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Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts #7833618 05/08/20 04:51 PM
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Over the last 3 weeks a new Pulsar thermal riflescope has come to America that quietly represents the theoretical sweet-spot for magnification, sensor design, resolution, and features.

Best part about it : despite increased import costs, pandemic, and short supply the cost isn’t up or down but rather remains a VERY reasonable $ 3799.

A quick bit of history with my experience woven in :

Pulsar brought thermal into their product lineup around 2015 - I watched for the first year from the sidelines mostly because of cost reasons but the early 25 micron APEX scopes seemed to offer civilians and night hunters with a very solid scope for the dollar. Quickly the market embraced the thermal advantage and advent of picture-in-picture and solid product support by Sellmark when issues arose.

Round about 2016 I couldn’t watch from the sidelines any longer and I went all in on the 17 micron version of the APEX. There was more being added to the features in terms of lens size variations and laser range finding (LRF) models and I recall having been disappointed that the 75mm version of the 25 micron APEX wasn’t being offered with the latest core update - that 75mm / 25 micron APEX was 3.0x magnification which I really enjoyed using during my stint as a Pulsar Prostaffer.

So from 2016-19 I used my APEX XQ50 and it killed well and often. The downsides to it from my standpoint was the lack of onboard recording and the native 2.7x zoom when making shots at 150+ yards on smaller hogs and coyotes. The positive aspects were the entry cost ($3400) and dependability / durability of the scope itself / aftermarket options for external battery use and more rigid and repeatable mounts.

All the while, FLIR launched two series of scopes, Armasight sold out , ATN diluted their quality and customer service, IR hunter sold out, Trijicon did what they do best and set the bar high ($$$) and N-Vision, AGM Global Vision and Bering Optics joined in with thermal products. Pulsar launched Trails , Thermions, two proprietary battery pack systems , various cores and features and introduced onboard recording.

As a former Pro Staffer and hunter who continues enjoying the sport and technology advances I didn’t ever let go of my 17 micron APEX - trust me there were times when I tried convincing myself that it was time and worth the cost of upgrading but each time I tested and evaluated the newest products I was either left wanting more in terms of image refinement , or base magnification , and suitable functionality or I was unable to save my pennies for the higher dollar units.

In the 3 years with my APEX XQ50 I tried out other scopes that would lose focus when shooting, turn off when fired on heavy recoil calibers (308) , had battery systems that got super hot (heat and electrics are not friends), had screens melting due to sunlight intrusion through the viewfinder, had proprietary video connections that were not suitable for extended field use, had no focus capability and the infinity focus wasn’t well refined, Recorded video/sound glitches and/or poor quality video output, mounting systems which were woefully under designed for repeatability and consistency, view screens that dropped pixels on lighter recoil rifles, here today gone tomorrow customer support - all these issues were across all companies previously mentioned and it was disheartening to think that my aging APEX didn’t have a suitable (in my opinion) successor.

In late 2019 I sold my APEX to a very good friend and bought a Bering Optics Hogster 35mm and while the cost of the Bering is VERY attractive for the value of the product I was still not seeing image refinement specifically in the picture in picture image or digital zoom range that bested my APEX. There is much pixelation with the Bering but the overall image at its base magnification of 2.0x did look better than the APEX so I was happy for a time.

Currently:

I do recommend the Hogster-R for $ 3000 or less because it checks enough boxes for its price point and hunts well inside of 150 yards.

I still don’t have the funds to spring for 2-3 year old Trijicon MK systems or 1-2 year old N-Vision BAE core systems.

SHOT SHOW came and went with no major immediately available new options or significant advances.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of the pulsar firmware enhancement for existing trail/thermion thermals.

BUT May 2020 I detectEd chatter on the comms (kuddos to Jason with Outdoor Legacy and company (Chester cupp and hansETX) as they shared that Pulsar had a new model coming in - a 384 res - 17 micron - XQ50 Thermion with a base magnification of 3.5x , ability to accept external battery for extended hunting sessions, a new updated thermal core with suitable video output quality and onboard recording including sound, a high recoil capability and still backed by the best customer service (Sellmark) in the continental US...

Could this be the product that finally makes relinquishing my APEX more acceptable and satisfies all my wants for $ 3799...

I don’t know - but mine arrives today (almost impossible to acquire right now) and I intend to provide an initial review and hunting videos here to share with the night hunting community.

I honestly haven’t been this excited about a product for some time - Feel free to add you own thoughts and experiences about the XQ50 in this thread and Happy Hunting!

Last edited by Pig_Popper; 05/08/20 06:51 PM.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7833920 05/08/20 10:02 PM
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Anxious to see some video and hear your thoughts PP

Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7834207 05/09/20 05:32 AM
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I’m impatiently waiting for my Trail II to arrive


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7834359 05/09/20 02:36 PM
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The XQ50 looks really good. Here is a comparison between the Thermion XM50, XQ50, and XP50.



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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7834502 05/09/20 05:23 PM
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Here is a video of the menu and features for the XQ50 - NOTE THE AUDIO DROPOUTS (Not real happy about that) hopefully this gets remedied quick in a firmware patch.



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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7836412 05/11/20 09:42 PM
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PigPopper, thank you very much for the kind words and shout out. Hans, Col. Cupp and I all appreciate it.

That's a great write up and explanation of the evolution of your thermal hunting. I believe your wait for the Thermion XQ50 will have been well worth it. The image quality I've seen out of it has been VERY good and definitively a step up from the XM models. I think the XM is an example of 12 microns no automatically equaling better image quality, since there are so many other factors at play. I also think Pulsar has shown everyone that the firmware has a giant amount to do with the image quality because their 4.0 firmware gave everything a very big image quality boost, even the older model Trail and Helions. I believe this update to the new XQ sensor is also an example of how the right 17 micron core can look better than a similar 12 micron core.

We've been posting some videos out of the XQ50 on social media and when I get them uploaded to YouTube I'll post them over here as well.

Keep up the great work PP, I can't wait to see how you like the Thermion.


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7838669 05/13/20 09:59 PM
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I didn't have any audio dropouts - seems like audio sort of moderates itself (variable gain) - either way its better than nothing but it goes from soft to loud quickly which makes editing a chore.

I did have 1 corrupted video file - thankfully it wasn't the range or hunting footage but rather just a random scanning of the scenery.

Had a good hunt with Double Naught Spy - He should have a video coming out that shows the Thermion XQ50 and Trijicon video side by side. Conditions were rough in terms of getting quality images.

Last edited by Pig_Popper; 05/13/20 11:41 PM.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7839031 05/14/20 03:44 AM
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Great video PigPopper, nice shooting!

One note on corrupted videos, (and I'm not saying you did this) but users have to be 100% sure the video is stopped before turning the scope off. I get a fair amount of calls from my new Pulsar owners about corrupted videos and in almost every case, it turns out the culprit is that the video was not successfully stopped before the scope was turned off. If the video is recording or paused and the scope loses power/is turned off the video file is corrupted. Again, not saying that your issue but if other people have that problem, that's the first thing to be sure to do on the next hunt.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Outdoor Legacy] #7839040 05/14/20 03:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Outdoor Legacy
Great video PigPopper, nice shooting!

One note on corrupted videos, (and I'm not saying you did this) but users have to be 100% sure the video is stopped before turning the scope off. I get a fair amount of calls from my new Pulsar owners about corrupted videos and in almost every case, it turns out the culprit is that the video was not successfully stopped before the scope was turned off. If the video is recording or paused and the scope loses power/is turned off the video file is corrupted. Again, not saying that your issue but if other people have that problem, that's the first thing to be sure to do on the next hunt.

Jason


Good to know - I’m not above making errors so I’ll be a little more aware on this and keep y’all updated if it solves the issue.


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7841301 05/16/20 01:35 PM
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Nice write up, thanks. What is the base magnification? Those hogs at 50-60 yards looked farther than that to me.

Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Ramhorn] #7841378 05/16/20 02:54 PM
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Base magnification : 3.5x

I had another corrupt video file yesterday - I took the advice and made sure the recording was complete before powering off....

The scope is focus fussy - i have to fiddle with the focus ring at various distances to get a sharp image and the focus sweet spot is very small given the travel of the focus ring.

The audio is not quality in the field , can’t hear what I’m saying and then BOOM (shots fired). Somebody will blow their computer speakers or eardrums out playing back their video files.

So far I’m marginally happy with the XQ50

Last edited by Pig_Popper; 05/16/20 02:55 PM.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7841964 05/17/20 12:52 AM
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More thermion footage - coyotes at good distances


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7848373 05/23/20 03:05 AM
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Does the thermion come with rings. Ill be picking up the XM38 next week didn’t know if I needed to order rings and if so what good to use and how high.


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7848980 05/23/20 11:26 PM
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The Thermion does not come with rings

I bought a set of one piece rings from Acme Machine - they seem to do fine

1.50” high should be about right - 30mm

The Thermion is holding zero and working good - took this guy out last night at 20 yards

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7849353 05/24/20 01:22 PM
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Did you use a QD mount?

Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7849408 05/24/20 02:43 PM
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No - the mount I bought is not QD.

Took this guy out before the storms last night - I’ll post the video tomorrow.

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Last edited by Pig_Popper; 05/24/20 02:45 PM.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7850169 05/25/20 04:59 AM
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I DO BELIEVE I FOUND A COLOR PALETTE I LIKE WITH THE LATEST VERSION OF THE THERMION. I used to like SEPIA the best outside of standard white or black hot but that was in the APEX series of scopes.

I have found that SEPIA doesn't look like it used to and that is all probably due to differences in screens and resolutions and and all stuff.

What I look for in a color palette is "Pop" i.e. does the animal standout versus the background and ambient items and interface of the animal with reticles and colors. The better the reticle overlays and the sharper the image the better the shot - at least in my experience.

I'll be giving this ULTRAMARINE palette a go for a while

P.S. - I saw on Ebay there is 1 of these for sale out of Arlington TX - guy is including scope mounts and 2 extra batteries - I don't know him or represent him I'm just passing it along if any of y'all are looking for one....

Last edited by Pig_Popper; 05/25/20 05:03 AM.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7850371 05/25/20 02:40 PM
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Nice work!

Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7860539 06/04/20 07:11 PM
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Update:

Unfortunately I had to return my scope to the dealer due to a reoccurring issue with the scope not displaying an image or freezing. This was a random event that occurred when zeroing early on - a freeze (image) - which a restart corrected and then again last week - happened twice on startup whereby the screen just shows a reticle and status bar but no image from in front of the scope.

Then yesterday , it again messed up - no image through scope but reticle and status bar present - 4 restarts did not clear the issue. Round about reboot 5 or 6 the scope returned to normal operation.

Very very disappointed in this - scope is 28 days old and only fired on a 6.5 Grendel.

So, I’ll probably seek some remedy with the dealer that doesn’t involve receiving a replacement I.e. this is my last comment on this model.

Final thoughts:

PROs :

Onboard recording
Nice native magnification - 3.5x is a sweet spot for close and midrange distances
Color screen offering a wide variety of reticle colors and options

CONs :

The sound recorded through the scope is below average - the mic options are On or Off but no volume or gain adjustment - I had tried a Pulsar Digex (digital scope in Thermion housing) and didn’t have muffled sound so it’s something about the Thermion that is causing muffled / muted audio.

The image is average - I had heard verbal claims by some dealers that these scopes are shipping with the latest <40mK sensors. After multiple hunts and a variety of environmental conditions I have to rate the image as average. Details and richness isn’t there for what should be a new evolution of a sensor - oddly Pulsar USAs website doesn’t state the xq50 has the latest core like the ‘2’ series of Trails and Helions etc...

Optical sharpness , very focus fussy between near and far distances , when you achieve exact focus the definition of the image is really only useful in white or black hot - any color palettes use edge enhancement or don’t render temp variances as well as white or black hot.

Multiple corrupt video files , about 1 out of 20 files inexplicably corrupts , I do ensure the recording has stopped before powering off even counting to 10 as a buffer.

Image boost - I wonder if it is even working on this model. My test attempt was to dial in the best looking image (brightness and contrast) - so let’s say that’s 4 brightness and 13 contrast - then toggle between image boost On/Off. Well... toggling Image Boost On/Off resets the brightness and contrast settings to 10/10 which totally defeats the purpose of evaluating Image Boost effectiveness in a given scene. Either way toggling the function shows VERY little enhancement in image quality or detail - again this with my Unit and model , maybe Image Boost is working well in other units / models but not here.

All in all, my experience was average with the Thermion XQ50 , obviously I outlined how excited I was to receive and own this scope given my prior use of thermal weapon sights but in this case it didn’t pan out .

Last edited by Pig_Popper; 06/04/20 07:13 PM.

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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7861477 06/05/20 07:45 PM
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This is video from the final day with the issue - hopefully it was just my unit that is a problem.


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7861882 06/06/20 01:36 AM
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That was disappointing to see. Fortunately, the situation was handled with the dealer.

With that said, all electronic optics are prone to have problems. As such, the most significant issue, IMHO, is how well it is backed up by the manufacturer. Every brand of thermal that I have owned has had a unit or units go back (Pulsar, FLIR, ATN, & Trijicon). Pig_Popper wasn't happy with the scope overall and ended up with a refund, but had he sent it back for warranty repair, the folks at Sellmark who handles Pulsar in the USA, would have likely replaced the scope with a new one as they have in the past when folks have had issues. That is excellent customer service!

Based on my experience, Pulsar and Trijicon are tops in customer service when units need to be returned.


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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7862871 06/07/20 12:13 AM
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Saw this today on YouTube (not my video nor can I verify the validity of the claims)

Read video comments and description - user says 2 Thermion XQ50's had issues and need to be returned.



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Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7868127 06/12/20 03:51 AM
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I had several issues with a FLIR PTS 526 I had it for almost 2 years and sent it back to FLIR 4 times. I received a full refund yesterday.

Now I am trying to decide what to get next. I thought it was going to be an easy decision. maybe not

Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Pig_Popper] #7868129 06/12/20 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Pig_Popper
Saw this today on YouTube (not my video nor can I verify the validity of the claims)

Read video comments and description - user says 2 Thermion XQ50's had issues and need to be returned.



All I see is a coyote going down after someone stops it.

Re: Pulsar’s latest thermal riflescope - Thermion XQ50 - reviews and thoughts [Re: Ramhorn] #7868135 06/12/20 04:03 AM
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Yah, read the comments on that video


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