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Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 Thermal Imaging Monocular Review | Optics Trade Reviews

At IWA OutdoorClassics 2022 in Nuremberg, Pulsar unveiled the Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 Thermal Imaging Monocular which offers great features at a highly-competitive price of €1690. In addition to impressive optics and a rugged build, this Axion 2 model sports a built-in laser rangefinder, so you can quickly get accurate distances to your targets.

Interested in this LRF thermal scope?

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Pulsar Optics

Pulsar is one of the biggest producers of thermal imaging devices in the world, at least when it comes to sport optics for civilian use. The beginnings of the brand are closely knit with Yukon Advanced Optics Worldwide but Pulsar has since become a truly multi-national operation. The company is based in Lithuania but they have many facilities across Europe. For example, different product segments are divided between Glasgow in Scotland and the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius. Sensors are manufactured in France by a hi-tech business partner Lynred. Recently, Pulsar also opened a new factory in Latvia.

Pulsar Axion 2 Models

Pulsar Axion 2 series of compact thermal imaging monoculars was unveiled at IWA 2022. The 2nd generation of the Axion line is divided into XQ and XG models. Both are available with LRF module but vary in sensor resolution and screen. Pulsar Axions XQ35 are successors to the XQ38 models of first-generation Axion thermal monoculars. The new edition Axion 2 brings the favored compact build packed with improved optical capabilities.

2022 Pulsar Axion 2 Thermal Imaging Monoculars:

The differences between Pulsar XQ38 and XQ35 are not major. Pulsar updated the series, implementing some new features but the biggest change was made in pricing. While the older models cost 2290 euros, the new Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 can be yours for 1990 euros.

Physical Properties

As far as the physical properties are concerned, the quality of the build and materials make Pulsar Axions the best thermal imaging devices on the market. They are the pinnacle of Pulsar manufacture. Axion 2 XQ35 models have a better fit and finish than any other devices in Pulsar's catalog, including Helion thermal imagers. Other brands, of course, cannot even hold a candle to Pulsar production standards. 

Water and Temperature Resistance

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF is a fogproof and waterproof device. It can be submerged down to 1 meter of water depth for 30 minutes without negative effects on the unit operation. This resistance to liquid damage gives Axion 2 thermals a coveted water resistance rating of IPX7. On a similar note, this device is fully functional between -25 and +40°C. It's astonishing how well Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 performs, no matter the environment.

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Size and Weight

All 2nd generation Pulsar Axions have magnesium chassis. Axion 2 XQ models are compact enough but still bigger than super-sleek Pulsar XM models. The size difference is also apparent between Axion XQ and LRF models.  Axion 2 XQ35 LRF is about 7.5 centimeters wide and 15cm long. Now, the weight difference between models with integrated LRF and those without ranging capabilities is minimal - about 50 grams. This LRF model weighs 350 grams. 

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF Sensor

Though the sensor detection range of 1350 meters stayed roughly the same the image quality is superior to the Pulsar Axion XQ38 LRF model. Pulsar Axion XG models are pricier for a good reason. They offer a better sensor resolution of 640x480 pixels. The more affordable XQ models use Lynred sensors with 384x288px resolution.

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF features a 17-micron of pixel pitch. More advanced Pulsar models, including Axion 2 XG ones, have the pixel pitch size reduced to 12 microns. What all thermal imagers for personal use have in common is a 50Hz of refresh rate. This is the top limit allowed on the civilian market.

NETD factor stands for Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference. This thermal imager has a NETD of 40mK. It means that if the temperature difference between two points is 40 milliKelvins or more, Pulsar Axion 2 will distinguish between these 2 points. 

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 Laser Rangefinder

The laser rangefinder has an operational range detection of 1000m. In addition to the LRF measuring capabilities, the housing was also upgraded. Pulsar implemented a brand new soft-touch LRF button on top of the rangefinder, next to the main device control board. 

Of course, left-handed users will tell you that thermal imagers with built-in LRFs are not as easy to handle as basic models. This is also true for Axion 2 LRF models. The LRF button placement and overall device form of Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 are better suited for a right-hand grip. 

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Control Buttons

Device controls are also the same as on the Axion 1 series. You'll find the standard 4 buttons on top of the unit. As previously mentioned, the only tweak done here is the additional button that operates the LRF. The stand-alone LRF button is an improvement but we'd also like to see a separate button for image and video capture. You can access that feature by pressing the DOWN button.

The MENU button works like on all Pulsar devices: short press for basic functions, long press for the advanced device settings. The uniformity of device operation is what we appreciate about Pulsar. Once you look into how to operate your Pulsar, you're able to use all of them. This is why the transition between older and newer Pulsar models is so seamless. 

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - Accessories
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - Accessories

Pulsar APS5 Battery 

The second generation of Pulsar Axion models is also powered by an APS5 battery pack. There's a useful light indicator on top of the device that lets you know the device is ON. With no difference in energy source, Axion 2s have a longer runtime than the previous models. Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 lasts 11 hours of continuous operation. The improved battery endurance is thanks to updated Axion 2 software algorithms. 

If you want to know how long your devices will really last before needing to recharge, Optics Trade is the right spot. Check out our Real Battery Life videos and see how devices perform. 

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF | Real Battery Life

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF | Real Battery Life

Like with smartphones and other modern multi-functional devices, it's usually the battery that fails first. For hassle-free use, we suggest buying a spare APS5 battery in addition to the one that's supplied with Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35. Pulsar APS 5 batteries sell for €45 a pop. If you decide to invest into any Pulsar device, don't save on precautions.

Save yourself the headas down the line. If you keep a spare APS5 on hand, you can continue using your thermal imager with no interruption. Too many hunters complain the season end is near and they've spent most of it waiting for a new battery.

Need a spare APS5 battery?

Pulsar Battery Pack APS5

We have to mention that it is possible to charge Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 using the Type-C USB port. You can find it on the right side of the unit, near the objective. But charging the device by connecting it to a power bank or computer is not most practical or even needed.

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - USB Cable Port
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - Type-C USB Cable Port

Optical Performance

You'll be able to use this Axion 2 thermal imager with eyeglasses. The soft rubber eyepiece provides a comfortable fit on extended observations. The focusing is still done by rotating the objective part around the lens. Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35  has a wide field of view, so you can see more of your surroundings at once.

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - 35mm Germanium Lens
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - 35mm Germanium Lens

35mm Objective Lens

Thanks to the new 35-millimeter, high-quality germanium lens with a fast 1.0 aperture, the image quality of the Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 is better than that of the previous model. While the Axion XQ38 had a bigger objective lens, the aperture was F1.2. Outside of photography, the lens aperture is an often-overlooked specification but it makes a world of difference in image details. 

Magnification

The base magnification is not the same as it was on the 1st gen Pulsar Axions. This Axion 2 has a base magnification of 2x, compared to the 3.5x minimal image enlargement of Pulsar Axion XQ38 LRF. Lower base magnification contributes to a wider FOV of Axion 2 LRF XQ35. The field of view is 186m/1000m. The maximum magnification possible is 8x. There's also the 4x digital zoom factor.

AMOLED Screen

The new Axion 2 display still uses AMOLED technology. However, the Axion 2 screen resolution is smaller than the previous 1024x768px. Compared to Pulsar Axion XQ38, the display is now limited to 640x480 pixel resolution. 

This is also the only part where Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 is a little bit weak compared to the competition. If you won't settle for 640x400px screen resolution, Pulsar Axion 2 XG models are the way to go. They are bigger and pricier but retained the 1024x768px AMOLED display of the Axion 1 series.

Yes, at the pricepoint of €1990, many competitors can offer better screen resolution. But you'll be dismayed to find that this means little if the device sensor is not up to speed. Not to mention the overall quality of construction and durability of performance. There's a reason why Pulsar Axion 2 is still the reference point. 

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Stream Vision 2

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 can be connected to your smartphone. Download the Stream Vision 2 mobile app and set up the Wi-Fi connection. The updated app brings new features, improved workflow, and a more stable connection. The previous SV app version a ready one of the best but the second one is even better.

Axion 2 has a camera module for photo and video capture. If you register your Pulsar and log in to Pulsar Cloud storage, you can save and share your media files with others. There are also 16 gigabytes of internal memory in the device.

Pros

What are the best things about Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35? Like all Axions, XQ35 offers quality workmanship, using super-durable and waterproof materials. On the outside, this device impresses with a compact build and ergonomic details like a stand-alone LRF button and light indicator. 

The Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 LRF start-up time is one of the best in the industry. We measured the real start-up time and you can see our findings in the clip below.

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 | Real Start-Up Time

The removable APS5 battery pack is another advantage. These batteries are inexpensive and can be quickly replaced mid-hunt. Stream Vision 2 app enhances uses experience and is the best-designed mobile app for thermal devices. It offers numerous functions and is stable.

For a device in the €2000 class, the optical performance is amazing. It's leaps and bounds above the Chinese competitors that sell thermal monoculars at similar price points. The price-to-performance ratio is even better than with the 1st generation Axions. There are not many companies that improve models and lower prices at the same time.

Pros Summary:

  • build quality
  • easy to handle
  • separated LRF button
  • inexpensive and removable APS5
  • 11hr runtime
  • quick start-up time
  • made in Europe
  • Pulsar customer care

Cons

What are the downsides of this Axion 2 monocular? If you're a left-hand user, the form factor does not allow for optimal grip. Of course, the device dimensions are compact enough that you can still operate the buttons with one hand. 

The LRF is pretty basic as it doesn't measure the equivalent horizontal range (EHR). Even better, we'd like to see Pulsar implement LRFs with ballistic software in near future. When the Stream Vision 2 app was rolled out, Pulsar hinted at a stand-alone ballistic calculator in the works. We'll have to wait and see. Giving users a chance to input all the data to their phones and receiving exact click values would be stellar. 

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

It may seem like splitting hairs here but Axion XQ and XM models shouldn't be part of the same series. Yes, albeit of much smaller measurements, Axion XM models use the same form factor as XQs. But they are different devices. Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 could be made even more compact.  The display could be bigger, of the same size as XG models. That doesn't mean the current size is all that bothersome. 

The tripod adaptor as a spare accessory in the box is impractical. To attach the adaptor, you need to uncap the tripod mount thread. The capped tripod thread compartment is located right below the objective lens. But whenever the need for a tripod installation arises, you'll almost surely forget the adaptor at home. Most thermal and NV imagers do not require this piece of plastic. Tripod simply attaches to the threaded screw hidden on the underside of the unit.  

Cons Summary:

  • smaller display than XG
  • smaller sensor than XG
  • no advanced LRF modes
  • tripod adaptor

Pulsar Axion 2 Competition

Now, let's focus on what else the market has to offer. There are not many manufacturers that can match the powerful combo of Pulsar sensor and display specs. The Axion XG is nearly peerless thanks to the 640x480px Lynred sensor. But Axion XQ is in the class below. Many competitors can offer similarly-priced devices with 384x288 pixels of thermal sensor resolution. Infiray, Hikmicro, and Conotech thermal monoculars with built-in LRFs trail behind Pulsar. 

InfiRay Finder FL35R is a smaller thermal monocular than Axion XQ 35 LRF. The rangefinder does not protrude on the side of the device. If you are a left-hander, you might be interested in that option. But the build quality of Infiray does not compare to Pulsar. On the other hand, InfiRay Finder FL35R has a better display than Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35. Optically, these two devices are in the same ballpark. But the difference in price tips the scales in Axion 2 XQ35's favor. Infiray costs €2399, while Pulsar saves you €409. 

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Conotech Tracer 35LRF costs €2039, so the price is not a decisive factor. But Conotech lags behind Puslar in materials used. The plastic chassis and extra bulk leave a lot to desire. The bigger Conotech Tracer 50LRF model has a 50mm objective lens and costs €409 more. However, it's worth noting that the price increase doesn't bring a better sensor. Both Tracers have their sensor resolution limited to 384x288 pixels.

Hikmicro Gryphon is another thermal monocular made in China that is more expensive than Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 but doesn't provide the same user experience.

Scope of Delivery

Let's see what's included in the box with the product. The packaging contents include a soft carrying case with a shoulder/neck strap, an APS5 battery pack with a spare battery cap, USB Type-C cable, charger, plastic tripod accessory, and a lens cleaning cloth. The user also receives two instructional booklets, one serving as an Axion 2 LRF manual and the other as a quick guide to Stream Vision 2 mobile application.

Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - Scope of Delivery
Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 - Scope of Delivery

Pulsar Warranty

Pulsar Axion 2 XQ35 is manufactured in Lithuania. Pulsar Optics gives 3 years of warranty on their thermal optics. However, the repair services are available long after the device guarantee has run out. Pulsar has many repair centers, all of which are located in Europe. 

Most Chinese manufacturers don't have repair centers in Europe or USA. We see many makers of NV and thermal optics authorize independent repair providers in European countries. But that cannot compare to manufacturers like Pulsar and Night Pearl, which service their own devices. The skill set and technical know-how are just not the same.

Final Thoughts on Axion 2 LRF XQ35 Thermal Imaging Monocular

Overall, the Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 is a high-quality thermal imaging monocular that offers great value for its price. It features a powerful 384x288 Lynred sensor and comes with a built-in rangefinder. The device is well-made and easy to use, and it has a great number of extra frills like Stream Vision 2, photo and video capture. The Axion 2 also has a 3-year warranty and Europe-based customer service. Although there are some minor drawbacks (such as the small display size), this thermal imager is highly recommended for anyone looking for an affordable yet powerful thermal monocular.

Interested in this LRF thermal scope?

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Pulsar Axion 2 LRF XQ35 Photos

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