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Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?

  
 
mitesh
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p.2 #1 · p.2 #1 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


nmerc_photos wrote:
Hello Mitesh,

Based on my running spreadsheet, the iRay MH-25 looks to be a top contender. One of the best optics that isn't discontinued. (attached)

I would still probably want something a bit wider (even with my XP28 I find myself scanning in portrait mode to get the most vertical FOV)! but it will certainly be good


Much appreciated, Nick! Thanks for the effort you've put into searching for the best options and sharing them. Thermal imaging devices are quite expensive and not readily available in most places to simply try out, so any first-hand testimonials can be helpful. I will try to contribute my impressions of the MH25 once I receive it and have a chance to use it as you have.



Jan 28, 2024 at 04:06 PM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #2 · p.2 #2 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


mitesh wrote:
Much appreciated, Nick! Thanks for the effort you've put into searching for the best options and sharing them. Thermal imaging devices are quite expensive and not readily available in most places to simply try out, so any first-hand testimonials can be helpful. I will try to contribute my impressions of the MH25 once I receive it and have a chance to use it as you have.


Hello Mitesh,

No worries! I am finding a lot of joy in being one of the first "testers" of this cutting edge tech as it relates to birding.

Evidently people have been using it for decades for hunting large mammals, but it is not yet mainstream for birders and photographers.

I think in the next 5-10 years that will change drastically. Once the technology becomes more affordable, people will never go out looking for wildlife without one. Thermals are that much of a game changer.

If I could find an effective unit under $1K USD, I'm certain I could sell it to every single wildlife photographer I know.

I think if I could find one under $2K USD, I could probably sell it to about half of the wildlife photographers I know.

Heck, I just took a buddy for his first outing, and he went and dropped $1500 USD on one the same night. Once he goes out, I will get to compare it and add that to my list.

these 3 highlighted units are the two I own, and the new XQ35 PRO that my friend has purchased

we will try to get to the bottom of what specs are most important for birders, and why... all these models and specs are very confusing

FOV
NETD
Pixel Pitch
Base Magnification
Sensor Resolution
Display Resolution

from my limited testing so far.. I would say FOV > NETD > Sensor Resolution > Display Resolution > Pixel Pitch > Base Magnification. But it is difficult because many of these variables play together... Pixel Pitch and Sensor Resolution both directly affect Base Magnification and FOV for example..







Jan 28, 2024 at 07:42 PM
Imagemaster
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p.2 #3 · p.2 #3 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Good luck with your project. I would guess that 99.9% of wildlife photographers will not be interested in wandering around in the dark to find wildlife to photograph. Any photos they would get would be far inferior to the daylight photos already captured. JMO


Jan 28, 2024 at 09:31 PM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #4 · p.2 #4 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Imagemaster wrote:
Good luck with your project. I would guess that 99.9% of wildlife photographers will not be interested in wandering around in the dark to find wildlife to photograph. Any photos they would get would be far inferior to the daylight photos already captured. JMO


I suspect you either haven't read the majority of the thread, or know very little about the technology

initially I started with thermal and then opened the discussion for night vision, but this thread is mostly about thermal tech

thermal scanners are perhaps the best monetary investment a wildlife photographer can make. it eliminates any chance of missing a subject while out exploring.

thermal can be used effectively regardless of day or night

I agree, night vision has little value for a photographer

Edited on Jan 28, 2024 at 10:48 PM · View previous versions



Jan 28, 2024 at 10:40 PM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #5 · p.2 #5 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


back on to topic, I've continued down the rabbit hole of specs and brand options. my spreadsheet has grown a bit.

if anyone has any other models they'd like to suggest - please do so

the 3 highlighted ones are either ones I own, or the one my buddy purchased that I will be testing soon

I'm still sorting by FOV, as I think it is the most important aspect - but I may try to build a formula that takes into account FOV, price, NETD, etc. to determine "best value"







Jan 28, 2024 at 10:44 PM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #6 · p.2 #6 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


and at least on paper, these are the ones I think seem the best value for birders

pretty much any optic with a FOV wider than 15 deg horizontal should be a good option. then it's just a matter of pick your NETD, sensor size, and budget







Jan 28, 2024 at 11:18 PM
Imagemaster
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p.2 #7 · p.2 #7 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


nmerc_photos wrote:
I suspect you either haven't read the majority of the thread, or know very little about the technology

initially I started with thermal and then opened the discussion for night vision, but this thread is mostly about thermal tech

thermal scanners are perhaps the best monetary investment a wildlife photographer can make. it eliminates any chance of missing a subject while out exploring.

thermal can be used effectively regardless of day or night

I agree, night vision has little value for a photographer


I read the whole thread and know about the technology. The best monetary investment a wildlife photographer can make is in cameras and lenses. Over 99% of wildlife photographers, both amateur and professional, do not use thermal scanners to locate their subjects. They prefer to use their own senses. And they don't want to use thermal scanners mounted on drones either.

Some of us enjoy using our natural abilities to locate wildlife rather than relying on technological gizmos.






Jan 28, 2024 at 11:33 PM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #8 · p.2 #8 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Imagemaster wrote:
I read the whole thread and know about the technology. The best monetary investment a wildlife photographer can make is in cameras and lenses. Over 99% of wildlife photographers, both amateur and professional, do not use thermal scanners to locate their subjects. They prefer to use their own senses. And they don't want to use thermal scanners mounted on drones either.

Some of us enjoy using our natural abilities to locate wildlife rather than relying on technological gizmos.

it is interesting that the same people who claim to enjoy using their natural abilities instead of relying on technological gizmos, do so selectively for their own benefit. computer? perfect. mirrorless camera? couldn't go without it. denoise program? apply it to every photo.

everything is just another tool in the quiver.

it won't be long before every wildlife photographer's kit includes a thermal unit even if you won't be around to see it happen



Jan 29, 2024 at 12:23 AM
Imagemaster
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p.2 #9 · p.2 #9 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


nmerc_photos wrote:
it is interesting that the same people who claim to enjoy using their natural abilities instead of relying on technological gizmos, do so selectively for their own benefit. computer? perfect. mirrorless camera? couldn't go without it. denoise program? apply it to every photo.


Maybe try reading what I wrote. I said natural ability to locate the wildlife, not what you do after photographing it.

it won't be long before every wildlife photographer's kit includes a thermal unit even if you won't be around to see it happen

Then I guess you should invest all your money in thermal technology stocks. And you could just chase down your wildlife using a drone with thermal technology and a camera.




Jan 29, 2024 at 01:14 AM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #10 · p.2 #10 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


a friend of mine got his iRay ZH38 the other day and these are his initial impressions:

"Ok, first night under my belt with the ZH-38. It was a lot to take in at first as I got accustomed to how one of these thermals functions, but eventually I set out on a night walk to try and see what I could find in the patches of woods around the neighborhood.

First off, the optical zoom is a dang useful function, being able to go wide to scan, and then zoom in for a larger image to ID. 38mm, which I think is the equivalent of the XPF 50/Axiom units is a decent length for scanning a tree line from a distance, but I've yet to actually take it into the woods.

Scared off a feral cat from sneaking into my property, which was totally satisfying, as they've been marking stuff on my front porch.

The unit has 5 palettes:

- highlight (which is just a different take on white hot)
- white hot
- black hot
- red hot
- color

So far, I'm finding either white hot or red hot to be ideal for scanning at night. Found a few rabbits bouncing around, and the aforementioned feral cats. No owls as yet though.

Questions/concerns:

1) when scanning tree lines, if I point up higher and include some of the sky, the trees start to glow hot. Is this normal? Maybe it's due to the massive temp difference of the open atmosphere and trees, so it's attempting to display the difference?

2) out of range/far distant landscape objects (trees, hills that are beyond the scan limit) all glow hot. Is this normal?

3) this thing is straight out of China, and so you get the typical badly translated guides, but also some fairly unrefined interfaces. Build quality seems hefty and solid, though a couple of things are annoying: I'm left-eye dominant, and I can't flip the eye shade around to the opposite side. The battery close/lock doesn't secure tightly enough, so the little lock ring will jingle a bit. I wish Pulsar had made this unit, honestly.

4) firmware: their website says there is a much newer firmware available, but the Infiray App doesn't seem to think there is. Documentation is limited, so I may have to contact support and see how to go about it; again, it's not well translated.

Aside from those few niggles, I think it's a unit that will tremendously aid in finding stuff. Hoping to take it out sometime this weekend to an area that has Saw-whet Owls and finally get a shot of one of those!"



Feb 01, 2024 at 12:31 PM
 


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nmerc_photos
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p.2 #11 · p.2 #11 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


I was finally able to sell my Telos XP50 LRF today for $1400 cash + an old discontinued Helion XP50.

I'll hopefully be able to find another 28mm lens, and then have two Helion XP28s, but it may take some time.

here's a video that I made regarding the three thermals I owned, when I had them

https://youtu.be/b2UySgL3c7I



Feb 03, 2024 at 02:20 PM
mitesh
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p.2 #12 · p.2 #12 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Finally received my MH25. Looking forward to getting out with it sometime next week.







Feb 09, 2024 at 11:05 PM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #13 · p.2 #13 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


mitesh wrote:
Finally received my MH25. Looking forward to getting out with it sometime next week.


you'll have to let us know how it goes!

my new strategy with the thermals is often get to a spot well before sunrise, and just walk around locating my target and then wait for the sun to come up

I think it would be helpful to have a helmet mounted NV setup to make it a little safer to be wandering the woods with $20k worth of camera gear in my arms...



Feb 09, 2024 at 11:19 PM
NP3Photo
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p.2 #14 · p.2 #14 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


How has your MH25 been working out? I am in the market... maybe looking at ML19 for value reasons.


Mar 02, 2024 at 01:16 AM
Phil Seu
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p.2 #15 · p.2 #15 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Very interesting topic. Any more user experiences or insights into products?


Mar 22, 2024 at 07:55 AM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #16 · p.2 #16 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Phil Seu wrote:
Very interesting topic. Any more user experiences or insights into products?


Everyday I get more impressed with this thermal technology. I will never go out looking for wildlife again without it.

In a decade of going on walks and looking for owls, I would come up empty handed a majority of the time. Since I got my Pulsar XP28, I haven't had a single dry outing. I've found so many owls, and owl nesting cavities that it is wild.

It was also invaluable in the Sax Zim Bog, and I think it's really going to shine in Yellowstone later this year.

The older Pulsars are difficult to find, but worth every penny over the new narrower FOV thermals.

here's a video I made comparing 3 of the thermals I've owned:

https://youtu.be/b2UySgL3c7I

I'm still looking for the cheapest, good performance thermal - which I expect will end up with one of the AGM models around $1000 USD. If you have $2000 USD to spend, picking up a used Pulsar Helion XP28 or XP38 is your best bet. As of today, 03/22/2024 there are two listed on eBay.

the view looks much better in the thermal, but here are a couple examples of screech owls in cavities and then the pics that resulted











  NIKON Z 9    NIKKOR Z 600mm f/6.3 VR S lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/160s    6400 ISO    0.0 EV  











  NIKON Z 9    NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens    400mm    f/2.8    1/50s    2500 ISO    0.0 EV  











  NIKON Z 9    NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens    560mm    f/4.0    1/200s    6400 ISO    0.0 EV  




Mar 22, 2024 at 08:46 AM
nmerc_photos
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p.2 #17 · p.2 #17 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


also I'm still trying to figure out the best way to carry the thermal with gear

if you're using small lenses (70-200 f2.8, 300 f2.8, 400 4.5, 600 6.3) the cotton carrier system works great. I put the lens foot in the main slot, and the thermal on my side

but with the bigger primes like my 400TC for example, I have been wearing a cotton carrier just for holding the thermal, and then slinging the camera across my body with a peak design sling

if anyone has better ideas, I'd love to hear it







Mar 22, 2024 at 09:10 AM
The Rat
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p.2 #18 · p.2 #18 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


That is some good user data! Especially impressive that it's made your outings so much more productive.


Mar 22, 2024 at 09:49 AM
Phil Seu
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p.2 #19 · p.2 #19 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


mitesh wrote:
Finally received my MH25. Looking forward to getting out with it sometime next week.


Any reports on the MH 25? I am still looking at these products and finding it very difficult to sort out the specs.



Apr 13, 2024 at 08:47 AM
tsunathanh
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p.2 #20 · p.2 #20 · Thermal Imaging / Night Vision for Birdwatching?


Have you looked at the Zeiss DTI line? They look to have some wider angle stuff Id be curious of your thoughts


Apr 21, 2024 at 05:34 PM
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