Product Review: FLIR FX Modular Security Camera System

The Swiss Army Knife of Security Cameras

FLIR FX IP Security Camera
Photo: FLIR INC
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FLIR is known for its Thermal imaging, Night Vision, and other special application imaging products. They have a pretty huge presence in the military and aerospace product sectors, but they also produce hunting and marine products as well.

Now FLIR has taken some of their military-grade technology and brought it into the home security market, but the FLIR FX system is much more than a one-trick pony, and in just a minute,  we’ll explain why FLIR’s FX camera system is much different from any other security camera system on the market.

Many Features in a Small Package:

FLIR has packed a lot of features into a very small package and has made this camera probably the most modular multi-use camera in the consumer market. The basic FLIR FX camera package consists of the FLIR FX camera itself, as well as the indoor camera pedestal that also houses an additional battery to extend the recording time of the FX.

FLIR sells several modular upgrades that allow the owner to use the FLIR FX in a variety of situations (some of which are not security-related at all). These include an all-weather outdoor mounting kit, a car dash cam kit, and a sports action cam kit.

It’s an Indoor Security Camera:

As mentioned earlier, the ‘standard’ kit is the indoor camera kit. This kit includes the FLIR FX camera and an indoor mounting pedestal base that also houses a secondary battery. The base connects to the camera via an accessory shoe on the pedestal that mates to the bottom of the camera.

From what I understand, The camera can configure its settings based on what accessory is plugged into it. For example, when plugged into the Indoor Pedestal, It would change its configuration settings to make sense for that situation. Plug in the dash cam attachment and it would adjust for that scenario.

When the camera isn't plugged into anything at all, it defaults to "Action Mode" (as indicated by the FLIR FX mobile app when this occurs).

In the indoor cameras scenario, FLIR FX did a good job. Images were clear, colors seemed decent; the image was panoramic but did not suffer from the “fisheye lens effect” as many wide-angle security cameras do. This is likely because the camera employs software to "dewarp" the image so that the fisheye effect doesn't occur. The trade-off is that it does this by sacrificing some of the width of the image. This 'dewarping' effect can be turned off in the camera settings by turning on the"Super Wide Angle" setting.

It’s an Outdoor Security Camera:

When paired with the FLIR FX Outdoor Security Camera Housing Kit, the FX is transformed into a weatherproof (IP67 rated) outdoor security camera. This housing also features additional Infrared emitters to augment the ones that are built-in to the FX itself. These additional emitters help give this camera better night vision capability, allowing it to 'see' better at distances that would be associated with outdoor security camera situations.

It’s a GoPro-like Action Camera:

The FLIR FX prides itself on being a multi-purpose jack-of-all-trades.

While not entirely practical from a convenience standpoint, you could choose to get up on a ladder to remove the FLIR FX from its weather-proof housing and use it as a GoPro-like action camera.

When in "Action Cam" mode, the FLIR FX Camera records 1080p video directly to the included 8GB microSD card. This card can be replaced with a card with additional storage capacity (up to 64GB).

Additionally, the "Sport Housing" accessory kit makes the camera "waterproof" (IP68-rated) and allows the camera to be fully submerged up to 20 meters, so you can take the camera snorkeling and whatnot, at least for approximately 2 hours, utilizing the camera's internal battery because the sport case doesn't feature an additional battery.

 

The Sport housing package also features 1/4 in-20 thread mounting compatibility and includes 3 flat mounts as part of the kit.

It’s a Dash Cam For Your Car:

Dash Cams, once only a tool for law enforcement, are becoming more popular with the average consumer these days. Whether it's monitoring teenage drivers or just trying to catch something crazy for a viral video, the average Joe is now interested in having a dash cam, and FLIR has got them covered with the FLIR FX Dash Mount accessory kit. 

The FLIR kits seem to each have some special feature that makes each kit unique and this kit follows that trend. The special feature that the dash mount kit adds to the mix is an internal accelerometer in the dash mount base. This triggers recording when the car is in motion and also provides crash and/or heavy braking sensing which will trigger that a recording is permanently saved and not recycled.

In "Dash Cam Mode", the camera records video at 1080p in a 30-minute loop, while the car is in motion. If the accelerometer detects 1.7g's of force or greater (i.e. heavy breaking or a crash impact), it records and saves the 10 seconds prior to impact and saves this off as a "permanent recording".

Image Quality:

Image quality may vary depending on which accessory is being used and also what the user has selected in the FLIR FX app. For example, when using the Dash Cam accessory, the camera may default to 1080p HD, but when switched to the indoor battery base, the camera may default to SD video (unless the user has changed this in the FLIR FX's settings.

The image itself appeared uniform and colors seemed to be well saturated. The focus is fixed and not user-adjustable.  When using the "dewarping" image enhancement (Super Wide Angle Turned OFF). The image seemed to not suffer from the "fisheye effect". The image remained fairly clear when pinch-zooming into the image via the FLIR FX mobile app. Overall, the image quality seemed excellent and on par with competing security cameras such as Canary.

Sound Quality:

The recorded audio from the camera was pretty solid. Speech was captured well and was not muffled, extraneous noise such as air conditioning hiss wasn't as prominent as with some other cameras that I've tested.

The major complaint with this camera's audio is with the volume of the talk-back (intercom) feature. It just wasn't loud enough for the people on the camera side to be able to hear the speaker well. It's a real shame because the implementation of the feature is great, it's only the volume that suffers.

Battery And Storage:

Most security cameras on the market don't offer an internal battery backup so the FLIR FX gets high marks for providing one. Not only did FLIR provide an internal battery, but the indoor pedestal base also adds a second battery providing an additional 2 hours of battery life. This is a great feature, I really hope other manufacturers take note of this and begin building battery backups into other security cameras.

Another feature common on many security cameras these days is onboard local storage in the form of an SD card slot allowing for video and image capture in the event that the connection to the cloud is lost.

The FLIR FX camera features a built-in microSD card slot that houses an included 8GB card. This card can be upgraded to 64GB. The Action and Dash Cam modes require the onboard storage to perform their functions as a network connection in these modes aren't always a given.

Network Connectivity and App Features:

Each FLIR FX camera comes with free basic cloud backup service that will store up to 48 hours worth of camera footage in the Cloud and allows you to produce up to 3 RapidRecap videos per month.

The RapidRecap feature is one of the coolest features of the FX camera in my opinion. It takes several hours of captured footage, condenses it, adds time stamps to the moving objects in the video, and makes it into a sort of highlight reel that summarizes all of the motion activity that happened during a set time period. It makes looking through hours of footage a lot less tedious.

If you opt to pay for FLIR's upgraded cloud service you can enjoy unlimited RapidRecaps as well as store more days worth of footage in the cloud, up to 30 days for the most expensive package offered.

FLIR FX also features a mobile app that is a free download for camera owners. The app lets you set all of the camera parameters and lets you watch live feeds of cameras (even at multiple locations). It also lets you generate RapidRecap videos and gives you access to the raw unedited footage as well.

The FLIR cameras also provide 2 methods of connectivity:

Cloud Mode: allows for recording to the cloud as well as reviewing live footage or stored footage from the FLIR Cloud. Additionally, it allows you to connect to the camera from the Internet and make configuration changes remotely if needed.

Direct Mode: allows you to connect directly to the camera without going through a host Wi-Fi network. This mode helps with setting up shots, allowing you to use your phone as a viewfinder, without the need for a Wi-Fi network nearby. In this mode, the camera acts as a Wi-Fi access point (but doesn't allow for connecting to or from the Internet). It's a private network only for the purpose of viewing the camera's output or making configuration adjustments when there isn't an available network nearby.

Overall Impressions:

A lot of thought went into the FLIR FX camera system. It's modular nature and many available accessories make it more than just a one trick pony. Other than minor gripes related to the volume of the internal speaker, this camera is a solid value allowing for the user to explore other uses for the camera as their budget and needs allow.