The global hunting market has its sights firmly set on a community of expert consumers, especially those purchasing products in the high-end segment. These prosumers, as they are known, are capable of providing expert-level feedback on a given product, even though they are still considered to be private individual buyers.
November 10, 2023 . 4min read
The hunting sector is mainly a market for prosumers, meaning a community of enthusiasts and experts on the lookout for premium quality products that have already reached a high level of market maturity. According to estimates, this sector is home to some 18 million people around the world, and fulfilling the needs of this sizeable market is key to driving its growth.
This specialized market expects a constantly updated and improved range of high-end equipment delivering game-changing performance.
As such, specific focus must be given to all the high-tech components used to develop a leading-edge camera that is capable of living up to this prosumer market's expectations.
This is why we have decided to write an article that offers the low-down on the criteria that make high-end thermal imaging sensors such an essential component for best-in-class hunting equipment.
The importance of imager resolution for the hunting market
An imager's resolution, meaning the number of pixels, determines the quality of the image produced. As a result, imaging systems offering even higher resolutions are trending in the hunting market. Consumers like nothing better than indulging in their favorite pastime with the benefit of using increasingly sophisticated gear to achieve better results.
Hunters in the premium hunting segment prefer higher resolutions, such as the VGA format. In 2022, VGA dominated the market, combined with a constant fall in prices. The share of products with a pixel pitch of 12 µm is growing fast, even though products boasting a pixel pitch of 17 μm offer superior performance.
The XGA/SXGA formats provide resolutions that are 2.5 to 4 times higher, which explains why they represent the future for the high-end segment of the hunting market. These formats increase the lens focal length while maintaining an adequate field of view. In addition, their digital zoom offers double the magnification without any significant deterioration in picture quality.
Therefore, it is vitally important to pay special attention to the optical format of the built-in thermal imaging sensor when looking to develop quality hunting equipment.
The importance of the NETD criterion
NETD is considered to be the thermal imaging equivalent of contrast in the visible light spectrum. It represents the imager's ability to pick out low temperature differences in the camera's field of vision. As such, NETD performance should be extremely high on the criteria list when looking to buy a premium thermal sensor for hunting applications. The lower the NETD, the more sensitive the detector. This criterion will mainly come into play when the user's surroundings are shrouded in mist or feature a low level of contrast (in a forest at sunrise without any living creatures in the camera's field of view). This criterion can be improved through the image processing system inside the finished products. For example, the thermal imager's NETD can be reduced by a factor of two to four after it has been incorporated into monoculars or binoculars.
Most of the new products hitting today's markets contain components with a pixel pitch of 12 µm. The main upside in lowering the pixel pitch is that it allows for finished products to be developed in increasingly lightweight and compact designs, since it also helps scale down the lens size. However, reducing the pixel pitch also drags down performance, since the surface area of the pixel collecting the light is smaller. For example, reducing pixel pitch from 17 µm to 12 µm cuts the pixel surface area by half. Greater NETD performance (a lower value) can be achieved with higher pixel pitches. As resolutions continue improving, pixel pitches smaller than 12 µm will soon spread through the market and reduce the size of finished products even further.
Low-performance alternative technologies
Ever since affordable thermal imaging products were introduced to the hunting market, the technology has given users a number of advantages over the legacy technologies and their various updated versions, not only for detecting targets during low-light conditions, but also for stripping away camouflage in broad daylight. Two alternative technologies can be considered:
- Image intensifiers: these devices contain tubes that increase the intensity of the available light.
- Low-light CMOS imagers: these visible-light imagers have been enhanced for low-light applications (larger pixels, near-infrared sensitivity, etc.).
Thermal imaging is proving to be a major hit in the hunting market with its night-time vision capabilities and its ever improving image quality.
The importance of selecting high-performance components
Specialists in the thermal imaging market, like LYNRED, are currently taking a growing interest in the hunting market. With an established track record in delivering solutions to much more demanding sectors, such as the aerospace and defense industries, they have every credibility in making inroads into the imaging market. They are capable of providing cutting-edge imaging systems. Imagers with a 17 μm pixel pitch have already received excellent feedback from the market for their superior performance. Efforts to improve the 12 μm pixel pitch are heading in the same direction with the aim of satisfying the needs of the hunting market.
The importance of a recognized expert supplier
The leisure industry is the largest known market for microbolometers, meaning that it has acted as a magnet for many manufacturers, especially Chinese firms, which moved into the market and began examining customers' needs. Then they started supplying white-label finished products before quickly marketing their own branded products in an effort to pounce on the opportunities in this fast-growing market. With their ability to address the high level of demand, they have managed to put their name on the radar of both distributors and influencers. However, they have also turned into rivals of their own customers. LYNRED continues to pursue a clear market strategy and does not develop any finished products. It is driven by its determination to provide the best image quality, so that its customers can focus their attention on the application side of their products.
Performance and innovation are clinchers for the hunting community. They are looking for ever sophisticated equipment with the necessary hi-tech features to up their game. Therefore, the sector's manufacturers need to incorporate high-end components and harness those components as an opportunity to showcase their own products.
If you would like to find out more about the hunting market and understand how and why a component can play a decisive role in ramping up a product's value, go ahead and download a free copy of the interview with an official product tester.