Just after we all thought the thermal market had reached its peak in terms of competition, yet one more player arrives on the scene!
Conotech are one of the newest Chinese companies to enter the fray and are clearly looking to repeat iRay's recent successes in Australia. The more the merrier in our opinion! The more players, the more manufacturers are looking for that thing that makes them unique. And in turn, this will drive pricing which will make new technology more affordable for a wider range of thermal enthusiasts.
Perhaps the largest surprise, apart from the arrival of a brand new brand was the overall size of the device. We were expecting something similar to a Pulsar Axion or InfiRay Finder with integrated LRF, but the Tracer Range is a bit larger than those aforementioned, with it being the size of a 1980’s camcorder instead of a small compact rangefinder.
It will squeeze into your larger jacket pocket, but barely.In terms of build quality, there isn't any complaints, with rubberised panels for added grip overlaid onto a hard/quality plastic body. the scale of the unit allows for an array of enormous well-placed glove friendly buttons, with the entire thing feeling tough, easy to navigate and solid within the hand.
Closer inspection reveals the explanation for its heavier dimensions. Differing from most of its competitors, it has a full-size array of infrared optics beneath the objective lens for laser range-finding, and in this case, size matters. The range-finding abilities of the Tracer are impressive with the unit happily reaching the claimed 1000m maximum ranging distance.Its ability to instantly update you in scan mode with reliable pings at everyday shooting distances is a welcomed feature.
In terms of thermal image quality, I'd say it's good and positively on a par with its peers within the 384x288 market. There are all the comfortable features we've come to expect in a thermal, with a Picture-in-Picture mode, 6 image colour palettes, stepped digital zoom, 32Gb of storage for video and photos plus WiFi connectivity to the InfiRay app. The app is limited in terms of functionality, but it works well for basic device connectivity and file transfer.
For me.. the Achilles heel of the 50mm objective unit is that the base magnification of 3.9x, for my kind of shooting, that's a touch too high and far prefer somewhere round the 2 to 2.5x. Luckily, there is a simple solution within the style of the Tracer 35 LRF, which incorporates a 35mm objective and a base mag of 2.7x, again with up to 4x digital zoom, for relatively close quarters and woodland shooting, that will be my choice, and it's the added bonus of knocking another AUD$400 off the value at AUD$2,399.
All in all, a pleasant combination of decent thermal imaging and advanced features, alongside excellent range finding. It may not slip into your pocket, but you will not need to dig too deep into them to shop for one.
Be the Apex!