TFB Review: Zeiss DTI 3/35 Thermal Spotting Camera

    -“Would you like to review the Zeiss DTI 3/35? Zeiss brand new and first-ever thermal spotting camera?

    (Me) -“For sure!

    -“The good news is that you’ll be the first in the World. The bad news is that you can only have it over a long weekend and the forecast says it’s going to rain most of the time.

    Those were the conditions for this review, and something you need to bear in mind. Normally I do my best to test any gear for at least over a few weeks, preferrably over months or – even better – something I’ve own for a very long time. But there are exceptions to the rule, and this is such a case.

    Zeiss-Thermal-Spotter-DTI-3/5

    The new Zeiss DTI 3/35 with a sensor resolution of 384×288 pixels, 17μm pixel pitch and NETD score of <50mK.

    Please also note that the device reviewed is one of the first 100 samples ever made, so I’m pretty sure there will be some improvements as the unit goes into full production.

    The Background – Zeiss DTI 3/35

    The market for thermal devices has exploded in the last few years, and Zeiss wants a piece of the market as well. In March of 2020, around when the IWA exhibition was supposed to have taken place, Zeiss released the news that they were entering the scene with their DTI 3/35.

    Ergonomics

    Zeiss developed what they call the “ErgoControl operating concept”, with the intention that you can use the thermal device without any distractions. The main body is a combination of plastics and aluminium covered with what I would call soft-touch materials and rubber. Your fingers would never really touch metal, which is nice once it gets colder.

    Size: 193 x 60 x 65 mm (7.6 x 2.4 x 2.6″)

    The buttons are all covered with rubber and have a nice, tactile feel with some audible feedback when you press them. This is quite good, but unless you have your finger directly on the button you need to press harder. It could be that I’m not used to the unit enough, but even though the recording button is elevated I managed to press the on/off button a few times instead.

    Even if you are wearing gloves you should have no issues controlling the unit, and the controls are easy to learn. Operation with one hand is no problem.

    The lens cover is made out of rubber and fits well. It’s made in one piece, so it hangs from the main body when you’re using the unit. It looks like the rubber strap is rather weak, so at some point, it may break. It may be a DIY job to replace it, with the two screws in the picture below. This might be a possible thing to improve for Zeiss.

    Below: “Sample: Designed by Zeiss – Made in China”.

    Overall, the unit is easy to hold and operate. It feels lighter than the advertised 450 grams (just under 1 pound).

    Mine didn’t have one, but there is a carrying strap that is attached to two connection points, similar to what you use on normal binoculars. As a result, the device can be lowered quickly and quietly when reaching for a weapon.

    The battery is a Li-on with about 7 hours of operation (without WiFi). There is a green/red/off light to show you which mode the DTI is in.

    Image quality

    The thermal sensor has a resolution of 384 x 288 with a thermal sensitivity (NETD) of ≤50mk (the lower the better). This is good, but not among the best on the commercial market. The LCOS display (which you look into) has a resolution of 1280 x 960 with a frame rate of 50 Hz.

    The focal length is 35 mm with an optical magnification of 2.5. The maximum digital zoom is 4x, and you can change it in 0.5 power increments, from 1 to 4x. This means that you in reality see 2.5 to 10x magnification on the screen. The field of view (FOV) at 100 meters is 19 (62 ft), and the device appears to me to have a wide FOV as you walk around in the forest (about 30°).

    Below: Wild boar spotting with the new Zeiss DTI 3/35. You can spot details that you most likely wouldn’t be able to see with your daylight binoculars. Remember that you can use your thermal camera in daylight as well.

    The digital zoom is very smooth in steps of 0.5 and there are also functions for picture-in-picture and something called hot-tracking. The start-up, until you can see an image from the thermal sensor, is in the region of 11-12 seconds. This is quite slow compared to many of the competitors, and may (or may not) bother some customers. However, the automatic calibration which freezes the image for a little while is very fast. You just hear a little “click” and then it recalibrates. Most other units I’ve tried take longer to do this, and even if it’s just for a fraction of a second it’s annoying and feels like forever. Well done Zeiss!

    In terms of color palettes, there are four: White Hot, Black Hot, Red Hot and Rainbow. In my opinion, the black hot gives a very white picture overall, which may be bad for your eye’s night vision. You can adjust the brightness and contrast, but even then it’s very white, almost like a white paper that you put a back-light on. The purple is similar, except it’s purple. The rainbow gives you a very purple picture and was not a favorite of mine. I used Red Hot and White Hot mainly.

    Note that the weather conditions were quite bad with rain and very even temperatures. This is optimal for testing the performance, but the quality of the pictures may look to Zeiss’ disadvantage if you compare them versus other units.

    Example: Black hot. I’m not sure about the distance, but I guesstimate it to be around 25 meters.

    Example: White hot. Roe deer, about 35 meters away, with some vegetation in front. The focus is probably a little out here as well, as this was one of the very first pictures I took.

    Below: Another black hot. Hare, close.

    To my knowledge, the Zeiss does not record any audio.

    Hot Tracking

    This is the first time I’ve used a device with something called “Hot Tracking”. Once turned on, you get a small red square that tracks the hottest place on the screen. Cool feature, for a while. Your eyes will be able to tell you which is the hottest surface anyway, and then the jumping red square may be a distraction rather than a help.

    WLAN and Apps

    This sample unit did not yet have the WLAN functions, so I haven’t been able to evaluate them or the apps. There will be software and possibly firmware updates and live sharing through the app once the camera gets on the market. The Zeiss Hunting app has a very high rating (4+ out of 5), so there’s hope the software is going to be useful.

    All of the videos and pictures were downloaded by cable, which worked without problems.

    A plus is that the camera stores the media in folders per date. See the picture below.

    It was a very wet weekend, so the Zeiss DTI got tested in realistic conditions.

    Zeiss DTI 3/35 Specifications and Performance:

    Focal length 35 mm
    Sensor resolution 384 x 288
    Thermal sensitivity (NETD) ≤50mk
    Display resolution 1280 x 960
    Display frame rate 50 Hz
    Display type LCOS
    Range 1235 m (1350 yd)
    Field of view of the ocular 30,25°
    Field of view at 100 m 19 m (62 ft)
    Optical magnification 2,5
    Maximum digital zoom 4x
    Zoom steps (in 0.5x) 1.0x – 4.0x

    Features

    Battery type Li-Ion
    Battery run time 7 h
    Internal storage 15 GB
    Lifestream function (Video & Photo) +
    Resolution (Video & Photo) 384 x 288
    WLAN Frequency 2.4 Ghz
    WLAN Standard IEEE 802.11 b/g/n

    Physical

    Operating temperature − 10°C | + 40°C (+ 14 °F | + 104°F)
    Length x Width x Height 193 x 60 x 65 mm (7.6 x 2.4 x 2.6″)
    Weight 450 g (1.01 lbs)

     

    Note that all of the pictures from the camera have been subject to cropping and resizing (enlarged) to fit the standard size of our articles.

    Below: Cows at distance.

    Below: Birds and animals.

    Still photo of fallow deers.

    And the same, by video.

    Here you can see the “Rainbow” color palette.

    For more videos – all recorded by the tested device – check this Playlist.

    Price:

    According to our knowledge, the price is set around €3,000 (roughly $3,680). I have checked with Zeiss and the DTI will be available both in the USA and in Europe.

    Conclusion:

    The overall impression is positive. The device looks good and handles well. The material choices are well thought out and it feels and looks like a premium product. There are a few areas where Zeiss need to try harder, but for a first try, they got most of it where it should be. Zeiss may also attract new customers to the thermal game. People who have little or no knowledge of how these devices can be used in hunting for instance.

    The Made in China label may come as a negative surprise for some that were expecting Zeiss to use their knowledge in optics and semiconductors.

    The first Zeiss DTI 3/35 Thermal Spotting Cameras should become available in stores soon. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zeiss have more thermal products in the pipeline. Did anyone say a Thermal Front Attachment? Developed, branded and integrated together with their daylight riflescopes Zeiss could have a pretty strong offering within a few years’ time. I hope they play their cards right.

    You can find Zeiss DTI 3/35 Product Page here.

    What do you think about Zeiss’ new DTI 3/35 Thermal spotting camera?

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics and sound suppressors. TCCC Certified medic.


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