July 16, 2019
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Hunters have embraced thermal imaging optic technology in a big way, but the problem with traditional thermal cameras is that they’re bulky and inconvenient to carry in the field. The new Pulsar Axion Thermal Imaging Monoculars solve that problem by providing exceptional thermal viewing in a compact package that’s perfect for hunters.
There are three models offered including the Axion XM30 and Axion KEY XM30 models, both of which feature a 30mm focal length, 24mm objective lens and weigh in at 8.8 ounces. The Axion XM38 version is equipped with a 38mm focal length, 32mm objective lens and weighs 9.5 ounces. Overall length measures from 5.6 to 5.8 inches and measure as little as 1.6 inches wide. Roughly the size of a compact rangefinder, these Pulsar Axion Thermal Imaging Monoculars easily fit in the pocket of your pack or coat and are easy to carry anywhere you hunt.
The minimal dimensions of Axion Thermal Imaging Monoculars don’t reduce their capabilities though. These handheld thermals are equipped with 320x240 pixel microbolometer uncooled detectors with a 12 um pixel pitch, and a frame rate of 50Hz. The XM30 and XM38 feature an AMOLED display with 1024x768 pixel resolution, while the KEY XM30 features a LCOS display with 960x720 pixel resolution. If you aren’t familiar with thermal imaging terminology, that translates to superb image quality and a very clear picture that allows you to detect images as far away as 1,800 yards.
A couple decades ago that type of thermal technology would have required a much larger housing and would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Today, Pulsar offers that same technology from an affordable thermal camera that fits in the palm of your hand.
User-Friendly Design and Usability
All the sophisticated Pulsar Axion technology is easy to navigate. There are just four buttons—a power button, up and down arrows, and a menu button. These simple controls allow you to quickly navigate through menu screens to select from eight different color palette displays, activate the picture-in-picture feature, utilize the 4x digital zoom, and more. The Axion XM30 and XM38 models offer video and still recording (.mp4 and .jpeg, respectively) and the 16 GB internal memory stores these images, so that they can be uploaded to your device later via the USB port on the right side of the unit.
Axion thermal cameras are powered by quick-change B-Pack APS3 lithium ion rechargeable batteries which last up to four hours, and the dual-base battery charger allows you to charge two batteries simultaneously so you’ll have a backup battery on the go with less charging time. The unit can also be run using a 5V external power supply. Focus and diopter rings allow you to obtain a crisp, clear image and there’s even a handy range finding feature that allows you to determine relative distance based on the size of the animal you’re viewing. The XM30 and XM38 units also offer Wi-Fi connectivity via the Stream Vision app so you can view thermal images on your tablet or smartphone and use your device as a remote control for the unit.
Tough High-Tech Thermal Imaging Monocular
A thermal camera designed for use in the field can’t be fragile. Pulsar wrapped the Axion’s hi-tech interior in a magnesium alloy housing that’s extremely light and very rugged. The rubber armor exterior adds another layer of protection while also offering a non-slip gripping surface, and the included strap holds the Axion in the palm of the hand for fast deployment. The unit is IPX7 rated and can withstand submersion to three feet for up to 30 minutes. A flip-open lens cover keeps water and debris off the screen with the Axion isn’t in use.
In the Field and Other Practical Uses
The Pulsar Axion XM38 Thermal Imaging Monocular I tested could be slipped into a hunting pack or even hung around the neck on a lanyard. I carried the unit in the pocket of a vest while scouting for deer at night and at just 9.5 ounces it certainly wasn’t a burden. Powering the unit on is simple and fast, and with a multitude of color palette options it’s easy to find a color scheme that works for your eyes. White hot is the easiest for my eyes to detect, and with the Axion in hand I watched multiple whitetails feeding in crop fields as far away as 600 yards.
All four of the primary buttons feature different texturing so it’s easy to turn on the unit, access the menu and zoom in and out without looking at the buttons. The image quality was sensitive enough that I could determine bucks from does in the field (thanks to the heat signature produced by antlers in velvet) and I could identify rabbits, possums, and other small game.
For hunters having that type of technology in the palm of your hand is invaluable. Handheld thermals provide a window to nighttime deer behavior that static trail cameras can’t match, and all varmint, predator and hog hunters will want one of these units inside their hunting pack for around-the-clock shooting.
During hunting season, thermals are valuable for locating trespassers and they’re also very effective for finding wounded and dead game. You’ll find dozens of uses for a handheld thermal like the Pulsar Axion in addition to game viewing, though. I used the Axion I tested to look for poorly sealed windows in my home and to find a dog that wandered a little too far out of the yard while answering the call of nature. The Axion also is ideal for personal and home safety since you can see trespassers in complete darkness, and I wouldn’t camp in bear country again without one of these lightweight handheld thermal imaging monoculars.
The new Pulsar Axion XM family of thermal imaging monocular will forever change the way you view the world. MSRP for the Axion XM38 is $2,859.99, but that’s a bargain considering how many high-tech features Pulsar has packed into these compact thermals.
Pulsar Axion XM38 Thermal Imaging Monocular Specifications
- Sensor: 320x240 pixels at 12um uncooled
- Focal Length: 38mm
- Objective Lens: 32mm
- Magnification: 5.5-22
- Detection Range: 1,800 yards
- Frame Rate: 50 Hz
- Display: AMOLED 1024x768
- Operating Temperature Range: -13 degrees to 104 degrees (F)
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 5.8 x 1.6 x 2.75 inches
- Weight: 9.5 Ounces
- MSRP: $2,859.99
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