Manufacturer-Crippled Flir E4 Thermal Camera Hacked to Perform as High-End Model

Last month, [Mike] took a look at the Flir E4 thermal imaging camera. It’s a great tool for those occasions when you need the vision of a Predator, but what he found inside was substantially cooler: it seems the engineers behind the Flir E4 made their lives easier by making the circuits inside the $1000 E4 the same as the $6000 Flir E8.

This only means one thing, and [Mike] has delivered. He’s upgraded the firmware in the Flir E4 to the E8, giving it a vastly increased resolution – 80×40 for the E4 to 320×240 for the E8.

The hack itself is as easy as putting the serial number of the E4 in a config file, zipping a few files up, and installing it with the Flir tools. An amazingly simple mod (with an awesome teardown video) that turns a $1000 thermal imaging camera into the high-end $6000 model.

From [Mike]’s

131 thoughts on “Manufacturer-Crippled Flir E4 Thermal Camera Hacked to Perform as High-End Model

  1. in before “This is bullshit that someone would cripple their hw/sw like this”

    If they didn’t do this, they’d ALL be $6000

    1. more like $3000 if they do a funding for basic models with extra money from higher end models that most likely means the middle one is priced “just right”

      plus i doubt that they selling any hardware with an actual loss

      1. How it works is, for every price bracket there’s some number of customers willing to purchase the product. There is one bracket where the price-x-customers is maximized, giving you the optimal price, but that price excludes some of your customers who would only buy the product if it was cheaper.

        The solution is to sell the same product at two (or more) different prices. It decreases your overall profit margin by averaging in the non-optimal prices, but increases your total sales so you end up making more money. For example, selling 5 units at 1% profit nets you half as much money as selling 1 unit at 10% profit, but if you can sell at both prices you end up making 1.5 times the money.

        So they’re not “funding” the cheaper version by the sale of the more expensive version. They’re increasing sales by catering to all price brackets, and also because if they didn’t then a competitor would emerge and take that segment.

        1. It’s kinda like with shoes. There’s always people who are happy to pay $200 for a pair of $20 sneakers – so they make some $20 sneakers in slightly different colors and sell them to these people with that extra zero.

          1. No it is exactly the opposite.

            It is like being in the 3rd year of production of a sports car. You have already done the R&R to get the car set up and you are saturating the market with them. Down tuning some models lets you sell to people who would never buy yours at the full price.

            You aren’t selling expensive models to rich suckers. You are making a more affordable version by tweaking one that people just would not buy at a higher price point.

            The lower sales don’t impact development costs because you are already selling the maximum number at the high price anyway. So as long as you can cover the raw production costs you are just simply making more money.

          2. You’re forgetting another motivating reason for FLIR to do this. They get volume price breaks on the electronics and detectors when they are common, driving down the material cost. Not to mention, fewer parts for supply chain, warehouse and manufacturing to manage mean lower support costs. Financially it’s a smart thing for FLIR to do and I’m sure the cost savings outweigh the small lost in profit from the occasional hacker.

    2. Successful troll is successful.

      I do have to wonder what the reaction to this was at FLIR. They must have known this would happen from the moment Mike posted the teardown on Youtube. I suspect that it’s mixed feelings. Those who are too shortsighted to see that this might drastically expand their customer base are angry and pointing fingers, whereas everyone else is quietly celebrating.

    3. Not really. The original reason for the price difference was that higher-resolution sensors did genuinely cost more once upon a time. Apparently technology has moved on but FLIR don’t feel any need to change their product structure because there’s very little competition.

    1. Indeed. I still feel terrible about re-jetting my motorcycle’s carburetors and installing an aftermarket exhaust — that’s around 10hp I didn’t pay Kawasaki for. How dare someone modify something *they own* for increased functionality.

    2. Only if you believe that the manufacturer still owns the hardware after you buy it.

      They made the choice in how to design the product family. For all we know, the discovery of this hack may have been in their product planning. Their cost analysis may have included a number of lower priced units being hacked and included estimates of the additional revenue made by sales of low-cost units to hackers that would not have been made vs. the number of high-cost unit sales lost to someone who intended to buy a high-cost unit but bought a low-cost unit and hacked it. There are probably few lost sales as a result of this hack because people willing to spend $6k are also going to think about things like warranty, etc.

        1. As of now, it’s impossible for FLIR to determine whether a camera has been hacked as it’s simply a software change. Plus, what kind of superuser like Mike needs a warranty anyway?

    3. How’s it ethically questionable? He bought something and then altered the software to better suit his purposes. It’s no different from installing an aftermarket firmware like CHDK on a camera or DD-WRT on a router, to enable features the manufacturer only includes on more expensive models.

      If anything is ethically questionable, it’s that the hack was possible in the first place. I don’t think the company is losing money on the $1,000 model, so Mike paid for his hardware in full, and then altered the software to remove an artificial limitation on its abilities.

      Realistically, I don’t think this is ethically questionable on either end. The manufacturer might sell the $1,000 models with a slim profit (but almost certainly still above the cost of the hardware), and depend on the $6,000 models to make the bulk of their money. If this became widespread, the $1,000 model would have to get more expensive to compensate. But I doubt it would be all the way up to $6,000 like Gdogg suggests, and I don’t think the manufacturer is actually losing any money in this scenario.

      If there’s anything bad about this, it’s that visibility and publicity will probably result in a hardware or firmware change to make this more difficult.

      1. Thanks, never heard of CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) before. Looks like my next camera will be a Canon. Just like if I was in the market for a Thermal Imaging, Night Vision, Infrared Camera it would be a FLIR (now).

      2. It’s just like the Rigol scope hack – they will sell a ton of E4’s to people who wouldn’t have dreamed of buying the high end model, or even a TIC at all.
        The E8 is overpriced for its features and lens compared to even Flir’s other products. People in the market for a $6K TIC will buy the Ex0 range with adjustable focus and 60fps.
        Due to volumes from the automotive market, It was only going to be a matter of time before the price of 320×240 TICs plummets. (Incidentally the sensor in the Ex is identical to the ones in the BMW/Audi Night vision cams. )
        Meanwhile Flir are taking many sales from the competition, and selling bucketloads of E4s – even without the hack it’s a great unit – see my review.
        All UK dealers are currently sold out. Tequipment’s E4 stock dropped by 2 in half a day.

        1. This sort of thing has been going on for years, it’s nothing new, I have an old HP A2 inkjet printer that was sold as two models, black and white and colour, the Black and White one could be upgraded to colour for a few hundred pounds. The “upgrade” consisted of removing a plastic cover that hid the colour cartridge holders and a simple bit of voodoo on the PCB.

      3. I think it’s ethically reprehensible that this hack was possible. They’re not selling these things for a loss. They’re just ripping off their customers.

        1. Ripping off their customers? They made the thing – they can sell it for whatever they want. If a customer thinks it is worth $6000, guess what? It is! If no-one thinks it is worth $6000 they will have to re-think their selling price, or stop making them.

          1. “. If a customer thinks it is worth $6000, guess what? It is!”

            It isn’t. That’s just the “fool and his money are soon parted” justification, which reasons that people should pay more when their ignorance is easily abused.

            Guess what – that is described as a market failure, because in a free market, for the market to work properly, the consumers are supposed to make rational choices and choose the best value between competing products to bring prices down to the minimum sustainable level where business is still profitable. It’s supposed to act as a counter-force against the greed of the owning class to simply extort all the wealth to themselves by monopolizing products and maximizing prices.

            And in order to make the rational choice, the people must have the relevant information which the company was keeping from them. In other words, the company, by pretending they were doing two different kinds of products, was trying to game the market system to the disadvantage of the consumer.

            Or in other words, ripping them off.

      4. as a counter point, what about software that: 1 – free trial for X days then needs a key to continue as is, 2 – software that has functionality A, B, and C then needs a key to unlock functionality D, or 3 – (as a super far stretch) any software that needs a key to install or use. Getting a ‘key’ required spending money. Do they all not have the same code/inner workings to do everything, but are ‘crippled’ (ignoring example 3)?
        IMO, circumvent anything the 3 examples would be piracy.

        Right now, it’s ill defined on how ‘ethical’ these hacks (ones that add functionality only seen in more expensive models, along with ones that add functionality seen in no model) are, but give it time and something I’m sure will happen. If i were a gambling man, I’d put wager that it’ll get harder and will be detrimental for hacking overall

        1. How many devices do we see nowadays with unpopulated circuit headers? My motherboard came without a USB3 header not soldered in place. If I add one for $5 off digikey, am I then stealing $145 from Intel for not buying the higher end model with the same header?

          1. Yes! Everyone has to do exactly as a vendor tells them. Didn’t the wise man say, “Do as you’re told, Emptor!”. I dunno the Latin imperative for “Obey!”.

            If someone sells you something and you do what you like with it, why, you’re nothing more than a common thief!

        2. I think it’s there’s a difference between pirating software and modifying firmware to unlock hardware.

          In the case of software, buying a program does not give you full rights to it; you are merely licensed to use the program. However, hardware you purchase belongs to you. Considering that FLIR is not selling software that can be unlocked by paying, I don’t see how this is unethical.

          1. The rights software vendors tell you you have, and the ones you actually legally have, are very different. Although not for the want of a lot of lobbying.

        3. Re “detrimental”, by that logic nobody should hack anything in case it gets harder in the future. If they didn’t do the hacking it wouldn’t get harder, so they wouldn’t need to worry about the future, so they may as well hack it.

          And that’s a paradox!

      5. I see it more as a puzzle with great rewards. If the company can make a few $$ then great. If the customer can find a way to improve it then better. Hacks are called hacks for a reason…..I think that if you can hack the lower end FLIR/Oscilloscope via software the manufacturer should have a little sound that plays a celebratory sound like the Windows start-up sound or something.

      6. Only if you are silly enough to upgrade it. They are not going to open all the boxes and flash the existing inventory. SO even if they close the hole, it will take a lot of time for it to take effect, and almost all used ones will be hackable as most people do not upgrade their firmware if the devices work.

      7. If they weren’t making enough profit on the $1000 models, they wouldn’t bother selling them. The extra 5 grand is simply because some people will pay that price for it. They could, and indeed have, for the want of a hack, sold the $6K models for $1K. Otherwise, what, did you think they were subsidising them!?

        I’m surprised people don’t get this, it’s how capitalism’s worked since some time in the 19th Century. Not, since then, have prices been based on cost + profit. IE what it costs to make plus a reasonable percentage profit. For one thing, the whole world’s economy would still be in the dark ages if they were.

        It’s called “perceived value” and is, for one thing, why companies spend so much on advertising, and why a pair of shitty training shoes are “worth” $200. Of that $200, $180 of it is for the brag value of the wearer being able to let people know he paid $200 for shoes. The quality is irrelevant, since most people have no way of measuring or comparing show quality. This is also how jewellery works.

        Anyway that’s a side-track. Perceived value is what the customer thinks a thing is worth, what they will happily pay. This has nothing to do with cost of manufacture, which is why people’s jaws drop when the odd media story does a BOM story on some popular product.

        Most people have no idea how much a thing costs to make, but they know how much it’s worth to them. If a camera is $6K of useful to them, they buy it. If they couldn’t get one cheaper, then they’re happy. If it’s not worth it they keep the money and manage some other way.

        I’m not gonna explain the whole thing, the odd TV documentary does a good job. Or pick up a book on beginning economics. Or better, Freakonomics, not much to do with perceived value, just cos it’s a good read.

        1. This should only be the case if there’s just a single manufacturer of a certain product. Capitalism works because of competition, and it lowers prices automatically, unless there’s some cartel active, which I wouldn’t be surprised about in the TIC market.

          1. It works with competition too, it’s about whether a customer would or wouldn’t buy a thing for a certain price.

            Competition drives prices down, but he’s still paying, at most, what he thinks the product is worth, to him, taking into account what he thinks is a fair price considering the market.

            Capitalism isn’t perfect, either. It doesn’t require a deliberate cartel. A lot of companies can decide that they won’t sell cars at less than a certain price, because although they’d sell more, overall they’d more money if they and their competitors played the game and stuck to a certain price range.

            Price wars are disastrous. That’s why they tend not to happen, and price competition on fungible items like baked beans and bread tends to be on the order of pennies. For more expensive stuff, they try to distinguish themselves on features or quality (or advertising!), rather than price.

            Price competition tends to be a last resort for the desperate, or something to do when you’re trying to kill the competition to your would-be monopoly. Assuming the bastards won’t take your offer to buy them out, and suing them doesn’t work.

            Ideal capitalism never happens in the real world. The monopoly is the enemy of the free market, yet it’s the thing every company aims to be, if they can. Adding in political corruption, other kinds of corruption, real-world factors and whatever else.

            It’s still good at destroying the environment and acting out the tragedy of the commons, though.

          2. The original point of the free market idea is to distill the system down to where you ultimately have only one producer who can make the products cheapest and sell cheapest. Competition is simply what is driving the development towards that goal and keeping it there. It aims to minimize resource use to give more people more stuff for their money.

            In a perfect free market economy, profit margins are very slim and nobody is getting much richer than the next guy because the next guy can slash his profit margins and sell cheaper – therefore settling the prices to what provides a commonly reasonable income but not more, because asking for more wealth puts you out of business. In that state, the wealth is distributed most fairly instead of giving 90% to the top 10% without the disincentives and inefficiencies of socialism and command economies.

            In the real world, what you get is consumer irrationalism, political irrationalism, cheating and corruption that drive the system away from this goal and try to re-define it to mean “more money for me”.

          3. Greenbaum: “overall they’d more money if they and their competitors played the game and stuck to a certain price range” – right, if they ‘played the game’, the cartel game. Otherwise, which company in their right mind wouldn’t lower the price (and it’s not like we’re talking a few percent here: we’re talking going down from $6000 to say, $2000) and immediately *own the whole market* because there’s no reason to buy the competitor’s product. Call it what you want, a gentlemen’s agreement, or whatever.. but if we’re talking about such huge differences, it’s almost guaranteed to come down to (often illegal) price fixing.

          4. James, you’re right, it’s effectively cartel-like. My point is it doesn’t actually require anything so deliberate or conspiratorial. Each player already knows the point I’ve made. It’s obvious to them all without needing a nod or a wink. Perhaps they do have industry meeting and deliberately rig everything. But they don’t need to, it’s a feature that evolves by itself.

            Unexpected behaviour emerging and evolving out of certain rules always fascinates me. Especially when the rules are something important, like economics, and are suppposed to be logical and rational, since they’re more powerful than any god of old. But no, it turns out the whole thing’s insane, and the economy is actively trying to kill you! And itself, probably! Or, to say the least, it’s not rational.

            Things like the tragedy of the commons. Things like disaster only coming if we all act a certain way, but we *have* to act that way or we’ll fall behind. Everyone doing exactly the wrong thing, and knowing it, because the system forces them. And stuff like that. Capitalism and Western Culture are really racing ahead to kill and ruin us all!

            Still in 100 million years when the plastic is still untarnished, visitors from other planets will say “Ooh! They had some nice stuff!”.

          5. Ah, I got so busy doom-saying I forgot the best of all. The cold war nuclear arms race! A blink, or 3 minutes, away from being vapourised, instantly and without warning! Unless you listened to the radio a lot. Anyway that was a good ‘un, used to keep me awake at school. The weapons haven’t so much gone, we just don’t like to talk about them any more, it’s depressing!

      8. If you write the software yourself, it’s ethically sound. If you use the manufacturer’s software, they might include “you’re licenced to use the E8 software only on hardware that is sold as E8″ in the licence….

    4. You are on the wrong site for your philosophy (for lack of a better word) Jason.
      Perhaps you should try some microsoft forum or something?

        1. the simple solution that doesn’t void warranty as there no modifications to camera at all is:

          – turn on camera
          – press left menu button once
          – press gallery (play) button for 5 seconds

          you should have ‘diagnostic’ screen open

          – under left menu, change usb mode to RNDIS
          – install flir drivers and connect camera to your pc, it should install as network card with dhcp active and camera should be accessible through www (port 80, there is also few more things active – check 3rd page of http://www.imc-store.com.au/v/vspfiles/assets/images/flir%20a310%20technical%20notes.pdf )

          open your browser and navigate to http://192.168.0.2 then activate service mode – user:flir password:3vlig

          give it 30-40 seconds without pressing any keys, it will reboot and it will have i7 angles and resolution on the screen

          changes are reversed with every reboot so reset it with a switch or let it turn off when you are done with it

          all informations quoted here are verified by me on my i3 and were provided in flir E4 teardown thread by various users, thanks lads

          1. Nice pics! Bit cold in your house though!

            It’s impressive that (so it seems) software is able to compensate for lack of cooling on modern models.

          2. full step by step guide for permanent hack of i3 \ i5 is posted at eevblog.com teardown thread as well

  2. I’d just like to point out that it wasn’t just my efforts – several other EEVBlog forum members made many valuable contributions and discoveries leading to the final version of this hack.

  3. With the extreme prices the various manufacturers have been asking for these things, apparently without a real reason, I’m now beginning to wonder if there has been some kind of cartel going on in the IR camera market for the past years. Something must be seriously wrong, how else can it be explained somebody else wouldn’t have filled this huge competitive hole in the market. If these 240×320 sensor camera’s can be sold for < 1000$ (assuming they're not making a loss on selling the E4), why hasn't any competitor even come close to this price? They would have owned the market, if they had..

    1. The main problem is there are very few real manufacturers of cameras and sensors – many TIC “brands” are just badged FlIr units. Little competition, and little incentive to cut prices.

      1. Well no wonder the market is tiny, if a half decent TIC sets you back $6000. The market would be a lot bigger with more competitors and lower prices, and innovation would also happen much faster that way, leading to more interesting applications. If they can make such huge margins (selling something that can be made for <$1000 for $6000), if I were a cartel watch dog, I would investigate this, even more so because we all pay for this through our taxes (assuming governments are their biggest customers). And it's also not the case that there is NO competition – you have at least FLIR and Fluke (or are they repackaged FLIR's?) – you only need two to get the prices down, in a market that works (i.e., one that is not set by the cartel).

        1. I too think it’s fishy, they assume it are big companies and government outfits that want these devices, so they hugely bump up the price, since they can.

          1. I once worked somewhere that ordered, from a catalogue by an office-supplies place that didn’t deal with the public, a small set of drawers for organising floppy disks. It cost over 100 UKP.

            People don’t mind paying stupid prices if it’s the company that’s paying for it. And in the case of governments, and gods help us, militaries, even more so. I’m sure a big chunk of the economy is based on businesses like this. Everyone loves a government contract!

        2. I dunno how large the market for FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red, not the trademark) cameras is. Except for really niche porn, who needs one? The people that do, are already happy paying the price it seems. It’d be a nice toy, but beyond my toy budget.

          1. People that live in cold climates can use it to spot heat leaks in their homes, and charge their neighbors a few bucks to take similar pictures of those houses. Homeowners win by cutting heat lo$$e$, and the camera owner gets some payback for their investment.
            It can also be used to find hot spots in circuits, before the smoke gets out.

          2. Right. Isn’t that what people said back around 1975 about the personal computer? Once real competition starts to happen, innovation is quick to follow. Already certain car makers are building this into their cars for collision avoidance and better night vision. Who knows what kind of apps people would come up with if such a camera were part of their mobile phone.

          3. I always thought it would make a good device for vets, to see areas of inflammation on animals (since they are bad at answering spoken questions)

          4. I can think of several situations in which a non-inspector would find a thermal imaging camera useful:

            * Checking for dud fireworks (see: http://pyrouniverse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=28996)
            * Educational purposes; I’d imagine a thermal camera would be a valuable asset in a K-12 science classroom
            * Use by PC enthusiasts for finding overheating components
            * General interest (I’ve always thought it would be cool to take a thermal camera to a place like Yellowstone National Park)
            * Ghost hunting
            * DIY home projects
            * And so on…

          5. While these are uses, they’re not what you’d pay $1000 for! And many of them can be done by hiring a camera from a tool-hire place. It’s not the sort of thing you’d do very often.

    2. The main probelm is is there is very little competition as there are very few manufacturers of TICs and sensors, so no incentive to drop prices.

    3. Because the market is tiny, and owning it is not such a prize, especially if you can sell mediocre stuff at a price premium.

      1. You’ve obviously never dealt with government contracts… They look at prices with a freaking microscope. The government spends more money wasting time and resources on makeing sure they aren’t getting ripped off than they actually are getting ripped off for. Plus the government can’t force anyone to sell them something for whatever price the government wants, if a vendor says a special widget costs eleventy-billion dollars and that company is the sole source for that wiget, that is the price. Isn’t capitalism grand? Just because you need something, doesn’t mean everyone is going to make one for the price you want. Same as this thing, You want a cheaper TIC? good luck finding competition in pricing when there is only one company willing to make it…
        Or maybe they should just spring for the lowest bidder, who may be a guy making “FLiR” cameras in his garage. No risk in that…

        1. I wonder who makes the sensor chips, what they sell for, and if they’re fussy about who they’ll sell them to (like with exclusive contracts)?

          The chip is the 95% of this that you couldn’t make in your garage. It’s the really valuable part.

        2. “The government spends more money wasting time and resources on makeing sure they aren’t getting ripped off than they actually are getting ripped off for.”

          Like the $600 million dollars one government paid for in a no-bid contract for a website that doesn’t work.

  4. THIS! This here is a real hack. Bravo, now to find a list of the higher end serial numbers and spread this hack far and wide.

    1. You don’t need any other serial numbers – just your ow,n to bake into the CRC check on the config file.

      1. Yeah, but then I can say I have one XD That’s why I bought a pair of handcuffs, and a portal gun, and a 1 watt blue laser amongst other things lol

        1. Largely why I wear a wristwatch that’s also a mobile phone! But with a bluetooth headset it’s a halfway-decent phone. The main beef is a shortage of buttons. The touchscreen isn’t the greatest, and it’s a pain to keep getting the stylus out from the strap. Annoyingly, the menus are numbered, and the watch has a physical number keypad. But there’s no button for “OK” or “Cancel”! So the numbers are useless!

          It’s also a video player / camera, MP3 player and some other things. Not bad for 50 quid!

  5. I doubt it was the engineers decision to make “their lives easier.” It was almost certainly someone from management or marketing/sales.

  6. Engineer: “Hey Boss, you know that multi-million dollar project that we’re working on?
    Boss: “Yea….”
    Engineer: “Well, I can save us $1000s on the Flir camera we were thinking of buying if we get the cheap one and let me ‘hack it’!”
    Boss: “Naw, that’s ok. It’s already built into the budget, and I’m not sure how happy the client would be if they found out.”

    Cool hack though.

    1. Still, as an end user, you can void your warranty and buy 5 back-up cameras for the same money.

      As for integrating it into something, you wouldn’t normally buy consumer gear then take the case off. Surely you’d buy either the sensor or a board from a manufacturer? It’d be interesting to see how much they sell for, in either spec. If it’s the same exact thing, then hacking it, integrating it into a product, and selling it is no problem. Sourcing components is your business, not the customer’s. Customer asks for 320×240, and you give them it.

      Million-dollar contracts, perhaps it’s different cos there’s so much liability and stuff, especially if lives depend on it. Then again if a $600,000 component is identical to a $100,000 one, you probably would.

  7. if i was the manufacturer i would do 1 of a couple things to counter such a large savings

    make the differences physical hardware like no using 1 image sensor for all models using software to rescale the image or pixelate the image or limit the zoom

    no mechanical limiters as such with sears’s gamefisher boat motor that used an evenrude motor that was identical to evenrude’s 15 hp motor where all you had to do is either re adjust the throttle cable or cut off a stop so the so called butterfly flap could open all the way thereby letting a 9 hp be turned into a 15 hp motor.

    1. There is actually a regulatory reason for the 9 horse motors. I forget the details, but I think it means the boat would not need registration if the motor is under 10 horse

      1. Many smaller lakes restrict motor sizes to limit erosion from large wakes. The exact limit is arbitrarily set by a relevant association (similar to HOA), but ~10HP seems to be a very common limit. (My folks live on such a lake; the limit is “<10HP"). For this reason surprisingly many manufacturers offer motors of exactly 9.9HP…

    2. But if because of this hack a bunch of people go out and buy the $1000 version and hack it when they otherwise wouldn’t have bought one at all then the company still wins by generating the additional sales. I would never pay $6k for a TIC, nor would I pay $1K for a low-resolution model. But I am certainly considering buying the $1K model now that I know I can make a few modifications and get much higher resolution with it.

      And the number of people who truly hack their own high-tech hardware is still very small relative to the entire potential market (even with step-by-step tutorials available; “views” don’t equate to actual hacks) so I doubt the company is too concerned about the modest increase in sales for the $1000 models this hack may cause. They are probably smiling all the way to the bank while we wring our hands over the “ethics” of tinkering with our own stuff.

      Frankly, companies with products like this would be best served by doing it the way it was done in this case; offering a high-end super-expensive fully-functional version and a cheaper version with reduced functionality but that also contains a not-very-secret-but-not-too-simple-either method of attaining the functionality of the more expensive version (simplicity is relative, of course).

      Those who are annoyed by this marketing practice only know about it because of their interest in hardware hacking, an interest which also happens to lead to the skills to rectify the perceived problem. So we hardware hackers are getting our $6K units for $1K (and the company is making their money; we still gotta buy a unit either way) but it’s almost comical how some of us are still being so critical of the very practice that enabled us to get a decent unit on the cheap!

    3. I have a 1980’s era Singer sewing machine. It was the cheaper of 2 models,
      The difference between the 2 models was a mechanical vs. electronic speed control and a C-clip that prevented the cheaper model from accessing all of the fancy stitches available in the more expensive model. A sewing machine repairman removed the C-clip for me… now to build an electronic speed control…

      1. Yeah, independent repairmen are ace! And they’re usually keen to tell you the stuff the manufacturer doesn’t want you to know. It’s how I learned about washing machine spin-speeds (for another day!).

        It’s a shame modern hi-tec doesn’t have much of a place for them, or for repair at all. With materials being so much cheaper than labour, and robots doing half the labour, a human can’t compete with just throwing the damn thing away. Ah well, we’ll always have plumbers. And undertakers.

    4. Using 2 different sensor chips would mean ordering 2 different sensor chips. So instead of the price break on ordering many thousands, you’d have 2 smaller orders. Even if the lesser chip is cheaper, the whole order may cost more!

      And then there’s the logistical demands of getting the chips. And we’re assuming the chips have the same layout and interface standards, or else you need 2 runs of PCBs too. And 2 lots of software, and testing, etc.

      And worse, what if you buy in a lot of the lesser chips, but people mostly buy the camera with the better one? Or vice-versa? You’ve got a shitload of unsellable chips.

      These reasons and more are why it makes sense to cripple the high-end stuff, with software or maybe a few unpopulated PCB spots. You can manage demand perfectly, if more people want the better model, convert a few of the lesser ones with a quick change in the software, upgrade done in minutes! Without opening the case! You can even pack them in identical boxes with a sticker to denote the model, which many places do.

      Basically it’s one of the less-wierd bits of economics.

  8. You forget that it’s all marketing they will go with what’s going to make them money and if adding a device that looks like it’s Better but contains the same hardware as their base model, they will do this to make their catalogue bigger to hit people with the the we do more than a one pony show, This lets them justify the massive prices they put on things made from $20 worth of parts some formed plastic shell with a rubber grip.

  9. If the Hardware is identical and it only requires some software/firmware changes its actually sort of illegal in Europe to have such price difference.
    There are cases around plasma screens that are similar, too lazy to post a link.
    The people that bought the more expensive version could ask for compensation.
    I’m not a fan of these laws myself although I can see where they are coming from, it sort of counteracts on patents which I’m no fan of either.

  10. You own the hardware – you can do what you want with it. Modchips are a case in point of modding hardware (physically) being legal – in the EU in any case. Provided that the primary purpose of the modchip isn’t itself illegal (playing pirated games, for example) you’re good to go. A legal use of the modchip would be to run your own software on the device – indie games for example. This is equivalent to putting openWRT on your router (from a legal perspective, not a practical one).

    So from this, I deduce that software and hardware mods are legal on a piece of hardware you own, provided that the fundamental purpose of these mods isn’t illegal. Since you aren’t copying and pirating any software, just modding what is there, I can’t see this being illegal whatsoever.

    From an ethical point of view, people who understand things always have an edge – be that software, hardware, how to deal with people. Is it ethically wrong to argue down the price of your phone contract because you happen to be a persuasive person? I for one have just purchased an E4 specifically because of its hackability – I would have held off purchasing at all without that tipping the balance. Personally, I think FLIR designed for this to happen and are rubbing their hands together in glee at their market-grabbing play.

  11. I have a lecroy scope here that has the same wonderful features as the models above it, the only thing holding it back are license codes the unlock them… Saves money on tooling and production if you can make everything the exact same way and then just cripple down the lower models with a little code. Something feels terribly dirsty about that though…

    1. And IBM servers may have 4 processors, but if you only pay to use one, the dongle prevents you from using the other 3. The dongle will also prevent additional RAM from being recognized/used.

  12. The one Flir dealer I could find who shows stock figures online, appears to have sold 11 E4’s in the last 24 hours..

    1. Sure thing! Follow these instructions from the thread:

      1. Power up the camera fully.
      2. Press the menu button once. The menu bar should pop up.
      3. Hold down the “play” button for 5 or so seconds. A grey table containing info should pop up.
      4. Press the menu button once again, and a small menu bar should pop up with “Enable RNDIS USB” and “ENABLE MRD (or something, it’s irrelevant) USB.”
      5. Click on the one that says RNDIS USB, and connect the camera to your computer through USB.
      6. Download and install the FLIR Camera drivers from http://cdn.cloud.flir.se/swdownload/assets/other/flir_device_drivers.exe
      7. Open, in a web browser, 192.168.0.2 after your camera has been connected to the computer. There should be a blue webpage that says FLIR i5 Web.
      8. Go to the Service menu bar, and when prompted, type in the following:
      username: flir
      password: 3vlig
      9. Go to the service menu and enable Service Mode. Your camera should take about 40 seconds to reboot. Once it is rebooted, it should function as an i7!
      10. If you reboot the camera after disconnecting from the computer, it will revert back to an i5 and the Service Mode will be turned off.
      11. For a more permanent (but reversible) hack, see the thread linked above. It does require some complex stuff, so you may want to stick with these instructions for now.

      Relay the news of your success back to us!

      1. Can you show me the hack that will keep it as a i7 I done what you said with my i3 and works great but I want to keep it that way. Please help share the link.

  13. Even non working FLIR units are selling, people buy these for parts all the time and repair them.
    Also the main cause of problems with these is in the image processing section, and with some clever electronics you can indeed interface to the bare sensor using analogue addressing and a single amplifier although the temporal resolution won’t be brilliant.

  14. I don’t think we need to fear them finding out about this hack unless someone literally contacts them and tells them. Just like medical hardware sellers and high end engineering companies selling overpriced hardware they sell mainly to universities and government. Those with deep pockets. The models they are selling cheaper; i don’t think they literally are prepared and aware that someone might actually go through the trouble to hack those hence the pathetic weak protection. Its not like they are monitoring the internet for people hacking their niche FLIR cameras much less suspect it. Those companies tend to be the slowest as responding to said threats.They count their market as higher end and as such are in fact even sloppier at protecting said stuff. Counting that anyone willing to pay so much won’t bother trying to hack it.

    Even if someone did contact them they’d be slow in responding. Maybe the next model down the line might add some more on the software end but it will be hacked as well unless they do so on the hardware end limiting it.

    Prediction: They never find out or if so turn a blind eye and keep doing this counting this as only a few rogue hackers which won’t really affect their bottom line. These aren’t hacked xboxes sold by the ton; these are niche cameras. sold in less amounts but for much more to imaging enthusiasts or professionals. Not like they will automatically rush out patches to fix them or anything. More inclined to believe they won’t find out more likely ie: go under the radar

      1. Not referring to the hobbyists persay but the manufacturer. Most of them are pretty damn oblivious to what the community is doing. I already know the FLIR community is active. Mainly commenting on the companies being pretty blaise.Security for them of their product isn’t even a concern when they are so hell bent on selling several thousand dollar cameras. Even the lower end models. Think Tiffanys vs a ghetto liquor store. I don’t think they expect people buying 1000 dollar flir model to realize that a simple hack could upgrade their model. Which of course is plain stupidity on their part.

  15. Those who can justify the higher end FLIR would not be able to justify to use a hacked version even they can be made to the same specification. Most likely they are rich enough companies that warranty, calibration, accountability, morale, reputation, etc etc are more important the extra-feature on a cheaper hacked model. If you are individual who would buy an expensive version and choose a cheaper version, more likely it is a toy to you, and the volume is very very small. As a result, FLIR is all winner because of this hack. The poll on EEVBLOG reflects the situation very well. If I need a low capability TIC, I would go for cheaper Fluke VT02 over E4, and Fluke is having a home run on this segment. With this hack, I placed my order for the E4 because it can do something useful at a highest price I think worthwhile for my needs – i.e. seeing the heat nature of a PCB. I am not going to use it like my Hakko iron, I am quite sure about it, and I paid much less for my Hakko.

  16. I’m just surprised the EEs at FLIR didn’t bother to add even the tinyest of crypto chips to prevent unwarranted modifications like this. It’s really not that hard to make this hack 10000x more difficult.

  17. What a disgusting abuse of customer trust. How many people overpaid by 600% because they were misled by the fake low-end device? This sort of crap should be illegal. The cool hacks for beating the system aren’t woth putting up with the system.

  18. I use to sell a software package called Mastercam, it’s a five figure software package. They sold different levels of the software, 1, 2 and 3. Each level would cost about $5,000 more. To unlock the higher level they just gave you a code. Are you paying more for the hardware or for the software. What makes the difference on many products is the software that runs the hardware. I never viewed it as abuse of my customers by selling them level 3 over level 1. Mastercam didn’t have to offer level 1 they could of only sold the $15,000 package. Make something like this illegal, do you think that will increase or decrease prices? Trust me on this, that will only lead to higher prices for everyone. Please no more government regulation, I just got my new health insurance rates I can’t afford it.

    1. I live in Sweden were our taxes pays for health care (among other things). I recently had surgery and had to pay nothing, zero, null, zilch… We have to pay a small fee everytime we need health care, b/w $5-$50 depending on if we need to see a doctor or just a nurse. But there’s a limit on how much we need to pay (I think it is around $400/year), if the acumulated fees are above that limit, you would’nt have to pay anything as the health insurance (payed by our taxes, everyone is included) pays.

      Same thing for medication, you would only need to pay up to a certain amount (I think it’s around $400 too), if the cost of your medication is above that amount you wouldn’t have to pay anything for it.
      Every citizen is included in that national health insurance, no one is excluded.

      OnT: Great hack for saving $5000. Would like to have a TIC, could come in handy in some projects (and around the house, looking for leaks), but I wouldn’t even consider a $1000 camera. Slash off that last zero and I would definatly buy one :)

  19. Oh man… not the ethics argument, AGAIN!…..

    You guys realize this is like an exact copy of the last post like this, right?

  20. back to tech stuff for a moment – I am picking up an E4 to assist my Plumbing Business with leak detection ( in conjunction with sonic ). Anybody used these things for that kind of thing? Sales guy I am dealing with reckons its hot for leaks in walls. Also, does this Hack only improve the IR res, or also the thermal sensitivity? thanks!!

  21. What about thermal sensitivity? E4 = 0.15K and E8 = 0.06K
    And the picture in picture function? Also alarm isn’t available on the E4…
    And the measure mode. E4 only got centre spot measure.

    Not that i think those things are worth 5000$ but I’m wondering if you also get all those benefits.
    I can understand that when you put some 100’000$ in the engineering of a product you want to sell for a couple of thousand bucks you use that engineering also for a product which costs less so everyone can afford a product of yours. Engineering a cheaper product from scratch would make it more expensive. But if you can turn a cheaper camera into a better camera just by uploading the others firmware… Thats a cool thing. Well done finding that out.

  22. I’m not sure why people are complaining. A lot of the cost difference between the camera models is the development and software costs, not necessarily the raw hardware costs. You pay more, you get better features.

    This kind of “cripple” is the best case scenario for hackers. Government, military, big businesses etc will pay the normal price for these and use them without hacking because they can’t be seen to do such hacks. Personal users can hack them and get “more for their money” without any issue.

  23. A new firmware update has appeared on the Flir website which includes multiple hack countermeasures. See the EEVBLOG thread for latest news. This has yet to be seen on production units – latest date on a production unit seen with hackable 1.19.8 FW is Jan 24th 2014

  24. If I buy it, I own it and can do with it what I please, period! I don’t want anyone telling me what I can do with my property. It was their choice to deceive their consumers.

  25. Note the the different between a FLIR TS32 and a TS32PRO with SDHC recording feature is simply – software. Both FLIR’s have the card slot and hardware. Cost difference is $5249.00 vs. $6299.00 (for software).

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