- By Chris Parkin
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 06/10/2020
I have been a big fan of Sightmark’s Wraith HD for over a year and although not the ultimate in night vision, I awarded it high praise because I thought it offered a great option for 24/7 usage, with incredibly good value and ease of use. It never crashed, failed, lost zero or perhaps most importantly for me, involved unending detail and firmware updates. It was a solid functional tool!
The impending arrival of the 4K model sounded like the perfect upgrade and I just hoped they wouldn’t do what so many others have with superficial additional functionality that somehow compensated for minimal improvements in the core function. I am glad to say Sightmark has pleased me.
So, what is new? Well, the key concept of the upgrade is to improve image quality with 4K output on the screen, assuring 4000x3000 pixel resolution in full colour through the day. Other technical specifications are a bit sketchy for now as the unit I’m using is a pre-production version, so you won’t get a long list of specifications, they are simply not confirmed yet, but you will get a review of what my findings are and I like that freedom!
The Wraith 4K emerges from its box with a charging lead, quick start instructions and a rubber bellows eye cup. That suits me and I can’t be judgemental of no instruction book as I don’t think it has even been written yet. Deliveries of production units are suggested to be arriving in October 2020 and there should also be an online instruction book present by then, so for now, it’s trial and error based around prior knowledge of the current HD unit.
A Weaver mount is supplied that will fit a Picatinny rail and the production versions will include a longer bolt action mount for the UK market. I assumed I would need one, although I mounted the 4K onto a Sauer 100 Keeper in the standard mount with only a slight stretch beyond my preference. It will fit shorter rimfires and AR-15 derivatives easily with just the standard mount.
The units shape is a little unusual with an almost Swan’s neck like reach forward to the 50mm objective lens shrouded in a rubber cover, it saves excess material and physical mass so I’m not complaining. A removable 33mm aperture is threaded in place for depth of field preference and balancing any added IR capability.
The image focus collar shows a wing to assist with grip although its shape is slightly tapered yet reasonably grippy, even if I would prefer a flatter profile. Depth of field is quite shallow so when operating the collar in the daytime, it snaps in and out of hard focus and being digital with all images present on the single focal plane of the scope’s internal screen, no parallax error is possible. So there is no need to be too concerned about not getting focussed if you are in a hurry.
Further back, on top of the Swans body, a small rotary dial controls menu functions with a push button to confirm. For immediate use, this controls zoom, it is fast and accessible plus much better than buttons when adjusting magnification and the associated field of view in a rush.
The main rubberised power button is recessed below/right, requiring a foursecond hold to power up the unit which snaps immediately into a usable screen format. This also acts as the ‘back’ button within the menu structure and a long hold will initiate a countdown for power off.
The video recording button sits on the opposite side working from single presses to capture footage and combined with the power button, alters from video to stills, all recorded on a Micro SD card under the forward right side rubber flap. It’s pretty well tucked in and you need fingernails to pluck it out but electronically, all has been 100 % reliable!
The rear flap covers the USB charging port for onboard power, one of the main missing features of the HD model. Charging time and battery life is so far unlisted, but I have returned home after 3-4 hours of general use with the internal screen indicating more than 75% remaining. Again, good!
I seem to have dislodged the rubber cap from my power socket but have been told this will be a more durable material on the final units, so I’m not deeply concerned, it’s good to see a company responding to feedback from real-world shooters and not just internal R&D staff.
The rubber bellows stretches over the rebated rim of the ocular lens to shroud from external light and also to give some protection from any recoil when using the scope on a big rifle. There is about 75mm between head and aluminium when the full screen is visible and I found the viewing area slightly broader and more comfortable than on the HD. A 4:3 aspect ratio rather than the flatter rectangular view observed before, yet another improvement.
The external focusing collar for the screen is deeply knurled and easy to set up. The big compliment from ‘Picky Parkin’, is that the internal screen image is flat without any of the critical fisheye focal traits often seen elsewhere. Once you have set the screen focus, it’s never even doubted again, certainly no encouragement to alter it and that’s a thumbs up from me!
An illuminator is included, fitting on the left side Picatinny rail. This is good for rimfire ranges, with adjustable beam and a solid multidirectional mount to coincide point of aim, but it uses CR123A batteries that do not give too much oomph. The questionable factor is the Picatinny rail location, its position restricts access to the image focus control for a right-handed shooter, as well as blocking left eye vision. This is effectively a left-handed scope but lateral illuminators imbalance any rifle, take up more space in the gun cabinet and travel case. Everyone has preferred illuminator locations but I don’t think anyone likes them on the side, especially at the back. Funnily enough, I used a PBIR-L for longer range requirements and quite liked the accessibility of its lens focus control but overall I’d rather reach further for this less regularly accessed control and have greater access to the image focus collar.
The menu structure is more complex than the HD’s, with a rotary display akin to the dial’s function. It looks busy at first but in full colour with sharp detail and focus, it quickly becomes easy to use with less of the multi-level stages seen on competitor’s units, a particular hassle for zeroing. There are the usual reticle and screen brightness options, distance variation, and a stadiametric rangefinder.
The video options needed a bit of experimentation as I got several encounters nicely filmed in daylight but had chosen options that don’t show the reticle when played back, not the end of the world but one to experiment with as it is in contrast to 1080 versus 4K resolution. Frame rates alter here and if you want to detail slow-motion shots, you can increase to 200 fps with only a slight compromise.
I found zeroing was simple with moving the reticle over the shot location and when it came to shooting, I had a great string of shots in daylight with the accurate ability to aim precisely at a crisply defined image with far less pixilation at higher mag than before.
Fast access to the zoom range in whatever incremental steps you prefer from 3-24x magnification is a delight and I was able to define accurate bullet placement in daylight to clinical effect. I suspect any buyer will be adding IR and the PBIR’s VCSEL was a great companion to the 4K Wraith, just as it was to the HD. I found greater detail on offer and perhaps a little more inherent sensitivity from the sensor.
I was able to watch hares tearing around in a paddock at 300m in total darkness and subconsciously zooming all the way in to define more detail with what seems like improved image/colour contrast over other NV.
I find myself with more to write and detail to explain but other than the left side illuminator mount, the 4K Wraith has impressed me and I wasn’t convinced It would. I’m looking forward to using it as the nights close in because I find myself inherently confident with it. Zero is retained through power cycling and charging, the daylight full-colour mode works brilliantly into dusky conditions, green mode still seems a bit pointless but that flick to night vision never seems compromised by the full function colour image sensor that is so good in daylight.
The Wraith HD set the bar high for reliable performance at an affordable price and I think Sightmark has raised the stakes sufficiently to justify the added cost with superior daylight capability, some darkness benefits and assured onboard 8-hour battery power. I’d like to see the Picatinny mount back on top though, it was a highlight (pun intended) of the HD and the only mark against the additional cost.