Glossary Definition

What is MWIR Cooled thermal Imaging and How are they Different from LWIR Uncooled Cameras?

Uncooled LWIR VS Cooled MWIR Thermal Multi Sensor Camera System Long Range Night Vision SWIR LRF Visible Military Grade Infiniti Optics

Cooled thermal Imaging cameras are usually sold as MWIR Mid-wave Infrared imaging, as the name suggest use an integrated cryogenic cooler, which chills the thermal image core to temperatures as low as -196°C (-321°F) to increase the sensitivity and accuracy of the thermal image. Uncooled cameras are based on VoX infrared sensor and are often uncooled and operated on LWIR long wave infrared wavelength.  

Cooled Thermal cameras see longer range than uncooled cameras as their greater sensitivity allows for bigger less efficient lens than LWIR cameras. Infiniti's 80~1400mm cooled thermal cameras allow for up 55km (34 miles) for vehicle detection based on DRI military standards making them the best choice for long range night vision but come at a higher cost than standard uncooled LWIR cameras.   Infiniti offers both MWIR Cooled and LWIR Uncooled infrared modules in 640x512 1024x720 1280x1024, 1920x1080up to 5MP. Infiniti Optics sell these as open frame modules (lens and sensor attached) or as complete integrated PTZ cameras with Visible and SWIR sensors for ultra long-range day night imaging for perimeter security and military applications.

Since cooled thermal IR cameras are so sensitive to tiny temperature differences, they can spot a target with only a 1-2 degrees temperature difference from its background. They work on mid-wave infrared wavelengths referred to as 3-5µm (3000nm to 5000nm). The combination of the cooled image core and the ability to work on the MWIR spectrum, when used with Infiniti’s long-range optics, means ultra-long range detection capabilities (up to 20 miles or 30km) even if there are only a few degrees temperature variance between the target and background.

Uncooled LWIR (Long Wave Infrared Cameras) are the most common type of FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) thermal infrared surveillance cameras as (LWIR) band from 8 to 14μm microns (8,000nm–14,000nm) in wavelength is where terrestrial temperature targets emit most of their infrared energy and unlike cooled thermal cameras require no coolers or maintenance.  Infiniti optics LWIR cameras use the latest 12μm LWIR uncooled thermal sensors with resolutions of 384×288 up to 1280×1024 HD. Our LWIR Zen camera cores are 12μm pixel pitch provides 40% longer range and narrower field of compared to standard 17μm sensor and 25% further range than 15μm cooled INSB sensors while delivering a sensitivity of 0.05°C.

While cooled cameras are a significant investment and are considerably more expensive then uncooled, their superior range and performance allows them to deliver results that uncooled thermal cameras simply can’t achieve, making them a vital solution for certain applications such as coastal surveillance, and a cost-effective solution in applications such as border security, where the longer range of cooled thermal can cover the same perimeter length of up to 8 individual uncooled thermal cameras.

Infiniti optics custom builds all types of EO/IR solutions and can offer them as open frame modules (lens and sensor attached) or as complete integrated PTZ cameras with Visible and SWIR sensors for ultra long-distance imaging and threat detection even in complete darkness. 

For more information about thermal infrared imaging for night vision and surveillance see our Thermal Imaging Explained page.

Full Glossary