TVT – Archer TMQ-19

TMQ-19_titleToday I got something pretty special for you. Not a review, but a preview of the Archer TMQ-19 made by TVT – Thermal Vision Technologies (ТОВ – Термал Вижн Текнолоджис)

We first came in touch with them at the IWA exhibition this year. Since I am an engineer in electronics with a focus on quantum physics, we talked a lot about their products and the technology behind them. However time was short for all of us and their engineers did not attend the exhibition

So eventually they invited me over the their office in Kiev.
…I finally went to Kiev some weeks ago – which is a great city by the way!

And not only did they have some great cookies and black tea (thanks again :)), but also a prototype for a new thermal monocular / weapon sight to show off:

First of all some brief background information about the company:
TVT – Thermal Vision Technologies is rather young as it was founded roughly 3 years ago by one of Europe’s leading hunters, who now acts as the creative director. Since then they quite a few thermal imaging devices reaching from weapon sights to high magnification goggles including laser rangefinder.
Like most other companies they buy the thermal sensors from third-party companies. In this case it is FLIR Systems from the USA – currently the leading company for sensors as of today.
Therefore all TVT products offer the exact same image quality as you would get from devices by the more famous US brands.
All the other components are developed, manufactured and assembled in their own factory near Kiev.
What makes all their products especially interesting is the price: Essentially you will get a top notch thermal sight for about half the price which is common in the US and Europe.

So lets get back to the sight I mentioned earlier: TMQ-19_2The TMQ-19 is a rugged long wave infrared (LWIR) monocular / sight. It is designed to monitor and observe ares under poor light conditions (smoke, objects concealed by ground vegetation / merging with underlying surface)
It will eventually be release early next year. As it is still in development all the following information can still be subject to change.

At first glance it seems kinda fragile, since the case is made out of plastic.
But as it is IP-67 rated and also able to handle recoil of heavy calibers such as .338 Lapua Magnum or 7.62×54 mmR I feel confident that it will last a long time nevertheless.

What makes this sight somewhat special is the size and weight. As you can probably already tell by the photo, it is incredibly small – definitely one of the smallest available today.
It runs 3h nonstop on a single CR123A battery. This might sound a bit short, but considering you usually only turn it on when you actually look through the sight, it will last much longer in common operation. Having some spare batteries with you might still be a good idea.
As it uses a FLIR sensor there is basically no time for the sensor to ‘boot up’, which would bother you otherwise.

About the Sensor:
Talking about the sensor… the sight features a state of the art 640×512 FLIR sensor with a pixel pitch of 17µ. For those of you not too familiar with thermal sights, this is the type of sensor which is used in most military and premium thermal sights.
The sensor is able to work at 60Hz, but there are some issues with export regulations. More about that later!

With a high spectral range from 7,5 to 13,5µm and a thermal sensitivity of <50mK it can be used in pretty much any environment from -40°c to 55°c. Most thermal sights struggle in cold conditions, as the temperature differences between objects are very small in that case. However since the sensitivity is under 50mK you will still get sharp images without much white noise. (50mK meaning that the sensor can measure a difference between 4,000°c and 4,050°c)

About the optics:
The 35mm (f/1.2) front lens system is made in Belarus, which is one of the few countries to produce high grade Germanium optics at all. (… just to keep in mind: you can NOT see through glass with thermal sights, hence you can not use any glass lenses or magnifiers either)
Although the focus is fixed you will get a sharp image at any range above 5m. Reason for that being the small diameter of the front lens.
An electronic shutter is implemented also, which will clear the image of artifacts that might appear after a while.
TMQ-19_3The final image is displayed through a 25mm ocular on a 800×600 AMOLED display – the same technology used in most expensive smartphones.
Of course the eyepiece offers dioptric adjustment, for those who need it 😉

About the software and features:
As the sensor is made by FLIR, it comes with all the fancy FLIR color modes. White hot, black hot, sepia, full color…. and also the ‘InstAlert‘ mode, which is black/white but with objects hotter then the background highlighted red.
A digital zoom up to 4x is implemented too. But honestly I do not really see a point in using it.

The part where the sight really sets itself apart from competitive products is the software:
As it can be used either as a monocular or as a gun sight you can of course display an adjustable cross-hair. But it does not end there. The software contains ballistic tables for all common calibers. So if you enter the range to the target it will adjust the cross-hair automatically to compensate for bullet drop (and crosswinds if necessary)
To estimate the range to the target you can also add an ‘svd-style’ rangefinder to the overlay.

Another neat gimmick is an electrical compass. If you spotted anything of interest, you can just tell your buddies the degree value and they will have a much easier time getting on target also.

TMQ-19_4 Via the plug (photo above) you can connect the sight with your PC using an USB interface.
Not only can you update the software this way, it also allows you to access videos and pictures you recorded. Of course you can record and use the sight as usual at the same time.
The same plug can also be used for an external power supply or as a video output for an external monitor (or recorder, though that would not make too much sense)
So if you need a longer battery life, you can just plug in a bigger one. This feature can be useful in very cold conditions too. Typically most batteries will fail if the temperature drops below -10°c. In that case you can simply strap the battery to your body to keep it warm enough to operate.

TMQ-19_5 TMQ-19_6
The photos above are taken through the ocular with my camera, so they really do not do justice to the actual quality of the image. However they demonstrate the fairly large field of view.

The 9Hz problem:
While FLIR sensors are pretty awesome in general, there are some really annoying regulations regarding any sensors above 9Hz. The sight (and all the other sights by TVT) are available with 9Hz, 30Hz and 60Hz. This refers to the refreshment rate of the image per second. The human eye needs at least 30 pictures per second (=30Hz) to get a real fluent image. So at 9Hz you will get a somewhat laggy image – click here for an example.

Since you could potentially build your own anti-air missiles with 30 and 60Hz sensors, FLIR has some very strict regulations. They apply to any product using FLIR sensors, regardless who manufactures them in the end.

So you will need to fill out lots of paperwork (including all personal information, intended use – things like that) and send it to the company you are buying the sight from. They will then fill out some more stuff and transfer it to FLIR. They in turn have to wait for the US authorities to either approve or decline your request.
If everything goes fine you will get the OK and be able to finally purchase your sight. However you are not allowed to sell this sight to anyone else and have to keep track of it all the time.
TMQ-19_7 TMQ-19_8

So is it worth all the effort, or will the 9Hz version (which is not restricted in anyway) do also?
Personally I would never ever buy a 9Hz version – it just feels too weird using it. However there are a lot of people who seem to get along with 9Hz quite well.

On the photo above you can see the warranty and registration from the sight I got.
It contains a unique serial number for the FLIR sensor and the sight itself (This is from an Archer TSA-5 though – basically the same sight, but way larger)

Last but not least a video using the record function:

Should you have any questions or feedback feel free to leave your commend below!

22.09.2013 – by netsplit for Gruppa L

7 thoughts on “Preview:
TVT – Archer TMQ-19

  1. Nice Review comrad. Just one question: This product seems awesome, what is the price Range for this? I do not know any comparable Piece of equipment like this – in this size. Some FLIR product I know cost about 10k$ for the “cheap” one, so this looks really interessting if you say “about the 1/2” of FLIR prices. Greetings

    • Spasiba!
      Price range will most likely be 4-8k$ depending on the version. So yes, they are considerable cheaper then comparable devices.

      However FLIR changed their export policy just a few days ago and will export 640×512 sensors only with 9Hz. So maybe it is not possible to get the high end version (640×512 @ 60Hz) of this product at all.

  2. Good write-up for a product difficult to research. We are bringing in a few units for evaluation which should be available in the US this summer .

    PS. Assuming refreshment rate is vertical refresh rate 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback!
      On digital NV or thermal vision there is no such thing as vertical refreshment rate. Since the image is displayed on an LCD/OLED it will be completely refreshed in a single instance every 0.03 seconds (for 30hz)

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