Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro: why it’s a clear winner
Patrick Hook is somewhat taken with the Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro after an introduction in inclement weather
Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro
Price as reviewed: £3,400
Not so long ago I attended one of the excellent night-vision demo evenings held at my local gunshop. An early downpour meant that the usual crowds stayed away but this meant I was able to spend more time than usual checking out the latest developments in the world of thermal and night-vision (NV) kit.
One of the many high-tech devices I got to look at in detail was the Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro thermal monocular. My shooting partner, Paul, was considering upgrading his old thermal, but as he was away he’d asked me to check it out for him. The appalling conditions actually worked in my favour, as it’s only when there’s a lot of moisture in the air that the really good kit shines through. (Read more on thermal vision here.)
Looking at some sheep that were several hundred yards away, I was immediately sold. To check my impression, I asked if I could have a ‘normal’ model to hold in my other hand. That confirmed my thoughts – the clarity was so far ahead of anything I’d looked through before that I immediately called Paul to tell him.
Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro in depth
To cut a long story short, the new unit was waiting for him when he got home. That night we set out for another foxing session and I was dispirited by looking through it after using mine. The only way I can convey the difference is to say that if you imagine the image through the Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro to be like a crisp modern digital photograph, then the view through my ancient model looked like a blurred old Victorian sepia postcard.
There are several different versions of the Pulsar Helion 2, but in my opinion the difference in price between the two top models is far less than the jump in quality. In other words, if you can find the extra, it’s well worth it. I chastised myself for several weeks before deciding that I’m only on this planet once and as he who dies with the most toys still dies, I may as well sell my soul. This thought process was considerably eased when my wonderful wife announced that I’d be getting a major contribution towards it for my Christmas present; I guess she just couldn’t stand seeing me huddled up in a corner weeping anymore.
One of the features that really helped me to make my mind up was that the Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro also has the facility to record both still and video images. It has always frustrated me that I see so much wonderful wildlife when I’m out – everything from otters to rutting stags – but that I was only able to capture footage when I was reviewing someone else’s equipment.
In this article, I cover setting it up and using it for the first time. That way I can focus on what the device is, what features it has, and what I like and what I don’t. When I’ve had a chance to use it for long enough to take some decent images of things like foxes, I’ll do a follow-up review.
James at the gunshop – Blue Fox Glade Target Sports in Chawleigh, Devon – gave me a tip when I collected it. Apparently, the batteries are prone to ‘memory issues’ – that is, if you only partly use them they get used to it and won’t hold a full charge thereafter. In other words, if you buy a new one, make sure you fully charge it before you use it. Then, for the first few times you should leave it running to go completely flat, as that way you will maximise the amount of time it’ll run for.
There are lots of features – like the integrated rangefinder and wireless remote control – that will take me some time to evaluate. I will need to see just how useful they actually are when put to maximum test out in the field.
The standout aspect of the Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro, though, is its clarity at range. I’ve said many times that my modus operandi is to get up on to high ground to look for my quarry. Once I’ve located it, I will then do my best to hunt it down. Recently, while trying to find a lamb-killer, I spotted some roe deer on the other side of a big valley. On getting home, I checked on a map and found that they had been just short of three-quarters of a mile away. Given that it was foggy and the air dripping wet, that is amazing.
Pros and cons of the Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro
✔ Once you’ve got past the hand-strap, downloading images and videos is really easy – just connect the cable and it will auto-connect to your computer.
✔ The depth of field is excellent, so you rarely have to refocus unless you’re looking at something really close or miles away.
✔ The battery installation system is way better than anything Pulsar have ever done before.
✘ For the price, it should definitely come with a neck strap – I had to dig around to find something that would do the job.
✘ The mounting hole – which takes a standard camera fitting (¼in Whitworth), is very badly placed. If it is used on its own the device hangs upside down. The way around this is to put a cable tie around the eyepiece end, but had it been designed differently this wouldn’t be necessary.
✘ The hand-strap sits right over the port for the download cable, so it’s much harder to connect than it ought to be.
✘ I don’t like the fact that the front flap can’t be removed. It’s very hard to feel the buttons with gloves on.
✘ The battery doesn’t tell you if it’s being charged.
The Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 PRO should be available at most good gunshops and has a retail price of £3,399.95 including VAT.