Top Thermal Imaging Monoculars Reviewed for 2018

From law enforcement to hunting, wildlife spotting or even just searching for a missing dog, thermal imaging monoculars are incredibly useful and versatile tools which can turn an incredibly complicated task into a breeze. But with so many quality products on the market, how can you discern which is the right one for you? To make life a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best products on the market and put together an easy to use buyer’s guide.

Buyer’s Guide: Some things to consider before purchasing a thermal monocular

When choosing a product, it’s vital to ask yourself one essential question: What will I be using it for? For example, the needs of a casual hunter are vastly different from those involved in search and rescue or military ops. With that in mind, here are some specs to consider.

Size

Hunters typically opt for a smaller and more lightweight monocular which can be taken out a put away on a whim, usually around the 6 to 12-ounce range. Those in security or law enforcement, on the other hand, might be happy to manage bigger devices for the extra functionality they afford.

Battery life

It’s important to consider how much time you expect to be using the device in one go as well as if there is access to the power grid to recharge if need be. Five hours is adequate for most users, although 10 or more is ideal for overnight surveillance. Bear in mind that many monoculars have exchangeable batteries which can be swapped out as required.

Screen resolution and frame rate

A high resolution and frame rate are essential for surveillance, search and rescue, or military style operations because it is of utmost importance to be able to distinguish a human from other heat sources in these situations.

Hunters may be able to compromise on these specs to a certain extent in order to bring costs down.

Note that even though 9 Hz is considered the framerate industry standard, it still entails a considerable amount of jagged imagery and tearing. Therefore, if smooth imagery is a must, look for something 30 Hz or above.

Video out

The better monoculars include video out capability which allows the user to record what they see onto an external device, usually through a rather archaic VGA cable. This is a requirement for surveillance but unnecessary hunters.

Some even have inbuilt recording capabilities.

Heat Signature Detection Distance

This refers to how far a monocular can detect variations in heat, with the more expensive models boasting a far greater length. For many users, it really isn’t necessary to scope great distances which is important to consider when trying to keep costs down.  Be aware that although some models may claim to work up to 600 yards, for example, they may only really be effective until 100 or so.

Budget

Prices vary tremendously across the board, and what a user should pay depends on their personal needs and financial situation.

Best Products on the Market

FLIR Systems, Scout III

From the well-respected FLIR brand comes the latest model of the popular Scout series, an excellent all-rounder that is suitable for a variety of different purposes.

Some die-hard hunters may be put off by the fact the device isn’t mountable and doesn’t include a zoom, but its superb range and crisp thermal detection mean it is a solid option for most. What garners the most rave reviews about this device is its superior heat tracking ability which enables it to easily pick up blood trails from wounded deer and other animals under the right conditions.

Another standout feature is its lightning fast framerate, and advanced image processing, meaning tearing or jagged screens largely remain a thing of the past.

Daytime use is possible as well, although the Scout III definitely performs best at night.

Specifications:

Frame Rate Display: 30 to 60 Hz (depending on model)

Video Resolution: 240, 320 and 640 (depending on model)

Heat Signature Detection: 1200 yards (best performance under 600 yards)

Display Screen: 640 x 480

Weight: 12 ounces

Battery: >5 hours

FLIR Scout II

As the name suggests, the Scout II is the earlier model of the Scout III mentioned above. The two are identical in many ways, although the Scout II is notably inferior in regards to its framerate which sits at 9 Hz compared Scout III’s 30-60 Hz. Remember that even though 9 Hz is fairly standard, it still does create a certain amount of jerky imagery and clipping, especially during fast-paced sequences such as running wildlife.

Considering the II and III still both have the same recommended retail price, it doesn’t make sense to opt for this model unless you happen to find a serious bargain second hand.

Specifications:

Frame Rate Display: 9 Hz

Video Out: Yes

Display Resolution: 240, 320 and 640 (depending on model)

Heat Signature Detection: 1200 yards (best performance at 600 yards)

Weight: 12 ounces

Battery: >5-hour Internal Li-Ion battery

FLIR Scout TK

Another excellent option from FLIR, the Scout TK is a winner in terms of affordability, usability, and mobility. At around half the weight of the Scout II/III model, this pint-sized scope can easily be stowed in pretty much any pocket.

Best of all, despite its tiny stature and low price, the high resolution and framerate mean its imagery is surprisingly crisp. Do note, however, that it only really works effectively under 100 yards, which is far inferior to other options on this list.

As an entry-level monocular, the 4-button design of the Scout TK is intentionally intuitive, containing only the essential features without added bloat to confuse the first time user.

Aside from hunters, it’s also a hit with homeowners and security guards who may need to scope out their surroundings on a whim. This is largely due to its In-built photo and video recording capability

Specifications:

Frame Rate Display: <9Hz

Video Out: In-built photo and video recording capability

Heat Signature Detection: Over 100 yards (works well up to 100)

Display Screen: 640 X 480 LCD Display

Weight: 6.1 ounces

Battery: >5-hour Internal Li-Ion battery

Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 2 inches

Leupold LTO Tracker

Leupold’s  LTO Tracker is a solid little midrange option, specially designed for those who enjoy the thrill of the hunt. As the name and photo suggest, this bad boy is specifically designed for hunters who would like to take some of the guesswork out of tracking their prey.

An important aspect to note, however, is that it absolutely does not endure firearm recoil. In fact, any attempt to attach it to a weapon will void the warranty.

Like other thermal imaging monoculars, the LTO Tracker works by detecting heat variation which means it excels during cool evenings. Don’t even bother trying to play around with this model during the day.

It’s 6x digital zoom is useful for finding small animals in the distance. Just keep in mind that it ain’t analog, so don’t come expecting miracles.

Although the refresh rate is solid, the thermal imaging and resolution aren’t great. It’ll do in a pinch for a casual hunter, but it’s not something you’d use for surveillance or recording thermal imagery. Having said that, its relatively low price point makes it an affordable hunting companion.

Specifications:

Frame Rate Display: 30 Hz

Video Out: No

Heat Signature Detection: Up to 600 yards (works best under 100)

Display Resolution: 240 X 204

Weight: 6.1 ounces

Battery: 10 hours of continuous use

Pulsar Quantum XD38A 2-8×32

Got some cash to splash and looking for a serious piece of equipment? The Pulsar Quantum might not quite be military grade, but it’s pretty much the next best thing.

A superior detection range and high definition white-hot and black-hot viewing modes make the device ideal for advanced ops such as rescue and undercover law enforcement. Of course, nothing is stopping you from taking it on a hunt as well.

The selling point of this high-end device is top of the line thermal imaging technology. Unlike cheaper models, it can successfully cut through smoke and fog at all times of the day. Furthermore, it features three separate usage modes which actually work surprisingly well: urban, forest, and identification.

A solid 2x magnification lens and 2-4x digital zoom mean the Quantum can pick out human-sized targets with good clarity from as far as 1,000 yards under the right conditions.

In fact, the only real downside to this monocular is that it costs several times more than other options on the market.

Specifications:

Frame Rate Display: 50 Hz

Video Out: Yes

Heat Signature Detection: Up to 1,000 yards

Display Resolution: 640×480

Weight: 12 ounces

Battery: 5.5 hours

Pulsar Quantum Lite Thermal Monocular

Those who like the looks of the Quantum but don’t quite have the money to invest should consider purchasing their lite model instead. At around half the retail price, the lite offers reduced law enforcement, search and rescue, and hunting capabilities without breaking the bank.

So what’s the catch?

The biggest drawback is undoubtedly its reduced range and the image clarity produced under all conditions. Users just aren’t able to see as far, nor with the same sharpness as the more expensive Quantum model.

Specs:

Frame Rate Display: 50 Hz

Video Out: Yes

Heat Signature Detection: Up to 800 yards. Loses clarity earlier than the standard quantum

Display Resolution: 640×480

Weight: 12 ounces

Battery: 5.5 hours