Pulsar Digex C50: exlusive field test and video

Video: Pulsar Digex C50 

I was very intrigued by the Digex C50 digital color night vision hunting riflescope from Pulsar even before receiving my sample, especially after watching the image videos courtesy of Pulsar. So, I really wanted to mount it on a good rifle and take it out to the field, to test its color performance especially in the dark.

The new Pulsar Digex C50 digital night vision riflescope with X940S IR illuminator
The new Pulsar Digex C50 digital night vision riflescope with X940S IR illuminator. I used high rings to allow the large objective bell to clear the rear ramp Battue type sight

The Digex series of riflescopes follow the clever idea to disguise an optronic device in the shape and form factor of a standard daytime riflescope, which greatly simplifies mounting thanks to a standard 30mm ring mount interface. The Pulsar Thermion is an example of a thermal imaging riflescope that shares this form factor with the Digex. I also found the idea of placing two batteries – one integrated in the optic and another that can be easily and rapidly replaced with the device still turned on – a definite plus, especially in long hunting trips.

The objective bell of the Pulsar Digex C50
The objective bell of the Pulsar Digex C50 is a hefty 56mm diameter, to be able to collect as much light as possible. The objective of the IR illuminator is not focusable, but rests on a lockable gimbal to allow "zeroing" of the beam to the scope.

But back to the Digex C50, what is very interesting is the capability to double its role as a standard daytime riflescope thanks to the excellent definition and color depth of the daytime operating mode of the CMOS sensor, for full and real 24/7 operation. This is not simply a "digital night vision rifle scope with added daytime use": the C50 offers daytime observation image with really good quality. The difference between the sensor and AMOLED display resolution, 1928x1088 pixels sensor and 1024x768 for the display, mean that increasing the zoom from the native 3.5x onwards do not degrade too much the viewed image definition, although graininess is to be expected at 14x.

The power of the X940S IR illuminator
The power of the X940S IR illuminator is adjustable using the top knob. The illuminator is powered by an independent battery. Note the "moon" and "sun" icons on the large ring next to the focusing ring: they are for selecting daytime and low light modes.

Other features are common to the Digex series of riflescopes, such as the possibility of tailoring the reticle type and color out of a choice of ten designs, both scalable (FFP) and non-scalable (SFP), and the comfort of digital zeroing with 5 shooting profiles and 50 zeroing distances – each profile can hold up to 10 zeroing distances. Plus, the C50 is compatible with the new Stream Vision 2 app for Android and iOS.

But, most technical details are available in the introductory news of the Digex C50, available here

What I want to check out is the claim of the color image from sunset to dusk: you see, at night time the available starlight is not only too scarce to allow color vision, it’s also of the wrong kind. We all see color because daylight is basically white (actually the sun emits a broad spectrum of different wavelengths, and white light is a combination of all visible wavelengths – or colors), and objects hit by white light absorbs most of the colors, reflecting the rest: a fox is brown because the fur absorbs all the rest of the colors.

the scroll knob and confirmation button
The user interface is easy to use thanks to strategically placed controls. This is the scroll knob and confirmation button on the third turret…
the control panel on top of the eyepiece
…and this is the control panel on top of the eyepiece, with the other three multifunctional buttons, including the on/off – display off button.

What happens at dusk is that the radiance of the sun gradually falls so much below the horizon that not even its photons channeled and diffused by the atmosphere can reach our position, and we fully shift into the night.

Nightglow peaks at 1100 and 1500 nm, in the near infra-red spectrum. Once the moon is visible, it adds a spectrum of visible light that is roughly the same as the one emitted by the sun, since it just reflects our star’s radiance, but it’s about one million times less intense. Stars are whiter but shine with orders of magnitude lower than the moon.

The Pulsar Digex C50 integrates a main 4.9 Ah battery inside the body
The Pulsar Digex C50 integrates a main 4.9 Ah battery inside the body and a second, replaceable 2.0 Ah battery in the faux elevation turret. The replaceable battery is the same that is used inside the IR illuminator. 

In these cases, an external illuminator works wonders; and this is why most digital night vision devices have an IR illuminator – and also why most only allow monochrome vision: the IR illuminator projects a single wavelength, i.e. a single color

Pulsar Digex C50
Handling of the hunting gun with the mounted Pulsar Digex C50 is quite good, the scope weighs 1150 g: it’s not featherlight but still very balanced.

So, white light is available until dusk, and if a full moon is up, even beyond that. But our eyes are not able to see color when the intensity of the light falls below a certain threshold – our eyes shift into scotopic vision, and we’re back to monochrome vision essentially… and the same used to happen with digital NV – until new and supersensitive CMOS planar sensors became available, and Pulsar integrated this technology into the Digex!

So, I chose a fairly miserable winter day to check the performance of the D50, in the worst conditions this digital riflescope from Pulsar could be called to duty: lots of mist, no moon and 50-60% overcast sky.

My Benelli Argo E-Pro in .30-06 hunting semiauto gun
My Benelli Argo E-Pro hunting semiauto rifle in .30-06 with the Pulsar Digex C50 digital night vision riflescope. An effective combination for accurate, 24/7 hunting.

I opened the selector ring on the objective bell to "night" and waited until deep twilight, when I could no longer discriminate color with my eyes but just shapes and shadows. The image rendered in the eyepiece in these conditions is noisy and there’s a lot of grain, as in old time photographic paper, but the color is fairly natural and alive! On another test, in much better conditions (clear sky, quarter moon and no fog or mist) the difference is actually dramatic in respect to what the naked eye can see. The image is still more grainy than in daytime, and the colors are a bit off, but it is very impressive none the less. My personal estimate is that the C50 gives another 15-20 minutes of color observation beyond what normally I would be able to have using state of the art optical-only riflescopes. 

Performance of the Digex C50 
Performance of the Digex C50 in twilight is impressive – it extends full color vision well to the threshold of dusk, especially with clear sky and the moon out. And, after that, just flip a switch for B/W and IR illumination for full NV…

Of course, once dusk arrives, there goes all the white light that allows color vision, and the noise in the image drowns out everything. And all we have to do to continue our hunt is select NV mode in the menu and optionally fire up the supplied (and removable) variable power IR illuminator – that also emits IR light at 940 nm and is completely invisible to both people and game. Optionally, a longer throwing IR illuminator is available, the X850S at 850 nm, but it becomes more visible, as a dark reddish glow from the illuminator lens. The illuminators are effective up to about 500 m, although this is in perfect conditions, even a little mist can scatter the beam of IR light.

My opinion is that the Pulsar Digex C50 is truly a 24/7 scope – meaning, it can be used for both daytime hunting, twilight and, where allowed, night time hunting as well. It can be ideally left on my hunting gun as the main riflescope, zeroed and ready for whatever hunt I could use the gun for, in any lighting condition. And in daytime, removing the IR illuminator also allows for a sleek, elegant and traditional scoped look to my Benelli Argo, that my more "old ways" hunt partners do not scoff at…

The Pulsar Digex C50 is available immediately at a very reasonable price point, as the MSRP starts at 1599 Euro.

As VAT and taxes are different for each EU State, the MSRP in your area may be different.

Find out more about Pulsar devices: https://www.pulsar-nv.com/glo/products/33/

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