Chris Parkin gives his verdict on the latest night vision riflescopes from Pulsar – the Digex range available in N450 and N455.
Pulsar’s new Digex N450 night vision riflescope features a state of the art 1280×720 CMOS HD sensor which takes full advantage of three adjustable IR power levels for your preferred effective range and illumination level.
It offers a fast-focus eyepiece clarifying the on-screen image with an improved eye box for when head/eye position is not totally perfect; an improvement on the older pinpoint sized focal zone.
Three APS2 batteries are supplied along with charger to power the Digex, then one in the illuminator and a spare. The top turret has a bayonet cap for quick changes and the on-board power cell (3200 mAh capacity versus the 2000 mAh of the APS2) is brilliant.
Sensor: CMOS 1280×720
Magnification: 4-16x (4x zoom)
IR illuminator wavelength: 850nm Long Range
Detection Range: Of up to 550m
Objective Lens: F50/1.2
Field Of View: 6.5 degrees/m @ 100m
Eye Relief: 50mm
Display: 1024×768 AMOLED display
Detection Range: 550m
Click Value, H/V, mm at 100m: 10/10
Click Range, H/V mm at 100m: 2000/2000
Pre-Loaded Reticles: 10 +
Weight: 0.95 kg
Battery Type: Dual Li-Ion B-Pack Mini Power System
Capacity, mAh: 2000 (external) + 3200 (internal)
When fully charged using the Micro USB cable, I got over five hours continuous run time. The bonus is when changing APS2 battery, everything remains powered up so you never miss a moment’s action. Both batteries display their remaining charge reliably in the lower right corner of the screen which I found a helpful feature.
The saddle’s right-side carries the Micro USB socket for charging and download of video or stills; the former with sound recording capability if needed. Bluetooth connects to the Stream vision app used across Pulsar’s range – now also featuring a ballistic calculator – but I found it a bit simplistic and underdeveloped.
Pulsar’s firmware heavy future evolution will hopefully incorporate more in the app’s functionality to calculate and self-program/assign the longer-range zeros for the scope but that isn’t in place just yet.
The Digex can be zeroed on five rifles, each carrying personalised settings for any of the ten programmable zero ranges for more precise longer shots, along with ten reticle and colour options.
The left side control dial needs a short press to initiate immediate features like contrast, brightness, current range in use and Stadiametric rangefinder or a longer hold enters the full menu. This features controls for reticle shape choices, screen brightness, reticle colours, and most importantly the zeroing system.
A moving reticle system is in place, so after the first shot move the reticle towards the point of impact on target and be patient because, although taking significant time and effort, it is very precise. The base ‘click’ value is 10mm @100 metres on 4x magnification.
If you increase to 8x magnification, clicks become 5mm with 16x magnification refining this to 2.5mm at 100 metres. I find this easier to understand, regardless of magnification level, when displayed as +/- cartesian coordinates (top right of the screen) up/down/left/right of the Digex’s centreline so if you record values like X=5.25, Y=-7.50, you won’t go far wrong.
Don’t get too hung up on the magnification, concentrate on the coordinates as these do not confuse – even if the adjustment unit is changing.
Picture-in-Picture mode is an additional frame for precise zeroing; a 10 per cent field of view in the upper display area shows magnified image of the target and reticle allowing the user to closely see the image in the aiming area whilst retaining the entire field of view.
I’d really recommend effort in all this complexity without compromise because there is a lot of other action to go on when shooting in the dark with focus, ranges, illuminators and the hunting itself so the last thing you want is to have any doubts of your zero.
Freeze frame for zero is helpful in some situations but take some binoculars with you, it’s not always possible to resolve your bullet holes on the target real time and you don’t have lovely tactile clicks for adjustment like your day scope offers.
Image focus uses a rubberised collar around the objective lens, but I can’t say I was massively impressed by the sharpness beyond about 150 metres, regardless of whatever settings I used. It’s a reach and doesn’t offer fingertip control. That said, it is digital NV and will always have a grainier image associated when sensors are running at maximum sensitivity with ‘noise’.
The Digex range, which incorporates the N450 and N455, is IPX7 rated for waterproofing and will survive water submersion up to a metre for half an hour. Full day capability is suggested but, like all NV, requires helpful set up and circumstances when it comes to zeroing and I don’t think I would be using one in to hunt in daylight exclusively.
Lack of pure image contrast and detail is out of control unless you see a perfect quarry silhouetted on its backdrop with sunlight behind you. The great step forward is to package the functionality of the “Digisight” into a 30mm tube giving compatibility for more rifles which have been designed for decades without Picatinny mounting systems.
The optic profile is now lower to the gun and more compact, with better cheek position on the stock. A detection range of 450-550m is listed on the N450 with the N455 dropping to 500m because of the 940nm IR. I used 850nm external IR during my testing as I need the extra throw but was impressed by the sensitivity in moonlight and even from semi-urban light pollution.
It took me a little time to adjust to the sensitivity of the Digex, it is significantly improved over previous digital NV and in simplistic terms, appreciates great beam spot quality but you will likely need less IR power to avoid whiteout regardless of the usual problems with short range reflections.
I love the quality of the VCSEL type PBiR but needed to run it on minimum power at all times and if foxes came in close, I just couldn’t dim it any more to avoid whiteout. Fortunately, by that time, they were seemingly investigating calls and otherwise unconcerned, so the shot was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Minimising close-range reflections is critical at this point so don’t be afraid to experiment with angles and IR position on your rifle.
The fact is that the Digex is an evolution and I had no issues tracking movement for shots beyond 400 metres. I don’t think the image is any sharper, but sensitivity certainly needs less added IR to grasp it and, in reality, I rarely take shots much beyond 200m anyway.
Eye relief is 50mm with recoil rating for larger calibres (9.3×64-375 H&H suggested maximum) but I’d avoid those rifles, a .243 held firmly into my shoulder still gave give a little nudge to my eyebrow – that illustrates the reality of gun movement.
Although you can withdraw slightly from the ocular body and see a circular picture with reticle in its centre, you need to go a little closer to spot the full rectangular periphery of the internal display to view all functions. I never had problems in use but be aware of it.
The buttons above the eyepiece make shooting left-handed easier with similarly fast access to primary controls. There is a magnetic rubber concertina eyepiece which helps shroud unwanted light sources after dark. However I prefer these off as, although ventilated, condensation can form on the ocular lens from the heat of your own skin.
Enhanced Night-Time Sensitivity is enabled using the rearmost power button with a short press to initiate “Sumlight” function but with added IR, this was rarely needed and somewhat overwhelmed the sensor, becoming grainier.
If not using added IR, this is a great additional factor for when you hunt quarry that is twitchy around IR illuminators. Just beware not to initiate it accidentally, or at least recognise you have done so!
I’m looking forward to receiving the 850nm illuminator (N450) because the 940nm supplied (N455) was capable up to 100m on rabbits without issue and very well matched in power to the Digex itself. I just want the 850nm to experiment more with distant beam throw on what is clearly a very sensitive system.
New reticles offer the equivalent of First Focal Plane performance so they scale with the image when zoom increases allowing associated aim off or distance judgement more easily.
I mostly used the scope at 4 and 8x magnification because it didn’t seem helpful for me to go higher on my terrain – that’s not to say it won’t for you.
With power and video on/off, the third button atop the eyepiece also enables a quick cycle through the magnification steps more intuitively than accessing the left side menu dial which will scroll in 0.1x increments all the way up if desired.
I enjoyed the broad field of view enabled with fast mag change capability and appreciated how easy it was to use once set up. I just need to tune my illuminator set up a little more and in general, I found the ergonomics and precise zero more confidence inspiring and up until lockdown, was having a successful run of night time use.
Hunt it down
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