A thermal imaging monocular is a device that allows you to see heat signatures, making it an invaluable tool for people who love to be outdoors.
By identifying sources of heat, you can find animals that would otherwise be hidden, and avoid dangerous areas that are too hot to approach. Thermal imaging monoculars can also be used for security purposes, as they can help you identify intruders in the dark.
With so many potential uses, it’s no wonder that these super cool gadgets (pun possibly intended) are becoming more popular year on year with some of them raking up the ranks as the best entry level thermal monocular for those who don’t want to spend money on a high-end model.
You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for the best thermal imaging monoculars on the market. In this post, we’ll take a look at the top 10 and help you choose the best one for your needs.
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Features to look for in great thermal imaging monocular
It is common to be a little unsure about what features to look for in getting the best thermal monocular. While I have a more in-depth look at this in the buying guide later on in this article, here are some quick tips on features to look out for.
- Clarity – A good quality thermal imaging monocular will have a clear display to see heat signatures clearly.
- Image resolution – This is how many pixels the image sensor has. The higher the number, the more detail you’ll be able to see giving you a better image quality.
- Field of view – This is how much of the area around you you can see on the display. A wider field of view is better, as it gives you a better overview of your surroundings.
- Frame rate – This is how many images the monocular can capture per second. A higher frame rate means that you’ll be able to see heat signatures that are moving quickly, such as animals running.
- Ample zooming – You’ll want to be able to zoom in on heat signatures that are far away, so look for a monocular with good zooming capabilities.
- Long battery life – If you’re planning on using your thermal imaging monocular for long periods of time, you’ll need one with long battery life.
- Price – Thermal imaging monoculars can be quite expensive, so it’s important to find one that’s within your budget.
- Handheld or weapon-mounted – You can get a handheld thermal monocular or weapon-mounted monocular. If you’re planning on using it for hunting, you’ll need a weapon-mounted model.
- Compensation for conditions – Some monoculars have features that compensate for worse conditions, such as fog or smoke.
- Recording function – If you want to be able to record what you’re seeing, look for a monocular with a recording function.
Now that you know what to look for in a great thermal imaging monocular, let’s take a look at the top 10!
10 best thermal imaging monoculars
Here are the best thermal imaging monoculars that are currently on the market.
1. Zeiss DTI 3/25 & DTI 3/35 Thermal Imaging Night Vision High-Resolution High-Precision Monocular
The Zeiss DTI 3/25 and 3/35 is a cool-looking thermal monocular that is built with high precision and accuracy. In terms of price, it is on the upper end of the spectrum because the company that manufactures it is a well-known one.
The optical magnification is limited to 2.5x, but this is compensated by the digital zoom of around 4x. Also, the detection range is up to 1235 meters, meaning you can see longer distances of more than a kilometer with the device. The dimensions are also in the portable level as it only has around 7.6 inches in length.
One thing I like about the Zeiss 3/25 is its large battery capacity. It comes packed with a long lasting battery life with over 7 hours of functioning at a single charge, you won’t have any worries about running out of juice. Furthermore, it also has water resistance with an iP66 rating.
High Refresh Rate and Resolution. Most thermal monoculars only have a limited refresh rate of around 10 Hz and sensor resolution of 160. However, the Zeiss 3/25 and 35 take this up a notch having an image frequency of 50 Hz. This means that the display refreshes 50 times per second. Not only that but the sensor resolution is rated at 384 by 288 with a display resolution rated at a 1290 x 960 which is considered HD, especially for an eyepiece.
Ergonomic Build. The device has ErgoControl technology so that all buttons, pieces, and lenses work perfectly with each other. This means that you won’t have those slight annoyances that cheap hunting monoculars have. Also, it is designed to have the perfect shape for grip and viewing, reducing eye strain as well as muscle strain.
Field of Vision. As an often overlooked part of monoculars, the field of vision can always affect the end-product of the imagery. Thankfully, the ZEISS DTI 3/25 has an enhanced field of view of around 26 meters which makes it easier to spot prey.
- Great Buy
- Amazing Ergonomics
- Live Stream Function
- Lens is not the best
- Questionable Build
2. FLIR Scion Thermal Imaging Device Monocular
The FLIR Scion is simply a beast when it comes to thermal sensors. This thermal device with cutting edge sensors also has a military feel, making it cool to wield and use.
For starters, FLIR Scion gives a user a choice in terms of the frequency that they want to have. You can opt for a 9Hz version and a 60Hz version, depending on your chosen routine or activity.
The specs of this device are nothing to scoff at due to its heavy-duty nature. As an Outdoor and Tactical System thermal monocular, this double duty thermal monocular weighs around 1.23 lbs while staying at a small 6 x 2 x 2 inches frame. The IP 67 rating also means that it is sealed for dust, water, and dirt penetration. It is one of the best thermal monoculars due to its durability.
Here are some features that enthusiasts will surely love:
Video and Image Recording. Reviewing the most exciting moments of the hunt is more than possible with the help of the FLIR Scion. With onboard video and image capture, you can easily look back on how wildlife encounters went for you and your mates. It also has more than enough storage to put your memorable moments in.
Great User Interface. One of the best things I like about the FLIR Scion is its ability to have multiple color palettes based on your preference. It even has buttons to adjust the saturation, contrast, and color. Also, there is a Geotagging feature that aids in the information gathering of your shots.
Company-Guarantee. FLIR is one of the best thermal monoculars makers out there. They have a unique cryogenic cooling system using a BOSON Thermal Core. Furthermore, everything is displayed in an OLED Display that has a vivid output and great clarity.
- Good build
- Worth the buy
- Exceptional Range Finder
- Color Pallettes
- Zoom Blur Issues
3. Leica Calonox Thermal Imaging Monocular
The Leica Calonox, one of their flagship thermal monoculars, does not stray far from this world-renowned quality. It is a beast when it comes to modern hunting, thanks to the clarity and features that it brings to the table of thermal viewing.
Leica is considered to produce some of the best thermal imaging monoculars in the world. Over the years, they have gained popularity in terms of durability and endurance. One of their specialty is ensuring that every device overflows with craftsmanship through machinery and handcrafting. Because of this, Leica systems are known to produce sharp and vivid images.
Furthermore, many experts in the hunting industry would argue that the Leica is one of the best out there as it has a range of other models.
What are the features that make it exceptional? Here are some of them:
Long Range Quality. Despite the challenges that night hunting may bring, the Leica Calonox still works at optimal efficiency. With the use of advanced sensors, processors, and heavy-duty cameras, vivid outputs and detailed images are shown to the user. This is due to the enhanced dynamic as well as sharpness and contrast of the system that is equipped with LIO technology.
Color modes. Tired of using only one or two color modes during the hunt? The Leica Calonox has your back! With the help of 4 different field-tested color modes such as red hot, white-hot, black hot, and rainbow, there is no need to worry about missed prey or game. Not only that but the images will be delivered in high contrast so you as a hunter can separate the target from the surroundings.
Versatile System. Flexibility is the name of the game for the Calonox. Why? Well, it is equipped to adapt to many hunting activities. First, it can be mounted as a clip-on for guns and rifles. Second, it can be used as a hand-held monocular for fast skirmishes. Furthermore, it is easily controlled with three main buttons.
Precision and accuracy. A hunt is wasted if you do not hit your target. Leica Calonox helps in this endeavor with the power of repeatable identification of the prey. With maximum precision technology, you will never miss a single shot due to the poor operations of your scope.
- Known Company
- Precise processing
- Use in different industries
- Great Pallettes
- Charging Issues
4. AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro TM160 Short Range Thermal Imaging Monocular
If you are looking for a thermal monocular that is affordable but does everything that it needs to, then the AGM ASP-Micro TM160 will answer your call. When compared to other expensive thermal imagers in the market, it is only around 1/4th of the price.
Furthermore, the value of the device is in its functionality. Thanks to its lightweight nature, you can expect to increase your mobility with this device.
It has two types of resolution-based systems. First, is the infrared detector rated at around 160×120. Even if it seems small, this is more than enough as you will be viewing it through the eyepiece. Also, the display is a 720×540 LCOS Display so you won’t have any issues with obstructed vision.
Here are the notable features of the device:
Zooming Capabilities. Zoom, or magnification, refers to the capability of a thermal monocular to see more than the naked eye. It is paired with a number and a multiplier in the form of 2x, 3x, etc. a 2x zoom means that you can see twice more than the normal human vision.
However, it is to be noted that price is directly related to magnification rate, meaning that an affordable device will most likely have a lower zoom than an expensive one. Despite this, the ASP Micro has up to 8x of zoom.
Range Finder. The range is the distance between one subject to another. This helps in estimating adjustments in terms of rifle or bow during hunting. Fortunately, the ASP Micro has a precise and accurate range finder, meaning that it can track the exact location of prey or fowl once it is placed on sight. Not only that, but you can even gauge their height.
- Greatest for Scouting
- 200 Yards Effectiveness
- Excellent Battery life
- Fits anywhere
- Short Range
- Blurring Issues
5. ATN OTS LT Thermal Viewer 320
The ATN OTS LT is a device that has lots of additional tools to help with improved operation. Upon purchase, you will be given an extra cord, a carrying case, and a lens to help maintain the thermal viewer. It also has one of the clearest displays in the thermal monocular market, thanks to the sensors and display resolution.
To add, this sensor is complemented by the huge 1280 x 960 display which is rated as a high definition or HD. There is also an IP Rating for the case so that it will not be affected by forces of nature such as dirt and moisture that can deteriorate the system. It also functions at around -28 to 48 degrees Celsius of temperature.
Here is some feature of the ATN OTS LT Thermal Viewer that will benefit you:
Mobility. ATN is famous for creating devices that are lightweight but very functional. The small frame of the OTS LT is enough so that you can easily store it in a case, bag, or pocket. Also, the weight is negligible so it will not affect the strain on your body when carrying other gears.
It also has a grab and go feature meaning that you can just pull it out, use it, and quickly put it back into its case.
Strain Reduction. Monoculars are known to give eye strain, especially for extended hours of use. This is why many people prefer binoculars over them. This is due to the uneven balance of magnification on both eyes that might hamper spatial perception.
The ATN OTS LT prevents this from happening with the help of a comfortable eyepiece.
Grip. Why is grip important for any thermal monocular? This is because monoculars are mainly handheld devices and are used on the go. This entails that it should have ample grip to prevent it from slipping away and falling.
Luckily, the grip of the ATN OTS LT has micro-grooves to aid in handling. Also, the buttons are positioned in such a way that you won’t have any difficulties reaching them.
- Battery Replacement Issues
- Warranty Limits
6. Pulsar Helion 2 Thermal Monocular
The Pulsar Helion 2 is one of the most expensive thermal imaging monoculars on this list. But it is also one that brings out great value from your money.
At first glance, it looks straight out of a military movie thanks to the cool-looking design that it has. It stays true to its ambiance as it is durable equipment that will last you for years.
When it comes to specs, it is also top-notch. For starters, the 50 Hz refresh rate is more than enough to produce an image that is smooth and non-stuttering.
Furthermore, the device has more than 9 hrs of operating time and you will not run out of juice in the field. Also, it can withstand a fair amount of ruggedness coming from your hunting routines. If those are not enough, then you could also bask in the glory of the thermal sensor capabilities extending up to 100 yards.
Lastly, it does not have an LCD, nor LED display. Instead, it has the far more powerful AMOLED display for the best output.
Distance Gauge. Adjusting your scope and rifle based on the location of your prey is easy with the Pulsar Helion. After all, it is equipped with a smart detection range that automatically shows precise distances.
Also, you can measure the height of the subject to know what you are up against. It utilizes a stadiometer with thermal technology for efficiency.
Wi-Fi and Remote. Are you scouting from a distance? That is not a problem with the Pulsar Helion as it can be remotely controlled with either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology. You can access the controls through an app and even select various modes of operation. This also helps in the live streaming of your hunt.
Color Modes. Color modes refer to the different paletts that can be shown by the recorded heat map. It helps especially in cases where there are so many noise materials in front of the lens. With different color archetypes, you can choose between white hot, black hot, and even temperature heat to aid your hunt.
- Fine Clarity
- Good Zooming
- Reduce Strain
- Recording and Streaming
- Not always available
- Customer Support Issues
7. Guide Track IR PRO 19, 25, 35 mm
The Guide TrackIR PRO, true to its name, is a professional-grade thermal monocular. The best selling point of this product is it’s 1280 by 960 display which is rated as High Definition. Not only that, but there are even choices for the lens focal length such as 19, 25, and 25 mm. With this, it will be easy to look at a clearer picture of the surroundings.
Another spec of the Guide Track IR worth mentioning is it’s 640 by 480 IR sensor. This is more than 4x of the resolution that most thermal imaging devices have. Also, it is well-equipped for night vision thanks to the crisp and sharp video feed that it provides to the user. Here are some features that make it stand out compared to others.
Distance Gauge and Field of View. The Guide Track IR PRO provides many choices in terms of field of view and lens focal length. For this reason, it is one of the best thermal monoculars in the market in terms of pure viewability. Not only that, but you can see more with the help of the innate HD display and zoom.
Color Palettes. The available color palettes of the Guide Track IR Pro aid in flexible usage of the device despite the different types of environments. It does not matter whether you are facing snow, rain, or windy places, it will be able to help you.
Durability. This device boasts of its rugged and enduring nature. With an IP66 rating, one can guarantee that a drop of one meter will not have any effect on the functioning of the device.
- IP rated
- Added Accessories
- Pricing too much for newbies
- Customer Support Issues
8. AGM Global Vision Thermal Monocular Asp TM35-640
The AGM Global Vision ASP TM35-640 is a top contender as the best thermal monocular. It has a good balance of price and value meaning that even beginners will be able to afford and enjoy its full benefits.
It is easy to navigate, has good resolution, and is dependable thanks to the infrared detector that has a whopping 640×512 resolution which is one of the largest on this list. Not only that but the output is displayed through 1024 by 768 OLED display for maximum quality.
Because of such capabilities, it works surprisingly well during night activities even if no light is present. It is very flexible that even military, security, and search and rescue personnel uses it for their daily job.
The fame of the device is also evident in the thousands of positive reviews that it has garnered online. These are the features that will make any monocular enthusiast love the device:
Range finder. Seeing a range finder equipped with a monocular is common. However, the ASP TM35’s feature is a cut above the rest thanks to the stadiometer which enables it to measure not only the distance but also the total vertical height of a target. This makes it easier to make sight and scope adjustments on your bow or rifle.
Hotspots. What is a hotspot? It is a region in anybody where the temperature is highly concentrated. When identified, a user will be sure that there is a living creature in front of the lens. This makes the ASP TM35 special since it has a highly intelligent hotspot detection and thermal sensor which significantly adds contrast to the radiated heat of the subject. The result is a sharp image of the target.
Magnification. There is zero need to worry about distance when working with the power of the AGM Global Vision. After all, it has a range that can extend up to 8x of normal human sight. This means that your prey will never escape the grasp of your vision, adding success to your activity.
- Pricing too much for newbies
- Customer Support Issues
- Build is not the best
- Processing Issues
9. FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imaging Monocular
The FLIR Scout TK is simply the unbeatable King of monoculars when it comes to monetary value. This is due to the high rating of the device even for professionals. With a small price of $600, you will receive a thermal monocular for hunting that is portable and lightweight while staying amazing during your night hunt. It stays true to its name as a real scout for your activities.
Coming from the same company, it has a similar design to the ASP Micro. Thus, it also contains a comfortable earpiece and is snug to the eyes. Not only that, but the total pixels of the sensor are around 160 x 120 which is more than enough for a thermal monocular.
This is then outputted to a 640 x 480 lens display for easier viewing. Also, the processor and casing are top-notch and built for durability.
Here is some feature of the FLIR TK that will benefit you:
Intuitive. When it comes to ease of usage, nothing tops the FLIR Scout TK. It is built with newbies in mind, meaning that you won’t even need a manual to get started with the device.
Furthermore, the buttons are arranged in such a way that they are easy to reach and click. The screen is very friendly to the eyes and lots of options can be explored.
Portable. What I like about the FLIR TK is its portability. During my hunts, I have zero problems carrying it since it is very light. I prefer heavy sets of gear such as bows and rifles, but the FLIR TK does not feel like a burden at all.
Any time that I want to use it, I simply pull it out and start operating. Once done, it can be quickly kept in the case. This makes it a grab-and-go companion.
Secure Ally. Few affordable thermal monoculars have the same capability as the FLIR TK. For starters, one can use it similar to a CCTV camera that has the best thermal imager and viewing power. If there are any suspicious activities that you want to investigate, simply place the Scout and hit record, and you will be able to review what happened.
Also, the battery life is around 5 hours so you will have more than enough juice to enjoy.
- Simple to Use
- Obvious photos
- Warranty Coverage
- Reimbursing Issues
10. ATN OTS LT Thermal Viewer 160
The ATN OTS LT Thermal 160 can be seen as the younger and lighter version of the thermal monocular Viewer 320. Why 160? Well, it explains the total resolution of the sensor which is rated at 160×120.
If you feel that this is too small, then fret no more as it is still compensated by the bulky 1280 by 960 display of its monitor. Furthermore, the refresh rate is at around 60 HZ, making it a powerhouse.
What sets it apart from its higher-end counterpart is that it is a lot cheaper. Also, you have the benefit of choosing magnification as the model comes in the 3-6x zoom or 4-8x zoom.
The processor of this unit is nothing to scoff at as it has the intelligent ATN Obsidian Core LT chip. Thus, you have added a range at around 475 and identification at 160. Also, the 3-year warranty should cover most of your problems.
Here is some feature of the ATN OTS LT Thermal Viewer 160 that will benefit you:
Portability. The ATN thermal monocular series’ repeating principle is quality in mobility. As a result, it is light in weight and has a compact frame that may fit in your vest, pocket, or purse. There are also other attachments to help with hand-carrying it, such as the case, sling, and cord. It will be simple to transport such items to your hunting areas and store them for the next round of prey with the assistance of such devices.
Color Modes. Have trouble spotting the prey because of ambient environmental conditions? No need to worry as the ATN OTS 160 has black hot and white hot mode. In these two modes, hotspots will be displayed as either very black or very white. This helps in distinguishing the look of your target at any single time.
Ergonomics of the Grip. Grip ergonomics refers to how easy it is to grasp the item without it falling or slipping out of your hand. This is especially critical in moving hunts since you don’t want your gadget to slip off and be ruined. There is a guarantee that no mishaps will occur during operation thanks to the force of tiny grips located around the camera.
- Great Video recording
- Battery Substitution Issues
- Contract Limits in Warranty
Buyer guide & faqs
What to look for in thermal imaging monoculars
Clarity is the measure of how clear the image is despite the distance. What are the factors that affect clarity? The quality of the lens used in the binoculars. This is related to the purity of the material as well as how well it was processed.
Better lenses don’t have a difference between actual vision and technology-aided one. Also, no forms of extra noise caused by lens glare will be visible.
On the other hand, the low-quality lens will result in more problems rather than benefits. What will most likely happen is that the output image will be blurry and vague, and this removes value from your purchase.
Zooming, or in other terms, magnification, is the rate at which the camera’s vision can expand normal viewing. This comes in the form of multipliers such as 2, 3, or 4. This means that a camera with a multiplier of 2 will have 2x more potential viewing distance compared to the naked vision.
Cameras have two ways to compensate for this. The first is manual, which makes use of different lenses to add a sense of magnification. Another is digital, in which the software handles the zooming mechanism.
For thermal imagers, it is common to see digital zoom due to the specialized sensors and processors involved.
Another part of thermal imaging monoculars you must watch out for is the processor. Thermal imaging is the process of transforming radiation data into readable pictures and videos, and this is where processing comes in.
When hunting, you do not want a delay on the visuals of the prey just because you are making use of a low-end processor that has a lag on the data translation. Thus, you must always choose a core that has the capabilities of a real-time display.
An overlooked feature that most thermal imaging users do not rely on is versatility. Your thermal imaging device must be suitable for many applications, be it surveillance, bird watching, hunting, search and rescue, and tracking. There are even models out there that can be equipped with rifle scopes and bow sights.
Thus, it is a good idea to look for an imager that can be used for various scenarios.
Compensation for worse conditions
Thermal monoculars, like other devices, have their fair share of limitations and drawbacks. For example, it does not do well when facing strong radiation sources such as the sun or power sources. Not only that, but it is also weaker during hot days since the difference between body temperature and ambient temperature is not too apparent.
With this in mind, you need to purchase a thermal imaging monocular that can compensate for these weaknesses. It might be in the form of better sensors, processors, or viewing lenses. There is a need to break through such limits and choosing a great device is a good first step.
Nobody wants to cancel a hunt just because the battery life of their thermal monocular is drained. This also relates to the total power consumption of the device during the idle or operating mode. If you want your thermal monocular to endure during long hunts, you need one that has sufficient battery capacity, preferably up to 6 to 10 hours or more, as well as energy-saving capabilities.
Let’s face it. handheld thermal monocular devices are expensive products. Because of this, you do not want your investment to be wasted just because the warranty did not cover specific damage.
When purchasing monoculars, it is crucial to examine the duration of the warranty as well as its conditions. This way, you will rest easy knowing that your product will last for years.
Different types of thermal imaging devices
Thermal imaging cameras are not portable and are usually suspended in walls or ceilings. The sole purpose of this type of imager is to protect against intruders. For example, a gold reserve may put on some thermal cameras to protect the assets. These can also be seen in airports and seaports as indicators of alarming fever levels of passengers. One might even consider these as stationary imagers as you won’t be able to bring them during the hunt.
A binocular can be considered as two monoculars cascaded with each other. Thus, they can be used for both eyes contrary unlike a monocular which can only be used on one eye. This has added benefits in terms of range, as well as comfort. With this in mind, binoculars are more suitable for long hunts but are more expensive since it is akin to buying two monoculars at one.
The scope is the lightest thermal imager on this list. After all, they are designed to be fitted and attached to guns or bows. However, one should not expect the same level of quality and processing compared to binoculars and monoculars since the size of the chip and sensor will be limited.
Key points for consideration before buying?
It is important to see the price point of your chosen product. Is it too expensive? Is it too cheap? There is always a need to strike a balance so that you will get a device worthy of your money. Not only that, but you should also be wary of offers that are too good to be true since they will more likely be a scam.
Usage frequency is defined by how often you will be utilizing the device. For example, if you will be using a thermal monocular frequently, say once a week, then you should get a high-end one so that it can withstand your heavy-duty load.
How long your device lasts also depends on the maintenance procedures that you undertake. Not only that but there is also a great need to check on your device once in a while to foresee possible damages.
Are thermal optics illegal?
No, thermal optics are not illegal to use. These devices are widely utilized especially in terms of security, surveillance, and relief operations. Other thermal optics are classified or military-grade, but you can always purchase one that is meant for hobbies and recreation. Thus, it is safe to buy one as long as they are certified and approved.
Can thermal see through vegetation?
No, thermal can’t see through vegetation, but it can determine the subjects and objects behind the vegetation. This works through thermography in which the temperature of the creature is obtained and compared to the vegetation. With this, a heat map is created in which you will be able to see the elements in front of the lens with their respective temperature. Since a living creature emits some sort of heat, then it will be detected.
What is the life expectancy of a thermal scope?
This is a case-to-case basis, however, formal documents state that normal thermal scopes can last up to 5 years. With proper care, maintenance, and handling, this can even reach a decade or more. There is a need to check the warranty to see which clauses or conditions are covered so that you will not worry about replacements.
Can you see cold-blooded animals with thermal?
Yes, you can see cold-blooded animals with thermography, but they won’t be displayed the same way as warm-blooded animals. This is because their base body temperature is lower than normal. In the image, they will be on the colder end of the spectrum as blacks, whites, or blues.
Do reptiles appear on thermal imaging?
Yes, reptiles appear on thermal imaging on the same basis as cold-blooded animals.
Which is better, thermal or night vision?
Which is better between the two is always a matter of personal choice. Some individuals prefer monoculars owing to their mobility, while others like the comfort that a binocular provides. With this in mind, it is critical to understand that binoculars are superior for extended hunts owing to reduced eye strain, while monoculars reign supreme, particularly during short hunts.
Choosing the best thermal imaging monocular will always be a matter of preference. This is because different people will have different needs and wants to depend on the activity that they will partake in. Thus, you need careful examination based on your favored routines.
I choose the FLIR Scout due to its affordable yet reliable nature. Among the devices on the list, I believe that it is the one that has the best value for your cash. Not only that, but you won’t even feel the price since you get more than what you pay for.
Overall, a thermal imaging monocular will always depend on how you use it. Enjoy your new gear and don’t hesitate to try new things!