FLIR First Mate II MS Thermal Camera

Priced: $2,999.99 Rated:   - 5 stars out of 5 by 1 review.
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FLIR First Mate II MS Thermal Camera -
The FLIR First Mate II MS Thermal Camera helps boaters to see landmarks, obstacles, and other vessels clearly in all lighting conditions from daylight to complete darkness, so you can safely avoid rocks, buoys, floating debris, and other hazards. The First Mate II thermal night vision camera has the same thermal imaging performance that boaters have come to expect from FLIR, but it adds the powerful InstAlert feature. InstAlert is an automated image processing feature that highlights the strongest heat signatures in the image in red, instantly alerting boaters to people who have fallen overboard or hazards along the way. Ultra-compact, easy to use, and light weight, First Mate II models are available in 240 × 180 or 320 × 240 resolutions and have a wide variety of lens options. Capture still images or video. The FLIR First Mate II has a long battery life, a rugged, all-weather design, and some models can plug into an external monitor for even greater flexibility.
WestMarine.com
See at night and stay safe with the First Mate II family of thermal night vision cameras. The latest generation First Mate II cameras carry on the legacy of the popular First Mate and First Mate MS, using the same thermal imaging technology as FLIR’s Voyager, and M-Series thermal night vision systems, but they’re smaller, lighter, and more powerful than ever before. They create pictures from heat, not light, so you can see landmarks, bridge abutments, and other vessels clearly and navigate safely in all light conditions from daylight to complete darkness, helping you to safely avoid rocks, buoys, floating debris, and other hazards on the water. And First Mate II’s new InstAlert feature helps you find people in the water faster than ever. InstAlert is an automated image processing feature that highlights the strongest heat signatures in the image in red, instantly alerting boaters to people who have fallen overboard or hazards along the way. Includes the camera, a hot shoe charging and video output accessory, four batteries, AC power adapter/charger, neck lanyard, USB cable, video output cable, SD card and user’s manual. Runs for more than five hours on a charge of the four AA NiMH rechargeable batteries.
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FLIR

FLIR First Mate II MS Thermal Camera Review:

Reviews:

A nice piece of optional equipment

I don't know exactly what I was expecting from the FLIR. I have a first generation light amplifying device that I am less than impressed with, mostly attributable its poor optics. Researching the night vision arena I found devices that relied on shining an infrared light source out onto objects for the scanner to detect. This approach seemed to me to be a limited range option; almost like "painting" the infrared on the objects. Some/most have an infrared source as part of the scanner. There are infrared flashlights out there (Surefire has a couple) that would likely extend the range but a two-handed option seems awkward. What I think of as the "pure" infrared camera of the FLIR, which does not rely on an external infrared source, seemed the way to go.

I bought the Flir First Mate II MS-324b. I decided I wanted the increased pixels and I'm glad I did.

So far, my experience with the FLIR is wholly at home and I like it. There is no focus, which surprised me but the image is sharp. It comes with a 19mm lens which gives it pretty good depth of field so everything appears in focus. I haven't tested how close an object can be and still be in focus.

It has a diopter adjustment but the rubber lens cup is soft enough that I can press it against my glasses to the point that I don't need it (prescription glasses usually correct for diopter). I mostly use the Instalert feature (first level)(white-is-hot with a red color emphasizing the hotter items in the view). The black-is-hot option does indeed improve contrast in some cases although the white-is-hot is usually the better option for me. A minor gripe is that the unit doesn't remember the setting after turning it off.

It's ready to use very quickly, but not instantly, after turning it on.

The 2x zoom doubles the coarseness of the image. It's like stepping closer to the TV; you start to see the graininess. This was why I was glad I paid for the increased pixel count as doubling the base camera's picture would give a nearly useless image. As it is, 2x zoom is not offered on the base unit, probably for that reason. I was rather hoping that it would keep the resolution while zooming the center of the picture. I expect this is difficult (impossible?) to do without a second lens. I've found the zoom feature to be minimally useful so far. The base magnification seems close to 1:1 or possibly the image seems a little farther away than it really is. There is a noticeable jerkiness when panning the camera at moderate speeds due to the sampling rate (7.5 Hz) but I didn't find it distracting.

What would make it better is a difficult question because they make better units but at significantly higher cost. It has a good form factor, the button illumination when turned on is good and the surface is nonslip. At the same price I guess I would hope for: faster image processing, more pixels, larger image and image capture to memory card in that order. And I suppose a provision for an eyepiece dust cap would also be nice although that would be difficult to pair with the flexible eye cup which I wouldn't want to give up.

All in all, I'm very happy with it. Money spent on what I see as an industry leader's product is money well spent. Time will tell if I use it often enough to justify the purchase.
Steve L. at WestMarine.com on 09/09/2013