Interest in thermal imaging devices has grown considerably among shooters and sportsmen in recent years, and as a result a few of the more forward thinking brands in the sport optics industry have started dipping their feet into this relatively new but rapidly growing market. Leupold & Stevens of Beaverton, Oregon is one such company, and for 2017 they have released their second thermal imaging device in as many years – the LTO Tracker.
The heart of Leupold’s new LTO Tracker is the 206 x 156 sensor that offers a 21-degree field of view. The thermal detection range of this sensor is a claimed 600 yards with a temperature range of -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The operating range of the unit is listed as being -40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the other end of the unit is a Direct View display that offers 1.2” of viewable screen. The display has a resolution of 240 x 204 pixels with a frame rate of 30Hz. The display also offers the user six color pallets to choose from as well as a 1-6x digital zoom and a selectable duplex reticle option.
The unit uses a CR123 battery (included) which provides for up to 10 hours of continuous use.
The LTO Tracker itself measures just over 5.5 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter on the big end. Weight with supplied battery is approximately 10 ounces. The LTO Tracker has a MSRP of $909.00, while online prices are coming in around $700 at the time of this writing.
Using the unit is pretty simple and straight forward with the three button control panel. The first button (on the right) turns the unit on/off when depressed and held for three seconds. This same button can also be used to toggle the reticle on/off by tapping the button twice while the unit is powered on. The second (middle) button operates the digital zoom. Magnification will increase one power with each press of the button and then return back to 1x. The third (left) button toggles the unit through its six different color pallets or display modes. These modes include White Hot, Black Hot, Hi-White, Hi-Black, Red and Green.
Changing out the CR123 battery is a simple matter of unscrewing the milled collar to separate the two halves and expose the battery – much like a flashlight. The two halves are tethered together by a piece of thin plastic to keep either end from being dropped while handling.
I will admit right up front that my initial impressions of this product weren’t that great. When I received the product it was mid-June and the average daily temperatures were in the high 80’s to mid 90’s. With ambient temperatures that high the unit displayed little thermal variation between the target subject and background objects due to their temperatures being so close to one another. In these conditions the LTO Trackers performance was pretty dismal as beyond 15-20 yards the target object would just blend into the background due to the lack of color variation on screen. Movement was still discernible, but only due to a very faint outline of the subject.
For that reason I put the review of the LTO Tracker on hold with hopes that it would perform better once we got into cooler fall weather. Temperatures finally started to dip in early September and we finally got a week of consistent weather where the highs were in the low to mid 1960’s. These temperatures proved to be a little more favorable to testing the unit.
With evening temperatures in the mid to high 50’s the unit did much better at picking up thermal variations out to 150-200 yards, and the screen’s resolution was sufficient enough that you could make out what the source was in most cases. Employing the zoom function didn’t provide any noticeable benefit with source identification at these ranges, and in fact made it harder to identify the source due to the degraded image quality offered by the digital magnification.