Testo 885 Thermal Imaging Camera

After almost 4 months since the product announcement (not release) I finally got my hands on a Testo 885. It was a long wait but well worth it. With such a feature rich camera I didn’t know what to explore first. With promises of panoramic image capture, site recognition, super resolution, auto focus and much more I didn’t know what to try first.

Big Camera, Big Features
So, first impressions… BIG. It’s a big camera, and weighs in at a portly 1.57kg. Built in the traditional elongated camcorder style with a flip-out screen (see below) this is a definite return the Thermal Imagers of yesteryear. Personally I like it, and I am sure this design will be a big hit with both experienced and novice thermographers alike. There is a reason why this design was so good and deployed for almost 2 decades, and that’s because it works. The ergonomics lend themselves to a wide variety of applications, especially those where “point and shoot” just won’t cut the mustard. The impressive size of the camera definitely says “professional”, a message that’s a lot harder to convey with the plethora of pocket size models commonly used in the market place.

Testo 885 Infrared Camera Flip Out Screen

There are several advantages of a large body design, and one of the primary ones is that it can support a decent sized screen. The Testo 885 utilises a 4.3 inch Flip out and rotatable hybrid touch screen… by hybrid we mean you can operate the camera by touch screen or joystick operation (ie buttons). Having used joystick for years, both are equally intuitive for me, although novice users would no doubt be drawn to the ease of the touch screen. The screen itself… well it’s awesome…. crisp, bright and high levels of detailed. I am sure the brochure will state it’s exact resolution, but in real terms even the smallest of icons, text, and graphics are crisp, clear and free of any distortion. The screen is viewable from any angle, and the touch control is highly responsive to the fingertips (no screen bashing here!). A common safety requirement is single handed operation. This is achieved by the addition of single touch Autofocus button, meaning the operator no longer needs to use a 2nd hand for manual focus adjustment, allowing the camera to be completely controlled by the right hand.

Speaking of hands, this camera nicely accommodates a large handed person like myself, with plenty of space dedicated to the hand grip. The best thing about this handgrip is that it ROTATES. Initially my thoughts were a rotating hand grip would be superfluous to a rotational screen… but to my surprise it greatly improves the ergonomics. After performing a building inspection I found this invaluable. I could with great ease image a ceiling without awkwardly tilting my wrist backward as I would normally have to do. My fingers could comfortably operate all the controls without needing to angle my wrist. This will save a lot of strain on the wrists, arm and tendons. Anyone who performs thermography for extended periods each day will know this is a major comfort problem when operating thermal imagers. It would no doubt work equally well at lower elevations, especially when working on or around mechanical equipment.

Testo 885 Infrared Camera Grip

The build quality is what we’ve come to expect from a German Manufacturer, nothing short of excellence. The casing is cleanly tooled and finished, although it lacks a little of the “soft rubber” that I prefer. Looking at my own well used stable of cameras I am often reminded how quickly soft rubber deteriorates and looks awful after a good amount of use… but it does feel nice! The feel of the Testo 885 is quite the opposite…. smooth and hard. Testo have utilised metallic inserts on the keypads which are likely to be “high wear” spots, and the lens focusing ring is a giant piece of machined metal giving it quite the industrial feel. The upside no doubt is a hard wearing camera that will still look good after years of abuse! Just what a professional wants!

Testo 885 Focus Ring

For a camera designed with such hard wearing materials, I would have preferred to see properly hinged doors over the SD card slot/power supply/USB ports. Instead Testo have stuck with the commonly used “rubber boot”. While this does seal extraordinarily well, the rubber connectors that anchor them to the body are prone to failure over time.

Testo 885 Power/USB Ports

The design should always have been a dead giveaway that this camera was designed for thermographers, and that’s exactly what we’ve got… a professional camera. This is definitely not “point and shoot” territory as this camera is outfitted with a host of really useful “real world” functions that the professionals will relish.

When talking about its “professional” performance, it’s prudent to start with the detector as the primary source of image quality. At the time of writing, this is without doubt the best 320×240 image I have ever seen (and i’ve seen a few!). This is largely due to a stunning thermal sensitivity of less than 30mk (or 0.03°C) which is mind blowing for an uncooled microbolometer FPA. That’s ~ 40% better than most of it’s rivals sporting 50mk sensitivity. The image is extraordinarily crisp! This will provide a huge advantage to building thermographers as this level of sensitivity will show stunning detail.

Thermal Image of kettle

Comparison of Testo 882, 885 and 890

Testo 882 IR Image of Doorway

Testo 885 IR Image of Doorway

Testo 890 IR Image of Doorway

Testo 882 IR Image of Switchboard

Testo 890 IR Image of Switchboard

The 30° FOV angle lens is in my ideal “goldilocks” range… not too narrow, not too wide. I find anything around 30° to be the best compromise for those needing to cover a broad base of applications. With this lens producing a spatial resolution of 1.7mrad I can easily undertake mainstream electrical inspections and then switch over to a building inspection without the need for multiple (wide angles) lenses. I also find the wider the better for large mechanical items such as motors, pumps, gearboxes etc, where space is limited and the object is large. If i were to perform distance work (ie overhead powerlines or substation work) then I would definitely recommend going for the telephoto lens which would give a 12° FOV and 0.6mrad of spatial resolution.

The visual camera onboard is a cracker, sporting 3.1 Megapixels and utilises 2x super bright led’s for low light situations. This is more than up to the job and makes a professional impression in any report

Comparison of a switchboard

Testo 882 Switchboard

Testo 885 Swithcboard

Testo 890 Switchboard

FLIR T420 Switchboard

Fluke Ti32 Switchboard

IPI-R9 Switchboard

Air Infiltration, Missing Insulation
This comparison is relative to building diagnostic imaging.

Testo 882 Door

Testo 885 Door

Testo 890 Door

Flir T420 Door

Fluke Ti32 Door

IPI-R9 Door

Small Component Resolution Test
Here is a good comparison of geometric or spatial resolution as we look at small components on PCB boards (in this case a PC motherboard).

Testo 882 Server

Testo 885 Server

Testo 890 Server

Flir T420 Server

Fluke Ti32 Server

IPI-R9 Server

Functions Unique to Testo…
Like other models in the Testo line-up the Testo 885 benefits from several unique Testo functions. These include Panorama, Site Recognition, Super Resolution and Display of Surface Moisture Distribution. My personal favourites are Super Resolution and Panorama, as these add a clear competitive advantage.

For my review of the panorama feature click here

For my review of the site recognition feature click here

For my review of the super resolution feature click here

Menu please?
The menu and GUI (graphical user interface) is reasonably straight forward. I would say it’s not as good as an “iphone” (what is?) but it get’s the job done. Simple and straight forward text menus easily lead the way. It’s only the graphical “icons” that leave me wanting. Testo has utilised what I call “quick access” icons on the left hand side of screen to give direct access to the most common functions. These icons are a little hard to decipher for the uninitiated. After a while you can understand the logic of the little symbols indicating temperature scale controls, analysis, and main menu functions. There’s only 3 of them so it really doesn’t take that long to learn. Either way, as I always say… they aren’t “Apple” intuitive and take a bit of getting used to. With so many functions, there are a plethora of other icons some easier to decipher than others, but there is always text to backup the function.

Other than that there are numerous ways to access functions that make this camera VERY flexible and appealing to more complicated tasks. 2 user definable keys located on top of the unit can be programmed with an array of commonly used functions, which in my opinion is a must have for any professional camera. This enables me to program my most commonly used functions without wasting any time accessing a menu.

Another piece of on-screen information I am really fond of is the “operating temperature range” of the camera is always displayed on-screen. I’m not talking about the temperature scale or level and span itself, but the actual temperature measurement range. In this case the Testo 885 has 2 standard ranges, -20 to 100 and 0 to 350°C (with 350 to 1200° as optional). This range is always displayed aside the colour palette and is very useful to know. The wider ranges always reduce imager sensitivity, and often when people are working and need to shift to a higher temperature range they often forget to shift back down again. One should always choose the narrowest range possible closest to the object temperature to work in to ensure the best image quality.

The Testo Professional Software (IRSOFT) has always been exceptionally good. The Testo range up until now could be described as mostly entry to mid level predictive maintenance and building thermography cameras, and the software complimented this class of user very well. However the Testo 885 thermal imaging camera is a real departure from the mainstream cameras Testo has produced in the past. As the first cameras that could be described as high end professional grade, the Testo 885 series (and Testo 890) could do with more functionality and flexibility than the current software provides.

The core attributes of this software are still strong, but professional thermographers will be looking for that bit more. In my opinion, template customisation and modification needs greater functionality, particularly the ability to table information, document inventory lists and specify equipment data which is not necessarily captured by the camera. In it’s current format you must be creative with the fields that are provided, or else like me add or copy/paste from a word based template. You can still achieve the end result, it just takes more time and mucking around. The only other thing missing is a zoom function on images.

There is currently no in-software function to enable zooming in at a pixel level to analyse components. It can be achieved via exporting the image to another program. The manufacturer is aware of the shortcomings and I am sure future revisions will address some of these concerns.

Value for Money
In light of some of my harsher criticisms one must keep in mind the value of this instrument. With a Testo 885-1 starting at (see pricing) it is exceptional value for money. My critique draws on experience with systems up to 4 times the price of this unit. At a fraction of the price of traditional professional cameras, this unit delivers big time. The thermal sensitivity and image quality is unprecedented at this level, and the ergonomics and functionality rival anything I’ve seen at the same price point. At this price, it doesn’t get any better right now.

FPA 320 x 240
Frame Rate 33Hz
Temp Range standard -4 to °F 662
High Temp Option °F* 2192
Standard Lens 30°
Telephoto Option* Yes
Lens Protection* Yes
Digital Camera* Yes
Focus ( Manual +) Auto
For camera pricing and detailed specifications, click here.