Best Thermal Binoculars Reviewed
Thermal binoculars don’t always have to be expensive, and this current list only has one high priced product to prove that. The same technology that is used in high-end cameras and medical devices can be found in these binoculars, all with varying levels of efficiency.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Sminiker Folding
- Feihe Power
- Great Magnification
- Oliasports Folding
When it comes to the thermal binocular industry, no one is really king. The technology is still being perfect for binoculars, and it is either high end like the electronics in the Firefield Tracker or it is low end and more manual use like the others on the list. Customers will have to use their own discretion when deciding on a brand to stick within this industry.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
All of the products listed come with cleaning cloths, so it is pretty self-explanatory on how to manage the cleanliness of them. Keeping the lens caps on when not in use (if provided) is a must, and if they don’t come with caps then purchasing some should be at the top of your best thermal binoculars list. Most if not all are pretty standard size and should be cheap and easy to find.
10 Best Thermal Binoculars
1. Sminiker 30×60
There are plenty of compact thermal binoculars in the industry, but very few that don’t sacrifice power for size. Even in its small frame, this model manages to squeeze out more quality optics than products twice its size.
Features and Specifications
90mm objective lens distance
Metal construction covered in flexible rubber
This product just missed out on being the lowest priced on the list, so it is definitely a top-tier buy. Even as a gift it holds really good value with its compact design.
A product this small with such great visual quality deserves the top spot on the list. And with such a low price, it’s a bargain even if you already have a set of thermal binoculars.
- One of the smallest on the list when open or folded
- Good solid 7.2 degrees field of view
- At highest focus quality takes a hit
2. Feihe HD
With up to 10x magnification, you can see further out without compromising the quality of the image. They built these binoculars so that the magnification mechanism is better powered for long distances, and it shows.
Features and Specifications
BaK-4 prisms and multicoated optics
Built-in tripod support
Sitting at the low-mid-price point, this serves as a suitable all-purpose binocular set as well as a thermal binocular set. Buyers will get double the value if this is what they’re looking for.
With great magnification and a lot of customizations, Feihe created a very likable product. It goes beyond what you would normally need and saves you money on repeat purchases.
- Highly configurable per user
- Images come in clear even when using the maximum magnification
- Center focus knob ads unnecessary bulk
3. Oliasports Outdoor
Holding binoculars for a long period of time can cause havoc with your wrists if they’re heavy. At only 5 ounces this model is the perfect size for extended periods of use.
Features and Specifications
2 degrees field of view
Suitable for day or night use
Currently, this is the lowest priced thermal binoculars on the list. It’s an instant value if you just want something that works and is considered a great product.
With an incredibly low price, buyers should have no trouble deciding on these thermal binoculars. It’s one of the top three on the list and covers a wide range of needs for all customers.
- Compact and light without sacrificing durability
- Low-level night vision is superb when used
- Focusing requires some experience
4. Green-state BF6060
The ultra-wide FOV feature with this model is an improved version of the normal feature available from other brands. The 50mm lens diameter is fully utilized in this setup and gives you the most when trying to make the most of your visuals.
Features and Specifications
Rapid focusing on easy adjustment
Coated optics with wide angle view
For a low price, customers can get their hands on a really good pair of thermal binoculars. The value to the individual customer will come down to how often they use the scaled grid that can’t be removed.
There are a couple of extra features included with this model that may change how you feel about the overall purchase. But if the extras line up with your interests, then you’ll be getting a really good deal.
- Comes with backpack, strap and lens cap
- Included instructions are the best on the list
- Scaled grid on the right lens
5. SHENFAN 60×60
At this point in the industry, the design may be considered flawless and untouchable. Not only does it work great for portability, but it has been proven that it is built for the best durability when using high-end binoculars.
Features and Specifications
Waterproof and shockproof
Even if it isn’t 100% night time compliant, the thermal features are enough to make it a valuable product for buyers. For the purchase, you’ll be looking at a midrange price that’s pretty decent.
Thermal binoculars don’t get much better than this model, and it comes at a very attractive price. With a couple of extra tune-ups, this could have easily been the top model on the list.
- Strong zoom function
- Rubber armor helps with shock and protects binoculars
- Not 100% night compliant
6. YISHU 50×50
The best images come from products that have coated optics, and this one is no different. Everything comes out crisp and colorful, even when viewing from long distances.
Features and Specifications
7x magnification with 50mm objective lens
These are priced very well in the midrange area and comes with the usual assortment of extras. Customers that want superior long-range viewing will be very satisfied with this value.
Long range viewing combined with great optics will always be a good reason to purchase thermal binoculars. This high powered model from Yishu will more than do the work required to warrant a purchase.
- Great low light performance
- One of the best on the list for long range viewing
- Not waterproof or anti-fog
These are true day/night thermal binoculars, with one mode no better than the other. That balance is furthered through the use of the K9 Porro Prism Design and LLL night vision.
Features and Specifications
Bright index of 30.25
This is the first thermal binocular on the list to hit the midrange area in price, so may be a good sweet spot for some. Buyers that want a powerful product but don’t want to pay the Firefield Tracker price will love this model.
These binoculars meet a lot of the expectations one would expect from a top-tier model. And with the current price, it handles it without hurting your wallet.
- Comes with backpack, strap, lens cap, eyepiece cap, and lens cloth
- Rugged and can take a lot of bumps
- Heavier than other models on the list
8. VicTsing 8 x 21
This model was built with wide-angle viewing in mind, and lets you see the entire field rather than a small portion. Even if it is on the edge of the other end it’ll still be as sharp as the center image.
Features and Specifications
Eye span adjustable
The true value with these thermal binoculars will be as a first time set for younger buyers. They are small and easier to handle than bigger models and don’t compromise quality.
It’s rare that a set of binoculars of this caliber would manage to be great for both children and adult users. VicTsing did an admirable job making this model a double threat for interested customers.
- Only weighs 242g
- Wide 7.2 field of view lets you see more
- Long distance viewing is subpar
9. Firefield 1×24
Not only does it look cool, but the optics on the Firefield Tracker are amazing. For nighttime tracking, there are few that can match it head to head.
Features and Specifications
Handheld or head-mountable
Built-in infrared illumination
This is going to be a hard sell for anyone looking for average everyday thermal binoculars. As the most expensive model on the list, the value comes from users that want a high-end product.
If you have the money to purchase this model, then you’ll be getting an incredibly valuable night accessory. The price is high, but the product is well worth every penny.
- Offers the best night vision capabilities possible
- Included instructions go in-depth
- One of the most expensive thermal binoculars in the industry
10. Qiorange Mini
While these binoculars are small enough to fit in your pocket, they still come with a black carrying bag. It’s a nice touch to keep things neat, and there is even room in there for a cleaning cloth.
Features and Specifications
Instafocus rapid focusing
Red Membrane 30×60
The price is the usual low average, which is something you’ll see a lot with thermal binoculars. Buyers that travel a lot will get the most value out of these.
They work well as a main pair or as a backup, and should come in handy during a day/night activity. Qiorange made a dependable pair of thermal binoculars with some good features.
- Small enough to fit in a pocket
- Premium visuals with good focusing
- Night optics are hit or miss
Criteria For Evaluation
Our criteria for evaluation was tough on both Gen 1 and 2 models on the list. We didn’t show favoritism to either generation, and instead focused on what they provided as an overall package. You’ll find at the top some of the best choices in the entire industry, with recognizable names and technologies. Without taking price into account, we ordered the list in the best way possible. Oliasports, Sminiker and Feihe were some of our favorites, with a lot of others coming in close.
The main thing we looked at was how well core features of Gen 1 and Gen 2 models were implemented. For Gen 1 we looked for simplicity and image resolution since the latter was something that would be lacking on bad models. Gen 1 devices passed the test if they also included a lot of updated mechanics like foldable design, good zoom, and accessory compatibility. For Gen 2 we focused on brightness of images in the dark and max zoom. Think of the Gen 2 criteria as a power test, and a great way to weed out weaker thermal binoculars.
After tests were done with both generations, we moved on to the next, which was smoothness of the zoom. Zooming in should be seamless, without any type of stutter or hitch. When using thermal binoculars at night, a hitch in the zooming feature can make you lose the target. Although not as noticeable in the daytime, at night it can make all the difference in the world. So our preference for the zoom smoothness was based solely on night usage since it would be the most affected by inferior design. There were a lot of strong winners in this category that moved on, but there were also a lot of good binoculars that didn’t make the cut. This includes some well-known branded models that were known to have slight stutters when zooming in and out.
Sticking with zoom, we looked at which thermal binoculars had the highest zoom. While power was king for this criteria, it is important to point out that powerful zoom doesn’t always equal great performance. Some of the models would lose a lot of their image quality at max zoom, while the ones we placed higher on the list would have consistency and sharpness at max levels. This qualifies for both the daytime and night, where zoom levels had varying degrees of quality. In order to stay on the list, the thermal binoculars had to excel in both categories.
Power consumption was something we had to look into, mainly due to the variety of batteries that different models used on the list. There are some significant jumps in how long certain models last, which changed the top of the list immediately. This isn’t entirely based on the batteries used, since the built-in power saving features weren’t always available on the listed models. Some do fine without any power saving features and can last for over a year. But the ones that included power saving features and used better batteries moved to the top of the list immediately. This criteria caused the biggest gap in the top ten but didn’t knock any of the current favorites out of the running.
Cost of Batteries
Something that caught us by surprise was the relevancy of ranking the cost of batteries. With night vision binoculars and scopes, the batteries were standard across the board so were mostly cheap. They were also easy to find, whether online or in a local store. With the battery types of thermal binoculars being all over the place, we factored in replacement frequency with the actual cost. So with each change of the batteries, we looked at how much of a pain it was for the user and whether it was cost-effective. Since only name brand batteries should be used regardless of type, this made things easier to tally. Our rankings based on the cost of the batteries helped out a few binoculars that were idling lower on the list and kept some from being completely dropped off.
Durability and Resistance
Up next was durability and resistance against outside elements. Thermal binoculars are not something that customers are going to use indoors only, so they can expect a lot of travel. And with their use at night, there is a good chance they’ll be introduced to a lot of damaging elements. Straight to the top went any model that had water resistance, just off of pure principle. These were the models that would last the longest out of the box, and it made sense to put them at the top since they will primarily be used outdoors. Durability is also rated on how well the paint, buttons, and housing holds up against damage. Some of the choices on the list already had a reputation for being strong against drops. All of the models left on the list that weren’t suitable for everyday use were removed in favor of the stronger choices.
With all of the extras available to use with thermal binoculars, any of the bands that had a large catalog were given preference for the top spots. Compatibility with their other products helped, so users that purchased other equipment from them didn’t have to go back and make separate purchases. We felt that buying a stand from one company should make it useful for all of their associated products. It would be unfair to attach this requirement to a brand to brand scenario, so at the very least extras within a single brand were expected to have universal usage. When you look at the order of the list, it was ultimately determined by this criteria the most.
The last thing we looked at was customer service and warranties, which largely left the list unchanged. But the good news on that front is that all ten products on the list have excellent warranty and customer service programs. This was one of the few lists where there was universal praise for all warranties, even from the lesser known brands. Consider it a great sign that the thermal binocular market is becoming more consumer friendly.
Difference Between Thermal Optics & Night Vision
There is a difference between thermal optics and night vision. They are commonly interchanged, however, they function differently. Each has their pros and cons. Both are wonderful tools to use when hunting or dealing with wildlife outdoors, so it will benefit you to understand the pros and cons of each before making your investment. Consider the following for whether thermal optics or night vision are what you need.
First thing to note is that thermal optics are not cameras, they are imagers. What does this mean? Thermal optics detect radiation, so the higher the temperature the more radiation something is giving off. Once something steps into range and emits heat, the radiation shows as an image of the subject. Thermal optics do not require visible light to produce an image because they function from your target’s radiation.
One drawback is that since you are viewing a thermal image, the image will not be super detailed. It can take a lot of practice to look at a thermal image and determine your proper shot placement. Thermal scopes are also heavier than night vision scopes.
Where night vision differs is that it does require a light source in order to provide an image. Often, the stars and moon will provide enough light to produce the image that you need. Shadows can make images hard to see, though. A lot of modern night vision comes with an IR Illuminator which can help you out a lot. The IR Illuminator acts a lot like a flashlight, essentially that is what it is.
Different than thermal optics, night vision tends to produce a more detailed and natural image. However, night vision scopes can only be used at night, as the name implies. Thermal optics can technically be used during the daytime if you need to use it.
Night vision scopes absorb more recoil and tend to be more rugged. One drawback, however, is that the IR Illuminator designed scopes have tubes that can be easily damaged if they are exposed to too intense of external light. Aside from being unhelpful during daylight, that is another reason why they cannot be used during the day.
Overall, both thermal optics and night vision optics work well for hunting. But, before you make up your mind on either, consider the following:
- What environment will you be in?
Know your conditions can only help your decision and benefit you with the correct scope that you need. Are you going to be in thick brush? Will you be in fog? Thermal vision can detect an animal in these hidden conditions. Are you hunting in freezing cold temperatures? Night vision is a better choice here because thermal optics are negatively affected by cold temperatures.
- What is your budget?
What are you willing to or capable of spending when it comes to a scope? With night vision scopes, even a good one is a fraction of the cost of a good thermal scope. Do you want your thermal scope to display in color? That will cost more as well. These are things to consider.
- What kind of light will you be in?
Remember, thermal optics can work in low-light and daylight, however, night vision is dedicated to the night. That, and night vision requires a light source whereas thermal optics do not.
Overall, a recap of the pros and cons:
Thermal Optics Pros:
- You can see in any light condition
- You can see through thick brush or fog
- Tracks residual heat from subjects/targets
Thermal Optics Cons:
- Tend to be more expensive
- Larger and heavier in size/weight
- Less clear image
- Scope cannot see through glass
- Battery life can be limited depending on model
- Cold temperatures can affect image quality
Night Vision Pros:
- Natural images with more detail
- Tougher models that are more rugged
- Cheaper option
- Boast larger field of vision
Night Vision Cons:
- Camouflage, shadows, dust and other elements can easily obscure your target image
- Do not work in daylight
Each has their pros and cons, but the decision comes down to which suits your situation the best.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are All Thermal Binoculars Expensive?
A: No- it just depends on the type of thermal technology the binoculars use. High end will always mean a higher price, while manual will always mean a low price. Manual does not mean cheap and is still considered a high-end product.
Q: How Hard Are The Adjustments To Make On The Fly?
A: Most of the thermal binoculars on the list have easy to reach controls so that you never have to take your eyes off of the target. If you’re left-handed, it would be a good idea to make note of where the adjustments are on the product.
Q: Can You Modify Thermal Binoculars?
A: There is a large movement where users modify low priced thermal binoculars and add the same features to them that are found on binoculars that cost thousands of dollars. The low priced thermal binoculars on this best thermal binoculars list are some of the starting products used before the modifications are made. Savvy users can save an unlimited amount of money if they are willing to experiment with modifications.
Q: How Does The Technology Work?
A: Thermal imaging uses heat from objects to detect things that would otherwise be invisible to a normal human. This is for both living and non-living things, so the usefulness of the application comes down to how well the technology is implemented. When the hardware is spot on, you can see in complete darkness, even in bad weather conditions. Because of the different levels of heat in objects, thermal technology is better able to show you the differences between your targets or the objects you want to avoid. For users that lay down a lot of traps and hunt at night, this can be a true lifesaver for their hunt.
Q: What Are The Differences In Generations?
There are two main generations that consumers should pay attention to when it comes to thermal binoculars; Gen 1 and Gen 2. The obvious advantages of going to Gen 2 will be improved mechanics, inside and out. But that comes at a cost since Gen 2 can sometimes be twice as much as the previous builds. You have to make a decision on what benefits you want from each Gen, and then move forward with a thermal binocular purchase. As a side note, Gen 2 is more for professional use in tactical situations. Gen 1 by all accounts isn’t obsolete and is used every day by consumers and professionals.
Q: Are Thermal Binoculars Better Than Scopes?
A: When you want more control over your viewing, then yes, thermal binoculars beat out night vision scopes. The two are really in different categories since you’ll have your scope mounted and in position. Thermal binoculars will be useful for scouting, tracking, and other long-distance activities. Even if using a scope has similar benefits, you’ll miss out on a lot of the image quality of using a thermal binocular. And buyers that don’t have a gun scope mounted at all will appreciate the distance they can plan out with the help of thermal binoculars. Having both is ideal, so if possible try to use your thermal binoculars at a distance and then seal the deal once closer with your scope.
Q: How Long Do The Batteries Last?
A: Depending on the type of batteries, you will get different levels of power usage. In fact, the amount of power you’ll get out of a thermal binocular is related more to the type of batteries than the time of usage. This is due to the thermal technology using less power than normal and is on par with the power usage of red/green dots in scopes. So at the very least, you should expect a year of usage on average. Now if it turns out the model you purchase uses regular AA or AAA batteries, then that same power average will drop somewhat. Night vision scopes usually take CR123A, CR123 or other compatible batteries. They are smaller and built to retain a charge longer. For thermal binoculars that use AAA or AA, the power loss is more noticeable over time if they don’t use top branded batteries.
Q: Should You Choose A Monocular Over Binoculars?
A: Even if space requirements point you in the direction of thermal monocular, thermal binoculars have an advantage. They come in all sizes, and in many cases can be as compact as monocular. The only advantage for a monocular is that they use less power while using thermal technology, but that is debatable. There are more binocular types made for thermal use, and they went to a higher generation quicker than the monocular. Buyers will have their own personal preferences based on what they’re used to, so there really is no wrong answer. Yet choosing anything but binoculars in the current industry would be taking a step back if you’re into recent technology trends.
Q: Can You See Clearly During All Times?
A: This is going to be brand and model dependent, based on quality. There are some thermal binoculars that are excellent during the daytime but average during the night. Then there are others that excel both during the day and nighttime cycles. The quality of the image can be HD in quality even on Gen 1 devices, so it isn’t tied to a specific generation. And since thermal binoculars are heat dependent, they’re very reliable in all conditions at making objects visible, even if it isn’t a top of the line model. Checking out the history of optics with the company will paint a much richer picture into how they handle thermal binoculars.
Q: How Far Can You See?
A: Regular binoculars were built to see long distances without compromising the quality of the image. A good pair of binoculars can make an object from 200 yards away seem like it was only 30 ft. away. The same applies to thermal binoculars, which use the same mechanics. They just so happen to also have the ability to see in the dark, making them much more valuable to the average consumer. You aren’t losing anything by getting thermal binoculars since they are such a great deal. Buyers can even save a little bit of money by making the choice early to purchase thermal binoculars over regular binoculars. It is the best of both worlds without any major cons to speak of.
Q: Will Batteries Make the Product Heavier?
A: Yes, but not in a way where you will notice on extended use. Even if you’re holding the binoculars steady for minutes at a time, batteries won’t really make a difference in how much weight is added to the product. The only instance where you may notice it on extended use is if the product uses two AA batteries. This isn’t the norm, but there are some products that do take advantage of a pair of AA’s for thermal production. Just like with a remote or game controller, buyers will feel a little bit of heft as they’re raising or lowering the product.
Q: Are There Stands For The Binoculars?
A: There are a lot of extras for thermal binoculars, and the best thing about it is that they’re compatible with a range of products. One of the most popular extras are stands which are used to steady thermal binoculars at various heights. This can be useful in a number of ways and lowers the fatigue factor of holding binoculars at eye height for long periods of time. Consumers that don’t have steady hands can also benefit from the stands. And if you happen to own a cheap pair of binoculars with flaky zoom settings, a stand could be the product saver you’re looking for.
Q: How Useful Are The Kid-Friendly Options?
A: Kid-friendly thermal binoculars are available, although they lack a lot of power compared to their grown-up counterparts. The kid-friendly version has acceptable thermal use and benefits from being easier to use and having a low weight. For obvious reasons, the price is low for this type of product so you won’t have to worry about them getting damaged. Adults shouldn’t use the kid-friendly versions if they are serious about getting a powerful product. Even beginners will find the options on the kid thermal binoculars to sorely be lacking in what they need, personally and professionally.
Q: Can You See In Complete Darkness?
A: This is where thermal technology beats out night vision. With thermal binoculars, you will get a gray and white (or black) image of the objects you’re focusing on. The heat that they give off makes it easier to spot them in complete darkness, even when there is no light available. So while the daytime functions of the binoculars depend on how well they gather light, at night time no light is needed for the product to function properly. The technology has been refined since they were used professionally during old wars, so even the consumer version has a lot of power behind it.
Q: Are There Any Dangers To Thermal Binoculars?
A: You won’t hurt your eyes with thermal binoculars, so the only danger to worry about is user dependent. Buyers shouldn’t use them like they would night vision goggles, where moving around constantly in that mode is expected. Thermal binoculars are more for spotting and tactical rather than keeping them at eye length and moving. Having a mixture of the two is helpful, as both technologies tend to have their best moments when they are used together.
Q: Is It Important To Have A Weather Resistant Model?
A: You don’t have to buy a weather resistant model, but it is highly recommended. You never know when you’re going to get hit by a big storm, or even when you’re going to drop your thermal binoculars. Weather resistance most often equals ruggedness with the housing of the product. So buyers that want the toughest thermal binoculars will want to focus their priorities on weather resistant models. Even if you don’t need that much protection now, later on, it will pay for itself with above average durability.
How To Make The Best Decision
Jumping directly to the most expensive option won’t give you positive results. Deciding between a mechanical or manual version of thermal technology will make a huge difference in how you view your purchasing decision. Remember that the technology is still being refined, so spending thousands on a high-end set of thermal binoculars won’t guarantee that all of your needs are met.