Pulsar Axion XM38 Thermal Monocular

First seen at SHOT Show 2019 and further showcased with additional models at IWA 2019 , the Pulsar Axion XM line is the new mainstream range of high performance thermal monoculars from the leading European thermal optronics manufacturer. De-facto setting a benchmark and a high standard for the market, this innovative, extremely compact and lightweight monocular in our opinion may be the next blockbuster in the specific optics niche, because of its performance and surprisingly affordable price tag.

The range includes two lines, based around the same body, sensor and digital engine, and differing for the objective lens construction, feature set and microdisplay used in the eyepiece. The Key is the entry level line, using Chalcogenide lens objectives and LCOS microdisplay; two models, the Key XM22 and Key XM30 are available. The XM30 and XM38 are the higher performing models , using Germanium lenses and AMOLED displays. Additionally, a WIFI communication module and internal video recorded are also included. Pricing start at 1400 Euro.

Test: Pulsar Axion XM38 thermal monocular

Today, we test the top of the line, highest performing model, the Pulsar Axion XM38. 

The Pulsar Axion XM38 Monocular thermal vision device during our field tests.

The XM38 uses a state of the art Ulis-built amorphous silicon microbolometer sensor with native resolution of 320x240 pixels and a much smaller 12 µm pixel pitch; the sensibility of the sensor is stated at < 60 mK and coupled with the fast 1.2 Germanium objectives, yields excellent sensibility. The sensor is managed by a Pulsar proprietary engine, that is shared across the whole Axion range. Thanks to the smaller die size compared to previous 17 µm sensors, a much higher crop factor is possible; using a 38mm focal length objective lens, the XM38 features 5.5x native magnification, that can be digitally increased to 22x thanks to digital zoom.

The rugged housing is entirely built out of tough and light Magnesium alloy, with a textured rubber lower panel for improved grip; the device is waterproof IPX7 certified, which means that it can briefly be submerged down to a meter of water. The full color AMOLED display features 1024 x 768 resolution , which is also the resolution at which the internal video recorder saves images and videos. The internal, non-removable memory has a size of 16GB and is accessible using the micro USB port that can also be used to recharge the battery. The Axion XM38 supports Pulsar’s StreamVIsion free app for iOS and Android smart devices through the integrated WiFi module. 

The Pulsar Axion XM38 is based on a sturdy and IPX7 certified waterproof Magnesium alloy, with a rubber panel to improve grip
We tested the top of the line XM38 version of the Axion, featuring a fast f1.2, 38mm Germanium objective lens; it is capable of focusing down to 3m and sports 5.5x native resolution

Let's see the Axion in detail

The first impact with the Axion XM38 is extremely positive: it feels like a pro level camera, with a high grade of fit and finish. The metal housing feels good in the hand, and although being light - it weighs only 270 grams – the size is so small that it gives a sense of heftiness and quality. 

The user interface includes just four soft-touch buttons, with excellent ergonomics; the surface of each button is textured for easy tactile identification. A small LED indicates the status of the device and battery health.

The Axion comes standard with a camcorder-style hand strap that simplifies use with one hand only; a nice touch is the magnetic lock for the lens cover, that keeps it from wandering around once it is flipped away from the lens. The hand -strap can be mounted to the other side for lefties, and all controls are perfectly ambidextrous. The user interface includes just four soft-touch buttons, located on the top of the device, with excellent ergonomics; the menus are easily selected and operating the device is actually easy and intuitive – although reading the manual is absolutely a must. 

A threaded hole for tripod operation is also present on the housing.

The battery is ejected by pressing a button located immediately below the front lens and recessed to avoid accidental operation. A small LED above the eyepiece indicates the status of the device and battery. The Axion turns on almost immediately, and the calibration noise is dramatically reduced compared to previous models. Power is supplied by a proprietary lithium rechargeable battery, which lasts about four hours- a double charger is included with the device, but only one battery is supplied. 

Diopter adjustment is a bit stiff, as is focusing, avoiding any unwanted movement during use. The minimum focus distance is three meters. 

The Pulsar Axion XM series includes a camcorder-style hand strap that makes it easy to use with a single hand. It can be placed on either side. A clever touch is the magnet on the strap that captivates the folded back objective cover

Performance is excellent; thanks to the high magnification it is possible to detect objects at a great distance, the manufacturer claims up to 1700m. Image quality is very good, in our opinion it is almost equivalent to that of the Pulsar Helion XQ monocular , although the XQ uses a higher resolution 384x288 pixels, 17 µm pitch sensor.

Perhaps, the optical quality of the eyepiece could be improved; on the other hand, there is so much that can be done with such a small footprint, and this considered, it is really more than adequate.

Compared to the current Pulsar production, the Axion is a high-quality – but mainstream product; this model is currently offered only with 320x240 pixel resolution, while the Helion, which at this time is still the “professional” thermal imaging monocular range from the manufacturer – featuring a much higher feature set including interchangeable lenses for the XP line -  is also available with a 640x480 sensor.

Video: the Pulsar Axion XM38

Pulsar Axion XM38: wrap-up

In our opinion the Pulsar Axion XM38 is a product that will attract many enthusiasts and professionals: the Axion is suitable for hunting, Law Enforcement, leisure, outdoors activities  and surveillance.

While the top-of-the-range XM38 version we are testing today has an MSRP of about 2500 Euros, the Axion series starts with the KEY XM22 which is very affordably priced under 1400 euros; prices may vary according to VAT in your region.

Power is supplied by a proprietary APS3 3200 mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery, which lasts about four hours. It is released pushing a button below the objective lens.

Pulsar Axion XM38: technical data


Pulsar - Yukon Advanced Optics ( www.pulsar-nv.com )


Axion XM38


Monocular thermal vision device


5.5x native, up to 4x digital zoom

38mm/F1,2 with coated germanium elements

320x240 pixels, uncooled amorphous silicon microbolometer sensor with 12µm pitch, with automatic and manual calibration, 50Hz Full-frame rate

IR sensibility:

LWIR (from 8 to 14 µm), NETD approximately 60mK


AMOLED color Microdisplay with 1024x768 pixel resolution, ± 5 diopter adjustment, 3.5 mm exit pupil


Max. observation range of a 170 x 50 cm rectangular heated object in optimal conditions: 1700 m (lights a pixel at this distance; focusing range, 3 m – infinity)




Made entirely of Magnesium alloy


Powered by Pulsar APS3 3200 mAh Li-Ion batteries, built-in DVR recorder (16 GB internal memory), WIFI Stream Vision connectivity, compatible with Android and IOS smartphones/tablets, MicroUSB socket, IPX7 waterproof certified


Indicative MSRP 2500 Euro (price in your region has to be requested to your local distributor)

For more information please visit  Pulsar website .

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