Introduced for the European market at the IWA this year with the LRF version, the Pulsar Accolade thermal binoculars are now available in both XQ38 and XP50 versions through the various national distributors in EU. We received a sample of the final production XQ38 version for testing.
Features of the Accolade XQ38 thermal imaging binocular
The XQ38 version uses a state-of-the-art 384x288 pixel amorphous silicon microbolometer 17 μm pixel pitch FPA sensor, while the focal length of the germanium objective lens is 38 mm / f: 1.2.
The native (fixed) optical magnification is 3.1x, while digital zoom can magnify the image up to 4x, for a maximum magnification of 12.4x.
It is possible to select between three fast digital zoom steps (1x, 2x, 4x) or continuous zoom. The digital image processing engine drives two OLED microdisplays with a 640x480 resolution; the eyepieces are individually adjustable for diopters and interpupillary distance.
Accolade thermal binoculars are built on Pulsar's now standardized "Unified Architecture", based on a set of "common building blocks" that simplify design, safeguards top level quality and performance, and greatly increase reliability of each product.
In fact, we find the same proprietary quick-mount B-Pack high capacity rechargeable battery which allows for 7 hours of continuous operation, the same controls with soft rubber buttons and, in fact, the same graphical user interface for the menus and on-screen functions.
This last feature allows the user to learn only once how to operate a Pulsar device and will be comfortable using any other Pulsar optronic device.
Pulsar Accolade XQ38: thermal binocular with a built-in video recorder
Like many other Pulsar opto electronic devices, the Accolade also includes an integrated video recorder (saves in .avi format with 640x480 resolution with audio), an interactive stadiametric rangefinder for measuring animals with known height measurements (hare, 30cm, boar, 70cm; deer 1,7m - the latter can also be used to estimate the distance of a man), a 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi communication module with StreamVision support and microUSB connector for communication with a PC and direct charging of the battery.
The ergonomics of the Pulsar Accolade thermal binoculars are decent, all controls are rationally placed on the top side of the device and are easily operated with the fingers of both hands holding the binos. The focusing knob is located between the eyepieces, in a similar fashion to most prismatic daytime binoculars, but the knob itself is rather small, with sharp ridges and very stiff, even if it conveniently "falls" exactly under the index of the hand holding the thermal binoculars. Focusing range is good, from a minimum of about three meters to infinity.
The 164x130x64 mm sized angular, boxy shape, weighting about 850 grams including battery, does feel less comfortable than traditional binoculars in the hands, but offers a good flexibility of use: for example, it can be mounted on a tripod directly without adapters.
Pulsar Accolade XQ38: crisp and clear images with dual eyepieces
The image produced by the Accolade and observed through the eyepieces is excellent, comparable to that of the Helion monocular, with the advantage of binocular and pseudo-stereopsic vision: the image is duplicated on two AMOLED microdisplays but is generated by a single thermal sensor. The feeling is that the image is more defined and detailed than it is in reality, thanks to the "fusion" of the images perceived by each eye. The dual eyepiece design also reduces eye fatigue during long observation. Compared to normal binoculars, in our opinion, setting the interpupillary distance correctly on the Accolade is very important to ensure optimal observation and viewing comfort.
Due to the high 50 Hz framerate, images are extremely fluid. 50 Hz is even more valuable using binoculars and appreciable while panning across the fields or tracking fast animals. Of course, the image degrades a bit using the digital zoom, but if a higher resolution is needed, for about 5000 euros the Accolade XP50 top version is available with a superb 640x480 sensor and better 50mm lens.
It is theoretically possible to detect a man at a maximum distance of 1350 m, a man sized target essentially illuminating a single pixel of the sensor. In reality, the effective range in optimal conditions is around a kilometer and can vary wildly based on the environment (for example, on a field beaten by the sun all day you will have a hard time spotting the warmth of an animal if it is not moving).
The StreamVision feature using the 3.1.2 version of the app for Apple (but it is also available for Android) is a real killer app. On an iPhone 8Plus there is virtually no delay between what is observed thru the eyepieces of the Pulsar Accolade and the streamed video feed on the smartphone; images and video can also be recorded directly on the iPhone's memory, and you can remotely control almost all the functions of the thermal binoculars with the Smartphone interface. The iPhone easily connects to Accolade via wifi, as if it were a router. The app offers many features and functions, including an excellent ballistic calculator with an impressive database of the most popular hunting ammunition loads. There's also the ability to upload videos and photos taken with the device on Social networks, cloud storage, Youtube channels and all other destinations currently supported by iOS.
Each Pulsar Accolade thermal binocular is supplied in a nice black Cordura carrying bag with shoulder strap, USB cable, a very good Neoprene padded sling, manual, an IPS5 B-Pack battery, adapter for charging the battery and the AC wall charger.
Wrapping up, the Pulsar Accolade XP38 thermal binocular is a surprisingly remarkable device, which can be used in a huge range of situations and uses, both professional (military and LE, fire prevention, search & rescue operations, forest and wildlife services) and civilians for hunting purposes, marine and nocturnal observation. All of this offered at a relatively low MRSP price considering performance and features.
Please note, that depending on local and international law and regulation, no thermal device featuring a "realtime frame rate (above and including 30hz) can be exported to countries outside the European Community without a proper license.