Over the past few years thermal optics have dropped in price so much that they are now within the budget of the civilian user.
At Lodock Gear we are lucky enough to have experience using several different brands of thermal optics from military to civilian products.
The Pulsar HD50s is the subject for this review.
At the heart of this unit is a 384×288 sensor with a 50mm focal length lens. This lens is best suited to static viewing as it’s a slightly too narrow field of view for a moving vehicle or moving on foot.
If moving about and spotting is important to your application maybe you should consider Pulsars other offerings of a 38mm or 19mm lens.
The 50mm lens is a really good match for the sensor resolution wise. What I mean by that is the field view of spread across that number of pixels gives a really good picture. Probably the best compromise between field of view and detail. Bear in mind that as the field of view increases the pixel count across a given target decreases.
So if your still with me the HD50s can resolve a man sized target out to 1200mtrs, by this range though he is only 1 pixel wide on the screen! If he has a coat on that’s probably the end of your picture!
Hunting wise here is a picture of some Fallow Deer at 400mtrs
You can’t miss them detection is easy but they need to move for you to get an identification.
This just about sums up how the pulsar unit is programmed. Against other 50mm units you get a better detection contrast at a cost of hot subject picture detail. The other place the pulsar excels is looking at uniform scenes. When the other thermal optics are losing definition and becoming a white out the pulsar processing software manages to keep a clearer background picture (heat sources are not generally affected by this). This means your situational awareness of the scene you are looking at is class leading class at all times.
Another area that the pulsar deals with very well is at horizon level when you have half sky at -15deg and half a ground scene at +10 deg. Some thermal optics will totally lose the ground scene at this point but the pulsar does a great job of somehow maintaining both elements of the picture.
You will be able to spot/detect a fox sized target out to 600mtrs plus but again it will need to move for you to get a positive ID at anything like that range.
The white hot and black hot settings in our opinion are the only ones you need, colour palettes always look good on paper but in the field we always switch them back to black and white (not that the hd50 has colour options).
The Pulsar HD50 uses 4xAA batteries, we run ours on rechargables and it lasts for approximately 6hrs. Compared to some other units we have, this is very good battery life.
The enclosure it’s self is plastic and the battery compartment a little flimsy.Although we have never had a problem look elsewhere if you want mil spec or squaddie proof.
The controls are all good with 2x zoom ,polarity and NUC all at your fingertips on top.
Once set focus at the front can mainly be left alone.
On the front right there is a rotary and push button that you can operate with your index finger. This accesses the menus if pressed but is mainly used to set screen brightness (by turning the button). The screen is just about dim enough for my liking at its lowest setting for your eyes night vision retention. The bottom info bar (time etc) has to be adjusted in the menus separately.
NUC (non uniform correction) for picture quality can be set to auto or manual. We generally leave it on auto and it works just fine but the shutter is not exactly covert (zip zip noise). If your application is sneaky peaky you may want to keep NUC to manual to avoid any surprises.
So to sum up:-
Great at detection
Great at horizon targets and scenes
Great battery life
Not the toughest in our product range
Not the best identification/detail in its class
All that said its the go to thermal spotter out of all the ones available in our office demo pool
Most people grab the pulsar, I know I do!