Let's Get Started: Helpful Machine Vision camera buying tips

Getting Started with Machine Vision Cameras


Do you need help choosing a camera? Looking for a place to start? This is it! Here we'll provide you the basic framework for choosing a machine vision camera along with some points to ponder before buying. Jump into any section or use this as a step by step guide. Feel free to contact us at any time too, we're always happy to help!



Other Helpful Resources for Choosing a Camera:



Help choosing the right camera...

right blue arrowHow will the camera be used?

Before investing in a camera, take time to think about how your camera will be used. Consider these issues:

• Are there any mechanical or spacing constraints? Think about where the camera will be placed within your application and how it will be mounted. Size and weight requirements will help narrow down your selection.

Will the target be moving or will it be stationary? If the imaging target is moving (or your camera is moving) you should consider using camera models with global shutter sensors. If the target is stationary, camera models with rolling shutters can also be considered. To learn more about the difference please read our KB article "Key differences between rolling shutter and frame (global) shutter." Rolling shutter vs global shutter

• Learn more about our most popular applications where our cameras are used.

right blue arrowSelecting your interface: USB 3.1 or GigE?

FLIR Flea3 Camera with multiple interfaces
At some point in your decision making process you’ll need to consider which camera interface best suits your needs. There is no one interface that’s perfect for all but telling your FLIR sales rep more details about your application and by reviewing the chart below, we can help you pick the best one.

  USB 3.1 Gigabit Ethernet
Bandwidth 400 MB/s 125 MB/s
Max Cable length 5 m 100 m
CPU usage Low Low
Power Delivery 4.5 W 15.4 W
Multiple cameras Excellent Excellent
Vision Standard USB3 Vision GigE Vision


Main differences between USB 3.1 and Gigabit Ethernet:
USB 3.1 gives you higher bandwidth allowing for higher resolutions and higher bit depths at faster frames.
Gigabit Ethernet gives you longer cable length, up to 100m, without the need for additional cable extenders.
• For more details of the differences visit our white paper Machine Vision Interface Comparison and Evolution

Calculate your bandwidth needs! The number of cameras needed, resolution and frame rate will also play a part in choosing your interface. For detailed help on building a multiple camera system and bandwidth calculations please refer to these Knowledge Base artcles:
KB Article: USB 3.1 Multiple Camera Setup
KB Article: GigE Multiple Camera Setup

right blue arrowTry our Camera Selector tool

Our Camera Selector tool allows you to filter our catalogue based on camera specifications. Filter our cameras based on megapixels, frame rate, interface, sensor name, sensor type, sensor format and readout method.

right blue arrowCompare "Imaging Performance" data

Aside from camera specifications like resolution, frame rate, sensor size, or pixel size it's also important to compare "imaging performance" data. What is imaging performance data? It’s data from standardized tests that show the quality and sensitivity of the sensor in the camera. For example, if you wanted to know which camera has the highest dynamic range you would refer to these documents below. 

For explanations and examples of imaging performance terms visit our Imaging Performance Guide

FLIR Flea3 Camera with multiple interfaces

 Flea3 Family
 Imaging Performance Specs
 Blackfly Family
 Imaging Performance Specs
 Grasshopper3 Family
 Imaging Performance Specs
 Chameleon3
 Imaging Performance Specs
Flea3 USB3 Vision Blackfly USB3 Vision Grasshopper3 USB3 Vision Chameleon3 USB Vision
Flea3 GigE Vision Blackfly GigE Vision Grasshopper3 GigE Vision  

 Mono & Color Camera Sensor Performance Review PDF (30+ models compared)
  This PDF compares data from 35+ mono camera models
  This PDF compares data from 35+ color camera models


Picked your camera? Ready to buy?
Before you do, consider the following...

right blue arrowUSB 3.1 cameras

    1. 1. System Requirements

      So you’re deciding on a USB3 Vision camera and would like to make sure you have everything you need. Great! The first thing you need to consider is if your host computer can support our USB3 Vision cameras. Some of our higher bandwidth cameras, such as the Grasshopper3 with Sony’s IMX174 or CMOSIS’ CMV4000 sensor work best with the latest Intel motherboard chipsets and SSDs. USB 3.1 cameras are powered over the USB 3.1 cable but for Grasshopper3 cameras used on a laptop we recommend using an external power supply. To get the complete details on system requirements, please read our Knowledge Base article on recommended USB 3.1 system components to see what we have tested and what we recommend.

    2. 2. Included Accessories

      During your camera selection please be mindful of which accessories are included and which accessories
      are not included with the camera. Here is a quick table guide to help you know:

        What is included with your camera?
        Tripod Adapter 5mm C-Mount Adapter Cables Lens
      Blackfly USB3 Vision: No No No No
      Chameleon3 USB3 Vision: No No No No
      Flea3 USB3 Vision: Yes Yes for CS-mount models No No
      Grasshopper3 USB3 Vision: Yes N/A (no CS-mount models) No No


  1. 3. Lenses

    If you don’t already have a lens you will need to purchase one and connect it on to our camera. Our cameras DO NOT come with lenses, they must be purchased separately. Selecting a lens is an important part of the buying process and it will be up to you to choose the one that best fits your application’s needs. Knowing your camera mount type (c or cs-mount) and sensor size (1", 1/3" etc) will tell you what lenses are compatible with your camera. However, to choose what best fits your application will be determined by other factors.

    Watch Video: C-Mount & CS-Mount cameras
    Difference between C-mount and CS-mount 

    We have an excellent Knowledge Base article called Selecting a Lens for your Camera that can aid in your lens selection. We also have a selection of popular lenses for purchase on our site.

     

  2. 4. Download our Technical Reference Guides

    If you need more info on a particular USB3 Vision camera model, please download our technical reference guides.
    These guides go over everything the camera can do!

    Blackfly USB3 VisionPDF
    Chameleon3 USB3 VisionPDF
    Flea3 USB3 VisionPDF
    Grasshopper3 USB3 VisionPDF

right blue arrowEthernet based cameras

  1. 1. What type?

    FLIR sells two types of Ethernet cameras – GigE Vision cameras and IP cameras.

    Our GigE Vision cameras output uncompressed image data and need a host computer with a gigabit ethernet port to do image acquisition and image processing.

    Our IP cameras output compressed data and have embedded webservers for image visualization via IP address. If you need to do image processing, it’s best to choose GigE Vision cameras. If you need just basic visualization, you might want to choose one of our IP cameras. *Zebra2 can do both, however it can not stream compressed and uncompressed data at the same time.

    IP Camera GigE Vision Camera
    Cricket
    Zebra2*
    Blackfly
    Flea3
    Grasshopper2
    Grasshopper3
    Zebra2*
  2. 2. Power: PoE (Power over Ethernet) or External Power through GPIO

    GigE Vision cameras and IP cameras have the benefit of 100m cable length but that connection may or may not include power. Certain camera families can be powered through the ethernet cable (PoE) or through the GPIO connection. The table below shows which cameras are PoE ready and which will need external power through the GPIO.

    FLIR Flea3 Camera with multiple interfaces
    Blackfly GigE Vision: PoE Ready + GPIO power
    Flea3 GigE Vision: GPIO power only
    Grasshopper2 GigE Vision: GPIO power only
    Grasshopper3 GigE Vision: PoE Ready + GPIO power
    Zebra2 GigE Vision/ HD-SDI: PoE Ready + GPIO power
    Cricket IP Security Camera: PoE only
    Basic USB 3.1 Camera Install Steps
       Video: 3 Ways to Power a GigE Camera

    To use PoE, you'll need a PoE ready camera and PoE accessories such as an Ethernet PoE host adapter card, PoE Injector brick, or PoE Switch (802.3af compliant) to send power through the ethernet cable to the camera. If you don't wish to use PoE or if your camera doesn't support it you can use an external power supply and connect it to the camera's GPIO. Make sure the external power source GPIO connection matches your GPIO pin layout: 4 Pin Power Supply, 6 Pin Power Supply, 8 Pin Power Supply.



  3. 3. Included Accessories

    During your camera selection please be mindful of which accessories are included and which accessories
    are not included with the camera. Here is a quick table guide to help you know:

      What is included with your camera?
      Tripod Adapter 5mm C-Mount Adapter Cables Lens
    Blackfly GigE Vision: No No No No
    Flea3 GigE Vision: Yes Yes for CS-mount models No No
    Grasshopper2 GigE Vision: Yes Yes for CS-mount models No No
    Grasshopper3 GigE Vision: Yes N/A (no CS-mount models) No No
    Zebra2 GigE Vision/HD-SDI: No No No No
    Cricket IP Security Camera: Yes No No No


  4. 4. Lenses

    If you don’t already have a lens you will need to purchase one and connect it on to our camera. Our cameras DO NOT come with lenses, they must be purchased separately. Selecting a lens is an important part of the buying process and it will be up to you to choose the one that best fits your application’s needs. Knowing your camera mount type (c or cs-mount) and sensor size (1", 1/3" etc) will tell you what lenses are compatible with your camera. However, to choose what best fits your application will be determined by other factors.

    Watch Video: C-Mount & CS-Mount cameras
    Difference between C-mount and CS-mount 

    We have an excellent Knowledge Base article called Selecting a Lens for your Camera that can aid in your lens selection. We also have a selection of popular lenses for purchase on our site.

  5. 5. Download our Technical Reference Guides

    If you need more info on a particular gigabit ethernet model, please download our technical reference guides.
    These guides go over everything the camera can do!

    Blackfly GigE VisionPDF
    Flea3 GigE VisionPDF
    Grasshopper2 GigE VisionPDF
    Grasshopper3 GigE VisionPDF
    Zebra2 GigE Vision/HD-SDIPDF
    Cricket IP CameraPDF

right blue arrowSoftware considerations



What to do when you get your camera...

right blue arrowInstalling the camera

Basic USB 3.1 Camera Install Steps
   Video: USB 3.1 camera installation example

1. Here are the basic steps to installing our cameras:

Step 1) Install your host adapter card if needed
Step 2) Download and install our FlyCapture Software or your 3rd party software package.
Step 3) Connect your lens and cables to the camera. Connect any power cables if needed.
Step 4) Plug your camera into the host computer
Step 5) Launch the FlyCapture software or your 3rd party software package.

Don't forget to register your camera!

Each camera comes with a detailed “Getting Started Manual (GSM)” PDF that has more detailed installation instructions for your interface and camera type. These can be downloaded in the documents tab of your camera model. Below are some quick links to our most popular cameras:

 Flea3 Family GSMs  Blackfly Family GSMs  Grasshopper3 Family GSMs  Chameleon3 GSMs
Flea3 USB3 Vision Blackfly USB3 Vision Grasshopper3 USB3 Vision Chameleon3 USB Vision
Flea3 GigE Vision Blackfly GigE Vision Grasshopper3 GigE Vision  
Flea3 FireWire      

right blue arrowMaintaining the camera

  1. It’s always good to keep a routine maintenance schedule for your camera.
    Consider these maintenance tips:

    • Gently clean your lens with a standard lens cleaning kit.
    • Double check your cable connections. Check to make sure your locking screw cable connections are secured.
    • Check your camera temperature via the on-board sensor and make sure it’s within operating temperatures.
    • Check any heat dissipation equipment, such a fans, air vents or heatsinks, are secured and operating normally.
    • From time to time you may wish to double check our website for updated software or firmware for your camera.

     



If you need more detailed help...

right blue arrowWhere to find it and how to contact us

More Sales Help:
  1. Call us or email us. One of our sales professionals would be happy to assist with recommending the best camera or cameras for your application and imaging requirements. 
  2. Looking for pricing? Just register online and log in. Once your logged in pricing will be displayed for each product.
  3. We also do online pricing quotes for more detailed orders.

More Technical Support:
  1. Search our Knowledge Base for answers to camera issues.
  2. Contact Support directly and email them your issue. We have support teams staffed at our North American, Germany, China and Japan offices ready to assist with installation, troubleshooting, configuration, and customization of FLIR cameras.
  3. Request a repair or return for the product.
  4. To see a list of camera warranty periods click here.

Questions, problems or comments about this page? Email me or reach me on Twitter @mikeyjacoby