Hikvision is a Chinese manufacturer of security products and the biggest supplier of video surveillance products in the world. It is a large company with more than 34.000 employees, which shows that they are incredibly inventive and innovative at what they do. Over the years, they have expanded their business to other fields such as industrial automation, automotive electronics industry, and smart home tech.
Performance of the Hikvision Owl series
Hikvision has introduced thermal imaging monoculars with which they aim to compete against other renowned night vision/thermal products manufacturers such as Pulsar, Flir, Liemke, Night Pearl, etc. The series goes by the name ‘Owl’. We were given the opportunity to test one of the models, the one with the 25 mm objective lens.
On the outside, the device looks like thermal imaging monoculars we’ve seen before. I do have to mention that it is quite long at 18 centimeters. Even though you will have trouble getting it in your pocket, its size brings forth some advantages as well. It is much more comfortable to hold than smaller devices – a hand, big or small, fits nicely around the device’s body, and the buttons on top of the housing are large enough to be easily accessed. At 468 grams of weight, it is heavier than its rivals. It is designed to withstand rough treatment and will continue to operate in temperatures as low as –30 degrees Celsius.
The model that we’ve tested (25 mm objective lens) works at magnification slightly above 1x, but the image can also be zoomed in (2x digital zoom). At standard magnification (slightly above 1x), the performance is superb – the field of view is large, and the resolution impresses. The objects observed are nicely defined and with clear borders. The combination of a sharp image and a large field of view excels in observations up to 100 meters. At this distance, plenty of details can be seen on the screen and you can clearly differentiate between animals. I was also taken aback by the clarity of observed objects at distances up to 30 m. The device features an OLED-display with a resolution of 1024×768 pixels and a 17-μm pixel pitch. The sensor on the device has a resolution of 384×288 pixels. When 2x digital zoom is activated, the image is a bit pixelated, but that is to expect from digital zoom. The device features a diopter (next to the eyepiece), but there is no focusing knob. Glasses wearers will have no problems using these devices due to the design of the eyepiece – this is what some other manufacturers have difficulties achieving. The refresh rate is 50 Hz.
To recharge the device, a MicroUSB cable is needed (provided in the box). The battery is integrated and cannot be removed – you have to plug the cable into the device (microUSB) and connect it to the USB-port on the power adapter. This is a drawback when you are using the device for long periods of time since you cannot bring along a spare battery. When full, the battery lasts for 5 hours, but the time shortens if you use GPS or Wi-Fi.
You can capture images and record videos with the devices from OWL series. Capturing an image is incredibly simple – you just press the corresponding button (the one with the image of a camera on) on the housing. To record a video, press the same button for 3 seconds. Not being able to start the recording immediately is somewhat of a disadvantage. There is 16 Gb of internal memory. The device has a GPS function.
The device offers four colour modes:
- White Hot
- Black Hot
- Red Hot
It is simple to switch from one to the other, you simply press the ‘MOD’ button. If we hold the ‘MOD’ button, a distance measuring tool opens. With this tool, you can determine the distance to an animal with known height (Deer, Wolf, Bear, and Custom).
There is an incredibly useful feature on the device called ‘Hot Spot Mark‘. Once turned on, a mark in shape of a plus will appear on the image, pointing at the object with the highest temperature. This feature helps you locate incredibly small warm objects that aren’t visible immediately with the naked eye.
The OWL-series features Bluetooth connectivity – these devices can be paired with a smartphone app called ‘IVMS-4500’. In the app, you can configure the device parameters. Also, the image seen through the monocular can be projected onto the screen of the mobile phone (or a tablet) with the installed app. This greatly increases the usability of the device.
What bothered me a little bit was the start-up time of the device – it took around 15 seconds to power on. Shortly after the test, I was told that Hikvision updated the firmware with which they made the start-up much faster. With the update, Hikvision also greatly reduced the noise that the unit makes during calibration. This is a big step up since a loud calibration sound can startle the animals close-by. It is pleasant to see the extent to which the device can be improved just by updating the firmware. The calibration is automatic by default, but you can also engage it manually by pressing the MENU button.
The expected retail price for this model is around 2000 €. There are four other models – two of them use the same form factor and software but have a different lens diameter – 15 mm and 35 mm. The other two devices are greatly improved but also come at a higher price.
Hikvision Owl Thermal Monoculars at a Glance
Hikvision has made a proper entry into the world of thermal vision monoculars. The advantage of the tested model is in its performance at 1x magnification – images seen on the display are full of details, and the field of view is wide. This makes it perfect for observations on close distances up to around 70 meters. Hikvision grants a 3-year warranty period on all the models from Owl series. These devices are already available for purchase.