Thermal Night Vision
In December 2009, I wrote a review of Flir’s H-series thermal camera for Law Officer. I was so thoroughly impressed with it that when asked to review their latest offering, I jumped at the opportunity—and I’m not disappointed.
Flir is regarded as the leader in the thermal imagery industry. Long a mainstay of military and civilian law enforcement professionals, Flir’s long-term success is due to the value it places on the end user’s input, its commitment to research and development, and the fact that it doesn’t maintain the status quo. The LS-series is a testament to Flir’s dedication to producing the best possible tool.
The advantage Flir’s thermal imaging has over other “night vision” technology is that, unlike other products, thermal imaging doesn’t require any ambient light—nor does it need additional infra-red illumination or image intensifiers. The camera (the device is actually a camera) reads heat sources. This allows the user to see farther (the camera’s range for detecting a human-sized image exceeds 500 yards) in all types of low-light conditions, including fog, smoke, camouflage (foliage, etc.) and complete darkness.
LS- vs. H-Series
My overall experience with the LS-Series compared to the H-Series was very positive. I noticed the weight difference (12 oz. vs. 24 oz.) and smaller profile (the LS-Series measures 6.7" X 2.31" X 2.44") made the device more comfortable for extended use. I also observed a higher definition of image quality compared to the H-Series. I used the device in a variety of environments and weather conditions, including total darkness, fog and rain. The ability to see heat images (humans, animals, engine blocks, footprints and tire friction marks left by vehicles that had recently driven on the roadway) was remarkably clear.
The camera is also exceptionally user friendly: the few controls (power on/off, brightness setting, white/hot, black/hot and zoom buttons, along with a fine focus knob) are fairly intuitive. Toggling between features (zooming in/out, changing from white/hot to black/hot, and changing the brightness settings) is easily accomplished by pushing the buttons located on top of the device where your hand would be positioned on the camera. It should also be noted that the camera functions entirely with no noise—sound from the camera won’t compromise the location of the user during a search.
Unlike the H-Series, the LS-Series device doesn’t allow the use of AA batteries. It has an internal battery that’s recharged via an included USB cable. When fully charged, the battery provides up to five hours of continuous operation. The battery holds a charge for up to two months when not used. It’s programmed with a power management system that automatically shuts the camera down after five minutes of nonuse. There’s a 30-second warning prior to automatic shutdown to allow the user to push any button and restart the five-minute shutdown cycle. This system is passive in nature and is a nice feature to prevent dead batteries. A battery status indicator appears in the corner of the display image.
The system requires no maintenance other than periodic recharging of the internal battery. The battery has a three-year warranty, but the LS-Series can be sent back to Flir for battery replacement at a nominal fee.
Clearly, this tool has the potential to aid law enforcement in locating criminals and missing individuals while enhancing officer safety and efficiency.
• Rugged, shock-resistant & weather resistant
• Excellent image quality & clarity
• Lightweight & ergonomic handheld portable device
• Doesn’t allow the use of AA batteries (unlike the previous H-Series)
Approx. street price: $6,000
Flir Systems, Inc.