Thermal cameras are important to people who spend most of their time on the water. They provide superior protection in challenging conditions especially in low light scenarios. Thermal cameras counter limitations making your trips on the water safer.
But what other benefits do marine thermal cameras offer? Are they better than radar technology and what are the best applications on the market? These are the topics we’ll be covering in this review.
Both thermal cameras and radar technology have their advantages, limitations & purpose. The best option depends on what you’ll use it for. Let’s go through the features of both of these innovative designs.
Radar technology detects and displays echoes produced by an object whether it’s land items, rocks, floating debris or boats.
As mentioned before thermal cameras detect heat radiation from objects. But it also detects slight differences in heat as little as 0.01°C and displays them as different colors.
Typically radar applications can reach distances of 24 to 64 miles and further depending on the model.
Thermal cameras have a shorter range of approximately a quarter mile. Some models have a zoom function that allows the user to zoom in on objects as far as three miles or more.
Radar technology has the ability to display a 360° picture of all objects situated around the outside of your boat.
Unlike radar, thermal is designed to focus its view in a single direction of interest. When you point the camera in a specific direction it will only use thermal imaging in that specific point of interest.
There are many differences between radar technology and thermal imaging. But combined they will enhance your safety when you’re on your boat. Take a look at these differences between radar and thermal imaging.
The Flir M132 is a compact adjustable tilt camera that’s the smallest in the FLIR marine range. FLIR’s M132 adjustable tilt offers optimal positioning while you travel on the water.
You can use the integrated ClearCruise intelligent thermal analytics to alert you when non-water objects such as boats appear in your scene.
The M132 features a resolution of 320x240 with a 24°x18° field of view which improves safety as it reveals obstacles and vessels during the night. FLIR’s M132 also features a 4x continuous e-zoom so you can see an object clearly from far away.
With the M132’s adjustable tilt of +110°, -90° it stabilizes the images when you’re moving or adjusting the position of the camera. The dection distance is 1500 feet for a person in the water and .67NM for a small vessel. This thermal camera is ideally suited for boats up to 50ft. in length.
Here is another compact marine camera suitable for recreational vessels. If you combine your M232 with Axiom MFD you can use ClearCruise intelligent thermal analytics. This feature provides audible and visual alerts when other vessels or obstacles are in your path.
ClearCruise optimizes your safety on the water during the day or night as it helps you detect any threats in your path.
The FLIR M232 has a detection range of 1500 ft. for a person in the water and .67NM for a small vessel. The 320x240 thermal resolution will optimize your horizon to horizon viewing. M232’s field of view is 24°x18° which also improves your visual images. It also has a 4X continuous zoom so you can see objects clearly from far away.
FLIR’s M232 thermal camera has a 360° continuous tilt of +110°, -90° to stabilize the device for clear images when you’re traveling on water. The operating temperature range is -13°F to +131°F (-25°C to +55°C) allowing it to be used in almost all conditions where you will operate your boat. The M232 is suited to boats up to 50ft. in length.
The FLIR M324CS can be used for more than one application such as commercial vessels, recreational vessels, yachts and first-time responders. FLIR’s next-generation marine time camera allows you to see more to optimize your safety during the day or in low light scenarios.
This M series camera has an integrated joystick which gives you full control of the camera. The M324CS features a high-resolution color camera with a 36x optical zoom to enhance images even during the night or low light situations.
The M324CS features a 336 x 256 resolution with a 1.4 Lux daylight CCD camera for enhanced viewing. The 360°Continuous Pan and +/-90°tilt capabilities give you complete awareness at all times. The integrated gyro stabilization provides crystal clear images even when you’re traveling on rough seas.
FLIR’s M324CS camera has a detection range of 1,500ft. for a person in the water and 4,200ft. for small boats.
FLIR’s compact M324S camera is light and easy to install on any recreational vessel, yachts, first-time responders as well as commercial vessels. This innovative marine thermal camera provides superior safety features during the day or in low light scenarios.
FLIR’s M324S thermal camera has a detection range of 1,500ft. for a person and 4,200ft. for a small vessel. The thermal technology has a temperature range of -40°F to +185°F (-40°C to +85°C) allowing it to be used almost anywhere you may take your boat no matter the weather conditions.
The camera has a resolution of 336x256 with a 2x continuous zoom for the clearest images of objects at far distances. FLIR’s M324S has gyro-stabilization which holds your camera steady even during rough seas to provide clear images.
The FLIR M400 provides stunning videos and images even during the night or when there’s a storm. It’s a rugged device designed for the harshest conditions. The camera has a waterproof enclosure with automatic window heaters that keep your images clear.
FLIR’s M400 camera can be used for more than one application such as commercial vessels, first-time responders, yachts and recreational vessels.
The M400 has 640 x 480 sensor technology that delivers clear images even in total darkness. It has an HD color display with a 3x zoom and a targeted LED spotlight for added safety. The thermal camera also has an optical zoom of 4x for seeing objects at a further distance.
FLIR’s M400 has an activated gyro stabilization that keeps your camera stable as you capture images and videos. It ensures crystal clear pictures. What’s more, the camera has integrated radar detection for targeting and a joystick so you have complete control over your camera.
This premium multi-sensor marine camera is designed for commercial vessels and first responders. The M400XR is versatile as you can use it for other tasks such as fire fighting rescue missions. For this feature simply switch the settings to firefighter mode.
FLIRS M400XR has integrated radar technology for tracking objects such as docks, coastlines and obstacles. The gyro stabilization ensures you capture clear images and videos even when you’re traveling on rough seas.
The M400XR offers HD videos with a 640x480 resolution with a 4x optical zoom lens for crisp focus of objects at far distances. The color camera has a combination of thermal sensor with 3x optical zoom and 30x zoom. It has a long range of detection for daylight & low light viewing.
The M500 is an ultra high-performance multi-sensor camera which is the most advanced M-series camera in the range. FLIR’s M500 works well with both short and ultra long-range target identification & detection.
This innovative thermal camera has automatic video tracking which keeps the device locked onto visual targets. The integrated radar subsequently directs you to the target. The M500 can be used for commercial vessels as well as yachts and first-time responders.
The FLIR M500 has an extra long detection range. For enhanced clarity, the M500 provides 14x optical zoom which can detect vessels with heat signatures of ~8.3 nm / 15.4 km.
This thermal camera has a 640 x 512 pixel mid-wave infrared (MWIR) thermal sensor and a 30x zoom color HD camera for defined images. The gyro stabilization technology also ensures clear images at all times during rough seas and in low light situations.
The FLIR M617CS is a premium night vision thermal camera. With this thermal camera, you can travel safely at night as it can display heat signatures even in the darkest conditions. This thermal camera can be used for many applications such as commercial vessels, first-time responders, recreational vessels and yachts.
FLIR’s M617CS has a detection range of 4,900ft. for a person in the water and 2.1NM for a small vessel giving you optimal safety around your boat as you travel. It has a 640 x 512 thermal resolution for enhanced range with a 17° field of view which provides long-range target detection.
The M617CS has a 36X optical zoom 360° Continuous Pan and +/-90° tilt capabilities which give you complete awareness of your surroundings. The integrated radar slew-to-cue gives you a clear visual on radar targets. The gyro stabilization ensures clear images at all times.
The M625CS thermal camera has integrated electronics such as multifunction displays from Garmin, Furuno, Raymarine and Simrad. The camera also has an added joystick so you can have full control over your device.
M625CS is a compact unit suitable for applications such as commercial vessels, yachts and recreational vessels.
The FLIR M625CS has gyro stabilization that keeps the camera still even during rough seas to ensure clear images and videos. It features a 640 x 512 resolution with a 36x optical zoom that can detect objects during the day and in low light conditions.
The FLIR M625S is a compact thermal imaging camera that can be used for applications such as commercial vessels, yachts and first-time responders. It has multifunctional displays from different developers such as Garmin, Furuno, Raymarine and Simrad.
For steady clear images, the M625S has integrated gyro stabilization which ensures you have visible images and videos. You can see more objects in greater detail as the camera has a 640x512 resolution for enhanced range.
The advanced Pan and +/-90° tilt capabilities give you complete awareness of your surroundings even during low light conditions. FLIR’s M625S also has a detection range of 2,700ft for a person in the water and 1.2NM for a small vessel which enhances your safety on the water.
The MD324 compact fixed mount marine thermal camera helps you navigate through the waters at low light conditions (at night or when it’s cloudy).
With the thermal imaging technology, you can avoid obstacles and threats. But you can also use the device for rescue missions especially in total darkness.
FLIR’s MD324 has a high-resolution thermal sensor of 320×240. The integrated Ethernet into the electronics of your device allows you to use additional software on your camera.
The MD324 has a thermal zoom of 2x and an operating temperature range of -25°C to +55°C allowing it to be used in almost all conditions.
This compact lightweight thermal imaging camera is used to navigate through the waters safely. You can also use the camera for rescue missions especially at night as it has a sensitive temperature detection signature.
You can use this thermal camera for commercial and recreational vessels as it’s easy to mount & it has a user-friendly display.
The MD625 has a rugged design capable of working well in any conditions. It’s waterproof and has gyro image stabilization to ensure clear images. It's 640 x 480 resolution thermal sensor can detect objects and other vessels in midday glare & total darkness.
FLIR’s MD625 has integrated Ethernet so you can combine other marine devices to your thermal camera. The camera also has 2x to 4x thermal zoom so you can see far objects clearly.
FLIR’s BHM X+ creates pictures from heat and not light which allows you to see other boats, obstructions & land in total darkness. You can even detect objects through smoke and fog.
This design is a Bi-ocular handheld thermal night vision camera that can be used for search and rescue missions. It also enhances your spatial awareness by allowing you to see how far you’ve traveled from the shoreline.
The BHM X+ has a 320x240 thermal resolution which offers 3 interchangeable lenses of 35mm, 65mm and 100mm with a 2x e-zoom.
It has a built-In LCD color display with a detection range of 1.49 miles for people and 4.41 km for small vessels. The camera has an operating temperature of -4°F to +140°F (-20°C to +50°C) which allows you to detect even the slightest heat from objects.
The FLIR BHM XR+ is a Bi-ocular handheld thermal camera. Like the BHM X+ device, the camera detects images using heat and not light. This allows you to see other boats, floating debris, land and buoys. This camera allows you to see objects in total darkness, through smoke and fog.
The BHMXR+ has a thermal resolution of 640 x 480 that offers three interchangeable lenses such as 35mm, 65mm and 100mm with 2x & 4x e-zoom. This allows you to see objects at far distances clearly. FLIR’s BHMXR+ has a detection range of 1.83 miles to see humans and 5.46 miles for small vessels.
The ocean scout 240 is a rugged handheld thermal monocular that can be used in any conditions. Ocean Scout 240 allows you to see landmarks, other vessels and obstruction in the water even in total darkness.
It also allows you to respond fast during search and rescue missions as you can detect people overboard & broken down vessels easily.
This thermal camera has a high 640 x 480 resolution LCD Display with a detection range between 1,150ft and 2,940ft. The thermal resolution is 240 x 180 with an operating temperature of -4°F to 122°F (-20°C to 50°C) allows this monocular to be used in almost all outdoor conditions.
The Ocean Scout 320 is a rugged handheld thermal camera that can be used in any conditions as it’s waterproof and repels contaminants. It won’t easily get damaged even if it’s sprayed by salty water. This thermal camera always provides clear images even in low light or no light conditions. You can use the camera to detect people who fell overboard, other vessels and any threats in the water.
FLIR’s Ocean Scout 320 has a 641x480 high-resolution LCD Display with a detection range between 1,800ft and 5,085 ft. Use the 2x e-zoom which allows you to see objects from a far distance.
The thermal resolution is 336x256 with an operating temperature of -4°F to 122°F (-20°C to 50°C) which means that this monocular can be used in almost any conditions that you will be boating in.
The Ocean Scout 640 allows you to see marine traffic and helps you navigate through the water safely at night. You can navigate through rivers and open waters safely with the security of knowing you’ll be able to see any obstructions in your path that may be dangerous.
This thermal camera is also a search and rescue tool as it can detect the heat of people from far distances. You can find people who fell overboard fast as the device can pick up slight differences in heat patterns making rescue missions fast and efficient.
The Ocean Scout 640 has an LCD display with a high resolution of 642x480 for crisp images. To see objects further away use the 2x to 4x zoom feature. This camera has a detection range of 3,740ft to 9,842ft and a thermal resolution of 640x512 which gives you complete awareness when you’re traveling on the water.
The -4°F to 122°F (-20°C to 50°C) operating temperature is fairly large meaning this can be used in the majority of weather conditions where you may be on the water.
FLIR’s Ocean Scout TK is a compact and light handheld thermal camera that’s easy to use & provides optimal safety when navigating through water. It has user-friendly buttons and settings which make it an excellent device for beginners.
You can use the device for many tasks such as search and rescue missions or finding different types of aquatic life around your boat. The Ocean Scout TK can be used in any conditions as it’s rugged and waterproof.
The Ocean Scout is a high-quality device with a 640x480 LCD Display which provides crisp images. To see different types of objects clearly, the device has a thermal resolution of 640x480. The operating temperature of -4°F to 104°F (-20°C to 40°C) is not as high as some of the other models shown however it should be enough for many boaters.
FLIR’s Ocean Scout TK provides optimal awareness on the water as you’ll be able to detect objects from 390ft away.
As you can see there are many premium products to select from. Which one do you prefer; the handheld thermal cameras or the mounted devices? Both are extremely practical but to make sure you can focus on steering your boat, opt for a mounted thermal camera.
Marine thermal cameras provide safety thanks to additional spatial awareness through rivers & open waters. So for added security opt for one of the above marine thermal cameras and enhance your boating experiences.
If you are still unsure what the best monocular may be check out our monocular selection page that allows you to compare monoculars in mealtime.