In our ceaseless quest to bring you the best from the cheaper end of the global electronics markets, there are sometimes gadgets that we keep an eye on for a while because when they appear they’re just a little bit too pricey to consider cheap.
Today’s subject is just such a device, it’s a minimalist infra-red camera using the 8 pixel by 8 pixel Panasonic AMG8833 thermal sensor. This part has been around for a while, but even though any camera using it has orders of magnitude less performance than more accomplished models it has remained a little too expensive for a casual purchase. Indeed, these mini cameras were somewhere above £50 ($70) when they first came to our attention, but have now dropped to the point at which they can be found for somewhere over £30 ($42). Thirty quid is cheap enough for a punt on a thermal camera, so off went the order to China and the expected grey parcel duly arrived.
It’s a little unit, 40 mm x 35 mm x 18 mm, constructed of two laser-cut pieces of black plastic held together by brass stand-offs that hold a PCB between them, and on the front is a cut-out for the sensor while on the rear is one for the 35mm OLED display.At the side on the PCB is a micro USB socket which serves only as a power supply. It’s fair to say that this is a tiny unit.
Applying power from a USB battery bank, the screen comes up with a square colour thermal picture and a colour to temperature calibration stripe to its left. The colours adapt to the range of temperatures visible to the sensor, and there is a crosshair in the centre of the picture for which the temperature in Celsius is displayed below the picture. It’s a very straightforward and intuitive interface that requires no instruction, which is handy because the device has none. Continue reading “Review: Mini AMG8833 Thermal Camera”→
Panasonic’s Grid-EYE sensor is essentially a low-cost 8×8 thermal imager with a 60 degree field of view, and a nice breakout board makes it much easier to integrate into projects. [Pure Engineering] has created an updated version of their handy breakout board for the Grid-EYE and are currently accepting orders. The new breakout board is well under an inch square and called the GridEye2 (not to be confused with the name of the main component, the AMG8833 Grid-EYE by Panasonic.)
A common way to interface with the Grid-EYE is over I2C, but to make connecting and developing on a PC more straightforward, [Pure Engineering] has made sure the new unit can plug right into their (optional) CH341A development board to provide a USB interface. Getting up and running on a Linux box is then as simple as installing the Linux drivers for the CH341A, and using sample C code to start reading thermal data from an attached GridEye2 board.
Thermal cameras hold an enduring fascination as well as being a useful tool for the engineer. After all, who wouldn’t want to point one at random things around the bench, laughing with glee at finding things warmer or colder than expected? But they’ve always been so expensive, and a lot of the efforts that have sought to provide one for little outlay have been rather disappointing.
Most of the thermal cameras we’ve seen have centred upon the FLIR Lepton module, but that’s a component that remains expensive. This project shows us that thermal cameras are a technology that is slowly becoming affordable, and that greater things are to come.