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        Understanding Thermal Image Palettes

        Understanding Thermal Image Palettes

        Pulsar’s wide array of thermal products take pride in their image palette versatility. With 8 different image palettes which go beyond simple white hot and black hot, users might feel overwhelmed.  

        More than just differentiating between what objects are hot and cold, the various color palettes can each be used for different purposes. While a user’s choice of palette is ultimately based on personal preferences, this article offers to explain the subtle differences of the many color palette choices Pulsar offers. 

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar white hot image palette

        White Hot is the default palette available on nearly every thermal device on the market. In this mode, objects giving off the most infrared energy appear white through the display, while cooler objects giving off less heat are depicted as black.

        Used for everything from hunting to surveillance as well as search and rescue, this view provides simple contrast between hot and cold objects and on a Pulsar product, produces very sharp images with clear details.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar black hot image palette

        Black Hot is the polar opposite of white hot. In this mode, objects which appear black emit more heat and thermal energy than the gray and white objects around them. Although this might seem like a palette created for a purely aesthetic reason to oppose white hot, users who opt for black hot instead of white hot will find it much easier to track objects in very hot environments where the very ground is emitting massive amounts of infrared energy.

        Scanning the Nevada Desert in white hot, for example, would make the entire environment appear white. It would also contribute to eye strain because of the massive amount of light. By contrast, a person using a black hot palette in a hot environment would be able to focus on the minute details of an object without feeling like he’s looking directly into a flashlight.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar rainbow image palette

        Rainbow is a palette which captures several layers of heat. On this palette, the objects which emit the most infrared energy appear as red, going on a scale from yellow to dark blue as objects get colder.

        In the non-sporting world, this color palette is most often used to detect minute temperature changes in objects, and it’s most often used when conducting building surveys and checking mechanical equipment. In the outdoors, it’s used to provide sharp contrast between animals and environmental objects.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar red hot image palette

        Red Hot displays the hottest infrared signatures as red and yellow on a display that otherwise resembles white hot. For example, when viewing an animal, only its hottest body parts such as its snout and underbelly would appear red while the rest of the image would be flushed out in shades of gray.

        This is used to provide contrast for defeating animal camouflage or looking for the hottest objects in areas which are otherwise cool, such as looking for a small white bird sitting on a snowy tree during winter.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar sepia image palette

        Sepia gives the display a brownish/yellowish filter. Dark brown indicates cool objects which emit low levels of infrared energy, while bright yellow indicates heat. Less intense than red and more muted than rainbow, the sepia color palette is best used for long hours of observation when the softness of this color palette is less strenuous on the eyes.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar violet image palette

        Violet floods the display in a deep, rich purple hue. Much like the sepia palette, areas of the image with intense infrared energy are lit up in yellowish tones, but instead of brown, cold areas are displayed in violet. Thanks to the better contrast between hot yellow and cold purple, this color palette is best used while scanning in rough terrain and hot weather, since it provides slightly more detail than black or white hot in these conditions.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar ultramarine image palette

        Ultramarine is deceptively similar to rainbow. This multi-color palette enhances the temperature differences of various objects just like its darker counterpart while using a light blue instead of deep indigo to display cool colors. This is especially useful for nighttime observers who want more light in their backgrounds as well as a clearer idea of what is happening around their subject.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar red monochrome image palette

        Red Monochrome is a very dark filter which only highlights the hottest objects in an image with a bright yellow tinge. This color palette is useful for scanning, since everything but the hottest objects is drowned out in dark red.


        As previously mentioned, the choice of palette depends entirely on the user, and these are merely suggestions on how they are to be used. Frequently, thermal hunters switch to white hot for its clarity and never change to another palette ever again. Others want to pretend they’re the Predator and keep their sights on rainbow mode forever. Just as your eyes are your own, no one can dictate which palette you should use your thermal. The best palette is whatever helps you do your job best.

        What is AMOLED?

        Newer Pulsar products often boast of high quality AMOLED displays, but many consumers don’t truly know what they are. A discerning thermal hunter might not know, for example, that a device with an AMOLED display is a far more efficient tool than an equivalent with an LCD monitor. This technology is normally used to make sharp display images in smartphones, TVs, and digital cameras. Pulsar has coopted it for use in its thermal devices. 

        The acronym AMOLED stands for “Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode.” These displays consist of tiny red, green and blue (RGB) pixels in four layers. Each individual pixel operates with its own light source, instead of one large backlight like an LCD would use. This results in very sharp image quality. 

        AMOLED displays also have a much faster refresh rate compared to LCD displays, with refresh times within the 1 millisecond mark (one second is 1000 milliseconds). This is especially important for real-time recording, since a device with an AMOLED display like a Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF is capable of displaying the most minute sways of a leaf or the fluttering of the wings of a nearby bird in spectacular detail. 

        In practical terms, AMOLED displays offer more vibrant images than their LCD counterparts. This is best illustrated by an AMOLED camera’s response to being pointed in a completely dark room. While an LCD would attempt to show the lack of light by displaying a series of black pixels, a camera with an AMOLED display would simply turn all the “black” pixels off, resulting in deeper blacks and less power consumption. This same technology also means that every colored pixel on an AMOLED display promises to be vivid and crisp, with a high contrast ratio, perfect for distinguishing light from dark, especially in thermal technology. 

        Pulsar has utilized this new technology to the fullest of its extent in its latest products, and promises to deliver the hunter or nighttime wilderness explorer the clearest and most vibrant thermal imaging available on the market. 

        How to zero your thermal

        How to zero your thermal

        First time users of thermal optics may find themselves discouraged at the range when they discover the traditional red-and-white paper targets they’re used to for zeroing appear instead as plain black or white squares through their scope. Since a thermal scope works through infrared light, they can’t read the ink printed on paper and standard targets cannot be used for zeroing. Instead, heat-based targets are used in place, but otherwise the same rules of zeroing apply. Here are some of the different techniques you can try in your backyard or at the range:

        High Contrast Targets

        The color black absorbs heat. Therefore, making a high contrast target with a white backing and target zones made of black duct tape is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to set up a target for thermal. However, it may not be the most efficient way, since any shots that land in the white zones of your target won’t be seen clearly through your thermal optic.

        Hot Foil Tape

        If your shots aren’t hitting paper, it may be prudent to purchase a large, completely black target board made of foam or cardstock and stick self-adhesive foil tape on it for aiming points. Since metal foil absorbs sunlight much better than plain black paper, the foil tape, once left under the heat of the sun, should appear either very bright or very dark through your optic, depending on your palette choice. Any shots fired through the warm tape or board should leave a distinctive hole which can be used for zeroing.

        Frozen Screws

        While this method may be tedious and time consuming, it leaves clear and distinct marks on your target which are perfect for zeroing, rather than barely visible bullet holes. Under the heat of the sun, cold objects will appear as very dark or very bright depending on your palette settings. You will need several short screws (approximately the same diameter as your ammo if you can get them) on ice in a cooler and a paper target with stiff backing made of cardstock or museum board, strong enough to support the weight of a small screw without folding. Fire a group of two or three shots in your board and fill the holes with those frozen screws. Looking through thermal, you should have a good view of your shot placement. After this, it’s simply a matter of adjusting your windage and elevation towards the distinct dots on your target.

        Hand Warmers

        Lining up an array of hand warmers on a board to act as a target is both relatively cheap and hassle-free. Perfect for cold weather or zeroing at night, hand warmers light up the night in infrared just like cold objects darken during the day. Simply tape some hand warmers to cover a flat surface and fire away. The disadvantage of this setup is the hand warmers will leak once shot, and bullet holes may prove to be difficult to find.

        Pulsar Thermal targets

        For the scrupulous shooter who doesn’t want a DIY solution, Pulsar offers thermal zeroing targets for sale, purpose-made for zeroing thermal optics. Consisting of paper targets and pads which heat up when exposed to oxygen, this high-tech thermal target set is guaranteed to be the most reliable option for zeroing your thermal scope. Best for low temperatures, Pulsar’s thermal zeroing targets glow hot for anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes, so they should not be opened until they are ready for use.


        What about you? What is your favorite way to zero your thermal device? Tell us in the comments below.

        Daytime hunting with the Merger LRF XP50

        Daytime hunting with the Merger LRF XP50

        It was a warm Texas Friday afternoon in late October. Expecting deer to come out in 85° heat was wishful thinking, but I was, hanging out in the hunting stand. I sat patiently, like a bachelor waiting for a girl that I didn’t make the best first impressions on. There was no guarantee that I wouldn’t be stood up.

        Yet, after hours of silent waiting, they showed up – two fine looking does, both about two years old, walked up to the feeder just before legal shooting light ended.

        Two doe deer seen through thermal

        Some might be wondering why I chose to use thermal binoculars on a daytime hunt. The fact of the matter is the Merger LRF XP50 isn’t limited by the time of day. Since it’s a pair of thermal binoculars and not night vision, the daytime world won’t be washed out in brightness like it would be if viewed through a pair of PVS-14s.

        Instead, the Merger LRF XP50 defeats any natural camouflage animals may be using to hide in whatever environment you might be hunting in. With its high resolution 640x480 sensor, no creature is too small for the Merger to detect.

        small bird seen through thermal

        Despite its size, this tiny bird appears clear through the Merger’s viewfinder, while the integrated rangefinder is sensitive enough to determine its range. All this in full sunlight.

        Built with an intuitive interface, the Merger’s various controls are quick to learn and easy to access. The rangefinder is toggled with the press of a button and is capable of detecting objects up to a thousand yards away, more than enough for any rifle hunter.

        The Merger’s rangefinder is usable in both single measurement and scan mode. In single measurement, the user taps the Merger’s LRF button to measure the distance of a single distant object. In contrast, Scan mode keeps the Merger LRF laser on and measures the distances of all the objects its laser touches.

        Unlike digital night vision, which converts ambient light into a digital image, thermal works by detecting long-wave infrared, which is emitted by all objects, both living and non-living. Since thermal can see at higher wavelengths than night vision, it can also see through smoke and fog, so a misty morning means nothing to the Merger.

        Precise, practical, and highly versatile, Pulsar’s Merger LRF XP50 pro is perfect for daytime hunting due to its ability to pierce through fog and defeat camouflage as well as its long distance rangefinder.

        Would you use digital thermal imaging in the daytime? Tell us why or why not in the comments.

        Pulsar improves on the Accolade with the new Merger

        Pulsar improves on the Accolade with the new Merger

        When Pulsar released the Accolade in January of 2021, it took the world of thermal vision by storm. These compact digital binoculars had eye-friendly adjustable screens with the ability to pierce through damp or misty nights with its finely engineered sensor. It worked well in all conditions and provided an easy to use interface even for users with gloved hands.

        Now, with the new Merger LRF XP50, Pulsar builds on the greatness of the Accolade to exceed the expectations of its loyal customers who have come to know and trust Pulsar for its excellence. The Merger was designed with a traditional European finish, one of the cleanest fits and finishes on the market. Similar in look and feel to a traditional pair of binoculars, the Merger has great ergonomics and fits snug in its user’s palms. The Merger’s interface is both simple and unobtrusive. Even with gloved hands, these thermal binocular’s controls are easy to manipulate.

        Designed with a new, more robust shell, Pulsar has transitioned away from the plastic/glass nylon composite of previous designs and has built the Merger using high quality magnesium alloy. This rugged, durable construction makes the Merger suitable for harsh outdoor conditions, especially with its IPX7 waterproof rating.

        A comparison of the visual fidelity of the Merger to its predecessor, the Accolade, reveals night and day differences between the two thermal binoculars. The Merger features a larger F50/1.0 Germanium objective lens than its predecessor. Combined with its 1024x768 display, a substantial upgrade from the Accolade’s 640x480, the Merger’s image quality provides crisp, high resolution images that were simply not possible to capture in the Accolade. The Merger retains the impressive 1900 yard detection range of the Accolade as well as its 1000 yard laser rangefinder.

        The convenience of streaming videos and pictures through the Stream Vision 2 app has carried over to the Merger, and the new thermal binoculars feature integrated 5GHz Wi-Fi, with longer range and faster transfer speeds than the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi on the Accolade.

        Along with other improvements, the Merger boasts a longer battery life. With its Dual Li-Ion power system consisting of an external APS3 chargeable battery and a built in battery pack, the Merger can run for 10 hours in the field, more than enough for a long night of wildlife scanning or trekking. To further extend its battery life, the Merger comes equipped with an optional automatic on/off function in the form of a proximity sensor, which puts the unit to sleep whenever the binoculars are away from a user’s face and wakes it up again when in use.

        The Merger’s high performance, rugged reliability, long battery life and wide range of features make it a top contender in the world of thermal optics. Aside from hunters and forest rangers, law enforcement and search and rescue personnel will find this solid piece of equipment perfect for conducting reconnaissance or rescues on dark nights. Sold for the same price point as the Accolade, there is no reason for a discerning buyer to accept anything less.



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