Killer Thermal Scope: Full Review of the Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50

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The new Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50

After running the Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50 for around 6 months through many nights out in the field, I will share some of the features and my experiences with this optic. First, the Gen 2 Thermion is new for 2021 and is an upgrade over the Gen 1 by utilizing a less than 25 mK thermal sensor and fast F/1.0 aperture germanium optics with better heat energy transmissivity values. This results in a clearer image with more contrast and less noise. These Gen 2’s replace the first Gen optics while remaining the same price.

First and foremost, when it comes to the detection of animals, thermal is king. While there are many applications and benefits thermal can provide, I will stick more to the specs of this optic and how it performs. Listed below are some of the features unique to the Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50

Features

• Highly sensitive thermal imaging sensor

• Extreme Detection Range 1800м (2000 Yds)

• Fast Aperture f1.0 Germanium Optics

• Variable Digital Zoom

• Recoil Rated up to .375 H&H 12-Gauge and 9.3×64

• Mounts on Standard 30mm Scope Rings

• Instant Start-up

• Rugged Reliable All-Metal Housing

• IPX7 Waterproof Rated

• Zeroing Profiles Management

• Customizable Reticle Options

• Full-Color HD AMOLED Display

• Video and Still-Photo Recording

• Picture-in-Picture

• Various Color Palettes

• Stream Vision App Supported

• Upgradable Functional

• User-Friendly Controls

• B-Pack Mini Combined Power System

Picture was taken by the Thermion 2 XP50

The Thermion mounts up on standard 30mm scope rings while touting rugged reliability coming from its aluminum housing. The construction meets IPX7 waterproof standards for being submerged under 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. While I have never dunked my complete Thermion underwater, I have been hunting in the rain many times without issue. Utilizing a 17μm pixel pitch with the microbolometer, and 1024×768 AMOLED display, the Thermion 2 XP50 provides the clarity you need for detection and identification out in the field.

While the preference of form factor is based on opinion, I have been a huge fan of the Thermion taking the shape of a traditional day optic. Thermals come in all shapes and sizes, and some are shaped like bricks, but the Pulsar Thermions maintain a thinner and not-as-tall overall footprint. The Thermion 2 XP50 is long coming in at 16.22 inches, but it is more than manageable.

Overall profile identical to traditional glass optics

I also find the controls for this scope intuitive and easy to use. Featuring only 4 buttons, even in the darkness of night, it is easy to do what you need to do. From powering up the optic to zooming in, recording, or even adjusting reticles or color pallets on the fly, the Thermion is quick to figure out and utilize how you see fit. The picture below was taken after shooting a pig from about 15 yards away. Some buddies and I were waiting and scanning with night vision when we heard a faint sound off in the brush. After not detecting any animals or movements visually with NV, I scanned with my Thermion, and low and behold there was a pig only 15 yards away in the tall brush. Being able to detect its heat radiating through the weeds, this thermal picked up what NV could not.

308 making quick work of this wild pig

When it comes to thermal, it is not a “one unit fits all” kind of deal. Many different factors will play into what will work best for you. Do you want higher base magnification for clearer images at further distances, or would you prefer a wider field of view? Want onboard recording? What about WiFi for streaming what you see to an iPad for everyone in the group to see? There are different models for varying needs, but the main thing people care about is price vs clarity. The Thermion 2 XP50 is very impressive and clear. Pulsar states that this optic features an upgraded “640×480 microbolometer sensor detects extremely slight variations in heat signatures up to 1968 yards away – the Thermion 2 XP50 then delivers these highly-contrasted images on an immaculate 1024×768 AMOLED display. In addition to massive detection range and outstanding image quality, the Thermion 2 XP50 features a true 50mm objective lens and NETD <25mK —for higher object and background resolution—plus 2-16x digital magnification, enabling target acquisition in virtually any environmental conditions.”

Shown below is a video I made compiling a bunch of different footage from just looking at cows to shooting a pile of wild pigs:

Quick YouTube video I made showing off some of the features for the Thermion 2 XP50

This optic comes with Pulsar’s standard menu options, 10 different reticles, and 8 distinct color pallets. These options give the end-user tons of customizable options to find what may work best for them. Different color pallets seem to work better in different environments with changing humidity, and even with the way, an individual’s eyes see the screen. The reticle options offer different speed-type solutions for faster close shooting, to more hashed out reticles for people taking longer shots and needing to account for bullet drop. Another thing to note is compatibility with the stream vision app from Pulsar. The Thermion has built-in Wi-Fi so you can stream what you are seeing through the scope to another device. This is a sweet feature for scanning to show everyone in the group what you are seeing, or even guiding a new shooter on making the perfect shot. Pictures and videos can also be downloaded wirelessly from the Thermion to your phone.

Sitting on top of the eyepiece is three of the four total buttons for this thermal scope. The blue one is for power on/off. If you just click it once, it will nuke the unit to refresh the sensor. A press and hold of fewer than three seconds will turn the scope into standby mode to help save battery without actually turning the whole scope off.

Three of the four buttons for this scope. Blue is to power on, plus is to zoom, “rec” is to record or snap a picture

The plus button is for zooming in. The Thermion 2 XP50 has a base magnification of 2x, but pressing the + button will toggle through 2x, 4x, 8x, and 16x. Pressing and holding the plus’s button will turn on picture-in-picture mode which adds a little square at the top center of the screen to help with precise shot placement while maintaining a wide field of view. I absolutely love this feature that Pulsar provides in their Thermion and Trail lineups. One thing to be noted is that thermals don’t actually zoom in to increase clarity. They have a digital zoom that just zooms in on the existing image. While this can help with identification and shot placement, it’s not like the day optics many people are familiar with.

Picture-in-picture mode

The “REC” button will start and stop taking videos when pressed. Press and hold it to switch between camera for still shots, and video for recording your whole hunt. One thing to note is that when you are finished recording you need to tap and hold the button to end and save the video. Pressing it once starts a video, and pressing it again without holding it will only pause the video. If the scope is turned off before the video is ended, the video will not be saved and gone forever. This has been my biggest complaint with this scope, but if you know what you are doing it shouldn’t be a problem. I have lost at least one video due to this feature though, so now you are all warned! Save your videos!

The side button when pressed and held will open up the menu, and by rotating the turret you can scroll through the options from reticles, color pallets, different zeros for different platforms, and so forth. It takes a little tinkering to figure out, but it is very intuitive and easy to do even after dark.

Side button to access all the menu items for zeroing, changing reticles, etc.

The Thermion 2 comes with an integrated and updated front lens cap which is very convenient. It’s worked well so far and can lock back so it won’t flop around when carrying your rifle.

The lens focus ring is firm which is great. This keeps the Thermion from getting too out of focus when slung and rubbing against your body when hiking around. Fine-tuning this focus ring can really clear up the image depending on the distance of what you are viewing is. I normally keep it on an infinite focus and may adjust slightly if I get a really close stalk going on some wild pigs.

Rubberized focus ring, and locking lens cap

The top turret on the scope is just a cover for a removable battery. Pulsar offers two different removable lithium-ion battery options for the Thermion which are their APS2 with 2,000 mAh of battery capacity and APS3 with 3,200 mAh of capacity. These are supposed to provide around 3 hrs and 4.3 hrs of operation respectively. In addition to these removable batteries, the Thermion also has a permanent internal rechargeable 3,200 mAh battery bringing the total to either 5,200 (7 hours) or 6,400 mAh (8.6 hours) depending on the removable battery used. This scope comes with one APS2 battery supposedly giving a total run time of 7 hours, but I have typically run out of juice at around 5-6 hours with constant use and frequent refreshing (nuking). Battery life varies with scope brightness settings, but mostly ambient temperature. I have not spent time hunting with this scope in temperatures below 20 degrees which would most likely drain the batteries even faster. While this is unfortunate for longer hunts, it only takes seconds to replace the battery and be back up and going again.

The top turret is the removable battery, side is for charging or uploading videos to a computer.

The side turret normally used to adjust for windage is a cover for a charging port to juice up the scope. The cover is solid and locks up well.

Performance-wise the Thermion 2 XP50 is truly amazing. I can see cows over a mile away and normally can see pigs over half a mile out without trouble when they are in an open field. Body size and fur can play a big part in the detection range, but this thermal performs well. I’ve spent many hours and nights behind this scope and have continually been happy with my purchase. Coming in with an MSRP of $5,500 and found for $5,000 on most websites, the Thermion 2 XP50 is no joke. High-performance thermals are not cheap, but this model performs great, and for what it is I have not been disappointed. If you want to find more details, you can read about the Thermion 2 XP50 on Pulsar’s website here.

Specifications:

Type of Microbolometer Uncooled Microbolometer

Microbolometer Resolution, pixels 640 x 480

NETD, mK <25

Frame Rate, Hz 50

Pixel Pitch, µm 17

Display Type AMOLED

Display Resolution, pix. 1024 x 768

Magnification 2 – 16 x

Digital Zoom 2x /4x /8x

Lens Focus, mm 50

Relative aperture, D/f’ 1:1

Field of View,°, horizontal * vertical 12.4

Minimum focusing distance, ft/m 16 / 5 ft / m

Eye Relief 2 / 50 in / mm

Diopter Adjustment -3 / +5

Range of Detection 1975 / 1800 yd / m

Windage & Elevation, 1 click (h/v), [email protected] 21/21

Windage Range of Adjustment 4200 mm/100m

Elevation Range of Adjustment 4200 mm/100m

Reticle, Type 10 (3 scalable, 7 static)

Zeroing coordinates memorization 5 profiles (10 coordinates each)

Side tilt indication Yes

Picture in Picture option Yes

Operating modes Rocks, Forest, Identification, User Mode

Color palette 8

Integrated video recorder Yes

Built-In Memory, Gb 16

Video Format MPEG-4 1024×768

Format of photo files JPEG 1024×768

Integrated Wi-Fi Yes

Stream Vision support Yes

Spectral Sensitivity, µm 8 – 14

Battery Type Combined B-Pack Internal + external

Battery life, (with video out off), hours 7

External Power Supply Micro USB 5.0V

Operating Temperature -25/+50 C

Waterproof IP Standard Waterproof IPX7

Calibration Manual, Automatic, Semi-automatic

Shockresistance, on Rifled Weapon, J 6000

Mount Type 30 mm rings

Length (in/mm) 16.22 / 412

Width (in/mm) 3.07 / 78

Height (in/mm) 3.26 / 83

Weight, (without batteries/without mount), oz/g 31.74 / 900

Extra Pictures:

My hunting setup. Aero Precision AR10 topped with the Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50 sitting on a Kopfjäger K800 Tripod 


About the author:
Mitchell Graf is passionate about hunting and competition shooting. During college he was the shooting instructor for Oklahoma State’s Practical Shooting Team, and these days he spends as much time as he can chasing after pigs and coyotes with night vision and thermals. You can follow Mitchell’s adventures over at his Instagram @That_Gun_Guy_



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