Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gear Review: FLIR PS24 Thermal Monocular

Labor Day weekend was above average for me this year.  I got to spend it running around 800 acres of wooded and farm land on my uncle's ranch around Elk Falls, Kansas.  But the best part came at night.  I had just received my new FLIR PS24 unit.  And the rule of the ranch was to smack as many armadillos as possible.  You could only make the Armadillo Wall of Fame if you killed one and posed with it.  I thought, "No problem!".

We would sit on the porch of the ranch and let it get dark.  I would occasionally scan the field in front of us with the PS24 as I shot the breeze with my family.  And lo and behold, they came.  The first armadillo was 75-100 yards out when I first spied it with the FLIR unit.  I grabbed my AR and walked out to within 7 yards of the critter.  I dropped the FLIR unit (it was on a lanyard on my wrist), brought up my rifle and white lighted the nasty thing.  The shot made it jump at least 3-4 feet high in the air.  And then it took off like a bat out of hell.  Turns out armadillos are tough.  Which is why the Armadillo Wall of Fame in the tractor shed on the ranch is a place of honor.  You basically have to unload on the armadillo before it will just keel over and die.  I learned two lessons.  First, always continue to shoot until the threat armadillo is down.  Second, and more specifically to armadillo, shoot for the head or just behind for a better chance at rolling them.  Unfortunately, I had two more chances that weekend, but never could drop one on the spot.

But, I am sure you want to know about the FLIR unit itself.

You can check out the technical specs on FLIR's website.  I will just give you my impressions.  Let me state that I have no basis for comparison.  So, everything I say is probably going to be fairly subjective.  The first thing I noticed was that the size of the unit was just about right when using one hand to hold it to your eye.  The buttons that control the operation are placed on top of the unit.  It did not take me long to get accustomed to using the buttons.  It does come with a lanyard so that if your grip slips your pricey purchase will not hit the ground.  There is a generous eye cup that allows you to look at the mini screen inside the unit itself.

Buttons are large and easy to distinguish in the dark using sense of touch only.  It also helps that they light up.

And, in fact, it is a screen.  I found myself using the white hot setting the most often to initially pick out critters.  I would then switch to black hot if I had a hard time identifying something.  The contrast between the two sometimes helped give me a better overall picture of what I was looking at.  The unit does come with an Insta-Alert feature that is supposed to light up warm blooded animals (and humans) as red.  There are four sensitivity levels.  I found the least sensitive setting to be somewhat helpful if you were within "close" range.  The other 3 more sensitive levels tended to paint everything red if the earth or trees still held their heat from the daylight hours.  To be fair, the FLIR manual did state it had a max range for the Insta-Alert that fell well short of the overall max range of the white/black hot settings.

Artemis chillin' out.  I was 5 feet from her.  This is on the white hot setting.  Forgive the poor quality.  It was hard aligning the camera lens with the viewer.

I also encountered a few surprises with the unit.  I started walking around checking everything out when I first turned it on in my home.  I happened to be bare foot on the carpet.  When I turned around you could see my foot prints!  That should give you some idea of the sensitivity of different temperatures the unit is capable of distinguishing.  Another surprise was when I attempted to look out a window.  All I saw was my IR reflection!  Of course, this makes sense as the IR spectrum is part of the overall light spectrum.  Those waves were bouncing off the glass just like visible light would.  I know all of this has probably been covered on the Internet somewhere prior, but for me it was new and a neat experience when I first got to know the unit.

My footprints immediately after I stepped away to take this picture.

Some other miscellaneous features that I appreciate are the the captive lens cap cover and the built in LED white light.  The LED white light can only be used when the unit is off.  If you do not use the unit, then it shuts itself off after 5 minutes which helps save on battery life.

Speaking of the battery, my one complaint is that the unit only has an internal lithium ion battery.  It would have been nice to be able to switch out the battery on my own.  However, I have a feeling by the time the battery gives up the ghost that the technology might be dated anyways.  Only time will tell.

The unit is relatively cheap compared to FLIR's other offerings.  However, it is still quite pricey.  As of this date I can only find it for no less than $1980 not counting shipping.  I would buy this over Gen 3 night vision if only given one option for a few reasons.  I will not delve into that now as it is best saved for another post.

Do any of you have experience with thermal imaging?  Or the PS24 in particular?  What are your thoughts on it's strengths and limitations?  Comment below and let me know.  Thanks for stopping by.

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