People often confuse thermal imaging devices with night vision ones. Although both of them help us to see what cannot be seen with the naked eye; there’s still sufficient difference between these two. This typical muddle compelled me to scrape 9 best thermal imaging binoculars and bi-oculars for hunting and answer your probes related to them.
Firstly, let me explain the thermal imaging concept for you:
Sun emits radiation, objects/plants/animals absorb it and reflect some of it. We can only see the reflected light, and when there is no sunlight, we can’t see anything. The range of light which our eyes can see is called visible spectrum (remember that VIBGYOR we learned in school?).
But, beyond the visible spectrum, there is infrared radiation; the one we cannot see. If we wish to see it, we need specialized sensors. This is where thermal imaging and night vision optics come to the rescue. Night vision optics enhance the minimal light present in our way and give us a better image; while thermal imaging optics captures the infrared (read it as invisible) heat which objects emit.
With these thermal imaging optics, you can see the objects around you in the absence of light, and decipher where your target or favoured object is. Thermal optics were being used by military personnel initially, but their demand for hunting kept increasing. And today, we have a wide range of thermal optics available for hunting.
I have collected 9 best thermal imaging binoculars and bi-oculars for you; let’s explore more about them.
9 Best Thermal Binoculars and Bi-Ocular Reviews
1. FLIR BHS-XR Command 640 x 480 Thermal Bi-ocular
- Resolution: 640 x 480
- Digital zoom: 2x and 4x
- Frame rate: 30 Hz
- Lens size: 35, 65 and 100 mm
- Misc: SD card for saving images/videos, aux video jack
As one of the pioneers in thermal imaging domain, FLIR holds a history of more than 50 years, which ensures that it is the master when it comes to thermal imaging binoculars.
This FLIR command Bi-ocular (see price) is specially designed for enhancing the fun of night hunting. If you are passionate about hunting in the dark, FLIR is the go-to brand.
This command bi-ocular series is ideal for hunters because of its 640 x 480 thermal resolution. As the resolution is a vital feature in thermal binos, it should never be compromised.
FLIR command bi-ocular offers 320 x 240 resolution which can be extended up to 640 x 480 by using the aux video jack which comes with this bi-ocular.
Moreover, you can transfer the captured images and videos to your phone/computer with the micro SD card present in this bi-ocular.
This bi-ocular is compatible with three lenses i.e., 35mm, 65mm and 100 mm; you can pick one of them, or can order all of them together.
With this shock-resistant and waterproof bi-ocular, you can survive in complete darkness without worrying about your bi-oculars safety.
This bi-ocular offers a frame rate of 30 Hz along with 2x and 4x digital zoom. You can ensure that your target doesn’t go out of sight by quickly zooming in.
The 30 Hz frame rate and up to 4x digital zoom are made to meet the needs of military personnel; hunters will get to experience the sophistication of military gadgetry with this bi-ocular. For further details, check here on Amazon FLIR command Bi-ocular.
2. Pulsar Accolade XP50 Thermal Night Vision Binocular
- Thermal resolution: 640 x 480
- Detection range: 1.1 mile
- Detector pitch: 17 microns
- Magnification: 2.5-20x
- Refresh rate: 50 Hz
- Misc: AMOLED display, edge cutting technology, built-in Wi-Fi, adjustable interpupillary distance
Pulsar never stops bringing innovative features and up gradations to facilitate its users.
For fun and successful night hunts, this Pulsar XP50 binocular has a thermal resolution of 640 x 450 along with a 17 microns detector pitch.
Once you capture an image with this accolade binocular, its edge-cutting technology further refines it and shows you the high and low points of the terrain.
Then comes the AMOLED display, which makes sure that the videos and pictures you get to see are sharp, well-differentiated, and close-to-reality.
The IPS5 battery will let you use this binocular for consecutive 8 hours, and if your mission is in progress after 8 hours, you can extend the battery life through the back-up system.
50 Hz refresh rate is something night hunters always look for because this makes the hunting process speedy.
When bright imagery, excellent refresh rate and a resolution of 640×450 are combined, no one can resist recording the sight; the built-in recorder does this for you.
Similarly, the Wi-Fi is also there through which you can live stream your exotic hunt-in-the-dark.
The default proprietary stadia metric rangefinder is one additional feature which hunters must experience if they want to experience an on-the-point hunt.
The detection range of 1.1 miles and magnification capacity of 2.5-20x, used to be only in the military gadgetry back in the days. But with this pulsar accolade XP50 binocular, you can experience the best thermal hunting binoculars at an affordable price.
3. ATN BinoX-THD Thermal Smart HD Binocular
- Thermal resolution: 640 x 480
- Image resolution: 1080p
- Misc: 3D Gyroscope, E-compass, E-zoom, Wi-Fi, Geo-tagging, rangefinder, 3D imagery
ATN is undoubtedly the mightiest name when we talk about thermal imaging binoculars and bi-oculars for hunting.
This ATN BinoX binocular is the most up-to-date gadget one can get for night hunting.
Wi-Fi adaptability allows you to share the fun and thrill with your family back at home or to post it on your social media accounts.
Hunters often stray from their original path, but not anymore. The E-compass present in this binocular is smart and precise, which will let you find your location and move accordingly.
Gyroscope is an innovative addition which repels the chances of blurred imagery.
When you have focused on your target, forget the worries of losing it. Because now you can easily zoom in with the E-zoom feature as it does this automatically.
640 x 480 thermal resolution, which eventually produces high-quality bright imagery is much appreciated by hunters and navigators.
Hunters struggle in shooting at the exact spot in total darkness. For such situations, rangefinder incorporated in this BinoX is the solution which ATN has introduced.
This ATN HD binocular offer 1080p image quality, which is perfect for night hunters.
Update: The ATN Binox-THD is no longer available at Amazon (as of writing this update), so I will recommend ATN BinoX-HD 4, instead. It’s no doubt a great deal with an affordable price tag.
4. ATN BinoX 4T 640 2.5 – 25×50 Thermal Binocular
- Resolution: 640 x 480
- Lens size: 50 mm
- Eye relief: 10-30 mm
- Focusing area: 10 ft. to infinity
- Magnification: 2.5-25 x
- Misc: Wi-Fi, E-compass, Built-in illuminator, smooth zoom
ATN is always the first one to bring innovations is thermal imaging binoculars. This ATN BinoX has a built-in illuminator which brightens up the captured imagery and makes it comprehensible.
The ballistic information exchange (BIX) technology is a unique feature ATN has incorporated in this thermal binocular. You can connect with other ATN devices through this technology and enjoy the fun of team hunt.
This binocular has magnification capacity of 2.5-25x, and when it is integrated with the smooth zoom feature, the experience becomes hassle-free.
GPS and E-compass will help you in being on the right path which makes it one of the military-grade binoculars
10-30 mm eye relief distance adds to the perks of this smart BinoX and makes sure that your eyes are comfortable during long hunts.
When it comes to image stabilization, bright imagery, and adjustable colour code, ATN BinoX binocular is the way to go.
The Wi-Fi module lets you share your data with others, and the micro SD card saves your captured imagery for later use.
The internal lithium battery will last for up to 16 hours, ensuring that you never run out of battery during night expeditions.
You can select and see white, black, hot, and cold colour schemes in this BinoX binocular; depending upon the speed and distance of your object.
Due to the vast focusing area, ATN BinoX tops the list of best long-range thermal binoculars.
5. Armasight Command 3 – 12×50 Thermal Imaging Bi-Ocular
- Thermal resolution: 336 x 256
- Lens size: 50 mm
- Detector pitch: 17 microns
- Digital zoom: 1x, 2x and 4x
- Refresh rate: 60 Hz
- Magnification: 2.4x/3.4x
- Eye relief: 45mm
- Misc: 10mm exit pupil distance, germanium lens, 3 years warranty
Armasight Command bi-ocular hails down with a digital resolution of 336 x 256; best suited for night hunting.
And when this brilliant thermal resolution is joined with 50mm Germanium lens, the image quality is bright and close-to-reality. Deciphering what object/animal is in front of you becomes comfortable with this command bi-ocular.
If you are a fan of long-range hunts, then this bi-ocular brings you a detection range of 2 miles solving your problem of zero to no light.
The 17 microns detection pitch curates a sharp-edged image to give you a thorough glance of the object.
2.4x/3.4 x magnification and 336×256 thermal resolution will let you go through the most challenging terrains, and your hunting mission will be a success.
60 Hz refresh rate makes this bi-ocular an all-in-one package for hunters/navigators and adventurers.
The smooth zoom of this Armasight bi-ocular gives you an edge of running behind your game without missing its sight and shooting at the right spot.
This bi-ocular provides you with a beautiful AMOLED SVGA display which you can save in the internal memory of the bi-ocular.
The CR123A battery will last for -4 hours. Moreover, to further facilitate you, an additional battery also comes along with this bi-ocular.
Although the bi-ocular is weather and water-resistant, mishaps might occur. And to save your precious bucks, Armasight offers a 3 years warranty on this command bi-ocular.
6. Pulsar Accolade PL77411 Thermal Binoculars
- Thermal resolution: 384 x 288
- Detection range: 0.8 mile
- Refresh rate: 50 Hz
- Magnification: 3.1-12.4x
- Misc: AMOLED display, adjustable interpupillary distance, built-in rangefinder, and Wi-Fi module
Being the youngest thermal imaging binocular in my list, Pulsar Accolade PL77411 is already competing the industry seniors.
The 384×288 thermal resolution brings out the best results from the available infrared light, and the white, black, cold, and hot colour schemes can be selected as per your choice.
Hunters struggle while trying to get a clear view of their focusing area due to shrubs, fog, and dust particles present in the way. But, the AMOLED display clears out these impurities and offers bright imagery to the hunters.
Team hunts become more convenient with the built-in live stream feature which lets you connect and share the recorded data.
The in-built rangefinder enhances the success chances of your hunt, and the 3.1-1.24x magnification enables you to monitor the movement of your game closely.
For night hunters, having a vast detection range is essential. This Accolade PL77411 binocular covers 1475 yards i.e., 0.8 mile in one glance.
A frame rate of 50 Hz makes this binocular crisp, robust, and compatible with wild environments.
Default battery timing of this binocular is seven hours, which can be further extended by using the 20 hours battery back-up system of this Accolade binocular.
This is a palm-sized thermal binocular explicitly made to survive the rough-tough environments.
7. Armasight Command 640 HD 3 – 24 x 75mm Thermal Imaging Bi-Ocular
- Thermal resolution: 640 x 512
- Refresh rate: 30 Hz
- Detector pitch: 17 microns
- Lens size: 75mm
- Magnification: 3x to 24x
Armasight is always a step ahead of its competitors, and this bi-ocular with 640 x 512 resolution is the living proof of Armasight’s innovations.
This bi-ocular has 17 microns detector pitch, which produces bright and sharp imagery. Because as I already said; the shorter is the difference between two dots of a thermal image, the better are the results.
You can magnify up to 24x with this bi-ocular, get a detailed view of your game, and record it at the same time. These features make this bi-ocular a smart choice for hunters.
30 Hz refresh rate is not much common in this price range, but for Armasight, facilitating the customers is the top priority.
Thermal binoculars often take time when you start them, but the rapid startup of this bi-ocular is one of its kind.
Depending upon the physical terrain and presence/absence of sunlight, you can switch between black, white, and hot colour patterns.
The large lens of 75mm will show you well-differentiated imagery; hunters’ eyes get tired while focusing on small objects, but now with this large germanium lens.
Digital zoom of 1x, 2x, 4x, and 8x are also there to enhance the fun of your night hunting ventures.
The smooth user interface is there to assist beginners in getting a grip over this bi-ocular; it will save your time during challenging hunts.
The outer body of this bi-ocular is made up of machined-aluminium, which means it is thoroughly water resistant.
8. N-Vision Optics Atlas Thermal Imaging Binocular
- Detection range: 1.25 miles
- Resolution: 640 x 480
- Detector pitch: 12 microns
- Refresh rate: 60 Hz
- Lens size: 50 mm
- Misc: Edge detection technology, USB port, SD card
The detection range of 1.25 miles makes this bi-ocular (see price) the best fit for hunters, spies, and travellers. This N-vision Atlas bi-ocular is specially designed for night hunters who do not dread the challenges coming their way.
Atlas offers 60 Hz refresh rate to make sure that you get a quick glance of your moving target because in wild environment nobody has time to wait while the bi-ocular clicks an image.
This bi-ocular brings you an amazing resolution of 640 x 480 so that you never have any hindrance in your hunting errand.
There are two available options for digital zooming, 2x and 4x; this selection depends upon the distance between you and your target.
Fully covered with rubber means this bi-ocular will never give in to rough-tough surrounding which is unavoidable for hunters.
Edge detection is one unique feature which this Atlas bi-ocular possesses. When you are out in the dark, you cannot comprehend the depth of the terrain you are walking on. This Atlas bi-ocular does that for you and lets you enjoy hunting without any mishap.
The 50mm large lens enables you to see a clear picture which the 12 microns detector pitch creates (detector pitch is the distance between two points which a thermal bi-ocular display; the smaller, the better).
Sharing the captured images has become very convenient since this bi-ocular has a USB port. Data is saved in the bi-oculars internal memory and then transferred through the USB port without any hassle.
9. Yukon – NV 1×24 Goggles
- Detection range: up to 100 yards
- Misc: flip-up lens covers, built-in IR illuminator, ergonomic, robust
These NV goggles are the latest addition in the product range of Yukon optics and are not much competitive when it comes to detection range.
However, their built-in infrared illuminator allows you to see explicit imagery up to 100 yards. For short-range hunts, this detection range is excellent.
The CR123 battery will last for 1-3 hours; if you wish to use it for a longer duration, the IR illuminator must be turned off.
The fully rubberized outer body makes this night goggle binocular shock resistant and makes it compatible for all terrains.
The flip-up lens covers to protect the delicate lenses from rugged environments, and if you wish to use these binoculars in daylight, you can close the lens covers and see through the small holes present in them.
This binocular is as lightweight as a pair of goggles is; the attached strap will set them in place so that you don’t have to re-adjust them each time.
The perk of quickly focusing on a moving object has become very convenient with this NV goggle’s central focusing knob.
Multi-coated lenses of these NV 1×24 goggles brings out very bright and sharp imagery; the illuminator further enhances this sharpness.
Yukon offers a limited lifetime warranty on this binocular; freeing you from the worries of the damages which wild environment causes.
How to choose thermal imaging binoculars?
As I said earlier, thermal imaging optics are relatively new in the market; people don’t know much about their specs. Now that you are looking for best thermal binoculars/bi-oculars for hunting, here’re the essential features your thermal optics must have:
Cameras which click bright pictures always have the edge over competitors; same goes for the thermal imaging binos. If they offer better image differentiation and the imagery is bright, you should prefer them.
Pictures are made up of small bits, called pixels. If an image has many pixels, its quality would be better, and you could zoom in to find out more detail. The binoculars which offer more pixels per view are great for hunters (and of course all other activities too).
When we press the button of our camera, and it clicks an image, that’s called frame/refresh rate. It’s slightly different in thermal binos. Let’s say you are running behind an animal, the sensors of your thermal imaging binos will turn the infrared radiation into a picture and then show it to you; if this process takes time, you’ll miss your target. To avoid this, you should opt for binos which offer high frame rate.
All that amazing frame rate and a large number of pixels go in vain if you cannot cover a significant distance. Before getting a pair of thermal binoculars, know the detection range they offer (remember it’s different from the regular binoculars). For hunting, a detection range of more than 1 mile would work fine.
And last comes the price; shortlist the pairs which have your desired features and compare their price range. Do not miss an amazing pair because it’s costly, if you do so, you’ll miss out the real fun of hunting in zero to minimal light.
Tips for thermal imaging binoculars and bi-oculars
As we know, thermal devices are complicated and fragile; if you mishandle them, you are going to regret big time. To avoid any troubles related to your thermal device, follow these tips:
No, you can’t do it yourself
We all are very impressed with those DIY cleaning and repairing videos which YouTube keep recommending us. But when it comes to sensitive gadgetry, STAY AWAY.
Yes, do not think you are a certified technician who can open up those delicate parts, clean them, and place them back just because you have watched a video.
Lenses, eyepieces, illuminator, and microphones, in fact, all parts of thermal imaging optics are sensitive, which should be handled with care. So if you have plans to repair your thermal device at home, forget them.
Although most of these optics are shock and weather-resistant, taking care of them is mandatory. Protect them from colliding against hard surfaces, falling in the water and strong in damp or dusty places. Just remember that you’ve spent a lot on this gadget, it will help you in being extremely careful with it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the difference between binocular and bi-ocular?
In a binocular, there are two lenses which receive sunlight. When you need to see something up close, you pick the binocular and place it in front of your both eyes. Which means a binocular has two lenses and two eyepieces. The lenses collect brightness, and the eyepieces are those holes where you place your eyes.
But in a bi-ocular, there is only one lens. There is a place for both eyes, but the source which collects light i.e., the lens, is only one.
Hunters prefer bi-oculars over binoculars because these are pretty handy and easy to carry. But, for more secret missions, and exotic hunts, binoculars have the edge over bi-ocular due to the brighter imagery they provide.
Q. Thermal imaging basics (what is thermal imaging)
Sun emits two types of light, infrared and visible. The visible light comes to us in the form of seven colours i.e., the visible spectrum because the objects reflect back these seven colours i.e., VIBGYOR. But we cannot see the infrared light as the objects do not reflect it back.
But, the thermal imaging optics record that invisible light and make it visible to our eyes. Let’s say an animal is moving in the dark; the thermal imaging optics record the heat which the animal’s movement produces and show it to us as a thermographic image. The thermal image we get to see is of various colours mostly red, yellow, black, and white, depending upon the intensity of heat an object emits.
Q. Thermal imaging for hunting – purpose and best practices
Hunters are probably the most challenge-loving people around us. They do not dread the fast moving, and powerful animals and go out to hunt them down. But the biggest hurdle which might put them in danger is the darkness. When it is night time, and someone is wandering around in a jungle, the only way for him to see the surroundings is thermal imaging.
The thermal optics records heat that different objects emit, and when the hunter sees the recorded image, he can find out where his target is and what path should he follow. Most of these thermal optics offer Wi-Fi adaptability so that if you are with a group of hunters, you stay connected with them.
Q. Why are thermal imaging devices so expensive?
There are two reasons behind the steep pricing of thermal imaging optics:
Most thermal imaging lenses are made up of germanium, a rare and costly metal. Generally, 1kg germanium costs 1500$ to the optics company, and when refining and crafting methods which turn germanium into a lens are combined, the price further rises.
The regular binoculars and monoculars are common now, one can easily get them from numerous brands. But thermal imaging is a very advanced technology which requires specialized techniques for turning the invisible light to visible one.
The microbolometers, internal memory, gyroscopes, illuminators, and various sophisticated techniques are hard to find, and when you do, they leave a large hole in your pocket.
Q. Can thermal imaging see through walls?
No, they cannot. Let’s say you focus on a house with your thermal binocular, the image it generates will be of the outer wall itself, and not of the things inside. All objects generate heat i.e., trees, walls, water, grass, sand, etc.; we can decipher the type of object in complete darkness with a thermal binocular, but we cannot see beyond those objects.
Same goes for the hurdles present between a hunter and his prey; if there is a tree between the two, the hunter will only see the tree’s infrared radiation.
Q. How thermal imaging works?
Every object, living being, and commodity present on this earth radiates some amount of heat, but we cannot see it with our bare eyes. If we wish to see the objects in darkness, we must record the amount and pattern of heat they radiate.
The thermal imaging optics do that errand for us and bring out a comprehensible image of heat an object emits. For example, if you’ve strayed from your path in a jungle and have no source of light, but you have a thermal imaging device, you can come out safely.
Law enforcement agencies use thermographic images to catch the out of sight suspects and identifying the type of crop being cultivated (as all crops have distinct heat emitting range).
Q. How to read thermal imaging?
When the thermal imaging device curates an image for you, the next step is to decipher what is in front of you. As thermal imaging works when there is heat, the colours which these thermograms show depend upon the amount of heat any object emit; moving objects radiate more heat than the calm ones.
Thermal images used to be in two shades at the beginning i.e., black and white. The white areas represent objects which emit the higher amount of heat, while the black areas show the calmer objects. For example, when you are hunting, the trees present in your way will appear as black, and the animals, birds and moving water will appear as white.
Now, most thermal imaging devices use colour schemes to show heat patterns. Four primary colours used in these thermograms are red, orange, yellow, and purple.
Red colour means the highest heat; if an animal is running, it will emit red light. Then comes orange, which is slightly lesser in the heat than red, such as windy leaves.
Water being a cold surface appears as a purple, and if it’s moving, it will be yellow.
Note: this description of colours is for the hunting environment only if your physical surroundings are different, you will have to determine the types of objects accordingly.
Q. What is thermal imaging used for?
Thermal optics became popular after Boston marathon bombings. In 2013, the police caught a Boston bombings perpetrator hiding in a boat with the help of thermal imaging scope mounted on a surveillance helicopter.
Since then, all optics companies are working to develop state-of-the-art thermal optics, and people are incorporating their usage in all fields. Here are some top areas where we can use thermal imaging optics:
- Firefighters use this to detect the intensity of the fire
- For checking the water and gas leakages in the buildings (as they catch the difference in heat)
- Surveillance of jails when it’s dark
- Hunting wild animals
- Border security
- Detecting indoor marijuana cultivations
Q. What blocks thermal imaging?
Although it is almost impossible to dodge the sharp sensors of thermal optics, there are still a few ways to decrease their detection capacity.
Firstly, glass doesn’t reflect the light back, it absorbs it. If one wishes to see what’s behind a glass window with thermal imaging binocular, it’s complicated.
Hard surfaces like trees, walls, rocks, and thick bushes all block the thermal imaging, and if a person or game is hiding behind these objects, you cannot detect them.
Bare skin radiates more infrared light as compared to the one covered with cloths. Full body woollen suits, blankets, and shawls, all blocks the thermal imaging; but they start becoming weak once their temperature matches with the body’s temperature.
These 9 best thermal binoculars and bi-oculars for hunting which I have reviewed are state-of-the-art devices. If you have plans to enjoy night hunts, thermal imaging optics should be on the top of your wish list.
So, now that you have come this far with me, you must know that detection range, detector pitch, and refresh rate are three essential features we must remember while picking up a thermal imaging device.
Having said that, here are my 3 most favourite devices from the above list:
Pulsar XP50 binocular is for those who do have a deep pocket and want to enjoy the thrill of night hunting. This binocular is a bit expensive, however, it’s extremely robust and compatible with harsh environments.
Armasight Command 3-12×50 Thermal Imaging Bi-Ocular is a multipurpose device with 3 years warranty, large lens, eye-relief distance and incredible thermal resolution of 336×256, and its 60 Hz refresh rate works as a cherry on top.
If your budget is limited and there is not an exotic hunting expedition coming your way, then you should go for Yukon 1×24 goggles, which has all perks of thermal imaging binoculars and will not cost you an arm and a leg.
Thermal imaging devices are the latest “in” thing; if you love adventures, these devices are perfect for you.
So, I tried my best to answer all probes related to this newest technique, and I am sure your confusions are now gone. Greetings!
image courtesy: defense.gov