For those of you that have not had the chance of testing a thermal imaging camera before, do it!
It’s totally worth it. One word of caution though, what is true for selecting a new TV goes even for thermal imaging cameras, don’t start with the biggest/best/most expensive one, otherwise the smaller models will just look bleak.
I had the opportunity of testing four different quality (and price) levels of BlakNite Optics’ Falk series, therefore most of my references and examples will be from these cameras.
What’s the big difference between thermal imaging and night vision?
Night vision depends on ambient low light, or a near IR (infra-red) coming from an extra lamp, which then is enhanced into a decent picture.
Thermal imaging does not depend on any reflected light, it works on emitted heat signature which is basically invisible pure IR.
The difference is quite visible:
- Long range – identifying animals at 600m+ range is not very hard for a thermal imaging device, while night vision depends on reflection (think pointing a flashlight at a 600m target)
- Mist – while light has a very hard time penetrating mist, IR signatures often have not.
- In rain on the other hand, picture quality can suffer. Rain also has the unwanted effect that temperatures seem to equalize, which makes background contrasts less sharp, in comparison to a cold dry winter night. Animals on the other hand always stick out.
- Zeroing – this is more of a hassle for thermal imaging sights, since you need a heat difference on your target paper. A handwarmer pad or something frozen will do just fine, but on many electronic shooting ranges this can be a problem.
- Last but not least Hollywood is lying to you… you can not see through walls, and surprisingly not even glass windows. So scouting with your car means – windows down.
Why does for example the Swedish Hunting Association put special regulations on Thermal Imaging compared to night vision?
„… Above all, a thermal sight works in the way that the animal’s heat signature is reflected and gives a two-dimensional image. This means that it is not always possible to see what is in front of or behind the animal when it comes to twigs, vegetation and solid ground and therefore safe shots cannot be ensured. The image generated by the conversion of heat can also be diffuse and due to the two-dimensional image, distance estimation is problematic. …”Original
Honestly, I’m not sure if they knew what they were talking about.
Basically, they wanted to disqualify thermal imaging sights because they:
- only give two dimensional pictures
- don’t show twigs, vegetation and solid ground
- and the image is diffuse/not sharp which gives you problems with distance estimation
Luckily the government had a cooler head and only decided on a limitation of use, which basically is no big limitation at all when it comes to wild boar hunting with thermal imaging in Sweden.
What you see in videos and pictures is NOT what you get in the product!
What you get is way better, and this was also a big surprise to me.
But when you look at the technology, it makes total sense.
If you take the Falk35+ and the Falk35+max for example.
Both have a 1280×960 pixel display, but the sensor for the 35+ has only 384×288 pixels whereas the 35+max has a 640×480 pixel sensor. This has a direct impact on your field of view, and the smaller sensor gives you the feeling of a zoom factor, although the target is the same size.
The display pixels do not matter when you take pictures or films with the camera, and the video output options can never get better resolution than your sensor. But for the viewing experience in the field, a high pixel display gives just a much sharper impression.
One thing you have to remember though is, that the 640×480 picture is not projected on a computer screen, but on a small 1,5×1,5 cm micro HD screen directly in front of your eye.
Therefore, the images you see in the device are much sharper than any picture shown in films or photos.
Bigger = better?
I was convinced bigger is better…
I tested the device from the smallest and cheapest Falk 13 up to the quite expensive Falk 50+max.
Like I said in the beginning, it’s like buying a TV, the” big one” spoils you for the rest.
BUT then I forgot to charge the big one and wanted to go fox hunting, so I went out with the little Falk13 again. What a pleasant surprise that was! Image quality is not as great, but weight is low, it’s small and fits into every pocket and field of view was ok.
- Thermal imaging gives you the best support for a safe and ethic hunt
- There is a wide range of models and prices, but there is probably the right one for you
- Once you have it, you will not give it back