A nocturnal hunter is only as good as their equipment. While it is true that knowledge about the animal you're hunting and your ability to move in the wild silently are critical to your success, neither of those will help you if you don’t have the right equipment.
After all, humans can't see in the dark and seeing your quarry is critical to hunting it. This is where thermal binoculars and thermal bi-oculars come into the picture. Many of you may already have a thermal scope for your rifle or crossbow.
Buying thermal binoculars for hunting, however, requires a different kind of knowledge than what you have as a hunter. Thermal imaging binoculars and similar devices are marvels of modern science and to be able to evaluate them you need to understand how they work and how they are different than normal binoculars. At the very least, you need to know the basics so that you can look for the right features.
This is especially true if you're new to night hunting. The more seasoned nocturnal hunters would know a lot of what we’re going to share here anyway but even they may not know all there is to know. We’re going to be reviewing multiple thermal binoculars, bi-oculars, and other devices on this page but before we do that let us strip away the magic of these devices and understand how they work.
When light falls on an object, it absorbs some of it and reflects some of it. This reflected light is processed by our eyes and brain, which is how we see the object and perceive its shape and color. In the dark, however, the object doesn’t reflect any light because no light falls on it. Since our eyes have no reflected light to process, we can’t see the object. To this point, we’ve only talked about the visible spectrum of light.
There are other types of electromagnetic radiation that our eyes cannot see. One of these is infrared. Infrared is, basically, heat radiated by an object. If an object generates heat, like animals, it will radiate it into the environment around it. Thermal imaging is the process of translating this radiant heat into images that our eyes can perceive and our brains process.
Thermal imaging devices have heat sensors that detect heat being radiated by objects, animals, and people in their field of vision. They take the differences in temperature and convert them into images. In these images, areas with light temperatures are shown in lighter colors while higher temperatures are presented in darker colors.
In the wild, when you're stalking an animal, very few objects will be generating significant heat. In fact, animals and people generate the most heat in the majority of wilderness scenarios. Therefore, if you use thermal binoculars for hunting, you'll make it considerably easier to spot your quarry even through dense brush or foliage.
Thermal imaging has a wide variety of applications. It is used in medicine, construction, archaeology, surveillance, and hunting. In hunting, thermal imaging is used in the form of four different devices – scopes, monoculars, binoculars, and bi-oculars.
Thermal imaging scopes are attached to guns and their primary purpose is to help you aim and shoot at your target in darkness. You may be able to use scopes for spotting targets in a tight spot but it will be very inconvenient and difficult because their field of view is very small.
Monoculars, binoculars, and bi-oculars are all used for spotting targets in the dark and their efficiency varies greatly. The primary difference between these three types of spotting devices is their design. Monoculars and bi-oculars have one objective lens each while binoculars have two. In terms of eye pieces, bi-oculars and binoculars have two each, while monoculars have just have one.
Therefore, monoculars have a single optical channel designed for a single eye. In binoculars, there are two independent channels, one for each eye, which means that slightly different images are presented to each eye. In bi-oculars, the objective lens captures an image which is presented to both the eyes through separate eye pieces.
Nocturnal spotting devices are manufactured by multiple companies but the three most dominant in the industry are Armasight by FLIR, ATN, and Pulsar. Each of these companies manufactures a wide array of thermal imaging and night vision devices other than nocturnal spotting scopes. These include rifle scopes, goggles, clip-on systems, illuminating tools, and a number of thermal imaging attachments or paraphernalia.
Thermal imaging binoculars are not as popular with hunters as thermal imaging monoculars. Hunters choose monoculars despite the fact that thermal vision binoculars are the most efficient and effective for spotting targets. It is important to understand why.
The two biggest reasons for this are weight and cost. Because a nocturnal hunter has to manage so much equipment, the total weight he or she carries becomes a critical consideration. As thermal binoculars are significantly heavier than monoculars, most hunters choose the latter in spite of their inferiority when it comes to performance.
Thermal imaging binoculars are also substantially more expensive than monoculars as well. Therefore, hunters who don’t have deep pockets have no other option than to settle for monoculars.
There is a happy compromise between thermal imaging binoculars and monoculars, though. In thermal imaging for hunting, it is a newer option called thermal bi-oculars. Thermal bi-oculars are more effective than thermal monoculars but not as expensive as thermal binoculars. They're even lighter than binoculars. The mix of these three qualities makes them ideal for the majority of hunters although features, cost, and efficiencies may vary from one product to another.
1. ATN BinoX 4T 384 4.5-18x
384 x 288
3D Gyroscope, Laser Range Finder, E-Compass, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Microphone, Video recording
2. ATN BinoX 4T 640 1.5-15x
640 x 480
3D Gyroscope, Laser Range Finder, E-Compass, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Microphone, Video recording
3. FLIR Command 336 3-12x50mm
336 x 256
9 Hz / 30 Hz / 60 Hz
Optional Digital Recorder
4. FLIR Command 640 3-24x75mm
640 x 512
Optional Digital Recorder
5. Pulsar Accolade XQ38
384 x 288
Laser Range Finder (LRF model ), Wi-Fi, Video Recording
6. Pulsar Accolade XP50
640 x 480
Laser Range Finder (LRF model ), Wi-Fi, Video Recording
If you're planning to make a foray into nocturnal hunting or even nocturnal wildlife observation, you'll need to make use of a thermal imaging device. We’ve been researching all the available devices and have made use of all our experience to find the best options for you. These are our findings.
ATN has not only been around a while but it has also been a consistent leader in the field of thermal imaging for most of that time. Its thermal imaging devices, whether scopes or binoculars have repeatedly outperformed the vast majority of their competitors. One of their most impressive product lines is the BinoX 4T and we think both the products in this product line will be worth your time.
The ATN BinoX-4T 384 Thermal Smart HD Binocular has a thermal resolution of 384 x 288 with a magnification range of 4.5 to 18x. The BinoX-4T 384 happens to be our top pick as far as thermal binoculars for hunting go. The reason for this is that its software and the associated user interface are particularly noteworthy in terms of ease of use. Furthermore, it offers the kind of feature set that you won’t find in many other thermal imaging devices, especially at this price.
For example, even among our top picks, this device is the only one that offers a 3D gyroscope, an e-compass, and a microphone. These features, while not crucial in hunting, can really add to the versatility and functionality for the tech savvy hunter.
The gyroscope helps stabilize the shot and prevents blurry images even if you’ve zoomed deep into your view and the inbuilt microphone may even augment your perception of the shot. The e-compass can be very handy when you're trying to navigate in the wild.
In addition, these binoculars offer Wi-Fi connectivity, which means that you'll not only be able to share your shots with your friends but also manage this device remotely. The best part is that all these features will be accessible to you at a very competitive price. You'll be able to get the ATN BinoX 4T 384 4.5-18x for anything around $4,000.
Despite being one of the best thermal vision binoculars in the market, the BinoX-4T 384 isn't flawless. The downside of having an elaborate user interface is that mastering all its myriad features and functions can be a time-consuming affair and this is true in the case of these binoculars.
The ATN BinoX-4T 640 thermal smart HD binocular is the bigger brother of the ATN BinoX-4T 384. It offers the same kind of feature set and qualities as its junior compatriot. However, there are certain key differences. One of these is the thermal sensor resolution.
The ATN BinoX-4T 640 has a thermal resolution of 640 x 480. This is significantly higher than the ATN BinoX-4T 384 and has a huge impact on this device’s effectiveness. Better optical capacities improve detection range and gradient presentation.
This device’s magnification range of 1.5 to 15x is much higher than the BinoX-4T 384’s as well. This means clearer pictures of objects that are located much farther away. In practice, you can expect the ATN BinoX-4T 640’s performance to be about 150% more effective than the ATN BinoX-4T 384.
Like the 384, the ATN BinoX-4T 640 also benefits from having a 3D gyroscope, an e-compass, range finder and a microphone. The same flaw of the user interface being more difficult to master exists here too.
However, all these features combined with the more advanced optical technology mean that you'll have to fish deeper into your pockets to get this baby. You should expect the ATN BinoX-4T 640 1.5-15x price to be closer to $4,900 than the $4,000 of the ATN BinoX-THD 384 4.5-18x.
If you're more specific about your thermal imaging requirements, you may want to consider FLIR Command series over the ATN BinoX-4T series we’ve reviewed above. The reason for this is that the Command thermal bi-ocular series has far more variants than the BinoX series does. The variants mainly differ in terms of the video refresh rate and the objective focal length for focusing range.
The Command 336, itself, comes in no less than six different variants. These include the 336 3-12x50mm (mag 2.8-3.4x), the Command 336 5-20x75mm (mag 5.3-6.3x), and the Command 336 8-32x100mm (mag 7-8.4x), with each of them available in 30Hz and 60Hz video refresh rates. All this variety means that you get to pick and choose as per your specific needs. Needless to say, as you go towards higher focal lengths and video refresh rates, the cost goes up too.
We’ll just focus on the Armasight by FLIR Command 336 3-12x50mm in this review. Even though the feature set of these binoculars isn't as well-endowed as the BinoX thermal bi-ocular series, most of what is missing isn’t really essential to nocturnal hunting and instead should be seen as augments.
One of the qualities of the Command 336 3-12x50mm is that it is built specifically with the users’ comfort in mind. A good proof of this is that it is easy to use and boasts of an incredibly fast start up time of only three seconds.
Additionally, the excellent OLED viewfinder with a resolution of 800 x 600 in combination with the fast video refresh rate keeps the image crystal clear and eliminates any kind of delays. The housing of these bi-oculars is not only sturdy but also lightweight and compact. Inside the housing, the thermal sensor has a resolution of 336 x 256 and is even protect by an unprecedented 10-year warranty.
The one oversight that FLIR may be guilty of with regard to these binoculars is battery life. This limitation of the FLIR Command 336 3-12x50mm may be severe enough to be a deal breaker for many hunters. The battery life of only four hours is very low compared to other similar devices in the market, but you can get spare CR123 batteries. However, if this $3,500 device checks all the right boxes for you, you could always compensate for the short battery life with spare battery packs.
The Armasight by FLIR Command 640 3-24x75mm thermal imaging bi-ocular is a more advanced version of the FLIR Command 336. The primary difference between the two is the thermal sensor resolution. While the Command 336 had a thermal resolution of 336 x 256, the Command 640’s thermal sensor resolution is 640 x 512.
The Armasight by FLIR Command 640 comes in three different variants – the 640 2-16x50 (mag 1.5x), the 640 3-24x75 (mag 3x), and the 640 4-32x100 (mag 4x). As is evident, these variants differ on the basis of their objective focal length.
The Armasight by FLIR Command 640 3-24x75mm has all the benefits that the Command 336 3-12x50mm boasts of and then some. It offers the same easy to use software, the same excellent thermal sensor with the same warranty (10 years), the same fast start up time (3 seconds), and the similarly convenient OLED viewfinder.
The Command 640 offers the equally excellent, sturdy, compact, and lightweight housing but makes it water resistant too. Moreover, the eyepiece on this device is designed in a way to become adjustable. This can be a huge plus point especially if you plan on going for the variants with the larger eyepieces and objective lenses.
Unfortunately, you won’t get a 60Hz video refreshing rate variant in the case of the Armasight by FLIR Command 640 3-24x75mm but then you may not really need it with the higher thermal sensor resolution. This device also shares its flaws with the Command 336. It has a short battery life (four hours only) and doesn’t offer Wi-Fi streaming either.
Pulsar is a brand of night vision scopes and thermal imaging devices owned by Yukon Advanced Optics Worldwide that was formed as far back as 1991. Accolade, launched only about five months ago, is a series of thermal binoculars for hunting under the Pulsar brand. It comprises two thermal binocular models.
The Pulsar Accolade XQ38 thermal binocular is the starting model of the Accolade series. It offers a thermal sensor resolution of 384 x 288 with a magnification range of 3.1-12.4x and a detection range of 1350 meters. What sets the Pulsar Accolade XQ38 apart from many of its competitors is its video refresh rate of 50Hz. Not many devices in the market offer this kind of video refresh rate at such a price. This means that this device is very useful for those individuals who hunt fast moving targets.
Another standout aspect of the Pulsar Accolade XQ38 is its AMOLED display with a resolution of 640 x 480. The display is inherently frost resistant which prevents fogging and makes these thermal vision binoculars very useful even in inclement weather. The fact that the housing of these thermal imaging binoculars is designed to be waterproof also makes them easy to use in difficult conditions.
The battery life of the Pulsar Accolade XQ38 is worth a mention too especially since it is higher than most other devices of the same class. These thermal binoculars can go up to seven hours without needing a charge. The Pulsar Accolade XQ38 also comes with built-in live streaming that makes it easier to share shots with others.
The absence of additional features such as image stabilization and compass can be seen as a limitation of these binoculars. The absence of the long lasting 20-hour battery pack should definitely be seen as an oversight on the part of the manufacturer as well. Add that extra battery power and this device would be a winner through and through.
Pulsar Accolade XP50 Thermal Binocular is part of the same series as the Accolade XQ38. In fact, they were released at the same time. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you that a lot of their features, benefits, and flaws are similar in nature.
The Pulsar Accolade XP50 Thermal Binocular, however, are more effective in the wild and darkness. It has a higher thermal sensor resolution of 640 x 480 than the Accolade XQ38’s 384 x 288. This means that its images are not only clearer but also that it has a better range of 1800 meters too. Magnification range of these thermal imaging binoculars is to the tune of 2.5-20x which is significantly higher than the XQ38 as well.
The Pulsar Accolade XP50 Thermal Binoculars has all the qualities of the Accolade XQ38 including the 50Hz video refresh rate, the frost resistant AMOLED 640 x 480 display screen, and the 7-hour battery life. Moreover, the Accolade XP50 is designed with a compact, lightweight, and waterproof IPX7 body that is resistant to everything from rain, snow, and fog to even high waves.
Like the Accolade XQ38, the Pulsar Accolade XP50 Thermal Binoculars don’t come with the long lasting 20-hour battery pack. A bigger hitch with the Accolade XP50 would be its price. The device costs approximately $6,000 which would be a significant outlay for even the most successful nocturnal hunters.
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Most people think thermal imaging and night vision are one and the same. That is a misconception. While both, thermal imaging and night vision, technologies are designed to help you see things in the dark, the way they go about the process is different.
We already know that thermal imaging is the creation of images based on “heat signatures” or infrared radiation emitted by various objects. Night vision has nothing to do with infrared radiation or the heat generated by objects. Night vision technology depends on taking whatever little light the objects reflect and magnifying them before presenting the amplified image.
Because of this night vision technology doesn’t render good images at dusk or dawn. This happens because there is too much light at dusk and dawn. The night vision devices, in most cases, aren’t designed to handle that much light and the technology itself gets overwhelmed by too much brightness.
While night vision devices are much less effective and versatile than thermal imaging devices, the simplistic nature of their technology also means that they're much more affordable. Therefore, night vision binoculars can be seen as good alternatives to thermal binoculars and bi-oculars.
There’s no dearth of night vision binoculars for hunting in the market. A simple search will yield droves of options to you. That, unfortunately, makes finding the right device a very time and effort intensive project. We’ve found the top 3 best night vision binoculars for hunting so that you don’t have to waste time going through so many different, low-quality products. Here are our top picks.
If you want the most bang for your buck, then Bestguarder NV-800 7x31mm Digital Night Vision Binocular has to be the product you go for. Priced very competitively in the range of $300, the night vision optical clarity of the Bestguarder NV-800 is almost astonishing. This is especially true since its objective lens only measures 31mm.
In fact, whatever expectations you may have from night vision binoculars in this price range, the Bestguarder NV-800 digital night vision binocular will make you revise them. The quality of the image persists even at longer ranges and with 7x magnification. The maximum range of this device is also a positive at 400 meters, especially if you consider its cost.
The images created by the objective lens are presented on a large view screen with a maximum resolution of 320 x 240. The screen spans four inches, which means that it shouldn’t trouble you even if you wear glasses. These night vision binoculars have a strong housing with a comfortable grip as well. You'll even be able to mount them on a tripod.
The battery capacity of the Bestguarder NV-800 7x31mm is significant at six hours. If you choose to not use the infrared illuminator, then the battery backup leaps to an amazing 14 hours. In practical terms, this means that you consume the most battery juice when you're using this device at the extreme of its range.
Focus on closer targets and the NV-800 will last longer for you. Unfortunately, focusing on nearer objects also causes slight pixilation. This shouldn’t surprise you since most night vision binoculars have a minimum range under which pixilation can occur.
You should also know that you may need to practice with the Bestguarder NV-800 7x31mm a little bit because the user interface can take a bit of time to get used to.
The absolute minimum you need from night vision binoculars is that they give you a clear view of whatever it is that you're trying to target. Like the Bestguarder NV-800, SOLOMARK night vision binoculars have a range of 400 meters, a magnification capacity of 7x, and an objective lens spanning 31mm. Even so, these binoculars produce crystal clear images even at their maximum.
While the SOLOMARK night vision binoculars’ image quality is excellent, it does suffer from the fact that its field of view is fairly narrow. This can make it difficult to spot the quarry so you'll need all your nocturnal hunting experience to at least know where to point this device.
Easy to use and extremely solid, these SOLOMARK binoculars even have an SD card slot to make it easier for you to store videos and pictures. Even though these binoculars are built strongly and sturdily, the finish is lacking. The lack of high-quality finish reflects not only when you look at them closely but also when you touch them.
The view screen is large enough to suit even people with glasses, which will be a boon for the older hunters out there or even hunters who like to use hunting glasses. You should also know that the instructions that come with this device aren’t as helpful as they should be. You may have to fall back on your experience or just tinker around till you figure out, if you choose to get the SOLOMARK night vision binoculars.
The Night Owl NOXB-5 Explorer Pro 5X is the most advanced night vision binoculars we’re reviewing in terms of its objective focus. The objective lens on this device spans 50mm which is greater than both the night vision binoculars we’ve reviewed above. Considering the fact that this is a generation 1 device, its image output is surprisingly good.
However, what really makes the Night Owl NOXB-5 Explorer Pro 5X night vision binoculars special and should be the reason you get it is its battery life. This baby can last up to 80 hours at a stretch provided you don’t use the inbuilt infrared illuminator. Even if you use the illuminator extensively, the battery life remains nothing short of extraordinary at 40 hours.
The design of these binoculars makes them very compact and easy to handle because of the rubberized finish. At the same time, they're heavier than their competitors which may put off some users. While most night vision binoculars weigh around 2.5 pounds, the Night Owl NOXB-5 Explorer Pro 5X weigh 3.4 pounds.
The design of these binoculars is such that it puts the focusing mechanism right in the middle of the scopes and the controlling buttons on top. This makes this device very easy to operate on the fly and can save you considerable time when you're tracking your quarry.
However, if you generally use a tripod, then this device isn’t for you. There is no system for mounting the Night Owl NOXB-5 Explorer Pro 5X on a tripod and this is something you should bear in mind before you make the final decision.
It would be virtually impossible to hunt at night in the wild without proper thermal imaging or even night vision equipment. However, whether you go for thermal imaging or night vision depends entirely on how deep your pockets are. If hunting is a vital component of your life, we advise thermal imaging as there’s nothing like it in the wild. However, if you're really strapped for cash or a nocturnal hunting novice then instead of pushing the envelope for thermal imaging, it would be better if you chose night vision devices.