Purchasing an explosion proof digital camera – 10 points for consideration

Intrinsically Safe Cameras  |  Wednesday, 31st August

Purchasing an explosion proof digital camera is a substantial commitment. Even the most straightforward of Ex devices can cost a significant amount more than their non-Ex equivalent.

Each hazardous area has an ownership cost. Its the cost (financially and virtually) that every operative has to endure, but that cost doesn’t mean there are no limits. You have to keep your staff safe, your plant running and your products profitable.

With standards constantly changing, manufacturers are clamouring to provide you with the optimal product at the best price. You need a high quality explosion proof digital camera that is the best value for money and will serve you well for a long period.

Cost will be the leading influencer for some, while for others, fundamental hardware / software specifications are the most important factor. Whichever explosion proof digital camera you choose should offer quality and reliability, alongside exceptional service and support. There are many choices in Ex digital cameras, ranging from most affordable point-and-shoot models to high end compact DSLRs. Finding the correct solution can seem a daunting task, so along with the ten consideration points, you’ll also find this article useful in helping you narrow down what you need the camera for and the work environments you’ll need it to operate in.

An important term to understand is “intrinsically safe” and what it really means. Intrinsically safe refers to a protection method that prevents ignition by spark of thermal means. There are three levels of Intrinsic Safety; ia, ib and ic. Tools certified to these levels can be used in Zone 0, Zone 1 or Zone 2 hazardous areas respectively. The most common Zone of operation is Zone 1, which is what you should aim for. Zone 1 certified equipment will give you the choice and flexibility to operate safely and to also expand into any future areas you currently don’t know about.

Understanding and pinpointing your essential requirements

Quality, maintenance and inspection workers have a range of essential requirements that determine the type of Ex digital camera they need to purchase. A quality control officer for instance, would be interested in the colour of paint being used. In this case, clear, repeatable, high res imagery is a must. Maintenance crew members on the other hand, may need to take ‘wide area’ and ‘up-close’ shots whilst documenting before and after work, so a lens with both optical and digital zoom is crucial. Safety inspectors could need to capture Ex rating plates of process equipment located within a hazardous area to ensure compliance. in these cases, an optical macro lens is imperative in the safety documentation process.

There are a multitude of applications / requirements to contemplate when choosing the right explosion proof digital camera. At 247able, we want you to feel satisfied with your purchase. That’s why we’ve compiled this article to help you through the marketing maze when buying an explosion proof digital camera.

The 10 points for consideration

1. Purchase a digital camera with the highest number of pixels / greatest image quality that your budget will allow.

Make sure you get the most from every picture you take; with high res Ex digital cameras you’ll always have digital zoom to back up your optical zoom solution. With a high res camera you can enhance that fine detail you missed in the field by expanding your image digitally without pixelating your picture. The saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. If your image is of low resolution and low quality, that could mean the repair task, quality control or safety review maybe compromised or lead to incorrect conclusions being made. All due to a low resolution picture taken from a low resolution camera.

2. Choose a digital camera that is rugged enough to do the tasks you need it for.

You work in a harsh environment. Devices gets knocked and dropped. That’s how it is, it’s tough. Your Ex camera has got to be tough too. Some intrinsically safe cameras are basically smartphones with large displays that can be easily damaged and are very difficult to fix. A camera with an armoured screen that can withstand day to day impacts without being damaged is what’s needed.

3. Need to document and present your findings to others? A database reporting package will help you organise and analyse your findings.

Imagine having to take hundreds of pictures with no place to store and analyse them. Explosion proof digital cameras need a report database package to help organise reports and ensure data is safely collated. CorDEX CONNECT software, for example, is simple to use but also fully featured to help you grow your reporting and database requirements. Need pictures storing automatically for you? No problem. Want to annotate, add comments, layers, crop and resize pictures and then create a report? No problem and whats best, these features are free with the ToughPIX II Trident.

4. A removable, replaceable and rechargeable battery is an absolute must for your explosion proof digital camera.

You don’t see many non-Ex digital cameras with a non-removable battery. Ex digital cameras come at a significant cost and you need to maximise investment. Fixed internal batteries can’t be replaced when they fade over time. They also can’t be removed for charging with another installed to keep the job going. A removable, rechargeable battery gives the ability to continue shooting pictures for as long as needed. It also enables you to replace the only component that will diminish with time and use, the battery.

5. Make sure your Ex digital camera choice is fulfilled by a manufacturer with a strong track record.

Select a manufacturer like CorDEX Instruments, who have years of experience in the explosion proof digital camera market place. CorDEX listen to their customers’ needs and adapt to them, providing you with a reputable product with an undisputed pedigree.

6. Try to future proof your purchase.

Interchangeable lenses mean your camera can be adapted to take pictures even an optical / high resolution digital zoom cannot resolve. A macro lens will need be seriously considered if you want to take close-up images of Ex rating plates for documentation purposes. A solution used by professional photographers, a macro lens essentially enlarges a close-up target. The full CCD sensor array is used to capture the image, meaning the digital camera can take clear, high res shots at a range of 50mm or less. The CorDEX ToughPIX comes with a macro lens to ensure your pictures are right the first time, every time.

7. A picture is only worth a thousand words when it’s in focus!
  • Have you ever needed to take images of rating plates or machinery detail at less than 150mm?
  • Have you ever had to retake a close-up image because it was blurry?

Most industrial digital cameras are equipped with a macro mode to achieve close-up photography. With automatic focusing however, the camera could ignore the object you want to capture and focus on irrelevant areas in its field of view instead. To obtain a sharp focus with macro mode you’ll need an LCD display and good lighting conditions.

8. Choose a digital camera built to withstand the environment you work in.
  • Will you be using your camera in winter conditions?
  • Will you be wearing PPE or gloves when operating the camera?

Working in hazardous areas is tough and can be further complicated by extreme weather and sub-zero temperatures. An Ex digital camera for use in this environment should be simple to operate whilst wearing specialist protective clothing. The digital camera’s On/Off and shutter buttons need to be adequately spaced so that they don’t interfere with each another. They should also be prominent / easy to find and operate when wearing gloves. Smartphone type cameras will likely involve having to remove your PPE gloves each time you need to capture an image.

9. A flash is essential when working in low light.

You must be able to operate the camera wherever you need to take a picture, indoor or outdoor, day or night. An on-board (preferably high intensity) flash is absolutely essential to ensure your pictures are viewable. A strobe type flash will not only illuminate close up targets, but also wide area pictures required for plant inspection and documentation.

10. Make sure your explosion proof digital camera choice is fulfilled by a supplier with experience, excellent service and the ability support your needs anywhere in the world.

At 247able, we want customers to benefit from our experience, expertise and independence. Our depth of instrumentation knowledge and ability to apply a diverse range of technologies has established us as a leader in providing the right solution, whatever the requirement. In short, being able to make your measurement is more than what we do, it’s who we are.

If you would like more information regarding this article, please contact us at [email protected] or +44 (0)118 916 9420.

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