Flir C2 on left (no MSX). Fluke Tix520 on right. Low delta T in this image
Flir C2 on left (no MSX). Fluke Tix520 on right.
I purposely left out the MSX (which merges the thermal with an embossed visible light image) in the C2. The MSX is the saving grace for the C2, but only for the purpose of adding visible detail to the image. It does not increase interpretive thermal data whatsoever (See below).
Flir C2 on left (no MSX). Flir C2 WITH msx on right. Note that the added "purple" in the right image (which is absent in the left) is actually visible light shadows... and NOT thermal data!!!
Flir C2 on left (no MSX). Fluke Tix520 on right
In just my brief toying around with the C2, I simply can't believe that there are inspectors utilizing this thing as a professional service. I can assure that they are misinterpreting data on both sides of the spectrum (metaphorically and literally speaking).
In this early comparison, I tried to closely match the temperature range in both cameras. BG temp, transmission, and emmissivity are set identical in both.
The C2 resolution is 80x60. The TiX520 resolution is 320x240. The difference between the two is... well... you decide...
I test drove the 520 about a year ago...it's an amazing piece of equipment. Bill and I talked a lot about how some of the new features are nice, but may give a false sense of security (such as auto focus). Still have to get those education courses done.
Glad my Fluke 32 is still kicking! Maybe in 20 years I can afford to buy a new one!
Before purchasing, I knew the C2 was more of a consumer grade device rather than professional use. I was hoping that it could at least be used as preliminary investigation tool with limitations. Unfortunately, I can't even endorse the product for that. The resolution is so bad that the only useful purpose in a professional diagnostic realm would be quick scans of conveyor bearings to find already failed bearings or otherwise high contrast applications... and certainly not for predictive maintenance inspections.
The really surprising fault was the MSX technology and the fact that it introduced false visual artifacts into the thermal image which appear to be thermal data. That can certainly lead to misinterpretations of the thermal data for those that are inexperienced or lack quality training. In all honesty, I didn't see this fault until I put the two images (with and without msx) side by side for this thread! According to Flir, MSX stands for "Multi Spectral Dynamic Imaging".
From their website: "MSX produces better texture in a thermal image. Thanks to this new feature more anomalies can be detected, analyses can be done more detailed and conclusions can be drawn in a split second. MSX incorporates real-time thermal video enhanced with visible spectrum definition. It produces exceptional thermal clarity to highlight exactly where the problem is. MSX ensures easier target identification without compromising radiometric data. The quality of the thermal images is excellent. There is almost no need anymore for a separate digital image. FLIR’s new MSX embosses digital camera detail onto thermal video and stills. Due to the new MSX feature, thermal images look sharper, the orientation of the target will be done quicker, the reports are clutter-free and it ensures a faster route to solutions."
(Bold red is my edit)
While it is true that the images look crisper, I find the rest of their claims to be misleading at best... and dangerous to the inspector with very little training or experience in thermal imaging. The embossing by nature will add artifacts to the image that either aren't present in the thermal spectrum, or become over-exaggerated apparent anomalies/exceptions. By Flir's indication, MSX does not compromise the radiometric data in the image. So in a low contrast application (small delta T), you end up with a crisp embossed photo over an otherwise poor quality thermal image. Exaggerated shadows, artifacts, and all.
Because of the time sensitive nature of real estate transactions, inspectors who utilize thermal imaging (myself included) aren't always going to have optimum thermal inspection conditions. In fact, a large majority of time the conditions are poor or in a state of transition when we perform the inspection. It's inevitable and often beyond our preferred control. Someone with poor training, little experience, and certainly a low resolution camera under these conditions, will have a difficult time, miss things, or worse yet, interpret them incorrectly. And just because you have Level I or II training doesn't necessarily equate to having gained adequate experience in residential and commercial structure applications, and that you are immune to the shortfalls of the C2 limitations. In fact, not long ago I researched an inspector offering thermal imaging for a client who was level II certified; however, his sample report lead me away from referring him to the client. He was using a higher resolution camera than the C2, but he had images of just about every window in the structure reported as active moisture intrusion. In the image examples, he had arrows and circles identifying the doubled or tripled framing below the window corners as the active moisture and leaks. It was clear that he had little construction or inspection experience with the thermal camera based on his misinterpretation of the thermal data. The detail in his images was clear enough to discern framing from moisture. The detail in a C2 image would not be as clear even with MSX, and could easily be misinterpreted as moisture and register a false positive with a moisture meter.
I provide this example as I have heard from other inspectors that they are trained level X or XX and can accurately interpret the C2 findings. As an experienced thermographer, I find that statement humorously optimistic. While quality training is necessary, experience and quality equipment is as important if not more so. And in my humble experience, using the C2 in my own home was like donning a pair of glasses that blurred my vision. I could clearly discern the exterior wall studs and drywall screws with the Fluke TiX520, but could barely even locate the studs with the C2. Conditions were ~70°F inside and 51°F outside, which was more than adequate for my TiX520. Using the C2, I felt severely limited in my ability to accurately identify even known insulation deficiencies in my own home.
I can certainly appreciate the low cost attraction to the C2 for inspectors wanting to add thermal imaging to their services.... but as the saying goes... "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low cost is forgotten." My advice to those who already own this or are considering a purchase of the C2 or Flir's new offering of C3 with wifi capability... use caution and tread carefully! Just because it's made by Flir or is called a thermal camera doesn't necessarily mean it is an ideal choice for professional inspectors and finding concerns you otherwise couldn't "see". Flir makes some EXCELLENT cameras! As does Fluke, and Testo, and several other manufacturers. The C2 (or C3 for that matter) is not intended for inspectors to make accurate calls or interpretations by any means. The MSX technology is nice, but with an 80x60 detector resolution, it will not improve the thermal results. It simply converts a really poor radiometric image into a really poor embossed radiometric image with false thermal-appearing artifacts. Nothing more.
Nicely said Bill. They need to take heed. This can blow up real quick. Trying to step over dollars picking up dimes is foolish. But the manufacture has to know the product capabilities? How much is the C2?
C2 dropped from over $600 to just under $400 as they released the C3. The demand really increased with the price drop and was difficult to find one at the price point. Most everyone was out of them. Sounds like supply and demand are bringing the price up a tad again.
Thanks Casey & Bill. Per what Bill has shown and documented I DONT see a point in owning one of these unless I'm missing something. I'm getting ready to possibly purchase another thermal camera for my other lead inspector. But out of the FLIR series I don't see anything of use under a E40 or 120x160
Substandard diverter (kick-out) flasing issue depicted.
You can see clearly the effect the substandard flashing has on the siding in the Fluke TiX520 image (lower left)
The C2 images are top left and right. One with MSX and one without. Neither clearly show the water tracking, and any apparent moisture in the suspect area of the siding is barely discernible with the C2... it could easily be overlooked by a novice or inexperienced inspector using the C2 or C3 for diagnostics in a building inspection application.