Thermal imager advice

Hi all

I’m finally going to splash out on a thermal imager (for work use only, of course… ahem). The two I’ve seen mentioned on here – the Pulsar XQ50 & XQ23V – seem to be unavailable, at least in the Britain, at present.

The best two options I have available at the moment are the XQ38F, or pre-ordering the more expensive XQ50F. Does anyone have any experience of the former? Alternatively, if anyone (preferably also UK-based) has purchased a scope recently, I’d be grateful for any advice.

Thanks a lot in advance!

cheers, Mike



  • sjefo

    Hi Mike,
    I bought the Helion XQ38F several months ago, but also tried the 50 version of the XQ/XP series.
    I bought the the XQ38F because for me it represented the best price/quality compromise. If cost is no/less of an issue and high resolution the most important, then definitely go for the XP50 / XP38.
    What I did not like about the XQ50F is the minimum magnification (about 4), which is a little high.
    XQ38F is 3, which is ok, although in forest an even slightly broader field of view would be nicer but it doesn’t bother me too much. I have also looked at other (German) brands but in Europe Pulsar seems to be the best choice.
    User friendliness of some of the menu options of the Pulsars could be better (to access certain options you have to press buttons longer or shorter, which is confusing and frustrating if you don’t use the imager every day/week, because you forgot which type of press gives you access to which menu options). But the basic main functions that I use most often are easy. Overall I am happy with the Helion XQ38F.
    Like others have said, the main benefit is finding stuff!
    But it takes some time to get used to all outdoor conditions. I am still struggling with using it in warm/hot conditions or landscapes that reflect a lot of heat. And I still feel that I have not completely optimized the use in combination with all the other stuff I am carrying; when I am alone, I simply don’t have enough hands ; ).
    Hope this helps a bit.



    • mikehoit

      Hi Sjef

      thanks for your comments, exactly the thought of feedback I was hoping for. Like you, what’s concerned me in the past is how regularly I’ll use and get used to it, but sounds like he benefits are worth it. The requirement of more hands was also an issue that crossed my mind…
      Definitely interested to hear the thoughts of others on magnification. In open habitats – where I’d likely be using the scope for work – I assume higher magnification (and resolution) is desirable.

      thanks again

  • Lennartv

    I would go with the thermal imager that magnifies the least. I have the XQ23V, you have to imagine the scope gives you kind of the same look as a camcorder so a pretty small image. Unlike binoculars or a spotting scope or even a DSLR. I don’t know how you plan to use the thermal imager but I would imagine it’s mostly for finding stuff and not so much ID’ing (which is possible with some species, but obviously not many). A more magnified imager will make a quick sweep much harder, once you find something it will probably be better but it will take a longer time to scan an area. Usually you pick up the same stuff anyway and a less magnifying imager makes it easier.

    • mikehoit

      Thanks Lennart, useful thoughts. Makes sense to have lower magnification for closed habitats.
      I think it’s definitely between these models – while the resolution of XP38 sounds good, I’m not sure I can justify the huge extra cost…

  • Curtis Hart

    You actually want lower magnification for open habitats as well. The range of thermal imagers is not infinite, so zooming in is of little help I’ve found. You want to be able to see as much area as possible when scanning. I have the HelionXQ30F.

  • Venkat Sankar

    I have the XQ23V and love it. It really comes into its own for picking up small, light-shy species, or inconspicuous highly arboreal species in dense forest (e.g. climbing rats/mice, mouse opossums, foliage-roosting bats in Mexico and loads in Gabon).

    But it’s also quite good for finding the smaller stuff in open areas you’d likely miss with a spotlight like harvest mice (saw one at point-blank range within 30 min last year; prior to that time I had only seen one).

    As Curtis says, I prefer wider field of view in any situation, forest or open habitat. I’ve tried the XQ50 and really don’t need the extra magnification; it reduces image quality and the smaller field of view makes it harder to localize heat sources with the spotlight (which is arguably the most difficult part of using the thermal scope). Thanks to the wide field of view in the XQ23, I usually never have trouble locating stuff I’ve seen in the scope with the light. I opted for XQ23 as I figured I’d need wider field of view more than extra magnification in almost any use case (except the rare times when large distances are involved e.g. Snow Leopards).

    My most important recommendation is to spend time practicing with it in the field before trips. It takes some time to learn how to use it properly and even then, expect to “sacrifice” a night to figure out how to use it optimally on trips to different habitat. In some sites (notably rocky areas with large temperature difference), it can be really difficult. For example, I barely found anything with it my first trip to the Yucatan but found loads on the second…

    All told it’s a fantastic tool and makes my trips much more productive, particularly for rare/elusive stuff. Definitely my most worthwhile wildlife gear purchase.

    • Conuropsis

      Hi Venkat,

      I just purchased an XQ23V per your raving review. I didn’t want to spend a lot and wanted a good FOV. I hope it’s as good as you say:-) From other reviews too it seems the way to go for those of us with not a lot of money. Thanks for your input.


  • mikehoit

    Curtis, Venkat

    Thanks for your input – incredibly useful, and sets my mind at rest that I don’t necessarily need to go for the way more expensive options!
    Looks like I’ll have a new toy very soon…

    Thanks again for all the comments

  • Olli Haukkovaara

    Thanks for the advice, I just ordered XQ38, price was 2300 € here in Finland. Looking forward to get my “Christmas gift” 😉

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