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HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F & Lynx L15 Field Test

In this test, we tried out a combination from HIKMICRO company, which we believe represents an excellent and affordable set for night hunting of wild boars. With the spread of African swine fever (ASF), many places in Europe have lifted restrictions on the use of night-aiming hunting devices. The latter has become desirable among most hunters who have the opportunity to hunt wild boars. Consequently, the supply of thermal and digital night devices, both for observation and shooting, has increased in a relatively short time. Among hunters, a combination of a thermal observation device and a digital night vision scope is highly popular.

Hikmicro Cheetah LRF (Source: Hikmicro)

Such a combination has several important advantages, which is why it is so well-liked. Thermal technology allows an extremely quick survey of the terrain around us. Due to the distinct contrast between the warm bodies of the game and the cooler environment, we can rapidly and almost error-free detect all living beings around us, of course, within the range enabled by the quality of our thermal device. However, due to certain limitations of thermal technology, it doesn’t provide a truly sharp image and, consequently, displays insufficient details, especially when using entry-level thermal devices. At the moment when we spot an animal in front of us with thermal imaging, the role of digital night technology comes into play, enabling a very accurate assessment of the game in front of us even in complete darkness. This is of extraordinary importance for proper and ethically sound game shooting.

Hikmicro LYNX-L15 Thermal Monocular
HIKMICRO LYNX-L15

The combination in our test consisted of the entry-level thermal monocular, HIKMICRO Lynx L15, and the front add-on digital night vision attachment, HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F. When choosing the devices, we followed the principle of assembling a set that would provide efficient and ethically sound night hunting of wild boars in terms of quality while still being affordable. However, it is essential to note that we did not compromise the technical capabilities of both devices in favour of affordability.

Specifications

HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F HIKMICRO Lynx L15
Sensor resolution2560 X 1440 Sensor resolution348×288 NETD < 35 mK
Display resolution1920 X 1080 OLED Display resolution720×540 LCOS
Frame rate25Hz Frame rate50Hz
Lens (focal lenght)32 mm/F1.2 Lens (focal lenght)15mm/F1.0
Min. focusing distance3 m Min. focusing distanceNO focusing
Field of view9.9° × 7.5° 17,2m / 100m Field of view24.6° × 18.5° 42,6m / 100m
Magnification1x Magnification1x
Detection range400m(with IR 850nm ON) Detection range550m
Protection levelIP67 Protection levelIP67
Weight465g without battery Weight270g
Dimension182.8x70x87.2 mm Dimension158.3 × 61 × 57 mm
Working temperature-30°C do 55°C Working temperature-20°C do 55°C
Battery type1x 18650 USB-C Battery typeInternal battery USB-C
Battery operating time5.5 hours continuous running (@25°C, Hotspot、IR Emitter off) Battery operating time7 hours continuous running with hotspot function off
5.5 hours continuous running with hotspot function on
Table of specifications

HIKMICRO Lynx L15

The HIKMICRO Lynx L15 is a thermal monocular from the extensive HIKMICRO Lynx series. The series includes thermal devices with lenses ranging in focal length from 6 mm to 25 mm, thermal sensor resolutions from 160×120 to 384×288 pixels, and pixel pitch distances of 17 μm or 12 μm. All models have a temperature sensitivity of NETD <35 mk, an internal built-in battery and a characteristic oval shape. Depending on the sensor size, pixel pitch distance, and lens focal length, they differ in the width of the field of view, which, along with the price, was our main consideration in choosing the model for this test.

Hikmicro LYNX-L15 Thermal Monocular - Scope of Delivery
HIKMICRO LYNX-L15 Thermal Monocular – Scope of Delivery

The selected model, Lynx L15, has a sensor resolution of 384×288, a pixel pitch distance of 17 μm, and a relatively short lens focal length of 15 mm. Such a combination of basic technical specifications provides an extremely wide field of view of 42 meters at a distance of 100 meters, making observation and scanning of the area in front of us much easier. This is particularly useful in forests, where we typically observe game at much closer distances than in open fields. The relatively high-temperature sensitivity of NETD <35mk also contributes to the effective detection of living beings in the forest. The image is displayed on an LCOS display with a resolution of 720×540 pixels.

Reliability

During use, the L15 proved to be very reliable, as we practically had no issues with any potential malfunctions. Throughout the test, we used it as the primary device for observing the surroundings, which is the intended purpose of a thermal monocular. At distances typical for hunting wild boars at a feeding site, it easily detected all living creatures, including small rodents and birds the size of sparrows. Of course, we had no trouble spotting wild boars of all sizes, from several-week-old piglets to adult animals weighing 100 kg and more.

Ergonomics

The convenience of the compact device allowed us to have it with us at all times, and it did not hinder the use of the hunting binoculars. We usually carried it hanging on a regular neck strap and easily lowered it to our chest when using the rifle. The plastic housing does not produce much noise when in contact with other objects, so we could leave the monocular and binocular hanging side by side while waiting at the hunting blind. The L15 monocular can also be easily stowed in the pocket of the hunting jacket, so it will not hinder us in any way, and we won’t have to leave any other hunting tools at home because of its use.

Hikmicro LYNX-L15 Thermal Imager
Hikmicro LYNX-L15 Thermal Imager

Battery

During the hunt, we kept the monocular turned on at all times, as the battery capacity proved to be sufficient for our typical hunting outings. However, it should be noted that we tested it during a time when nights were very short, and we were never on the hunt for more than 5 hours. According to the manufacturer’s data, a fully charged battery lasts for approximately 7 hours if we disable the hot spot tracking function on the device, which we did because we did not see any added value in the crosshairs jumping around the screen. For those hunters who persist in hunting throughout the whole night, we recommend using portable power banks to charge the monocular on the go when needed. We also recommend starting the charging process when the battery level drops to the last bar and not waiting for the battery to fully drain. This way, in case of need, when the action starts at the feeding site, the monocular can still be used without worrying that the power supply will be interrupted, and the monocular will turn off at the least favourable moment. Despite using a USB-C connector for connecting to an external power source, it quickly happens that simultaneous charging and using the monocular for observation can cause the connection to lose contact and interrupt the charging process.

Limitations

The HIKMICRO Lynx L15 thermal monocular, therefore, meets all the requirements for night hunting of wild boars at a feeding site. However, since it belongs to the entry-level category of thermal monoculars, we want to point out some limitations that potential buyers should be aware of and consider before making a purchase.

The device cannot focus the image at different distances. This results in a slightly less sharp image, especially at longer distances. It is essential to emphasize that thermal technology itself does not provide as sharp an image as digital night optics. Therefore, the inability to focus the image in thermal technology is a much smaller limitation compared to digital night vision.

Hikmicro LYNX-L15 Thermal testing

The downside of the wide field of view is the relatively low base magnification, which does not allow us to observe details that would enable precise assessment of individual animals before deciding to shoot. However, in our combination, this was not the task of the thermal monocular, but rather the digital night vision attachment.

Despite the factory-declared 50Hz refresh rate, during the test, we felt that the image occasionally lags slightly during fast scanning. We noticed that the image sharpened completely only a few seconds after we stabilised the device at the observation point.

Summary

To summarize the pros and cons of the HIKMICRO Lynx L15 monocular, we confirm that it is an excellent and particularly affordable choice for hunting wild boars in the forest at relatively short distances. However, it is not a universal monocular suitable for all types of hunting. When used in open fields, where distances for observation are much greater, it may lack some power. Nevertheless, even at distances over 200 m, it will still easily detect animals the size of a hare or a fox. However, the image displayed on the screen will only be a small indistinct blob, making it impossible to identify the observed species. Therefore, it is essential to keep in mind its price range and not compare it with monoculars in higher price and technical classes.

HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F

With the thermal monocular, we were able to observe the game at the feeding site. The quality of entry-level thermal monoculars like the HIKMICRO Lynx L15 allows for reliable identification of the type of game in front of us. However, for a final assessment, selecting the appropriate individual, and taking a safe shot, our combination was complemented by the HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F digital night vision front add-on attachment.

Hikmicro Cheetah LRF (Source: Hikmicro)

It is a product from the relatively new line of night vision front add-on attachments, riflescopes, and monoculars HIKMICRO CHEETAH. Depending on the model and software, there is a wide range of functions to choose from (front add-on attachment, riflescope, monocular), with or without an integrated laser rangefinder, and two infrared illuminator wavelengths (850/940 nm). For our test, we selected the C32F model, which means it is a front add-on attachment, without an integrated laser rangefinder, and with an 850 nm infrared illuminator. All HIKMICRO Cheetah models are equipped with a highly sensitive light sensor with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels and a light sensitivity of 0.001 LUX.

In practice, this means that during hunting, we only need the assistance of the IR illuminator in situations where there is truly no light source in the surroundings. Natural light in the form of moonlight or the remaining light after sunset often provides enough illumination. Additionally, artificial light from nearby settlements, especially when reflected by clouds, can also be helpful. We tested the excellent light sensitivity of the HIKMICRO Cheetah sensor late in the evening and early in the morning when there was significantly less light available for the naked eye or a regular binocular to see anything more than just the outline of the game. However, such minimal light was sufficient for the HIKMICRO Cheetah to display the surroundings in colour.

IR illuminator

Just before it got completely dark, the colour image became unusable, and we switched the monocular to night mode in black and white. This allowed us to observe without using the IR illuminator for a few more minutes, but then we had to activate the LED IR illuminator. To turn on the IR illuminator, the device does not have a dedicated external button; instead, it is activated through the menu settings, and it remains on whenever the night mode is active. This setup is somewhat impractical as it would be easier to directly control the IR with a switch, allowing for adjusting the illumination power in multiple levels. The IR illuminator itself is not particularly powerful, as LED technology cannot provide the same level of illumination as a laser, leaving room for potential improvement in the future. In connection with the IR illuminator, another drawback was that the device lacks a mount for attaching an external more powerful IR. However, for hunting wild boars at a feeding site, these limitations are not noticeable. Thanks to the excellent light sensitivity of the device, combined with the proximity and size of the targets, the built-in IR illuminator was sufficient. However, the weakness of the LED illumination would certainly be more apparent in potential hunting situations at greater distances, such as foxes and jackals, where these two species are allowed to hunt.

During the test, we attached an external laser IR illuminator to the rifle scope’s tube, and the difference in illumination was very obvious at distances over 100 m. For buyers who frequently conduct night hunting at distances greater than 50 m, we recommend purchasing a laser IR illuminator with a mount for attaching it to the rifle scope’s tube.

The HIKMICRO Cheetah performed very well in adjusting the power of the IR illuminator. With the smart IR function enabled, the device automatically adjusts the illuminator’s power to prevent over-illuminating the target and causing an “overexposed” image. This function is particularly useful in two cases:

  • When observing a target in the forest with obstacles between the target and the observer. In conventional digital devices, the IR light reflects off the obstacles back into the device’s sensor, forcing the sensor to adjust and close the aperture, resulting in the target becoming less visible.
  • When hunting in fog, where the IR light disperses and reflects from water particles in the air. In such cases, using regular digital night vision techniques becomes practically impossible, but HIKMICRO claims that the Cheetah is capable of operating in foggy conditions.

During our test, we unfortunately did not have the opportunity to test the device in foggy conditions. However, we can confirm that the smart IR function significantly reduced the reflection of IR light from branches and bushes in the forest. Although the target image is not as detailed and sharp as when using the full power of the IR illuminator, the benefit of this function in the mentioned situations is certainly worth having a slightly less detailed target image.

Hikmicro Cheetah Clip-on (source: Hikmicro)
Hikmicro Cheetah Clip-on (source: Hikmicro)

Image quality

The quality of images from observation and targeting devices also depends on the ability to focus the image of the observed object at different distances. With the HIKMICRO Cheetah, image focusing can be achieved using a traditional ring on the objective lens. The focusing is precise, and the ring is just sturdy enough not to move on its own during transportation. While on the other side, focusing the device doesn’t exert excessive pressure on the adapter between the device and the riflescope lens, which could potentially lead to unintended device movement and changes in point of impact.

As with all night vision front add-on attachments, achieving image focus while aiming the gun, is a unique challenge, especially for individuals with shorter arms. We recommend sharpening the image in attachment immediately upon arriving in the blind and always at a distance where game is most likely to be expected.

Battery

The device is powered by one 18650 battery, which the manufacturer claims can last up to 5.5 hours of continuous operation without using the IR illuminator. The actual battery life, of course, depends on other factors such as external temperature, battery age, use of other advanced features in the device, etc. The kit includes two batteries and original HIKMICRO charger, so you can always have a spare fully charged battery with you. Considering that the usage of the night vision attachment does not require it to be constantly turned on, there is no fear of running out of charged batteries during the hunt.

During our test, we only had to replace the battery after several outings, during which we extensively tested the device, recorded videos and used the IR illuminator. The HIKMICRO Cheetah digital night vision front add-on attachment is primarily designed for use on a rifle scope and shooting at night, so an important part of our test was dedicated to testing it at the shooting range.

Smartclip adapter

For attaching the attachment to the rifle scope, we used the Smartclip adapter with the appropriate reducing ring for our test. There are also adapters from other manufacturers available on the market, as well as the universal HIKMICRO adapter that can be adjusted to fit different objective lens widths on rifle scopes.

However, in our test, we wanted to primarily evaluate the reliability of the front add-on attachment, which is why we chose the Smartclip adapter specifically designed for a certain thickness of the objective lens and known for its exceptional repeatability when mounting and dismounting the device on the lens.

The assembly of the adapter, reducing ring, and attachment itself went smoothly, easily, and quickly. However, we recommend that all buyers who encounter this technology for the first time seek advice from retailer, a gunsmith or at least a hunting companion who is familiar with it.

Shooting range testing

Hikmicro Cheetah (Source: Hikmicro)

During the testing of the HIKMICRO Cheetah at the shooting range, we were mainly interested in the following:

  1. How would the point of impact (POI) change after installing the Cheetah front add-on attachment?
  2. How easy or complicated is the calibration of the attachment to the rifle scope?
  3. Does the attachment retain its settings after being repeatedly removed and reattached to the rifle scope’s objective lens, and after being turned off and having the battery replaced?

At the shooting range, we first fired a control group of three shots without the Cheetah attachment, and then another three shots with the Cheetah attachment installed. The deviation of the second group of impact points was 8 cm down and 2 cm to the left.

Consequently, we proceeded with the calibration or alignment of the digital attachment’s screen with the reticle of the rifle scope. However, we encountered some challenges that we eventually managed to overcome successfully, but not without considerable effort, ammunition and time.

The main difficulty in aligning the screen with the reticle lies undoubtedly in the manufacturer’s very poor device manual. We can confidently state that the manual is practically unusable and, in some cases, even misleading, prolonging and complicating the process. The procedure is described in Chapter 3.7 of the manual titled “Calibrate image.” The chapter explains how to navigate through the menu to reach the subchapter with displayed X and Y coordinate values, the option to enable the “reference line,” and the option to reset X and Y coordinates to factory values, which may not necessarily be 0/0.

Hikmicro Cheetah Display
Hikmicro Cheetah display

At this point, we decided to use the reference line function, as we logically expected aligning the reference horizontal line with the horizontal axis of the reticle would bring the POI group to the same height as when shooting without the digital attachment. We did miss a vertical reference line, though, which would allow us to align the windage of the POI as well. Unfortunately, HIKMICRO did not include this option for reasons unknown to us. After aligning the reference line with the reticle by adjusting the Y values, we fired three shots again, only to be greatly surprised that the hits were not even on the A3-sized target. We had no choice but to use the restore/reset function. We fired three shots again to test the accuracy of the reset function. In this case, the setting fulfilled its role, as the hits were once again in the original group, 8 cm low and 2 cm to the left of the aiming point.

In the second attempt, we approached the screen alignment by changing the X and Y values. During this, we encountered an inexplicable deficiency in the instructions. Crucial information is missing – how many millimetres and in which direction does the POI move when the value changes by one (1) unit. Consequently, we had to adjust the values based on intuition and, of course, first determine in which direction the POI is changing. Once we managed to somewhat bring the POI to the aiming point, we also knew the direction in which the POI is changing by altering the X and Y coordinate values.

  • The X coordinate changes the windage of POI, specifically increasing the value moves the POI to the right, and decreasing the value moves POI to the left.
  • The Y coordinate changes the POI by height, specifically increasing the value shifts the POI downward, while decreasing the value shifts POI upward.

We also wanted to at least roughly estimate how many millimetres a POI would move if we changed the X and Y coordinate values by one (1) unit. For this purpose, we adjusted the X and Y coordinate values by ten units each using the following sequence: Y +10 and 3 shots, X +10 and 3 shots, Y -10 and 3 shots, X -10 and 3 shots.

As a result, we obtained four hit groups on the target forming a square. Considering the shooter’s error, rifle accuracy, and the measured distance of 10 cm between all four hit groups, we can assert that changing the X or Y coordinate values shifts the POI by approximately 1 cm in the corresponding direction. We strongly emphasize that this information is not provided in any manufacturer’s manual and is a result of our testing. Therefore, we provide it to readers as a basic aid for zeroing in firearms. However, any changes to the X and Y coordinates should be tested on the shooting range before actual hunting.

During our testing, the device’s accuracy in changing coordinates proved positive, as when we returned the coordinates to values corresponding to zeroing our rifle to the aiming point of the riflescope, the POI on the target consistently returned there as well.

Unfortunately, when using the “3.7. Calibrate image” menu and manipulating the X and Y coordinates, we encountered another challenge that we believe could unnecessarily frustrate potential buyers of the HIKMICRO Cheetah. The X and Y values, along with the command to reset to factory settings, are located in the upper left corner of the screen. During our test, when using the front add-on attachment in combination with the 3-12×44 riflescope and at the minimum 3x magnification, the X coordinate value was not visible. We resolved this by using the HIKMICRO Sight app, which allowed us to connect the device to a smartphone and observe the LiveView image on the smartphone screen. This was a relatively simple and quick solution, but it requires a user proficient in modern technology. However, HIKMICRO should definitely consider the option of displaying the X and Y coordinate values in the centre of the screen, similar to how battery level and some other information can already be displayed on the screen.

Once we finally managed to calibrate the attachment with the riflescope, we had one more test left to assess the reliability and repeatability of the Smartclip adapter. In this test, we fired a series of ten shots, removing the attachment from the riflescope’s objective lens and reattaching it for each shot. We ensured that the attachment was visually aligned with the axis of the riflescope, but we did not verify alignment using a level, as we aimed to simulate conditions as closely as possible to field conditions during hunting, which often takes place at night. During this part of the test, we had no remarks about the device or the Smartclip adapter, as the hits were grouped closely together, and the size of the group resembled the one achieved while shooting without the add-on. We repeated the test during our next visit to the shooting range, after having the device turned off for several days and changing the battery inserts in the meantime. It turned out that the device retained the settings we saved during the zeroing process.

During shooting, we varied the magnification of the riflescope from 3x to 8x, which still provided a relatively sharp image, although some pixelation was noticeable. It’s important to understand that digital aiming devices still do not achieve the sharpness and detail of traditional riflescopes. Even in colour daylight mode. At distances of 70 m, let alone 100 m, sports targets were not sufficiently sharp to distinguish the exact centre. During the test, we aimed at a 5 cm diameter black dot on a completely white background, which provided enough contrast for aiming. However, for aiming at the game the size of a fox, the image resolution is entirely sufficient.

Tip

To save time, ammunition, and ultimately nerves, we recommend HIKMICRO Cheetah buyers perform the process of checking and correcting the alignment of the digital adjustment with the reticle of the riflescope using the following approach.

Connect the front add-on attachment and the adapter according to the instructions and mount it on the objective lens, visually aligning it with the axis of the riflescope. Fire a control group of at least 3 shots onto a reasonably sized target and then fire another 3 shots with the attachment in place, aiming at the same point. If the second group of hits differs from the first, use the Calibrate image function to adjust the X and Y values so that the POI with the front add-on attachment is where you want it. We also recommend noting down the coordinate values. This way, you can always check in the menu whether the device has retained the correct settings despite battery changes or extended periods of non-use.

Conclusion

As we concluded this test, we unanimously agreed that both devices were highly suitable for the style of hunting we intended to evaluate. Regardless of the challenges we encountered with the HIKMICRO Cheetah on the shooting range, it’s important to recognize that they were primarily due to the manufacturer’s very poor manual rather than the technical deficiencies of the device. The latter performed its tasks according to expectations and even exceeded them in some aspects (light sensitivity). Additionally, the HIKMICRO Cheetah is almost half the weight and significantly more affordable than competing digital night vision front add-on attachments from another reputable manufacturer. Using digital night vision front add-on attachments does entail certain compromises, which should be acknowledged prior to purchase. However, they allow us to practically transform our daytime shooting optics into night-time gear and continue hunting when low light conditions would have otherwise driven us back home.

The HIKMICRO Lynx L15 thermal monocular also effectively fulfilled its role, even though it falls within the entry-level category of thermal monoculars in terms of technical specifications and price. Not all hunters can or want to invest the amounts demanded by premium thermal, digital, or tube night vision devices. The described kit represents an excellent and above all, cost-efficient choice for hunters who conduct the majority of their wild boar hunts at distances up to 100m.

Summary
HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F & Lynx L15 Field Test
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HIKMICRO Cheetah C32F & Lynx L15 Field Test
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In this test, we tried out a combination from HIKMICRO company, which we believe represents an excellent and affordable set for night hunting of wild boars. Such a combination has several important advantages, which is why it is so well-liked.
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