NEW MARINE ELECTRONICS: RAYMARINE TH32
Our resident marine electronics whiz turns night into day with the Raymarine TH32 night vision camera.
My introduction to thermal imaging came about 20 years ago, when a friend invited me to assist him in carrying out a thermal imaging survey of an industrial warehouse. I remember the experience vividly, because being the so-called apprentice I had to carry the damn thing, which weighed more than 15kg. Needless to say, after that day I didn’t bother pursuing that avenue as a career, but it nevertheless provided an interesting insight into some very innovative technology.
Not long after that, my father purchased a night vision scope in the hope it would aid his hunting. However, it was designed more for home security than stalking your prey after dark in the bush; it was heavy, cumbersome and expensive — and only seemed to work when it felt like it. It probably only lasted about two years before it was binned.
Since those days thermal imaging technology has progressed significantly. Modern camera systems are incredibly light compared to those first commercial efforts, and they have far more features and functions. Importantly, they now also produce some amazing images — and generally for a more palatable price.
NIGHT INTO DAY
This brings me to Raymarine’s hand-held TH32 night vision camera, which I recently had the pleasure of putting to the test. Now, I should begin by pointing out that it doesn’t produce still images — it’s more a full-on night vision imaging system that acts as a live-streaming video camera, but one that can turn a pitch-black night into daylight, both on or off the water.
When I first got my mitts on the product it was clear it wasn’t a junk-shop cheapie, and I’ll save you the trouble of scanning the specs panel by telling you this unit will set you back $3795. Don’t choke on your lunch just yet, however, because the TH32 is quite an amazing piece of gear — not only does it add to your safety on the water, it also has several interesting applications it wasn’t actually designed for (no — it can’t see through clothes).
One thing that scares the crap out of me when I’m boating at night is the inability to see other vessels, floating debris, or any other obstructions that aren’t picked up on a normal GPS map. Idiots with no or limited nav lights are of particular concern. There are two safeguards you can employ here: fit your boat with a full-on radar / AIS system, or use a camera like this Raymarine TH32.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Operating the TH32 is so simple that my eight-year-old could handle it. On top of the unit there are four flat buttons: an on / off button, a display brightness / task light button, an image colour change button, and a 2 x zoom / freeze-frame button. There’s also a USB charging plug and an adjustable dioptre for focusing, and it all comes in a neat and compact all-weather housing.
It’s one click to switch it on, and then point it where you want to see. From there it’s just a matter of changing the settings, such as image colour and brightness, to suit the prevailing conditions.
The system works off thermal energy and even the slightest change in temperature will show up. Out on the water within its 450m range you can see clearly, with permanent and moving structures sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. What amazes me is how the intensity varies between objects. I would have thought that when things get cold or reach an ambient temperature they wouldn’t show up, but that’s not the case — it’s really amazing how the temperatures of inanimate objects can vary.
In any situation of low visibility where you’re concerned about potential collisions with unmarked vessels, or if your other electronics have malfunctioned, the TH32 could make a huge difference. Its usefulness in any MOB (man overboard) situation also shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, the TH32 isn’t just handy on the water — it’s useful on dry land, too. I found a few other uses for it, like tracking the possums around my house, finding studs in my home’s walls, checking my electrics for hot spots, termite monitoring — the list goes on. I even think I might have picked up a damp area behind one wall, as it showed up as a darker patch against the otherwise constant shade of the rest of the wall’s surface. Its sensitivity is incredible — even if you place your hand on a wall and then remove it a few seconds later, a clear handprint is left behind.
Because the Raymarine TH32 has so many other uses beyond boating, it’s one super-practical and versatile unit. And while it may not be a total solution to night-time navigation, if you can handle the price it’s a very beneficial tool to have on hand whenever low visibility becomes an issue.
RAYMARINE TH32 SPECIFICAITONS
ON THE PLANE
- Ability to see vessels without navigation lights at night, as well as landmarks and obstructions
- Can aid with MOB recovery
- Can see things a normal radar cannot
- Can be used instead of a spotlight, especially if you are trying to be stealthy when creeping up rivers or creeks
- Long-life rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- A great backup if your GPS / radar fails
- Can be used to find studs in your walls at home
- Can be used to detect possums, termites and other household pests
- Can be used for hunting
DRAGGING THE CHAIN
- It can’t see through glass / boat windscreens
- As a hand-held unit it’s better to have a second person operating it and guiding you if need be
- It can be hard on your eyes (but it’s nowhere near as taxing as the older systems)
- It ain’t cheap
Size (L x W x H): 172mm x 58.7mm x 62mm
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Focal length: 19mm
USB port: For software updates / upgrades / recharging
FLIR Systems Inc
Oregon, United States
Raymarine Asia Pty Ltd
Tel: (02) 9479 4800
"An excellent addition to night-time navigation if you can afford it."
Originally published in TrailerBoat #284, July/August 2012
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