Vulkan 35mm & 15mm 35mk Smart Thermal monocular - test & review
PUBLISHED: 13:00 16 October 2020
Editor Paul Austin welcomes two newcomers to the thermal market - the HIK Vision Vulkan 15mm and 35mm 35mk Smart Thermal Monoculars!
Until fairly recently, Pulsar pretty much had the thermal market sown up, but then ATN and more recently iRay came along. Now, there’s a fourth player in market with the arrival of HIKVision. Not a familiar name on the shooting scene but certainly a major player in the IR and thermal security market, with over 100 staff already looking after their core business in the UK. (We are currently running a competition to WIN the 35mm unit! Click here to enter!)
Like many businesses, diversification is the name of the game and HIKVision have clearly decided to dip their sizeable toe into the shooting waters with a simultaneous launch of two spotters, namely the Vulkan 15mm and 35mm smart thermal monoculars.
As you can see, there’s nothing particularly radical on the outside, with both units following a very similar design and control mentality to that of the iRay offerings. The USP for HIKVision is their improved NETD rating of just 35mK. The push for improved NETD arrived with the recent launch of the Pulsar Accolade 2 and Helion 2, both of which benefit from a new 12µm sensor delivering 40mk NETD. HIKVision have gone five better with 35mk, athough the sensor itself is a 17µm unit.
NETD is a measurement of the smallest temperature differential the unit can detect. The smaller that number, the more detailed the image will be when there’s a very flat thermal landscape. It’s doesn’t have the impact of a larger overall sensor size, but you will see improvements in damp rainy/foggy and colder conditions.
Both units run the same 384x288, 17µm thermal sensor, with a 1024x768 display on the 35mm and 720×540 on its smaller sibling. Each have four colour palettes: white hot, black hot, red hot and fusion.
The battery on the 35mm is good for five hours and seven hours from the 15mm, so you will probably need to recharge after each trip. Both units also ship with the all-important three-year warranty.
The T-Vision app handles wifi connectivity, allowing you to take full control of the unit via your phone for image adjustment, sharing, streaming and saving content. It’s a really well implemented app and a big improvement on squinting into the device itself and adjusting things manually via on-screen menus.
There’s 16GB and 8GB of internal storage for video and stills in the 35 and 15mm models. There’s also a Hot Track option, which when activated highlights the hottest point in the frame with a green cross hair. This is handy when tripod-mounted and monitoring an area for activity, but not particularly useful when handheld.
Although there’s a slightly different button layout between the two units, functionality is pretty much identical, with short press/long press combination selecting and switch functions while menu navigation it taken care of by up/down button selections. In reality, it’s much easier to just fire up the app for any serious tweaking. All the top-level controls such as colour modes, recording, zoom etc are controlled by simply cycling through with the appropriate button.
There’s dioptre adjustment on both, with a side wheel on the smaller unit and a rather flashy chrome affair on the 35mm device. Both enjoy a solid feel with a combination of polymer and rubber protecting those all-important electronics. There’s nothing groundbreaking in terms of ergonomics but it’s a tried and tested layout that works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say.
The 15mm Vulkan is obviously a much smaller device and it is fixed focus. As you can see from the specs, the internal display is considerably smaller than the 35mm unit but it’s not all bad news. It’s much more convenient to keep tucked away in a pocket and more importantly it has very good field of view. This is a big deal when buying a spotter. The more ground your lens can cover, the less scanning is required.
The combination of a smaller screen and much wider FOV does mean you’re likely to be using the zoom function far more often on the 15mm unit but as a pocket-sized stalking tool it’s got some real appeal.
With the 35mm Vulkan, you’re moving away from your basic close to mid-range detection and towards the longer ranges and identification. The larger lens delivers a much more detailed image and the adjustable objective allows you to pull things into much sharper focus.
The narrower field of view does mean a lot more scanning at close range but that’s always the case with a higher base mag, which inevitably requires more ground to be covered per sweep. The bigger lens certainly adds a lot more detail to the image and the overall picture is well balanced with very little break up or excessive pixelization, although as you increase the mag it does degrade a little, obviously. Gradients are smooth, it has great detection courtesy of the low NETD and overall it’s a pleasant viewing experience.
Supplier: Elite Optical
Vulkan 35mm thermal monocular: £1,849.99
Vulkan 15mm thermal monocular: £949.99
Sensor: 384×288px @ 17µm
Objective Lens: 35mm & 15mm
Frame rate: Hz 50 Hz
NETD: Rating: 35mK
Magnification: 1x, 2x, 4x,
Field of view: Vulkan 35mm (10.66° × 8°) Vulkan 15mm (24.6° × 18.5°)
Display: Vulkan 35mm (OLED) (1024 ×768) Vulkan 15mm (LCOS) (720 × 540mm)
Colour Palettes: Black Hot, White Hot, Red Hot, Fusion
Video/picture recording: No audio
Built in memory: Vulkan 35mm (16Gb) Vulkan 15mm (8Gb)
Hot Tracking: YES
WiFI connectivity via T-Vision
IP protection: IP67
Runtime: Vulkan 35mm (5 hours) Vulkan 15mm (7 hours) - WiFi & Hot tracking disabled