from its users.

This infrared monocular features a 19mm lens as opposed to the 30mm lens of the Bering Prodigy Pro. This monocular also lacks the WiFi capabilities of the Prodigy Pro. Besides these two features, the Prodigy X matches with Prodigy Pro and delivers on similarly impressive optical experiences and infrared precision.

The Prodigy has variable magnification that ranges from 1x to 4x zoom. This monocular is a very solid piece of general equipment.


What we liked

  • Variable magnification
  • Comes with a range of accessories
  • Wide field of view
  • Good eye relief
  • Decent battery life
  • Good operating temperature range 
  • Quick refresh rate

What we didn’t like

  • Smaller objective lens when compared with the pro edition
  • No wi-fi compatibility
  • Higher price tag

Resolution: 288 pixels to 348 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 6 hours
Dimensions: 6.9-inch x 2.7-inch x 2.7-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 14.1 ounces
Features: waterproofing, variable zooming, high resolution

8. Leupold LTO-Tracker 2 Handheld Thermal Monocular

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From optics giant Leupold, the LTO Tracker 2 is among the best thermal monoculars on the market for general outdoorsmanship and hunting.

This monocular comes with a Beacon mode with which you can recalibrate the screen according to the different times of the day. The LTO Tracker 2 also comes with a powerful battery that can last for up to ten hours of continuous use.

This compact handheld thermal imager weighs just seven ounces and is fantastic for hiking, backpacking, and hunting in rough conditions wherein traveling light is essential.

The 7x zoom makes this an ideal monocular for middle and long range viewing such as deer spotting or coyote hunting. The LTO Tracker 2 features a maximum thermal detection range of over 550 feet for spotting far off targets.


What we liked

  • 600-yard detection range
  • Fully waterproof construction
  • Wider temperature application
  • Broader field of view
  • Longer battery life
  • Crystal clear AMOLED display
  • Fast refresh rate

What we didn’t like

  • Not for short-range viewing
  • Batteries are not rechargeable

Resolution: 204 pixels to 240 pixels
Refresh rate: 30 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 7x digital zoom
Battery: 10+ hours
Dimensions: 7.34-inch x 2.62-inch x 4.25-inch
Operating Temperature: -40C to 244.44C
Weight: 7 ounces
Features: High powered zoom, long-distance range, quick refresh rate

9. Sector Optics T20 3-5.5x Thermal Imager/ Rifle Scope

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The Sector Optics T20 brings 60×80 resolution to a package that is lightweight, shockingly sturdy, and perhaps more affordable than you may be expecting.

With a focus range of one yard up to infinity, the T20 offers between 3x and 5.5x zoom. This means that the T20 is a strong contender for viewing and spotting at close and mid ranges. For longer distance applications, more zoom might be ideal.

The Sector Optics T20 has a nice wide range of operating temperatures as well as a modest but serviceable angular field of view. While not the most high-end precision tool on the market, this thermal scope provides adequate images in a convenient and user-friendly package.


What we liked

  • Very compact and portable
  • Lightweight construction
  • Easy-understand and simple layout
  • Decent operating temperature range
  • 17 degrees os field of view
  • Variable magnification
  • Inbuilt image enhancement

What we didn’t like

  • No connectivity options
  • Not for high-end applications 
  • Rather short battery life

Resolution: 60 pixels to 80 pixels
Refresh rate: 9 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 5.5x digital zoom
Battery: 4 hours
Dimensions: 2.75-inch x 1.5-inch x 1.8-inch
Operating Temperature: -10C to 45C
Weight: 4.7 ounces
Features: high magnification, portable, lightweight, inbuilt image processor

10. ATN OTS HD 384 Thermal Imaging Monocular

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The ATN OTS HD 384 is a fun and effective tool which includes a number of exciting features. This monocular comes with a magnification range of 1.25x to 5x. WiFi enabled and compatible with both iOS and Android, this gadget is handy for the user who is interested in a thermal monocular with streaming capabilities.

This monocular comes with a high-resolution range from 288 pixels to 384 pixels and with a quick refresh rate as well. Equipped with a smart rangefinder, and HD display, and an advertised human detection range of over 600 yards, the ATN OTS HD is both fun to use and professional quality.


What we liked

  • Fast refresh rate
  • Wide field of view
  • Wifi and Bluetooth compatibility
  • Takes photos and captures videos 
  • Long-distance range detection
  • High resolution
  • Higher magnification
  • Robust battery time

What we didn’t like

  • Not water resistant 
  • Rather delicate

Resolution: 288 pixels to 348 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 8+ hours
Dimensions: 6.85-inch x 3.16-inch x 3.14-inch
Operating Temperature: -40C to 55C
Weight: 25 ounces
Features: Wifi, Bluetooth, video recording, image capturing, high zoom

11. Pulsar Helion XP50 2.5-20x42mm Thermal Imaging Monocular

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If budget is not a concern and you are looking for a high-end thermal monocular with all the bells and whistles, then consider the XP50 Helion by Pulsar. This professional-grade tool is designed for long distance scouting and is recommended for use in hunting, search and rescue, and tactical applications.

This high-quality monocular is all about performance and features Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

This handheld thermal imager from Pulsar features a large 42mm diameter lens that produces bright high contrast images in low light environments.

One of this device’s most impressive qualities is its staggering range. According to Pulsar, the Helion XP50 can detect the heat from a living mammal at up to two thousand yards of distance. In search and rescue and surveillance scenarios, this huge range could save lives.


What we liked

  • High magnification
  • Good quality imaging
  • Excellent battery timing
  • Good operational temperature range 
  • High-end materials
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Large objective lens

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price tag

Resolution: 480 pixels to 640 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2.5x to 20x digital zoom
Battery: 8 hours
Dimensions: 9.2-inch x 2.2-inch x 2.3-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 17.6 ounces
Features: Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity, video recording, large objective lens, high magnification

12. NVTS Arrow Pocket Handheld Thermal Imager Monocular

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NVTS Arrow Pocket thermal monocular is a pocket-sized tool that packs a ton of performance into its compact body.

The NVTS Arrow Pocket comes with a 300 x 400 pixel IR sensor that can produce high-quality images, even in the darkest conditions. The scope also comes with VTE features, which stand for “Virtual Thermal Enhancement Features,” which sharpen and enhanced infrared-produced thermal images.

Easy to operate and simple to use, the NVTS Arrow Pocket has a battery life of six hours, which is respectable considering how many high-end infrared monoculars cannot last longer than five. With 4x digital zoo, the NVTS Arrow Pocket is a solid tool for mid-range viewing. Despite being “compact,” the Arrow Pocket is one of the heavier options on this list.


What we liked

  • Simple to use
  • One-handed operation
  • High-quality image 
  • Visual theme al enhancement
  • Great performance in dim light conditions
  • 8GB internal memory
  • Quick refresh rate

What we didn’t like

  • Slightly delicate
  • Not for long distances
  • Short battery backup
  • Pretty heavy for a “pocket” monocular

Resolution: 300 pixels to 400 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 6 hours
Dimensions: 6.2-inch x 2.6-inch x 2.4-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 12.4 ounces
Features: inbuilt memory, high resolution, excellent dim light performance, fast refresh rate

What is a heat signature?

An object’s heat signature is a visual representation of the external temperature patterns around any object. Generally, heat signatures are used to detect living things because living creatures produce a lot of heat.

When you direct your thermal imager towards a target, the device will absorb infrared radiation from the source and heat up. With this heat, there is a change that occurs within the electrical resistance of the device, and using the measurement of that change in the resistance, an image is created. This is what is meant by “thermal imaging.” 

Usually, a thermal monocular can detect heat signatures that range from -50C to 2000C. These devices are very useful for a range of applications. Hunters may use thermal imaging to spot hidden prey. Search and rescue crews use thermal imaging to detect people in distress. Firefighters use thermal imaging to measure the heat of a blaze and to search for survivors in need of help. In surveillance settings, thermal imaging can detect a person’s approach under the cover of total darkness.

Thermal vision vs. night vision

The best thermal tools can detect even the slightest of changes in heat signatures when detecting living targets under dark or low light conditions. Unlike night vision, which requires some small amount of ambient light to function, thermal vision uses heat alone to detect objects.

Night vision, on the other hand, requires some light, even in amounts too small to be noticeable to the human eye, in order to create images. At longer distances, then, night vision can really struggle with precision.

For nighttime applications, both thermal and night vision have their roles. As distances stretch longer and longer, though, you may find that thermal tools can accomplish things that night vision simply cannot.

Types of thermal monoculars

There are two main types of thermal monoculars; handheld thermal monoculars and helmet mounted thermal monoculars.

Handheld thermal monoculars

This is the most common type of thermal monocular which is useful in the broadest range of applications. Handheld thermal monoculars are lighter, more convenient to operate, and often simpler than their helmet-mounted counterparts. In most scenarios, a handheld thermal monocular gets the job done.

For situations where one needs both hands free or where one might expect to have to hold their monocular for long stretches of time, helmet-mounted monoculars become more attractive.

Helmet-mounted thermal monoculars

In situations where you don’t want to hold your monocular up all day long, you can always mount it on your head with your hat or a helmet. As your hands become free, you can do a range of other activities such as climbing, holding your weapon, or any other tool that your outdoor activity requires.

Head-mounted thermal monoculars may help reduce shakiness and stabilize images. Unfortunately, head-mounted thermal monoculars usually run quite expensive.

How to choose the best thermal monocular?

Every user has their own unique needs and circumstances. The best thermal monocular for you is the one that best suits the range of applications in which you expect to use your monocular. HEre are some features to keep in mind as you carryout your research.

Thermal sensor resolution

Because a thermal monocular detects objects by their heat signatures via its sensor, the resolution of this sensor needs to be of good quality to produce satisfactory images. Most of the high-resolution thermal scopes on the market come with a detector that has 480 x 640 pixels. This is the minimum standard that you need to look at in a thermal scope if you want some sharp high-quality images.

Display resolution

To convert the heat signature into an impression that is easy to visualize for a human, a thermal monocular must also come with a decent display resolution as well. Again, a device that comes with 480×640 pixel resolution will work well.

Refresh rate (Hz)

A high refresh rate means that the images produced by a device will be at a quicker rate and will provide more data about the current status of the object or scene under observation. Normally, anything over 30 Hz is considered to be sufficient.

Detection range

Detection range is a very subjective criteria. For certain types of hunting, super long distances are needed. For general outdoorsmanship, these long ranges are excessive and unnecessary. Consider your specific plans before deciding which range suits you.

Operating temperature

Out in the field, you never know what the weather will throw at you. Even the most rugged thermal devices have their limits when it comes to operating temperatures.

The best thermal imaging devices can handle both subzero temperatures as well as high temperatures that exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Durability

It is important to consider the overall durability of your monocular. Field conditions can be bumpy! Your device will be more delicate and vulnerable with bigger objective lenses. Most manufacturers make waterproof and shockproof appliances to make them safe. If you are looking to move around a lot, consider more rugged options instead of heavy-duty optics.

Color modes

Thermal monoculars come with various color modes as well. Darker shades represent the objects that are emitting lesser energy while the brighter ones are emitting more. Some people find it difficult to see different colors and for them, there are a range of options. Varied color modes are useful features, so make sure that the option you go with has a color palette that doesn’t strain your eyes too much.

Battery life

As with most gadgets, battery longevity is a major consideration. Thermal monoculars come with a vast number of integrated features that run out of battery very quickly. For instance, Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity eat up the battery extremely fast. Therefore, if you are going to use these features, go for a battery that can reach at least 10 hours of backup time. 

Monocular extra features to look for

Thermal imaging technology is constantly evolving. As the technology develops, more and more manufacturers are introducing new features that weren’t there in the past but are now considered to be must-haves. Here is a list of some the features that the best monocular would have.

Rangefinder

A rangefinder is a convenient feature that has become a popular addition to many recent models of thermal monoculars. With a rangefinder, you can measure the distance between you and the target. Including a rangefinder with a thermal monocular is especially useful for hunters who have one less optical tool to lug around.

Wifi and bluetooth

WiFi and Bluetooth features are helpful for users who intend to capture photographs and videos through their thermal monocular. With these features, you can directly share the files or can store them on the cloud to access later. This is a must-have feature for researchers or people who are gathering data on their fieldwork. 

Compass

A compass speaks for itself. Outdoorsmen should always carry a compass, so having one built in saves space and lightens the load.

Zoom

Most thermal monoculars have some amount of magnification available. At long ranges, a high zoom is a great way to get that extra bit of detail. Some tools even come with variable zoom capabilities!

Frequently asked questions

What is the best thermal monocular?

The best thermal monocular for the money is the AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro. It comes with very good zooming capabilities and can produce clear thermal images.

What is the best thermal scanner?

AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro is also the best thermal scanner because it can take photos and record videos with great resolutions and sharp details. 

What is the difference between FLIR and thermal?

FLIR technology uses short wavelengths of infrared light to highlight or illuminate a target or an area. On the other hand, thermal technology uses long wavelengths of infrared light. Thermals detect only the differences in temperature.

What is the best handheld thermal camera for hunting?

The FLIR Systems Scout TK is the best handheld thermal imager for hunting. It comes with good magnification power and is equipped with high-quality optics to keep you on target at all times. 

How do you hide heat from thermal imaging?

Using the terrain is one option because a thermal device cannot see through terrain. You can also use a thermal blanket to block the heat signature as it has Mylar foil in it. 

What is a better thermal or night vision?

Night vision gathers light that is available in the surroundings. Thermal vision detects heat signatures using an infrared sensor. In pure darkness or at long distances, thermal imaging is more useful.

How much does thermal imaging cost?

Thermal imaging is expensive but you can find a thermal monocular for under 500 dollars if you compromise on a few features. A good quality thermal camera with a detection range of 1000 feet can be around 1000 dollars and a monocular of similar properties can be found at around 800 to 900 dollars depending upon the optics and other additional features.

Why are thermal cameras so expensive?

Thermal imaging uses unique technologies that are not mass-produced and remain exclusive. Therefore, component costs are very high. 

1 thought on “12 Best Thermal Monoculars That Actually Work (2022)”

  1. I love this article for Thermal Imager for Hunting, it’s really well explained. Especially the flir thermal imager is the right option for me, I’m gonna check it out. Thanks for true reviews

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