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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Night vision equipment for mortals (2 Viewers)

Thanks to everyone who has posted on this thread. Interesting information, and technology can be fun. My thoughts on the subject after some google searching are below. If anybody has experience or feedback on these ideas let me know.

In sticking with the topic of "equipment for mortals" and a general frugal approach, it seems that using existing equipment as much as possible could be a way to go. I don't need or want to pay for zoom and light-gathering optics or a display. I already have binoculars, a scope, and a smart phone to cover these functionalities. What is actually needed is the detector with good low light / IR / thermal sensitivity that with a little elbow grease, could be compatible with our existing equipment. I'm looking at this as analogous to where digi-scoping was a decade+ ago. As a mere mortal, I'm usually satisfied with my mid-range smartphone and spotting scope, especially if it saves 1,000s if not 10,000s of dollars on camera equipment. Could I be satisfied with "digi-scoping" with an IR sensor also?


Some options with my quick takes:

- A few smartphones such as the google pixel 4 have an NIR imaging sensor that can be accessed through some free apps in the google play store. Not many phones have this option, and it doesn't seem to be a trend to start including an IR imager as a feature. If I had such a phone, I would give it a try. The downside is that digiscoping adapters that work for the normal (vis) phone camera would need to account for the different sensor/lens location

- Phone and "regular" cameras have some sensitivity in the near IR, but they include a filter that reduces transmission in this spectrum. How about taking an old phone or camera (or a new one if you are brave) and removing the filter? This would be especially convenient one already has a scope adapter that works with the equipment. On the down side, I'm not sure how great the sensitivity would be, and this option involves carrying more gear into the field (e.g. your regular camera plus your altered IR camera).

- If you don’t want to implant the above suggestion yourself, this company will apparently do it for your phone and provide their custom software, for a decent markup of course: https://www.eigenimaging.com/collections/frontpagevis). As a frugal mortal, I’m not too excited to pay significant above original retail price for a phone that is a couple generations old. Also I’m more likely to take “normal” that “night-vision” pictures, so I wouldn’t want to impair my go-to camera – the one on my phone. There are IR filters that can be added back on, but to me, it’s not worth the price

- An option for both “night vision” and thermal imaging are the small IR sensors sold for scientific and industrial use. They are often made to be mounted to other equipment, which is convenient. There are a number of vendors offering these, but the potentially suitable ones I came across were either too expensive ($1000+) or did not list a price, which was the case most often. As the saying goes, if I have to ask, they are too expensive for me. If anyone is aware of some cheap options here, please let me know.

- A cheaper and more labor intensive option of the above is to buy board-level or perhaps even focal plane level components and construct your own camera. Beyond the optics and software challenges, building a suitably sturdy package and mount could also take some time, and at least for me, is less fun. We’ll see how stir crazy I go with the pandemic and how busy work keeps me, but I’m considering giving this option a try if I get bored enough this season.

- The final option is buying a consumer grade thermal sensing attachment for smartphones. The two brands that seem to be the best cheap option (sub $1000) are made by Seek Thermal and Flir. They both have a few models in the $250 - $500 that might do the trick. The main question here is how to mount them to your scope or binoculars. This may take a custom holder or perhaps a one-size-fits-all digiscoping adapter could be repurposed.


Thoughts or first hand experience anyone?

Probably not better late than never in this case, but here it goes anyway...

As others have pointed out, my post is short on good ideas (but long on words). I completely forgot that binocular/scope glass has little transmission at thermal wavelengths. Sorry about this.

The part about pixel 4 phones having the capability to take (a limited 640x480) NIR image is true though. Not sure if anybody tried using them with a scope and an IR emitter.
 
Hello fellow birders! I’m looking to buy my first thermal vision monocular to spot local owls and birds in general. I live in a semi-wooded area (vast forests and fields), and it’s very warm and humid here in summer (around 90%). I already narrowed down my choice to Hikmicro Falcon fq 35 and Hikmicro Falcon fq 50. I like the bigger model because it has a 1/3 stop faster lens, but I’m concerned by its relatively narrow FoV of 8.7x7 deg. The 35mm model has a FoV of 12.5x10 deg. What would you guys recommend for my use case? BTW you can’t find Hikmicro in the US. A company called AGM is the only distributor, and all Hikmicro stuff is rebranded as AGM. They offer a 5 year warranty so it’s not bad.

I’m also confused how different manufacturers measure magnification. Pulsar says the Helion 2 xp pro offers 2.5x magnification, which is the same as the Falcon 50 according the official specs sheet. IRL the 50mm Helion has the same FoV as the 35mm Falcon. Apparently it boils down to the sensor size, which is 1.4 times bigger in the Helion (17 vs 12mm pixel pitch). It’s unclear why do they both claim 2.5x if the FoV corresponds to a ~165 and ~235mm FF lens equivalent? Assuming 50mm is the standard ‘1x’, the Helion 50 and the Falcon 35 should have 3.3x magnification, and the Falcon 50 should be around 4.7x.
 
Hello fellow birders! I’m looking to buy my first thermal vision monocular to spot local owls and birds in general. I live in a semi-wooded area (vast forests and fields), and it’s very warm and humid here in summer (around 90%). I already narrowed down my choice to Hikmicro Falcon fq 35 and Hikmicro Falcon fq 50. I like the bigger model because it has a 1/3 stop faster lens, but I’m concerned by its relatively narrow FoV of 8.7x7 deg. The 35mm model has a FoV of 12.5x10 deg. What would you guys recommend for my use case? BTW you can’t find Hikmicro in the US. A company called AGM is the only distributor, and all Hikmicro stuff is rebranded as AGM. They offer a 5 year warranty so it’s not bad.

I’m also confused how different manufacturers measure magnification. Pulsar says the Helion 2 xp pro offers 2.5x magnification, which is the same as the Falcon 50 according the official specs sheet. IRL the 50mm Helion has the same FoV as the 35mm Falcon. Apparently it boils down to the sensor size, which is 1.4 times bigger in the Helion (17 vs 12mm pixel pitch). It’s unclear why do they both claim 2.5x if the FoV corresponds to a ~165 and ~235mm FF lens equivalent? Assuming 50mm is the standard ‘1x’, the Helion 50 and the Falcon 35 should have 3.3x magnification, and the Falcon 50 should be around 4.7x.
I bought a FQ50 recently.
It has a zoom so FOV hasn't been an issue for me.
In terms of finding owls, I've found absolutely nothing (here in the UK). I've been out in woods when it's very dark and nothing. I have come to the conclusion that their feathers are such good insulation, there's very heat loss.
In the UK, every supplier I've spoken to strongly recommended that I go with Hik rather than Pulsar; apparently Pulsar support is slow and arrogant with a much higher number of returns than Hik. There is also a Hik service centre here in the UK so it doesn't need to get sent back to China for repairs; Hik have a turnaround of ~1 week apparently (I've not needed it tho I've only had my device for a couple of months). Things may be different in your part of the world so look into that.
I'd love to see any footage that you get of owls!
 
The magnification depends on the front lens, the sensor and the final display and eyepiece, the magnification will be the size your eye sees compared to without the unit. I’d let the companies tell you the magnification. The zoom will all be digital, so 2x will probably be ok image wise (more so if you have a high res sensor), but worse with higher zoom. I’ve found that looking up into trees often leads to poor contrast settings as the background sky temperature affects things. If you could set the contrast scale around ambient then you might see owls better, I’ve spotter them on the ground, fence posts etc just fine, but never had much luck finding much looking up into trees.

Peter
 
I bought a FQ50 recently.
It has a zoom so FOV hasn't been an issue for me.
In terms of finding owls, I've found absolutely nothing (here in the UK). I've been out in woods when it's very dark and nothing. I have come to the conclusion that their feathers are such good insulation, there's very heat loss.
In the UK, every supplier I've spoken to strongly recommended that I go with Hik rather than Pulsar; apparently Pulsar support is slow and arrogant with a much higher number of returns than Hik. There is also a Hik service centre here in the UK so it doesn't need to get sent back to China for repairs; Hik have a turnaround of ~1 week apparently (I've not needed it tho I've only had my device for a couple of months). Things may be different in your part of the world so look into that.
I'd love to see any footage that you get of owls!

I'd agree. I have a pulsar, and the battery failed. They weren't interested as it was out of 1 year warranty, by a couple of months. Not that it had been used exhaustively in that year, but they weren't interested.
Buy another battery (£50) was their response.

Owls against woodland or ground show up fine, not so well against sky as posted above.
 
Buy another battery (£50) was their response.

FWIW (and I know this is just a specific example), the Hik uses a standard 18650 battery rather than a battery pack. I picked up a couple of spare batteries (the FQ50 comes with 2 but eats them pretty quickly when tethered to phone) for ~£8 from a high street store.
 
FWIW (and I know this is just a specific example), the Hik uses a standard 18650 battery rather than a battery pack. I picked up a couple of spare batteries (the FQ50 comes with 2 but eats them pretty quickly when tethered to phone) for ~£8 from a high street store.
yes, that's a big advantage having generic over the custom batteries.

The Pulsar I have can be used, and the battery simultaneously charged, from a USB powerbank which is useful
 
I bought a FQ50 recently.
It has a zoom so FOV hasn't been an issue for me.
In terms of finding owls, I've found absolutely nothing (here in the UK). I've been out in woods when it's very dark and nothing. I have come to the conclusion that their feathers are such good insulation, there's very heat loss.
In the UK, every supplier I've spoken to strongly recommended that I go with Hik rather than Pulsar; apparently Pulsar support is slow and arrogant with a much higher number of returns than Hik. There is also a Hik service centre here in the UK so it doesn't need to get sent back to China for repairs; Hik have a turnaround of ~1 week apparently (I've not needed it tho I've only had my device for a couple of months). Things may be different in your part of the world so look into that.
I'd love to see any footage that you get of owls!
I was mostly worried if FoV is on the narrower side for this model. Digital zoom would make it even more narrow, but if you're saying it's not a problem - that's great news for me because I kinda like the f/0.9 lens. I ordered it. Hopefully I'll have it on Tuesday.

I've seen an owl by my house once. The bird flew over my head towards the forest. If I don't find anything this summer because of leaves and vegetation - I'm going to wait till winter. I would love to take a picture or shoot a video with my normal camera but that's just dreams, dreams... :)
I found this video when I was looking for some Hik reviews / user feedback (in the UK):
- the owl seems recognizable. I'll definitely report back when I spot something!

The magnification depends on the front lens, the sensor and the final display and eyepiece, the magnification will be the size your eye sees compared to without the unit. I’d let the companies tell you the magnification. The zoom will all be digital, so 2x will probably be ok image wise (more so if you have a high res sensor), but worse with higher zoom. I’ve found that looking up into trees often leads to poor contrast settings as the background sky temperature affects things. If you could set the contrast scale around ambient then you might see owls better, I’ve spotter them on the ground, fence posts etc just fine, but never had much luck finding much looking up into trees.

Peter
It makes sense. Apparently the Hik eye piece is 0.71x or something like that.

I found this manual https://www.agmglobalvision.com/ima...f-doc/1673873914_AGM_Sidewinder_Manual_v2.pdf (it is the FQ 50 sold in the US) and it mentions two scene modes. I'm particularly interested in the "Jungle mode is more suitable for hunting environment because of the highlight function of small objects". I'm wondering if it would help in my case. I also hope there is an option to disable sharpening ("Image Boost"?). All videos I've seen so far show a clear halo/outline around warm objects. I think it's caused by excessive sharpening (convolution matrix).
 
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I'm back! I received the device and went looking for my owl yesterday. In about 20 min I heard some calls and found the owl by our local creek. Took a few pics and shot a short video. I decided not to bother the owl any further and walked back home. Now I'm thinking of getting a cheap camera and converting it to full spectrum. I want to take a better quality picture with an IR illuminator. I read here Respectful owl photography and observation that IR does not disturb owls.

The FQ50 works pretty good. Its FoV is good enough for everything. Not too wide (I can see all details in the "Recognition" mode) and not too narrow. I had to engage 2x digital zoom for those shots, so it's like a 570mm FF equivalent. The monocular was in the "Jungle mode", not much details, but I'm still very happy :)
 

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It'll be my 3rd consecutive post :) I don't want to flood, but I just wanted to say this thing is awesome. Today my wife and I found Carolina Wren fledglings. They were hiding in random bushes. I knew their approximate location by their sounds, but there's no way in the world I could see them. I've been searching for them high and low with zero luck until I decided to employ this thing. The fledglings were found in no time. They are so tiny, I had to utilize a teleconverter on my normal optics so they could properly fill the frame. I posted their pics in the Gallery.
 
I stumbled across the FQ50 recently and being a Hikmicro owner (Lynx L15) I'm tempted by the FQ50 as an upgrade. The price puts me off but the more I read/see, the more tempting it looks.
 
I'm back! I received the device and went looking for my owl yesterday. In about 20 min I heard some calls and found the owl by our local creek. Took a few pics and shot a short video. I decided not to bother the owl any further and walked back home. Now I'm thinking of getting a cheap camera and converting it to full spectrum. I want to take a better quality picture with an IR illuminator. I read here Respectful owl photography and observation that IR does not disturb owls.

The FQ50 works pretty good. Its FoV is good enough for everything. Not too wide (I can see all details in the "Recognition" mode) and not too narrow. I had to engage 2x digital zoom for those shots, so it's like a 570mm FF equivalent. The monocular was in the "Jungle mode", not much details, but I'm still very happy :)
I can confirm that's an owl. :)

Good job. I've got 3 baby tawny owls in the surrounding gardens, I've not found them with my FQ50 yet. I saw them clearly in daylight a few days ago but I didn't think to use the TI camera on them to see how they look in that.
 
Apparently IR is basically impossible to buy in Brazil. I have been asked by a naturalist to sell him mine! Possibly smuggling IR to Brazil could be a viable way or funding birding travels :)
 
I have a phone which happens to have a thermal camera built in (Flir lepton).
It's not at all good for birds or small animals, compared to a handheld dedicated monocular.
A shame as the display is an augmented reality, so seeing where the hotspots are is very easy.
 
I have a phone which happens to have a thermal camera built in (Flir lepton).
It's not at all good for birds or small animals, compared to a handheld dedicated monocular.
A shame as the display is an augmented reality, so seeing where the hotspots are is very easy.
But in fairness Peter, it's probably a damn sight cheaper than a lot of the thermal cameras people are discussing on here. I reckon you just need to find its niche.
 
But in fairness Peter, it's probably a damn sight cheaper than a lot of the thermal cameras people are discussing on here. I reckon you just need to find its niche.
Yes, we've often discussed on here, how cheap you can go for good "detection".

I have a £1000 model, and it is excellent for determining if there is something hiding in the cover.
There are cheaper units that might also work.
But the phone unit, whilst very good for detecting heat in buildings etc, isn't suitable at all for smaller wildlife.
 
There are two main markets for thermal imaging and they have very different requirements.

The engineering market; heating engineers looking for leaks, electronic engineers looking for hotspots on circuit boards etc. These don't need magnification but they do need configurability and they need to see actual temperatures.

The observation market; the military looking for targets, hunters looking for quarry etc. They don't need much configurability but they do need magnification and field of view.

Thermal cameras on phones are very much aimed at the engineering market. All you need is the sensor, the screen and the processing unit is built into the phone. Observation thermals need much bigger lenses hence the price difference. An observation camera with the same thermal performance will cost 10x that of a similar engineering camera.
 
There are two main markets for thermal imaging and they have very different requirements.

The engineering market; heating engineers looking for leaks, electronic engineers looking for hotspots on circuit boards etc. These don't need magnification but they do need configurability and they need to see actual temperatures.

The observation market; the military looking for targets, hunters looking for quarry etc. They don't need much configurability but they do need magnification and field of view.

Thermal cameras on phones are very much aimed at the engineering market. All you need is the sensor, the screen and the processing unit is built into the phone. Observation thermals need much bigger lenses hence the price difference. An observation camera with the same thermal performance will cost 10x that of a similar engineering camera.
yes, just mentioning it as the advertising for the phone thermal camera clearly says you can use it for wildlife watching, hunting etc.
So just mentioning it in case anyone is "deceived" by this.
 

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