Pulsar is one of the leading manufacturers of night vision and thermal optics. They work to remain ahead of the competition by constantly updating their devices. Pulsar optics are known for affordable prices and impressive quality. They never disappoint at Shot Show or IWA – constantly presenting something fresh and new is one of the cornerstones of the company.
Thermal imaging devices detect heat, which is why they can be used during the day or night in all weather conditions. In contrast to analog and digital night vision devices, they are of use even in rain and fog. At night and during the colder parts of the year, the colour contrasts are even better thanks to the temperature difference between the animals and the environment.
In 2019, Pulsar presented their brand new Axion thermal monoculars to the public. These impressively compact devices succeeded the Quantum Lite series. The latter were Pulsar’s most affordable thermal devices until the introduction of Axion (they cost around 1500 €). With Axion, Pulsar took a giant step into the future of thermal optics – Axion is much smaller than Quantum Lite, better-made; with a better image quality and some other tempting features that we shall describe below. Before we shed light on the feature of this all-new series, we will devote some attention to its development since much has happened since their release. First, three devices were introduced – Axion XM30, Axion XM38, and Axion Key XM30. The latter was the most affordable with the price tag of around 1400 € but it lacked some function such as the capability of capturing photos & recording videos (the differences between the models are explained in detail below). Even though there was a great demand for all the models, Pulsar shared some shocking news with the public – XM30 and XM38 were discontinued because of difficulties with the supply of screens. Key XM22, the most affordable of the Axion series, was introduced to the public. It was not until February 2020 that Pulsar announced the release of the XM30S model which was about to succeed the discontinued XM models. At the time of the writing of this article there are three Axion models in Pulsar’s offer – Key XM22, Key XM30 and XM30S.
The common characteristics of the Axion series
Axion devices are made of magnesium, which is a giant step forward from the plastic housing used for Quantum Lite devices. The device is thus sturdier and more robust. The compactness is one of its major pluses as one can easily store the device in a pocket. They are exceptionally light at 250 grams. Axion series is ergonomically designed – the hand grasps the chassis nicely, regardless of whether you are right- or left-handed. The resolution of the sensor is 320×240 – there are fewer pixels on the screen than with Quantum Lite devices. Nevertheless, the image on Axion devices is better which we can attribute to improved display resolution, advanced software and smaller pixels (12 µm instead of 17 µm). Because of all the listed upgrades, more details can be observed when compared to Quantum Lite. Once the ON/OFF button is pressed, the device powers up in around 3 seconds, which amazingly quick. It takes around 10 seconds for the devices made by the competition (most of them) to power up. There are three calibration modes available – automatic, semi-automatic and manual, same as with Helion devices. The user can choose between 8 colour modes. One can choose a ‘Picture-in-Picture mode’ where only a certain part of the image is magnified. The magnified share of the image is displayed in the upper part of the display. The refresh rate is 50 Hz (50 images per second) which is especially noticeable when observing a moving animal as the image will be fluent and without flickering. They are waterproof, so we can use them in the rain without having to worry about potential damage.
Axion is powered by the all-new APS3 battery. This slender battery which provides around 4 hours of operation is inserted into the battery compartment located at the lower part of the device. If we tend to stay in the field for longer, it is recommendable to buy another battery. The battery can be changed in a matter of seconds, which is superb, especially if we look at the competitive devices which mostly come with an integrated, unremovable battery.
It is important to note that Axion devices perform amazingly in all weather conditions, including rain and fog, which is a characteristic of all thermal imaging devices. This is one of their main advantages over analog and digital night vision optics. Furthermore, they can be used for observations both during the day and night, whereas analog night vision optics can sustain considerable sensor damage when powered on during daylight.
The differences among Axion models currently in production (May, 2020)
Even though Axion Key models are less advanced than standard Axion models, they meet the demands of most hunters. How do Key devices differ from the other ones in Pulsar’s offer? The first difference is that one cannot capture images & record videos with them. Furthermore, they lack Wi-fi connectivity, meaning that it is impossible to connect them to the Stream Vision smartphone app. On the other hand, XM30S boasts 16 Gb of internal memory. One of the latest updates brought voice recording about, which was a major step forward. Key devices are equipped with a display of the LCOS type, whereas the standard models feature an AMOLED HD display. The latter provides an image of higher quality and can withstand lower temperatures all the way to –25 °C (LCOS displays can handle temperatures as low as –10 °C). The Key series has chalcogenide lenses, while XM30S’s lenses are made of germanium. You get a battery charger with two battery slots with the XM30S. With Key devices it is not included, so unless you buy it extra you will have to charge the battery while inserted into the device with the supplied MicroUSB-cable. The devices differ in the magnification range. Key XM22 starts at 2x, Key XM30 at 2.5x, and XM30S at 4.5x. All come with a 4x digital zoom.
Apart from the magnification range, Key XM22 and Key XM30 also differ in the size of the objective lens. They are equipped with a lens that measures 22 and 30 mm in diameter, respectively. For this reason, Key XM22 offers a greater field of view. As it is meant for close-range observations it lacks the focusing ring which is typically located next to the objective lens. Key XM 22 can detect heat up to 950 m away, whereas Key XM30 can detect heat up to 1200 m away.
Is the new XM30S any different than the discontinued XM30 model (XM38 has not yet received a successor as of May 2020)? Yes, it is. The first difference is in the display. The newly introduced XM30S has a slightly bigger display, which is why the starting magnification is no longer 4x but 4.5x. The second difference has to do with the sensor. XM30S is equipped with an upgraded sensor, resulting in an image with less noise. The heat detection capability remains the same, 1300 m.
To identify the observed game accordingly, it must be at a distance up to 300 m. The maximum distance at which the object can be identified depends on the model and the weather conditions. The antlers can be seen up to 150 m away.
Let us take a look at the prices. Key XM22 costs around 1000 € which is incredibly affordable for a thermal imaging device at this level of quality. The other two models also boast a competitive price considering what they offer – For Key XM30, you will spend around 1300 €, while XM30S will cost you 1700 €.
If you are looking for a thermal imaging monocular at an affordable price, Axion will not leave you indifferent. The information above will help you choose the right model for your needs. Axion can accompany you on every hunt thanks to its small size – you can store it in a pocket any time you like. In this price class, it is difficult to find a thermal imaging device of higher quality. You get a 3-year warranty when you purchase it, and Pulsar will repair it even after this period expires.