12 Best Thermal Monoculars That Actually Work (2021)

A thermal monocular is a must-have thermal imaging hunting equipment.

A proper thermal spotter allows you to see objects with clarity, so you won’t waste a shot at a small target or get too near to a predator or something scary.

The best thermal imaging monocular works night & day, offers clear views, and has decent battery life. Here are our favorites.

We Recommend

Best Thermal Monocular

Pulsar XM30

Best Rugged Option

FLIR Scout III

Best Budget Option

FLIR Scout TK

Thermal Monocular

1. Pulsar Axion Key XM30 2.5-10X24mm Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The Pulsar XM30 is the best all-around thermal monocular for hunting and surveillance. I really liked the small pocket-sized format and the 8 color-palettes which come in handy in different hunting situations.

For example “hot black” is often used at night, while red hot is used for long-range.

Compared to the M22 model, it has an even higher magnification of 2.5x to 10x. To the best of my knowledge, Axion has the highest image magnification on the market.

The image resolution is 720X980 with a 50 Hz refresh rate. My favorite function is the one-click built-in video recorder. Hey, it’s not a necessity, but it’s a convenience feature.

This monocular features a large 30mm objective lens that can gather a good amount of light even in dim light environments.

The monocular’s operating temperature range is good, too and comes with waterproofing features. Therefore, no matter what the conditions are, your thermal monocular XM30 won’t ditch you.


What we liked

  • Best all-around thermal imaging monocular
  • Highest magnification in class
  • Video recording functionality
  • High refreshing rate
  • Better dim light performance
  • Inbuilt rangefinder
  • Image intensifier for better coloring
  • High range of detection

What we didn’t like

  • Nothing noteworthy

Resolution: 720 pixels to 960 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2x to 8x digital zoom
Battery: 4 hours
Dimensions: 5.6-inch x 1.6-inch x 2.7-inch
Operating Temperature: -25 to 40C
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Features: video recording, high resolution, water resistivity, high magnification

2. FLIR Systems Scout III 640 Thermal Night Vision Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The FLIR Scout III thermal monocular is built for extreme conditions and also comes with water resistivity features.

The Scout III is the best you can get for money right now. The higher price comes thanks to the trusted brand name and rugged design.

Many thermal monoculars are quite fragile and not designed for harsh conditions. The Scout III can withstand hard drops and shallow water.

It comes with a decent level of magnification and resolutions but delivers a power-packed performance when it comes to on-field resilience.

It has 2x magnification and 320X640 pixels resolution. But the diameter of its objective lens is 35mm. So, it will deliver exceptional performance in low light settings.

It also provides you with a decent enough field of view of 18 degrees. The only thing down about this device is its battery life, which is not that huge along with the refresh rate.

But it will work well if you have got everything sorted out. The gadget also comes with the range detection of 1200 yards and water resistivity rating of IP67.


What we liked

  • Top in the class thermal image
  • Long-range of detection
  • Rugged design (drop and waterproof)
  • 5-hour battery life
  • Large 35mm objective lens 
  • Excellent dim light performance
  • A decent combination of magnification and resolution
  • Good operating temperature range

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price tag
  • No recording features (accessory sold separately)

Resolution: 320 x 640 pixels
Refresh rate: 30 Hz
Magnification: 2x digital zoom
Battery: 5 hours
Dimensions: 6.7-inch x 2.31-inch x 2.44-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 12 ounces
Features: wide field of view, waterproofing, large objective lens

3. FLIR Systems Scout TK Mini Thermal Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The FLIR Scout TK is the best budget thermal monocular option out there. It comes with a compact design and has a video record functionality that I love.

It’s extremely easy to operate, my 9 year old aced it in the first try. You can also use it as your home security device. It comes in a weather-resistant casing, which makes it ideally suitable for outdoors.

This thermal vision monocular can conveniently detect various thermal signatures from a distance of 100 yards and produce a highly accurate image. 100 yards is not a long-distance, but for the money, it’s decent enough.

The design of this thermal vision scope is straightforward to operate and you only need one hand to use it. It comes with a very intuitive interface that provides you all the information precisely and concisely.

There are nine different video pellets from which you can choose the right kind of image settings in the current environment and conditions.


What we liked

  • Unbeatable price
  • Very easy to use
  • Simple interface
  • Excellent field of view
  • Durable construction
  • Excellent for outdoors
  • Waterproof design
  • 100-yard detection range

What we didn’t like

  • No zooming option
  • Slow refresh rate

Resolution: 480 pixels to 640 pixels
Refresh rate: 9 Hz
Magnification: None
Battery: 5 hours
Dimensions: 6-inch x 2-inch x 2-inch
Operating Temperature: -15C to 55C
Weight: 6 ounces
Features: different video palettes, waterproofing, wide field of view

4. AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro Short Range Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

This best thermal monocular comes with an infrared detector and with an LCOS image display. This is the cheapest option on this list.

AGM ASP-Micro thermal imaging monocular can track targets and can measure distance for you as well, along with the integration of Wi-fi connectivity.

Even if there is total darkness, you will see everything as clean as a whistle.

This thermal spotter is a good choice for patrolling, rescuing, law enforcement, anti-smuggling, drug enforcement, travel, hiking, criminal seizing, hunting, and so much more.

In simple words, it is a top choice for professionals. It also comes with inbuilt memory storage and image zooming.

Your purchase is also covered under a 3-year warranty. It can conveniently mark hotspots in high temperatures.


What we liked

  • Professionally built
  • Durability quality
  • Simple operation
  • Feature wi-fi connectivity
  • Target tracking
  • Distance measurement
  • Marks hotspots in high temperatures

What we didn’t like

  • Limited zooming
  • Slightly heavy

Resolution: 120 pixels to 160 pixels, 288 pixels to 384 pixels
Refresh rate: 25 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 7 hours (Wi-fi off)
Dimensions: 6.3-inch x 2.4-inch x 2.2-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 55C
Weight: 9.5 ounces
Features: Wi-fi, video recording, distance measurement, marks hotspots

5. Pulsar Axion Key XM22 2-8X18mm Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The Pulsar Axion Key XM22 is another good option if you are looking for a device that can provide you with a high magnification feature even in low lights.

With this appliance, you can easily go up to 8x and enhance the image for better viewing details.

Thermal monocular also comes with an inbuilt rangefinder and high resolutions that range from 720 pixels to 980 pixels.

And of course, with these resolutions, you will surely need a high refreshing rate as well.

The good thing is, it comes with a 50 Hz refresh rate and works pretty well in low light conditions.

You won’t get many fields of view, as is the case with most of the devices that came with high magnification.

But that won’t be an issue if you are zooming in more on your target and scanning the area less. This device also comes with water resistance and a powerful lithium-ion battery.


What we liked

  • Variable magnification
  • Waterproofing
  • High refreshing rate
  • Better dim light performance
  • Inbuilt rangefinder
  • Image intensifier for better coloring
  • High range of detection

What we didn’t like

  • Battery could last longer
  • Short eye relief

Resolution: 720 pixels to 960 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2x to 8x digital zoom
Battery: 4 hours
Dimensions: 5.6-inch x 1.6-inch x 2.7-inch
Operating Temperature: -25 to 40C
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Features: video recording, high resolution, water resistivity, high magnification

6. FLIR Systems Ocean Scout 240 Thermal Scope

thermal monocular on a white background

Here is another FLIR thermal monocular, which might lack a fast refresh rate, but it will make it immense with its clear imaging.

It comes equipped with a 180×240 microbolometer VOx which is extremely accurate when it comes to thermal imaging.

The refresh rate of this thermal night vision monocular is only 9 Hz, but it comes with a wide field of view.

You won’t have access to any zooming features; ultimately, the scope will demand you to be in a good position for better target sighting.

However, you can conveniently make adjustments to the brightness level according to your requirements and the current conditions.

The scope comes with waterproofing and it can also sustain a drop from 1 meter.


What we liked

  • Good lightweight design
  • Simple operation
  • Wide field of view
  • Long-range performance
  • Crystal clear results
  • Adjustable brightness
  • Waterproof construction

What we didn’t like

  • No zooming
  • Somewhat slow refresh rate

Resolution: 180 pixels to 240 pixels
Refresh rate: 9 Hz
Magnification: None
Battery: 5+ hours
Dimensions: 6.7-inch x 2.31-inch x 2.44-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 12 ounces
Features: Long distance operation, waterproofing, quick charging

7. Bering Optics 1X19 Prodigy-X 348×288 Thermal Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

Bering Optics Prodigy X is a lightweight and compact thermal monocular that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Bering has made them with convenience for the users in mind. All the controls are very easy to access with the four-control buttons.

This infrared monocular features a 19mm lens as opposed to the 30mm lens of Prodigy Pro.

Apart from that, there is no wifi on this device, either. Besides these two features, the Prodigy X matches with Prodigy Pro in terms of all other features. There is a 2x magnification zoom and a field of view of 22 degrees.

The handheld monocular can provide you with an operation time of 6 hours per charge and it comes with an IP66 waterproof rating as well.

With its variable magnification, you can focus on your target conveniently, even with a low powered lens.


What we liked

  • Variable magnification
  • Comes with a range of accessories
  • Wide field of view
  • Good eye relief
  • Decent battery life
  • Good operating temperature range 
  • Quick refresh rate

What we didn’t like

  • Not for bright conditions
  • No wi-fi compatibility
  • Higher price tag

Resolution: 288 pixels to 348 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 6 hours
Dimensions: 6.9-inch x 2.7-inch x 2.7-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 14.1 ounces
Features: waterproofing, variable zooming, high resolution

8. Leupold LTO-Tracker 2 Handheld Thermal Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

The Leupold LTO Tracker 2 is the best thermal imaging for hunting or wildlife viewers.

This monocular comes with a Beacon mode with which you can recalibrate the screen according to the different times of the day.

It comes with a powerful battery that provides you with a backup that can last over 10 hours.

The handheld thermal imager is 100% waterproof and you can use it in extreme conditions as well. It can provide you with all the details associated with your target.

The 7x zoom makes it one of the best thermal monocular for coyote hunting. The long range thermal imager also has a very fast refresh rate and a wide field of view.

It is one of the best devices that you can use if you are looking to track some heat signatures.

It’s operating temperature range is wider as well, so you can conveniently use it in different types of conditions and climates.


What we liked

  • 600-yard detection range
  • Fully waterproof construction
  • Wider temperature application
  • Broader field of view
  • Longer battery life
  • Crystal clear AMOLED display
  • Fast refresh rate

What we didn’t like

  • A bit heavy
  • Not for short-range viewing

Resolution: 204 pixels to 240 pixels
Refresh rate: 30 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 7x digital zoom
Battery: 10+ hours
Dimensions: 7.34-inch x 2.62-inch x 4.25-inch
Operating Temperature: -40C to 244.44C
Weight: 7.5 ounces
Features: High powered zoom, long-distance range, quick refresh rate

9. Sector Optics T20 3-5.5x Thermal Imager/ Rifle Scope

thermal monocular on a white background

The Sector Optics T20 brings 60×80 resolution and comes with a battery backup time of four hours.

But the device delivers a decent enough field of view up to 17 degrees and can work at wider temperatures as well.

What makes this device the best cheap thermal monocular is its variable magnification that ranges from 3x to 5.5x and it also has a workable refresh rate too.

But this appliance is all about portability, that too if you don’t need a monocular with any high-end features.

The T20 is rigorous in its performance and is one of the sturdiest ones available.


What we liked

  • Very compact and portable
  • Lightweight construction
  • Easy-understand and simple layout
  • Decent operating temperature range
  • 17 degrees os field of view
  • Variable magnification
  • Inbuilt image enhancement

What we didn’t like

  • No connectivity options
  • Not for high-end applications 
  • Rather short battery life

Resolution: 60 pixels to 80 pixels
Refresh rate: 9 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 5.5x digital zoom
Battery: 4 hours
Dimensions: 2.75-inch x 1.5-inch x 1.8-inch
Operating Temperature: -10C to 45C
Weight: 4.7 ounces
Features: high magnification, portable, lightweight, inbuilt image processor

10. ATN OTS HD 384 Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

If you prefer to spend more time in the woods, then you will need a thermal monocular that comes with good zooming capacity, so you can focus on various intricate details.

This monocular comes with a zooming magnification that ranges from 1.25x to 5x.

It means that you can work in great detail when it comes to what your scope is displaying you.

This gadget comes with a high-resolution range from 288 pixels to 384 pixels and with a quick refresh rate as well.

It records the videos for you and you can connect it with other devices using wifi and Bluetooth as well.

This device also has a rangefinder, which can also take images for you. Another excellent feature of this device is, it has a strong battery power as well.


What we liked

  • Fast refresh rate
  • Wide field of view
  • Wifi and Bluetooth compatibility
  • Takes photos and captures videos 
  • Long-distance range detection
  • High resolution
  • Higher magnification
  • Robust battery time

What we didn’t like

  • Not water resistant 
  • Rather delicate

Resolution: 288 pixels to 348 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 1x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 8+ hours
Dimensions: 6.85-inch x 3.16-inch x 3.14-inch
Operating Temperature: -40C to 55C
Weight: 25 ounces
Features: Wifi, Bluetooth, video recording, image capturing, high zoom

11. Pulsar Helion XP50 2.5-20x42mm Thermal Imaging Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

If budget is not your concern and you are looking for a high-end thermal monocular with all the bells and whistles, then you need to choose the XP50 Helion by Pulsar.

These high-quality monoculars are all about performance and they come with Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The handheld thermal imager features a large 42mm diameter lens that will produce some high-quality results in low light environments.

Therefore, the device will produce high-quality hat images in any condition. Not only can you take images with it, but you can also record videos.

Hence, this monocular is a good option for a range of different applications. Whether you are in law enforcement, looking to hunt, or anything else, this monocular will work wonders for you. But it is a delicate device you need to use carefully.


What we liked

  • High magnification
  • Good quality imaging
  • Excellent battery timing
  • Good operational temperature range 
  • High-end materials
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Large objective lens

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price tag

Resolution: 480 pixels to 640 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2.5x to 20x digital zoom
Battery: 8 hours
Dimensions: 9.2-inch x 2.2-inch x 2.3-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 17.6 ounces
Features: Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity, video recording, large objective lens, high magnification

12. NVTS Arrow Pocket Handheld Thermal Imager Monocular

thermal monocular on a white background

NVTS Arrow Pocket thermal monocular sorts out the issue of size and you won’t have to compromise on its performance.

The compactness of this monocular makes it the optimum device on the market.

But that’s not the only thing it has to offer. It comes with a 300 x 400 pixel IR sensor that can produce some high-quality images, even in the darkest conditions.

The scope also comes with the VTE features, which are called “The Virtual thermal Enhancement Feature,” and it will provide you with a high-quality image detail when you are operating your device.

You can store all the recordings on the device and then transfer it later by using a video cable.

It can also procure high-quality images even in fog and smoke, and with its lithium-ion battery, it can manage up to 6 hours of operation.

There are three buttons on board that you can use to make adjustments to brightness, zoom, color, and various other image tracking and capture settings.


What we liked

  • Simple to use
  • One-handed operation
  • High-quality image 
  • Visual theme al enhancement
  • Great performance in dim light conditions
  • 8GB internal memory
  • Quick refresh rate

What we didn’t like

  • Slightly delicate
  • Not for long distances
  • Short battery backup

Resolution: 300 pixels to 400 pixels
Refresh rate: 50 Hz
Magnification: 2x to 4x digital zoom
Battery: 6 hours
Dimensions: 6.2-inch x 2.6-inch x 2.4-inch
Operating Temperature: -20C to 50C
Weight: 12.4 ounces
Features: inbuilt memory, high resolution, excellent dim light performance, fast refresh rate

What is a heat signature?

In a layman’s language, a heat signature is a visual representation of external temperature patterns around any object, a person, or within a space. Now, based upon the current temperature patterns within a space, you can identify various spots of high and low temperatures.  

When you direct your thermal imager towards an object or a scene, the device will absorb infrared radiation from the source and heat up. With this heat, there is a change that occurs within the electrical resistance of the device, and with the measurement of that change in the resistance, an image is created. It is called a thermal image with heat signatures. 

Usually, a thermal monocular can detect heat signatures that range from -50C to 2000C. These devices are very useful for firefighters as they can use them to check for injured people in the debris and rescue them. 

The gadget is also very useful for hunters as they can find out their prey hiding away in the woods at night. With the help of this appliance, you can even prevent your property from a random human or animal invasion. 

These devices are frequently used in surveillance, military, weather satellite imaging, and energy assessment projects since all these fields are associated with heat signatures and working in unsightly areas. 

Thermal vision vs. night vision

The best thermal vision can detect even the slightest of the changes in heat signatures when you are detecting games in the dark. It can detect radiation and requires no light to produce an image. 

Night vision, on the other hand, somewhat relies on ambient light for proper game detection. At longer distances, accurate detection becomes extremely difficult. Any light that is bouncing off the target will make it visible for you in the scope. 

Thermal vision scopes are more practical because they will notice any slighted of temperature changes and the images will be very clear. But they won’t work in bright conditions. Night vision scope is better for budget concerns and they are not going to work well in extremely dark conditions. Night scopes are more durable and sturdy than thermal scopes. 

If you work in the dark, then you should go for a thermal vision scope. On the other hand, if you prefer working during a twilight time when there is some light available and you have a budget concern as well, then a night vision can be an appropriate choice for you.

Types of thermal monoculars

Primarily, there are two types of thermal monoculars; handheld thermal monocular and helmet mounted thermal monocular.

Handheld thermal monoculars

This is the most common type of thermal monocular that is used today and is not only popular among the wildlife observers but hunters as well. 

These devices are very lightweight and compact and their portability is the reason why they are very popular. These are cost-effective and are extremely durable. 

But keep holding it all day long and carrying on with the observation project is very difficult because you get tired from holding it for a long time. 

Though you can hang it with your neck or place it in your pocket, that won’t be feasible if you start running immediately after that. You have to be focussed on these.

Helmet-mounted thermal monoculars

Of course, if you don’t want to hold the monoculars all day long and get tired, you can always mount it on your head with your hat or a helmet. As your hands become free, you can do a range of other activities such as climbing, holding your weapon, or using it or various other activities. 

This way, you will get a better and more stable thermal image and you don’t need to store your scope because it is already safe on your helmet. 

But head-mounted binoculars are extremely expensive, especially if you compare them with the handheld units. You will have to invest in some high-quality headwear as well, which further drives up the cost. 

How to choose the best thermal monocular?

There are different kinds of thermal monoculars available on the market. Choosing the right one can be a difficult task if you don’t know what to consider. So here is a brief list of features that you must consider before buying a good quality thermal monocular. 

Thermal sensor resolution

Since we have mentioned that a thermal monocular can detect heat signatures via its sensor, the resolution of this sensor needs to be of good quality. Most of the high-resolution thermal scope comes with a detector that has 480 x 640 pixels. This is the minimum standard that you need to look at in a thermal scope if you want some good images.

Display resolution

To convert the heat signature into an impression that is easy to visualize for a human, a thermal monocular must also come with a decent display resolution as well. Again, a device that comes with 480×640 pixel resolution will work well to deal with any kind of thermal imagery.

Refresh rate (Hz)

You need to be sure that you go for a gadget that has a high refresh rate. With a high refresh rate, the images will be refreshed by the device at a quicker rate and you will get better details about the current status of the object or scene under observation. Normally, anything over 30 Hz is considered to be good in terms of the refresh rate of a thermal monocular.

Detection range

Detection range will be very effective for anyone dealing with long-distance targets. If your scope can effectively manage over 2 hundred yards and can easily detect the target at this distance with clarity, it is going to be very useful indeed.

Operating temperature

Out there on the field, you never know what the weather keeps bringing in to keep your activity fool-proof, you need to invest in a thermal monocular with a wider operating temperature range. 

In most cases you will find devices that are great to work from -20C to 50C. Mostly, these are the temperatures you will be working with. For extreme conditions, you can go from higher or lower ranges as well.

Durability

If you are going for powerful optics, make sure that you consider the overall durability of your monocular. Your device will be more delicate and vulnerable with bigger optics. Most manufacturers make waterproof and shockproof appliances to make them safe. If you are looking to move around a lot, contemplate on these features.

Color modes

Thermal monoculars come with various color modes as well. You need to go for the modes that meet your requirements. There are different colors that different users prefer. The darker shades represent the objects that are emitting lesser energy while the brighter ones are emitting more. Some people find it difficult to see different colors and for them, there are other colors as well. Varied colors of thermal monoculars make it more attractive for the buyers.

Battery life

As with most gadgets, larger battery life is the optimal requirement. Thermal monoculars come with a vast number of integrated features that run out of battery very quickly. For instance, Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity eat up the battery extremely fast. Therefore, if you are going to use these features, go for a battery that can reach at least 10 hours of backup time. 

Monocular extra features to look for

With the development in this field, more and more manufacturers are introducing new features that weren’t there in the past but are now considered to be must-haves. Here is a list of some the features that the best monocular would have.

Rangefinder

A rangefinder is a newly added feature and some of the most recent models of thermal monoculars come with it. With a rangefinder, you can also find the distance between you and the target for more accurate estimation and take out the guesswork once and for all.

Wifi and bluetooth

Of course, Wi-fi and Bluetooth features are way better if you are going to take some images or record videos with your monocular. You can directly share the files or can store them on the cloud to access later. This is a must-have feature for researchers or people who are gathering data on their fieldwork. 

Compass

For hunters, this feature is valuable as they are on a constant move, they won’t have to keep a separate compass to find directions. 

Zoom

Zooming is always a great feature when you need to identify the exact position of your target. Zooming is necessary if you are dealing with multiple targets at a time. And no matter what your field is, Zooming is essential to have in a thermal monocular, whatever field you are working in. Anything around 1x to 4x of variable magnification will work well for you. 

Frequently asked questions

What is the best thermal monocular?

The best thermal monocular for the money in terms of value is the AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro. It comes with very good zooming capabilities and can produce clear thermal images.

What is the best thermal scanner?

AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro is also the best thermal scanner because it can take photos and record videos with great resolutions and details. 

What is the difference between FLIR and thermal?

FLIR technology uses short wavelengths of infrared light to highlight or illuminate a target or an area. On the other hand, thermal technology uses long wavelengths of infrared light. Thermals detect only the differences in temperature.

What is the best handheld thermal camera for hunting?

The FLIR Systems Scout TK is the best handheld thermal imager for hunting. It comes with good magnification power and is equipped with high-quality optics to keep you on target at all times. 

How do you hide heat from thermal imaging?

Using the terrain is one option because a thermal device can see through terrains. You can also use a thermal blanket to block the heat signature as it has Mylar foil in it. 

What is a better thermal or night vision?

Night vision gathers light that is available in the surroundings. Thermal vision focuses on the heat signatures so in dark conditions thermal is better than night vision.

How much does thermal imaging cost?

Thermal imaging is expensive but you can find a thermal monocular under 500 if you compromise on a few features. A good quality thermal camera with a detection range of 1000 feet can be around $1000 and a monocular of similar properties can be around $800 to $900, depending upon the optics and other additional features.

Why are thermal cameras so expensive?

Thermal imaging uses unique technologies that are not mass-produced and remain exclusive. Therefore, component costs are very high. 



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