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Night Vision Spotters Round-Up

Night Vision Spotters Round-Up

Tubed spotters are comparatively little used, but a Gen 2(+) base unit is versatile, as it can be fitted with a large lens of up to 4.5X magnification for standalone use as a spotter, or with a small 1X lens to be used either with a day-scope as an add-on, or teamed up with a head-mount as a nightvision ‘goggle’ (NVG) for foot stalking. Even Gen 1(+) monoculars do this too. Binocular devices are even better, as they provide a wider field of view and greater depth perception but are ultimately less versatile.


Digital spotters are more common. Standout models are Pulsar’s Recon 870R digital monocular, Armasight’s Prime DC digital monocular, ATN’s Binox-HD 4X-16X digital binocular, and the big daddy of them all, the NiteSite Spotter Xtreme.

The Recon 870R features 5X optical magnification and 2X digital zoom, a 5.6° FOV, a claimed detection range (CDR) of up to 300-metres (on the accepted standard of an 800mm x 1500mm target). Plus a covert, eye safe 915nm IR illuminator, a 640 x 480 LCD display with adjustable brightness plus selectable black and white (standard or highcontrast), green or red colour modes, onboard stills/video recording, a video-out port, a ¼-inch tripod socket, and a short Weaver rail for mounting IRs, sound amplification and other systems. It has an SRP of £519.95

The Armasight comes in two versions, giving a choice of 5X or 7X optical magnification and CDRs of 320- or 400-metres respectively. Both feature a dualmode 1.3-megapixel CCD that generates a colour image in daylight and switches to more-IR-sensitive black and white in low light, a 12.5º FOV. An on-board infrared illuminator, on-board stills/video recording, a video-out port, tripod socket, and a manual gain control that allows the user to control the sensitivity of the sensor. (SRP TBC).

The NiteSite Spotter Xtreme offers a massive 1X-20X optical zoom for a claimed 500-metre identification (not just detection) range. Additionally, it features automatic switching between colour and B/W based on lighting conditions, a 25º FOV, an 850nM IR illuminator with five LEDs, a built-in rechargeable 3.5Ah battery with a run time of 20-hours, and a video out port. Unlike other devices, the image is shown on a large 3.5-inch LCD display, so the device doesn’t have to be held up to the user’s eye.

All this performance doesn’t come cheap of course, and it has an SRP of £949.00 However, the taste of things to come is ATN’s Bino X, which incorporates smartphone-type technology into a day/ night observation device with a versatile 4X-16X zoom. The user can switch between a full-HD colour sensor for daytime use and a high-sensitivity monochrome sensor for low-light conditions, supplemented by the on-board IR illuminator. Images are electronically stabilised, and the Bino X also features a built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, compass and GPS. An SD card slot permits on-board recording of audio, video and stills with optional date/time stamp, and WiFi connectivity facilitates remote viewing and software/firmware updates. This extraordinary array of functions is powered by a microprocessor that runs at a billion cycles/second. All this processing does limit run-time, however: a set of 3x CR123A batteries only lasts four-hours 30-minutes in day mode. It has an SRP of £599.00


Thermal spotters are available from ATN, Armasight, FLIR, General Starlight (GSCI), Guide, Pulsar, and Seek, though to date it is FLIR and Pulsar that have had the greatest impact on the UK market.


FLIR is synonymous with the highend thermal gear used by military, law enforcement and emergency services, but at the leisure end of the market it is primarily represented by the Scout II, a compact monocular designed to be operated with just one hand. Three variants are available, the 640, 320 and the 240. The 640 has a 35mm fixedfocus lens with an 18°x14° FoV, a 2X and 4X digital zoom, and a 640 x 512 sensor with a CDR of 1140-metres. For the 320, the corresponding numbers are 19mm, 17°x13°, 2X, 336 x 256, and 550-metres, and for the 240 they are 13mm, 24°x18°, no zoom, 240 x 180, and 350-metres.

All models weigh 340g and have a 640 x 480 LCD display, with selective white-hot and black hot polarities and an InstAlert mode that highlights the hottest parts of the image. There’s also a video port, but no on-board recording facility. Power comes from a rechargeable Li-Ion battery with a five-hour runtime. SRPs are £2900, £2071 and £1657 for the 640, 320 and 340 respectively. The refresh rate in the Scout II is a slow 9Hz, but on the forthcoming Scout III series it is increased to 30Hz on the 640 and 240, and to 60Hz on the 320 model.

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If this is beyond your budget, FLIR have just launched the entry-level Scout TK, an even smaller unit weighing just 170g. As you would expect, the sensor is quite basic, with a 160 x 120 resolution and 9Hz refresh rate, but the LCD display has a decent 640 x 480 resolution and there’s a choice of nine colour palettes. The non-magnifying lens offers a 20°x16° (H x V) FoV, and the TK has a CDR of around 100-metres on a man-sized target. Runtime is five-hours as before, but the TK has a record function that captures up to four-hours of video or 1000 still images, saving them to an internal memory for subsequent download via a Micro USB port. The price is very attractive at around £530, and FLIR also offer a reassuring 2- (parts & labour) plus 10- year warranty (detector) on all models.


Pulsar takes a rather different route with its popular Quantum range, sacrificing a modicum of compactness and simplicity for higher performance. The successful HD and XD models have now been superseded by a new XQ series. At first sight, not much has changed: The 50Hz refresh rate, 640 x 480 OLED display and nominal 384 x 288 sensor size is as before, as are the three calibration modes, three image modes, deadpixel repair function, choice of colour palettes, and the 2x and 4x digital zoom.

The major step forward lies in the reduction in the size of the pixels in the sensor from 25μm to 17μm. These smaller pixels increase sensor definition, thereby enhancing the magnification/range capability of the existing 19mm, 38mm and 50mm lenses. For example, the XQ38 has a CDR of 1350-metres and 3.1X/12.4X optical/digital magnification, compared to 950-metres and 2.1X/8.4X for the XD38, and it even trumps the XD50’s range of 1250-metres and 2.8X/11.2X magnification!

There are minor upgrades to functionality too: a quick-access button for the Quantum’s stadiametric rangefinder (a system based on the standard heights of different quarry species, e.g. deer 1.7-metres, Rabbit 0.3-metres), and a new compound jack to allow simultaneous connection of an external power pack and a recording device.

Other thermal spotting devices to look out for are Guide’s high-performance IR1517-V Pro, which has a unique DSLRstyle interchangeable lens system, and – at the other end of the price scale- two new units from Seek: the hand-held Reveal XR, and the Compact XR, a tiny unit that plugs into the Micro USB / charging socket of your smartphone and lets you view and manage the thermal image via its touchscreen.

Guide IR

The Guide IR1517-V Pro has an impressive spec, based on a big 640 x 480 sensor with 17μm pixels, a high-resolution 1280 x 960 LCOS display, and a choice of 19mm, 35mm, 65mm and 80mm lenses giving CDRs of 500-metres, 1000-metres, 1800-metres and 2200-metres. You also get on-board recording and Wi-Fi connectivity. Base SRP, c/w with a 35mm lens, is £4799.95, whilst supplementary 65mm and 80mm lenses cost £2779.95 and £2899.95 respectively. With TI, as with much else, great performance doesn’t come cheap!


TI doesn’t have to break the bank, however. Seek’s Reveal XR is a hand-held device weighing 177g that comes in standard 9Hz and FastFrame 15-30Hz versions. Both offer a 20° FoV, a 2.4-inch colour 240 x 320 display, and a 206 x 156 sensor with ultra-fine 12μ pixels.

It’s surprising then that Seek quote a CDR of 275-metres for the FF and just 150-metres for the standard version. Still images can be recorded to a MicroSD card, and an internal battery charged via a Micro USB port gives up to 10-hours of runtime. The Reveal XR also has seven Colour Palette Options, three navigation buttons and a built-in white LED torch with two configurable brightness settings, all wrapped up in a waterproof alloy housing with a black or camo finish.

Despite being much smaller than the Reveal, the Compact XR boasts a much greater detection range of 550-metres. It uses the same 206 x 156/12μ/9Hz sensor as the standard Reveal, but performance is boosted by the addition of a focusable 2x lens, and by the unit’s ability to exploit the advanced processing, display and recording capabilities of your smartphone via a free app. The Compact XR also has more colour palettes (nine), and these are now super-easy to scroll through thanks to the phone’s touch-screen interface. It’s ruggedly built too, with a magnesium alloy housing, and a tough polymer carry case with a shock-absorbing silicone rubber liner into which the Compact XR fits like a glove.

Prices are kept low by the fact that miniature TI units like the Reveal and the Compact can use lenses made from cheaper moulded chalcogenide glass, rather than expensive germanium. So the Reveal XR FF costs just £419.95, the standard Reveal just £399.95 and the Compact XR just £259.95.

It must be said at this point that despite the detection ranges claimed by their manufacturers –which should always be taken with a liberal pinch of salt – the performance of these entry-level TI units is worlds away from that of a FLIR Scout or Pulsar Quantum.

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