Thermtec Cyclops CP335 Thermal Monocular
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- Last updated: 21/01/2023
The Cyclops 335 is a thermal monocular from another Chinese mega-corporation you’ve never heard of called Thermtec, currently imported here by Optical Solutions, who have a reassuringly-solid track record as talent scouts for new contenders in the thermal realm.
The Cyclops (CP) family comprises three 3-series models (315, 325 and 335) and two 6-series models (635, 650). The series number denotes either a 348x288 or 640x512 @ 12 μm sensor, whilst the subsequent digits indicate the size of the objective lens. The test unit, therefore, sits in the middle of the range and is attractively priced at £1,495.
First impressions are positive. The black rubberised coating, bright decals and joystick look smart and feel nice. The tapered and contoured housing fits nicely in your hand and at 500-grams, the unit weighs about the same as a Pulsar Helion, while being some 50mm shorter.
Underneath the body, a metal plate incorporates a heat sink, tripod mounting point, lanyard attachment point and USB-C port complete with a protective rubber cover. Both a short wrist strap and a longer neck lanyard are supplied.
The objective lens has a tethered, push-fit rubber cover and some deeplyridged rubber armour around the focusing ring for extra grip. At the rear, the eye cup is ambidextrous, flexible and sturdy, while a small ribbed dial on the left-hand side with a generous range of adjustment focuses the display.
The other physical controls are located in line on top of the unit. There are just three of these (power, joystick and image recording), each with its own distinctive feel. Behind them is an LED status light, which can be deactivated in the menu for greater stealth at night.
The Cyclops is activated via a long press of the power button. The start-up time from button-press to initial image calibration is 14 seconds. Thereafter, a quick press puts the display on standby, extending the run time. Pressing and holding will initiate the shut-down process, which takes about 8 seconds. Power comes from two built-in rechargeable 18650 li-ion cells that give an impressive run-time of around 12 hours from a full charge. This can be supplemented by connecting an external power bank via the USB-C port.
The recording button is nearest the viewer and uses the familiar short-press/ long-press (image/video) protocol. There’s no video pause function, however, so you can’t capture selected highlights without creating multiple videos. Formats are MP4 and JPG at 1024x768, and files are saved within 16Gb of onboard memory. I used the USB-C connection to transfer them to my PC, but file transfer is also notionally possible via Thermtec’s ‘Smart Thermal’ app.
Like many apps supporting Chinesemade cameras, Smart Thermal won’t connect to the Cyclops unless I switch off the SIM in my Android phone, which is obviously sub-optimal. A further thing to know is that you need to select ‘Hotspot’ to control the Cyclops remotely, the ‘WiFi’ option being for hooking the device up to your network to obtain firmware updates. There are other bugs to beware of too, such as the app only registering image or video files recorded via remote operation and ignoring those recorded directly on the monocular. Also, there is the fact that connecting to the internet via WiFi is supposed to synchronise the time and date, but doesn’t, so you can’t meaningfully date-stamp images.
That said, remote operation via the app offers control of most of the on-device functions, including ‘image tracking’, which lets you monitor an area for activity, setting alarms and recording incursions. Unfortunately, the connection is laggy and unstable, and the active range of the hotspot is only a couple of metres, making ‘remote operation’ a relative term!
So let’s get back to the monocular, and its final control, the joystick button, which I really like! This has three axes: front/back, left/right and press. Press calibrates the sensor, although the Cyclops can also be set to do this automatically. Flicking the button forward or back changes the magnification, from a nominal 1X up to 6X (more on this later). Flicking right toggles through the six colour palettes (black-hot, white-hot, red-hot, green, golden and violet). Flicking left activates the AI rangefinder.
The AI uses pre-stored image patterns to identify the profiles of humans and animals within the image captured by the camera, calculating the range by comparing their apparent size on screen with the dimensions of their real-life counterparts programmed into its algorithm. Successful recognition and ranging generates a box showing the distance above the heat source. This probably works well in the security systems for which it was devised, since adult humans in man-made environments are relatively easy to program for, but the sheer variety of wild mammals, from squirrels to red deer, encountered in the field result in figures that correspond only roughly to actual ranges. So, it’s more fun to use than the usual stadiametric tools, but no more accurate.
To access additional functions, just double-press the joystick button, which opens the main menu, then use the front/ back axis to scroll up/down, and the left/ right axis to open/close new menu levels, pressing to select the desired setting. It’s an intuitive system that enables fairly quick access to a comprehensive set of functions, although I did get a bit tired of going three levels down each time I wanted to tweak brightness or contrast or sharpen/soften the image. The interface is also a generic one, containing items relevant to other Thermtec products, such as an (inactive) imagestabilisation option for the 6-series units, and an (active) reticle configurator for Thermtec’s Ares-series weapon sights.
As regards optics, the quoted FOV (W/H) at the native optical magnification is a tightish 7.5x5.6º or 13.1 x 9.8m @ 100m. For comparison, for the same lens and sensor size, a Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 has a FOV of 10.7x8º or 18.2 x 14.0m @ 100m, at a nominal 2X native magnification. Aside from the fact that 1X native magnification is typically associated with devices with far smaller (e.g. 10mm) objective lenses, these numbers support the visual impression when viewing through the Cyclops CP335 that its native magnification is closer to 3X than 1X. This will be good news to some, though since the Cyclops has a picture-in-picture (PiP) function, I would rather let that do the zoom work and benefit from the wider FOV a lower magnification would provide.
In the field, images were typically a bit ‘blobby’, which is par for the course for the sensor size and magnification levels, and shows the image-processing algorithm is doing a lot to produce a clean, easy-tointerpret image. Contrast and exposure were good, with shading showing on major heat sources such as cattle without the rest of the image darkening excessively to compensate. Also noteworthy was how well the Cyclops picked up small, relatively-cool targets such as crows, which it made instantly visible, even when the same birds barely showed up in my high-end Pulsar, despite the latter producing a more ‘photographically’ detailed and realistic image. My takeaway from this is that the Cyclops CP335’s real strength is as a spotter, so something that will let you detect even small heat sources (a deer’s ears, for example) several hundred metres away, make a species assessment with a good degree of confidence, and then make decisions about whether and how to hunt it.
Worthy of mention here too is the value of having palette selection on the joystick button. This function is rarely given complete top-level access. Pulsar, for example, has a wider selection of palettes but lets you set a single toggleable alternative to white-hot. Having the full range of palettes instantly to hand when using the Cyclops was so useful in optimising the informative potential of the image that it made Pulsar’s minimalist approach feel restrictive rather than streamlined. And if you don’t want to cycle through palettes you never use, you can simply deactivate them in the menu.
Currently, the Cyclops CP335’s nearest competitors are the InfiRay Eye II E3 MAX V2.0 (£1,899.99), the HIK Micro Owl OH35 (£1,795) and the Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 (£1,549.95). All these units have 384x288 sensors, but with 17μm pixels rather than the 12μm spec of the Thermtec. In principle, and all else being equal, the smaller pixels should convey more detail, giving the Cyclops the advantage. Comparing other specifications and functions will help you to decide which is right for you (whether the ergonomics of the lighter, smaller Pulsar and its superior smartphone app are worth an extra £55, for example), but overall the Cyclops appears to hold a significant lead over the Eye II and OH35. Adding to its appeal is a 3-year warranty supported in the UK by Optical Solutions. Run by night-vision specialist Cliff Ray, Optical Solutions is a small outfit supplying a single brand, so excellent customer support is pivotal to its business model. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Optical Solutions www.opticalsolutions.uk