Gear Review: Pulsar XQ50 Thermal Imaging Scope

Several mammalwatchers have recently expressed an interest in buying a thermal imaging scope and I had promised to post a review of the scope I bought in March. This is below. But – if you know as little as I did about this a few months ago – I think it might helpful to start with some general and (perhaps overly) basic information about choosing and using a thermal scope.

Thermal Imaging vs Night Vision

Night vision equipment and thermal imaging equipment are different.

Night vision lets you “see in the dark” by amplifying any available light: it doesn’t work in complete darkness but, with a little star light, can generate a pretty bright view of a night time scene.

Thermal imaging, however, will work in the pitch dark, as it relies on the infrared radiation (heat) that every object – living or not – emits. In fact the view through a scope in the pitch dark is the same as the view on a sunny day because visible light doesn’t come into it.

People talk about thermal cameras and thermal scopes. These are, essentially, the same thing.

Both night vision and thermal imaging allow you to observe animals without disturbing them with a spotlight. You will probably find the view through night vision equipment more natural and authentic than the artificial view through a thermal scope. But you are much more likely to find an animal in the first place with a thermal scope (see below).

Thermal scopes are not cheap. Although you can pick up a first generation scope for a few hundred dollars my understanding is that these are next to useless for finding much smaller than a Buffalo that you are in danger of tripping over.  The price doubles – more or less – as you go up a generation and you are probably going to end up paying $2000 or more for a decent scope. I have a third generation scope. Fourth generation is the best currently available for sale.

And that is about the limit of my understanding.

Thermal Scopes: Pros and Cons

The Pros

I have not used night vision equipment in twenty years to cannot say much about how effective the latest gear is, but I think – for a mammal watcher – a thermal scope must surely be the way to go. There are two reasons. First, thermal scopes will work in the pitch dark, which can be useful inside a bat cave for example. Night vision won’t. Second, and this is more important, thermal scopes don’t just help you to see an animal, it helps you to find them: living things are usually hotter than the environment around them so that temperature differential means they often stand out very clearly – literally like a shining light – when you are scanning with a scope.  Much more clearly than they would if you were using binoculars or night vision equipment. And this is true both during the day and the night.

I have been using a scope for the past six months now. I bought one originally to take to Sierra Leone to look for Pygmy Hippos. It worked. And if it wasn’t for the scope I am pretty sure we would never have seen a Pygmy Hippo: they are extremely wary of people and when we eventually put a spotlight on the animal we had been observing it bolted immediately.

I also used it extensively in the Amazon, both day and night. It proved extremely useful at finding quite a few nocturnal mammals, including a variety of rodents large and small, some of which – like this Black-tailed Hairy Dwarf Porcupine: an animal that was high up, partially obscured, very well camouflaged and seemed to be avoiding the light. Even when I knew exactly where it was, it took a good 10 minutes to spot using a spotlight and binoculars!

Black-tailed Hairy Dwarf Porcupine, Coendou melanurus

It was also very useful for finding monkeys and squirrels, especially in the early morning before the trees got too hot (more on this later). It was instrumental in finding Satere Marmosets, Black Uakaris and more. When you start using a thermal scope you realise just how much stuff you cruise straight past that is sitting quietly in a tree watching you.

It also worked very well in the deserts around Joshua Tree when I was looking for small mammals in May: perhaps the most effective type of environment for using thermal scopes (though getting the small mammals to stop moving once you put a light on them is a whole other story). It was also useful in the forest of Thailand and Taiwan, where I found many creatures from roosting bats to sleeping macaques.

Oh, and when you have a thermal scope you get pushed to the front of the trail, canoe, car: it is like an upgrade to Business Class.

The Cons

Although thermal scopes are great at alerting you to an animals presence, especially before the day gets too hot, they also take some getting used to and can be frustrating. Here are a few things to be aware of.

Getting a view through a thermal scope isn’t satisfying (for me at least). When you look through a scope you are seeing a very artificial view of the world … like looking at a film negative, if anyone remembers what they look like. Here’s a video of a scope being used by fox shooters (which I make no apology for as these are evil Australian foxes, though I am not sure how the shooters could be so certain they were shooting at a fox in the first place given it was 350 metres away…). Anyway, the upshot is that if you are anything like me, you are going to want to see the animal in a spotlight too even though observing larger species through the scope (like Pygmy Hippos) is quite satisfying. Well any view of a Pygmy Hippo is satisfying in my opinion. Which leads me to…

Thermal scopes are great for alerting you to an animal’s presence. But the animals can still be very hard to find.  The view through a scope is essentially two dimensional and you have no sense of depth or distance. This is not much of a problem out in the open but as soon as you are looking at a dense patch of forest it gets very confusing. Is that blob of light in a tree you are looking at a squirrel 10 metres away, or a Clouded Leopard 250 metres  away.  Yes … (eventually) … its a squirrel. So I find myself trying to memorise a pattern of branches that I can use to guide my spotlight to the blob of heat I can see through the scope. This requires practice, a good deal of talking out aloud, and a better spatial memory than I have.

Background temperatures matter. The scope picks up all infrared energy and generates some sort of image that is based – I think – on the average heat of things in view.  So looking at an iceberg one day might register the same colour/brightness as looking at a Sahara sand dune the next. At least I think this is how it works. Of course if you put a chunk of ice on the dune, or a heap of blazing sand on the iceberg, you would very quickly see the intruder. What this means is that the scope is most effective when you are looking for warm animals in cooler conditions and is much less effective in environments where the background temps are very close to body temperatures. That said, my scope at least is pretty sensitive to fairly small temperature differences: early morning in the Amazon for example it was pretty obvious whether I was looking at a rock or a mammal, even though both were showing “hot” compared to the trees. By midday this was much harder. I am getting better at differentiating the living from the hot and inanimate, but it is still a learning curve

You are going to study a lot of rocks, wasp nests, sleeping birds... These all give off heat and I lost track of the number of ants nests that excited me in Brazil, or the number of sleeping birds I have waded through thorn bushes to track down in the past few months. I am surprised birders haven’t got into these scopes yet.

Give your eyes a rest: even with the brightness turned down as low as it goes it is hard to look through the scope for longer than 30 seconds or so without losing all night vision for several minutes. So I generally scan with mine in half minute blocks and swap eyes or take breaks between.

The Pulsar XQ50 Qantum Thermal Scope

I did a bit of research before I bought my scope. I decided to look for a Third Generation Scope. These are expensive but by no means the most expensive: in mammal watching currency a fourth generation scope was around the cost of a cruise to Antarctica….  After talking to Richard Webb who had just bought one, I focused on the Pulsar brand.

Quite unusually, Pulsar scopes were cheaper in Europe than they are in the USA. Not sure if this is because of currency fluctuations, import duties or price fixing. But they are not the sort of thing you would be able to import through the mail, as there are some quite strict rules about exporting technology which has many more sinister uses than mammalwatching.

I haven’t directly used any other scopes to compare mine too, but – as you can see from my experiences so far – I have been pleased with the successes I have had.

The two main elements of a scope that determine the quality (and price) are its resolution (the number of pixels) and the refresh rate (which governs how smooth the image will be).  The image quality through the Pulsar is clearer than I expected: it is easy for example to ID a Colugo from 50 metres away or a Pygmy Hippo from 100 metres away. And the refresh rate is smooth, though every minute or so the image will freeze for a second or two before refreshing again.

Another factor that impacts the price is the size of the objective lens and the scope’s zoom. This scope has a 50mm lens and a four x digital zoom. If I was to buy a scope tomorrow I wouldn’t pay any attention to the zoom and would go for a smaller (and cheaper) objective lens. I almost always use the scope to locate – rather than watch and ID – a mammal, so I’d prefer a wider field of view than I get with the 50mm lens.  Closer focussing would be useful too, which I assume the smaller lenses might benefit from. If you are within 10 feet of a mouse in a bush, for example, you cannot focus in to see where exactly it is, which can be frustrating. So close… so far. For the same reasons I almost never use the zoom: it seems to lose in quality what it gains in magnification. Though I suspect the zoom is much more useful for a hunter who will want to make sure that the fox they are about to shoot isn’t next door’s cat.

The one benefit that comes with a larger lens is an increase in the scope’s range. This is seriously impressive with the Puslar XQ50. I guess the range depends on the relative temperature difference of what you are looking at and the surrounding environment, but in Sierra Leone for example I could pick up the heat signature from an oil drum with a fire inside at least a mile away. Smaller mammals, such as squirrels and mice, are easily visible from 100 metres away in warm conditions.

It takes less than two seconds to turn the scope on and start using it (important when you hear that rustle in the bushes and need to spring into action). It uses four  AA batteries that last an impressive 7  hours or so. Though they seldom last that long when I am out in the field because the unit has a habit of accidentally turning on (the on/off switch is just a push button). I have taken to undoing the battery compartment every time I put it down.

And, though I haven’t tried it, it should be quite straight forward to connect the output to a video recorder. The very latest models have this video ability built in and give you wifi connection to record video straight to your smartphone.

Finally, it is pretty robust. I don’t think I have dropped it properly yet but that day will come soon… walking in the dark, along a trail, with a scope pressed to my eye, a spotlight in my pocket, and a camera around my neck is a recipe for accidents.

Perhaps the biggest frustration I have had was actually buying one. The Internet is full of suppliers who advertise these things and claim they are in stock… except they aren’t available for weeks when you actually place your order.

In short, thermal scopes – despite some limitations and the expense – are the single biggest mammal watching breakthrough that I can think of in my lifetime. Other – maybe – than !

If you are interested in buying a scope please send me a message as I might be able to get a discount for you.



  • Michael Kessler

    Thanks a lot for this Jon! Please keep me informed on a possible order with some discount!

  • Vladimir Dinets

    I wonder if there are people reading this who are NOT interested in the discount 🙂

  • paul carter

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for the review and having used yours briefly I remain very interested in getting one or something similar. Here is some of my research:
    This website seems to show only some of the current pulsar models:
    and this one explains some of the model differentiation:
    where “thermal imaging cameras with 30Hz and 50 HZ are marked with head letters H and X, e.g. Quantum HD or Quantum XQ respectively”.
    The XQ replaces the XD models. The S variants of the XDs seem to have video and external power supply.
    As you said the 50 seemed too strong so maybe the 38 model is ideal and if only working in forest the 19 might be adequate.

    XQ38 =$3700 or GBP-2200

    A cheaper option is the Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30V Thermal Scope (50Hz) – GBP1300 / Euro-1500
    This is an upgraded version of Pulsar’s Quantum Lite XQ23V thermal camera scope … the Quantum Lite XQ30V is a scope only – it does not have image or video capturing capabilities. I assume it is also Gen 3 and just cheaper (and lighter) because of the lack of video.
    In the US it is $2400 –
    At this point I am leaning towards the XQ30V as I don’t need the video function.

    This website shows a good variety of other brands but most of them cannot be exported without permission from the US:

    Cheers, Paul

  • Curtis Hart

    I would be interested in hearing about a discount. The Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30V Thermal Scope sounds pretty good.

  • Lennart Verheuvel

    I am going to keep an eye on this thread. The XQ30V sounds pretty good, I would be interested to hear how it would perform in dense tropical rainforest or how it would perform in general. What you are describing sounds wonderful though, and the thermal scope feels almost like cheating :). Perhaps I’ll buy one myself next year if people are positive about it.

  • Lajos Nemeth-Boka

    Hi! I am using thermals for years and no way to live without it. I have the Pulsar HD50S. I remember that took me years to see Harvestert Mouse in the wild, and than with the thermal I did find maybe 50 at first night. To find snow leopard with a thermal might take some minutes. With a scope it took us a week.

  • Murray Lord

    Can you find frogs and lizards with these, or is there insufficient difference in temperature?

    • Jon Hall

      Hi Murray, I haven’t seen many with it – I think because they are generally at ambient temperature. But I saw a snake swimming across a river (I guess because it hadn’t been in the water for long)

    • Cole


      The Helion can detect differences in temperature on a level that you or I would never even notice – a fraction of a degree. Personally, I’ve seen snakes, alligators, geckos. You should have no trouble detecting anything cold-blooded as long as you have line-of-sight and they are not underwater. That said, since their temperature can vary you may have mixed results in regards to clarity.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    I ordered Pulsar Quantum XQ23V. It costs only US$1600+ and has video capabilities but only 800 m range; my plan is to convince Jon to join me on all trips where longer distances are important.

  • paul carter

    Hi Jon. Thanks for the note on the discount but I had already ordered one in Aus as I go to Perth in 3 weeks – I got the Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30V for Aus$1900 (about US$1500). I will post my impressions in about 6 weeks after my SW Aus trip. Paul

  • Tim Bawden

    A camera is much more practical than a scope… scope you are pretty much static and cant walk around without seriously risking falling down a hole or off a cliff … camera you can waddle around scanning which seems to work better for small stuff. Cameras are a jump up on price though over what the scopes seem to be. Probably depends on use case and budget! also when doing the scanning it seems to work well when someone is thermalling lower combined with spotlighting higher – but again depends on use case

    • Cole Justice


      You might be misinterpreting – the thermal monocular Jon is talking about here is a 17-ounce, portable, 9.2 inch device you can use with one hand.

  • Rohan Clarke

    Nice review. Worth adding a few comments to this. I’ve used a thermal scope (briefly) and now routinely use two different thermal cameras that are handheld and another that is vehicle mounted. I’ve been using this sort of kit extensively for two years. Essentially as a mammal watcher what you want is a ‘thermal scanner’. That is, some capacity to scan the environment for thermal signatures that are noticeably warmer than the background environment. Scopes do this (like the one Jon has reviewed) but so too do thermal cameras. Thermal cameras also (obviously) give you the capacity to take a photo of the thermal output, but mammal watchers really don’t need this as the images they produce are typically white hot ‘blobs’ in a darker (cooler) background rather than an image of a recognisable mammal.
    Scopes have to be held to the eye. It means that generally, you cant walk with a scope rather you have to stop, stand still and scan the environment, then lower the device and move on. Scopes can also therefore not be used if you are driving a car! By contrast with a thermal camera and a live feed on an inbuilt screen (much the same as most smaller digi cams, phone cameras etc) you can walk along with some confidence swinging the camera back and forth across the environment whilst watching the screen for hot objects of interest. With practice I can now walk along forestry foot tracks with just the camera as my vision, scanning the veg and surrounds for endotherms and also passing the camera across the track occasionally so I can see where I am going. This also applies to quiet drives on forestry tracks/dirt tracks with the camera resting on the window…The other alternative for walking at night is to use a low wattage headlamp angled down at your feet alongside the camera and that way you can still move in stealth mode and pick up logs etc that need to be stepped over from your peripheral vision without putting off light-shy fauna.
    Jon also mentions the challenge of actually viewing the beast once detected with the thermal scanner. This is easy if your unit has a laser pointer attached as then it is just a matter of centring the object on the screen and using the laser pointer to find the animal.
    Based on the above, whilst recognising that you can get a nice discount here, I wouldn’t recommend a scope, rather I would strongly recommend a thermal camera with a live feed to a small inbuilt screen as the starting point. Resolution and refresh rate are still important, camera specs are irrelevant and an inbuilt (1 milliwatt is fine) laser pointer is gold. The handheld unit I currently use is an InfRec thermo gear G100EX but there will be others on the market with similar or better specs too.

    You can see my Australian mammal photographs here if you are wondering what my field experience is like….

    • Cole Justice

      Hey, Rohan,

      I want to to let you know that while the monoculars Jon is talking about do need to be help up to your eye, they also can be streamed to your phone, allowing you to scan without having to focus on the small screen in the eyepiece. That allows you to use it while driving, boating et cetera.

      You are also able to take photos and video using the device at a quality that might surprise you.

      • Cole Justice

        Here’s an example of what you’ll see through the Helion XP units:

        These are White-tailed Deer as seen from about 20 yards. This is a screenshot of a video, so the actual image on the device would be a bit clearer.

        • Rohan Clarke

          Hi Cole,
          I don’t doubt that it is good for finding mammals but if I had the choice between a unit that is all in one (a thermal scanner, a live feed to an inbuilt screen and a laser pointer vs a scope where I need to send the feed to standalone screen such as my phone then I would get the former)….indeed I have had that choice and I now own three different thermal cameras in preference to a thermal scope!

          My thermal cameras also have a video output so if you wanted to send it to an even bigger screen you could. I’ve also stood shoulder to shoulder with somebody using a scope whilst I had a thermal camera and it was immediately obvious that I was a) more mobile and b) achieving higher success largely because this mobility allowed me to pick up small mammals that might be obscured by vegetation on one line of sight but visible if you scanned that same vegetation whilst moving past it.

          • Jon Hall

            hi Rohan. What’s the range of your camera? I wonder if the scopes have an advantage over longer distances?

          • Rohan Clarke

            Hi Jon, Wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that you can comfortably pick out cattle (and recognize they are cattle in an Australian context) to at least 800 m on a cool night. smaller critters are obviously over much shorter distances. I think we are getting mouse sized mammals easily out to at least 20 m, beyond that it is often that line of sight through vegetation is hampered rather than it being a resolution issue. That being said you wouldn’t expect to see a house mouse at 40 m with the handhelds I am using given they may only show up as a just a pixel or two.

  • Charles Foley

    I knew I shouldn’t have opened this thread – its a fast way to bankruptcy. Tim, what sort of thermal camera have you used? The price range for these cameras is very large, and, being new to the terminology, its quite hard to figure out what features you really need. I do like the idea of being able to walk (or presumably drive) while scanning, and I’m assuming they are less likely to temporarily blind you in one eye.

  • paul carter

    Further to Cole Justice’s post on output:
    The product description at on the Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30V includes:
    Video output: “All Quantum models are equipped with an analog video output to enable connection of external recording equipment or transmitting image to the display”.
    I have ordered the XQ30V and will need to look into options on cables for AV ouput to a Samsung phone or an alternative cheap monitor (to avoid phone battery issues).

    • paul carter

      Further to my earlier posts I have been very happy with my XQ30V which I got from Jon Davies at in Perth, Aus (I had great service from him). I would not have got the two phascogales in SW Aus without it. My main concern was whether the magnification would be enough. It was and I never needed to go up to the two higher magnifications. However I was mostly in forests or woodland and cruising back roads. So no regrets so far. The only issue is the night blindness one gets after peering through the scope too long. It is also technically possible to cruise remote country roads at 10 kph with one eye in the scope pointed towards 1am and spare eye on the road but naturally that is not advised. I am looking at some external monitor options at the moment.

  • Michael Westerbjerg Andersen

    Hi, inspired by Jons article Ive obtained a Pulsat. Ill be using it, in the Kyrgyzstan mountains within few weeks. I was adviced years ago to use such devise, however not able to find it anywhere. The advisor were an US General which knew its advantages from military use. Anyway…in few weeks Ill be able to tell, but imo its exactly what I have wished for years. Ive many sightings of Snow Leopard in the Kyrgyz mountains during the years, but Im quite sure this devise will change the “game” drastically! Ill let you know 🙂 Thanks for a great blog/site

    • Jon Hall

      Great Michael – looking forward to hearing how you get on with Snow Leopards! If it is anything like as cold as it was when we were there on that great adventure they will certainly stand out! cheers

  • Bart De Knegt

    Hi all!

    Just got a Pulsar Helion XP50. No got it for a few days. Easy to find mammals in the field and not disturbing them!!Rhodostethia rosea

    Got a Question : do you need a permit to take it as hand luggage in a plane? Going to Ethiopia in a couple of weeks. Dont want it to be taken away by customs or anything. Anything experience with that?

    Thanks, Bart de Knegt.

    • Jon Hall

      Hi Bart, no I haven’t …. I suspect the chances of confiscation vary from country to country (I also had my camera confiscated once going into Yemen)… and getting a permit from the Ethiopians would be next to impossible in any case. That said I have not heard of anyone having problems though taking these things to quite a few different countries.

  • Bart De Knegt

    Sorry, something went wrong with the spelling checker (Rhodostethia rosea).

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Just took it in and out of Vietnam. Nobody paid any attention, but the big bag of batteries I had for it caused minor delays on 2 security checks out of 6.
    Just in case, you can write yourself an official-looking letter saying that it’s “approved scientific equipment”. Use letterhead from Oxford University or something.

  • Curtis Hart

    I just flew from the US to Nicaragua and back, I had no issues. You can first say it is a video camera if asked, as it is. Sort of.

  • geomalia

    Thermal scopers: do any of you have additional thoughts now that you’ve had more time to use them? It looks like the Pulsar Quantum XQ23V might actually be better for use in thick forest than the Quantum XQ30V or Helion XQ28F because it has a wider field-of-view. Does that seem right? The Helion XP28 looks even better, but I don’t think I can justify spending that much right now (maybe in a couple years…).

    This weekend, I tracked a Fisher to a grove of very thick conifers. After an unsuccessful stakeout, I found fresh tracks heading away. Would I have been able to pinpoint the location of the fisher with the thermal scope, even if it was obscured?

    Also, if I were using it in (say) South America, would I be able to detect a Fer-de-Lance or Bushmaster on the trail?

    Has anyone tried other brands of thermal scopes (Armasight, ATN, or FLIR)?


  • Vladimir Dinets

    I have XQ23V and I still would like a wider field of view. But I haven’t yet tried it in very open landscapes where distance is important.

    Most of time you don’t see obscured animals, but if it’s a large one you might see diffuse glow. Also, even a tiny opening between branches providing direct line of sight would be enough to locate the fisher.

    Reptiles don’t show at all, unless they are on a very smooth surface. I have to use small red headlamp here on Okinawa almost all the time because there’s a lot of pitvipers (I’ve seen more than 30 in one night). The only reptile I’ve found with the imager so far was a floating turtle and it was very close, moving, and colder than the water.

    • geomalia

      Hi Vladimir,

      For use in tropical rainforests, would you say that the main advantage of a thermal monocle over a spotlight is that it doesn’t scare mammals away, or that it makes it easier to detect them if they are present? I am guessing the latter. I’m becoming increasingly interested in herps, so I’d want to continue using a relatively bright headlamp even if I get a thermal imager.


      • Jon Hall

        Ben, its impossible to know really without some proper control trial, but I think the advantage is in detection. With a spotlight you are generally relying on eyeshine, which requires an animal to actually have eyeshine in the first place, and to be looking at the light. Thermal scopes don’t need either of these. Thermal scopes seem particularly effective for finding porcupines for example … and I watched one in Brazil climb higher to avoid the light as soon as we shone it on it (having first found it with the thermal scope). But a combination of sweeping with light and scope is probably the way to go, particularly if you are on your own.

  • Cole Justice

    I wanted to let all of you know that we have launched new thermal binoculars that are more comfortable for longer viewing periods and will be launching a version with a range finder as well (to address some of the feedback here). Please let me know if you have any questions about thermals, since a lot of the information being floated here is not quite accurate.

    • Paul Carter

      Hi Cole and others, in reply to some points.
      I have been using a XQ30V for the last 6 months in various environments from closed tropical forest to open desert and rocky areas. Some points:
      1) Using a mono version for extensive viewing periods (keeping contrast relatively high and brightness low) I end up with low level night blindness in one eye which takes a while to dissipate, not an issue in itself, but I would rather have that only in one eye and not both so I would not be motivated to use a binocular version. On broad open roads it is also possible (if nobody else around) to drive at 10 km/hr with one eye on the road and one eye at 2 o’clock through the scope.
      2) my model does not have good strap points; a few days ago the strap became unscrewed (using the screw mount for a strap) and it fell onto rocky ground; fortunately undamaged. The monocular models need better strap points for hanging around the neck.
      3) the units are best used in vegetation-rich areas and not rocky areas which retain heat longer and the animals do not stand out as well
      4) I agree with Vladimir that the 23/30 magnification ranges are fine for what we do. I have the 30 and have rarely used the two higher mag options. A number of the rodents I have picked out in forest etc have been quite small in the view so on that basis I am happy with the 30 though I have not used the 23;
      reptiles can be seen if on “hot” sand areas – you see cold/black reptiles on white/hot background.
      5) Cole – exactly what does the calibration actually calibrate – recenter the image?- I notice image shifts when I use it and not calibrating thermal gradation?
      Cheers – Paul Carter

      • Cole Justice

        Thanks for the feedback, Paul!

        To your points:

        1-5) I will bring your feedback to our engineers.
        1) I want to point out that the brightness setting you change in the menu is the brightness of the image, not of the screen.
        2) noted, will pass that on
        3) you are correct, thermal only detects the difference – playing with the brightness/contrast setting will help here (as will a unit with a better sensor)
        4) noted
        5) Calibration is in relation to background temperature (as read by microbolometer) and eliminates distortion, like stripes or “ghosting” etc. It is more likely that you slightly move during calibration, as is natural even when standing still.

        Hope that helps!

  • Vladimir Dinets

    I learned to calibrate it with the lens cover closed. That way you don’t get lingering distortion from whatever it’s pointed at when you calibrate. You have to calibrate often when you use it immediately after getting out of a warm or airconditioned car, or after carrying it in a warm pocket, but after a few minutes frequent calibration is no longer necessary.
    I’ve been told that in Australia they mount the imagers on top of the car and connect to screens inside. That way you can drive for hours looking at the desert around.

    • Cole Justice

      Vladimir is 100% right – it is best to close the lens cover (at least at first) – I will usually leave it on automatic after that. If you are concerned about the shutter noise, you can switch to manual.

      • Paul Carter

        Hi Vladimir. I have mine on autocalibrate always so never really had the issues you describe as much and regularly hit the calibrate button. A couple nights ago I tried on manual and see what you mean on start up; so I think best to just keep on auto as per Cole’s comments. Paul

  • SteveFirth

    Hi All,

    Thanks for all the great information about thermal image scopes and cameras.

    I have a trip to Mongolia in September planned, concentrating on roughly three areas around 40km, 90km and 160km west of Dalanzadgad. Snow Leopard being the main focus but hoping for Palls’s Cat, Steppe Polecat, Marbled Polecat etc.

    I note that Michael Westerbjerg Andersen was due visit Kyrgyzstan about 6 months ago looking for Snow Leopard and using a Pulsar Thermal Scope for the first time. It would be interesting to know how that worked out.

    I am (like many others I’m sure) considering “investing” (using this term to try to appease my long suffering girlfriend/trip partner – although on this occasion she is more concerned about the additional weight to carry than the cost……she may not have grasped where the decimal point is on the various prices……..) in a Thermal Scope or Camera, hoping that it will help in Mongolia. I’d be grateful for any views on which Thermal Scope could be recommend for this area.

    I’ve been looking at the Pulsar Helion XP38 & XP50 and was wondering if the higher resolution of 640×480 pixels will be of significant benefit over the 384×288 pixels of the XQ models? My understanding is that in rocky areas which retain heat longer and the animals do not stand out as well the increased resolution would be a benefit.

    It appears that quite a few members of the “community” are using the XQ23V, I assume due to the relatively larger Field of View and lower price level, both of which appeal to me. Having printed off the various specifications of different models to try to make a comparison, I’m somewhat confused with regard to the:

    Field of View (HxV) degrees: XQ23V 16.5/29; XP38 16.3/12.3
    Field of View (HxV) m@100m: XQ23V 12.4/21.8; XP38 28.6/21.5

    This seems to indicate that the horizontal Field of View degrees is quite similar where I would have assumed that the XQ23V’s would have been greater. Also it appears to infer that at 100m the XP38 has a greater horizontal Field of View and I thought that would not be the case. I’d welcome views on this, even if it is simply to point out that I’ve read the specifications incorrectly or that my understanding of Field of View is wrong!

    Rohan Clarke’s posts about his use of a Thermal Camera, used with an in-built Screen and Laser Pointer outline an interesting alternative. Does anyone else have experience of a thermal camera? I can find the specifications online, but no prices in the UK.

    Any views and thoughts will be gratefully received.



    • Cole Justice


      I work for Pulsar and am happy to answer any tech questions. Many community members have their own stories I hope they share. Please send a message to me on Facebook at Pulsar Conservation or email me at

      640 (XP) vs 384 (XQ) will offer about 60% better quality and is useful for identification, but increases cost.

      We also have the new Helion XQ28 (384), which is a bit cheaper with all the functionality of the XQ38 and a little more field of view.

      Thanks, Cole

  • geomalia

    Does anyone have a suggestion of a different holster to use with the Pulsar XQ23 than the OEM? I would prefer something slightly smaller, with strap connectors that don’t make noise when I move.

  • Ruben V

    As this thread is 2 years old now I’m guessing people here have more experience with thermal imagers now.
    As I’m looking into buying one I see there is somewhat of a trade-off between FOV and range.
    I realise that different habitats require different needs but wonder what is the most important or conveniant overall.

    Would you prefer a high range, high FOV or somewheren in between? If so, what do you think is the optimal range or FOV?

    Currently I’m looking into the pulsar Quantum lite QX23V others here have used and some of the other pulsar models like Axion and Axion Key.

    I you wish to share your 2 years or more of experience on this thread as this can be helpfull for people looking into buying one these days.

    Kind regards,

  • Paul Carter

    Hi Ruben. I am familiar with the XQ30 (which I have) and the XQ23. I would say if you are nearly always in forest then the 23 is fine but if often searching in more open areas then the 30 is a better option. Rgds, Paul Carter

  • Olli Haukkovaara

    Thanks for the review – I just ordered XQ38, price was 2300 € here in Finland. “Christmas gift” for myself 😉

  • CharlesHood

    As far as I can tell, Pulsar thermal scopes in the US are available via just one place, a Texas company called “Sellmark” which also handles rifle scopes and sniper tripods. The website may not be up-to-date; to find out what is in stock, contact them directly.

    As of December 2019, here is good point of contact:

    Cole Justice
    Marketing Manager
    Sellmark Corporation

    I have received mine now and will post user notes after my first trip in another 2 weeks.

    Charles Hood

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