It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Hackaday is constantly catapulted by companies that want us to review their latest and greatest tools. After all, making it cheaper, easier, and more effective to publish about their product than trying to come up with an ad campaign of their own. But if you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll also know that internal reviews aren’t something we actually do very often.
The reason is simple: we are only interested in devices or products that offer something useful or unique to this community. As such, the vast majority of these offers are ignored. I’ll give you an example. For whatever reason, several companies have tried desperately to send me electric bikes with five-figure price tags this year. But since there was no obvious way to turn that into useful content for Hackaday readers, I still moved myself as if it were in the 20th century. I’m joking, of course… I haven’t dared to ride a bike in a decade.
So I wouldn’t mind telling you that, when InfiRay contacted me Their P2 Pro thermal camera reviewThe email almost went to the trash. We’ve seen this type of phone-based thermal camera before, and they seem to be more of the same. But after taking a closer look at the specs, accessories, and claims set forth in the marketing materials, I thought this might be worth checking out head-on.
Get up close and personal
So what makes the P2 Pro thermal camera different from many other cameras on the market? Simply put, the combination of the sensor’s resolution of (relatively) 256 x 192 and the addition of a magnetically attached macro lens means that the camera is uniquely suited for close inspection of PCBs. In fact, the website boasts that the device is able to clearly monitor individual 0201 SMD resistors on the board.
While many of these cameras are meant for things like finding the cold spots in your home, or identifying the hottest components in a car’s engine bay, the P2 Pro is a much better tool for the kind of close-up, close-up work your average Hackaday reader is likely to do. Of course, at the same time, it can still do anything that low-fidelity models can do. So even if you aren’t looking for short-cut components on SMD boards every day, there are still plenty of applications for the camera in other fields and hobbies.
However, the ergonomics of the device is not necessarily ideal for close-up work. The P2 Pro is so small – about 28 x 18mm – that it’s very easy to block its view with your hand while trying to position the phone correctly. It works a little better when the phone is upside down and the USB-C port is on top, but of course it ends up being awkward for its own reasons.
InfiRay must have seen this problem, as it includes a USB-C extension cable in the box that lets you maneuver the camera separately. Thanks in no small part to the camera’s streamlined shape, it only took a few lines in OpenSCAD to put together a 3D-printed mount that would allow me to mount the camera on a standard tripod. This improves the usability of the product so much that I’d like to see InfiRay offer an official release.
The P2 Pro also clocks in at 25 frames per second (FPS), which is significantly higher than some of the cheaper models on the market. Gradual temperature changes appear seamlessly, and watching heat circulate through an object is as enchanting as it is rewarding. In the next clip, I pass a few volts through the 0805 resistor, and you can clearly see how the heat generated by the resistor is drawn away by the wires once the current stops flowing.
Great hardware, So-So software
NB: Since I am using the Android version of the P2 Pro, the following applies only to the Google OS. There’s a separate version of the camera on the iPhone and an accompanying iOS app, but since I haven’t used it, I can’t say for sure what the experience is.
Honestly, there’s nothing bad I can say about the P2 Pro’s hardware itself — it looks solidly built, performs great, and even the box it comes in has great presentation. On the other hand, the software, while maintainable, could use a similar level of polishing.
Getting the Android app to recognize the camera sometimes required you to unplug it a few times, and I’ve had several instances where the photo was locked from the camera and required the app to be restarted. I also had issues recording videos from within the app itself, and eventually had to use Android’s built-in screen capture capability to post the above video.
Other than the glitches, the software is generally good. The interface is simple, and there are many great features such as the ability to change color schemes and a “picture-in-picture” mode that puts the view from the phone’s camera onto the thermal camera. Keep in mind that how similar the two perspectives are will depend on the camera layout of the device you’re using it on.
There are plenty of configuration and calibration options, but the default settings all seemed to work fine and I never needed to mess with anything. However, it is always nice to have these advanced features and settings in case you need them.
By the way, for anyone who might be curious, the P2 Pro selected as a standard USB video device when I connected it to both my Linux desktop and Chromebook. You obviously don’t get any of the advanced configuration options and it’s a raw 256 x 192 @ 25fps black and white video feed with no fancy upscaling like the app has to be, but at least it works out of the box and can be Useful for all kinds of projects.
Those who have read my previous reviews will probably be wondering when to disassemble the P2 Pro and check what’s inside. But I’m afraid of this thing I’m going to have to go through. It’s a small case that sticks on with some kind of adhesive, and to tell you the truth, I’d rather not destroy the thing if I can help it.
But if you really must know what he looks like on the inside, the electret mics actually slipped on his channel a few months ago. Not surprisingly, there isn’t much going on inside the little gadget beyond the camera board itself, though it’s clever in how it separates the interface into its own board so they can easily spawn USB-C and Lightning versions.
Since it sounds like the kind of thing you’d like to see in a thermal camera review, here’s a random selection of photos I took with the device over the past week or so.
In the end, I must admit that the P2 Pro really impressed me. Not only do the resolution, frame rate and macro lens make it an excellent tool for diagnosing devices of all shapes and sizes – it’s just great fun looking at the world through this device. I’d love to see Android software tightened up here and there, but I haven’t run into any issues big enough to stop me from recommending the product to others.
At $299, the InfiRay P2 Pro is priced to compete with similar devices from FLIR, while at the same time offering higher specs in key areas. Consider the FLIR ONE Pro, which will cost $420, but only offers 160 x 120 resolution and is much larger and heavier. There are of course cheaper thermal camera options out there, but from what we’ve seen, they’re often more of a fad than a useful tool. If you’ve been thinking of adding a thermal camera to your toolbox but have been put off by the price-performance ratio of what was previously on the market, the P2 Pro might be what you’ve been waiting for.
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