Best Night Vision Binoculars – Definitive Guide from Travoge Experts

night vision binoculars adjusted

June 28, 2016 • Product, Tips & Lists • Views: 2872

Successfully showing you images that the night does not want you to see; as clear as possible and as bright as day.

 

Night vision binoculars are a great asset for those who enjoy going on night time trips. There are many reasons for that, regardless if you want to see a landscape or the wildlife. Whether you go out to explore caves or you go fishing, boating, camping, nightlife observing or hunting, you will need a pair of binoculars that will let you see in the dark. It’s next to impossible to get an image with a regular pair of binoculars, and using flashlight along with other lighting devices might scare off any life signs around you.

A night vision binocular is useful when you want to go around undetected, while still getting a clear image. Just like the creatures that have developed their own means of seeing in the dark, humans tried to come up with ways to adapt.  The answer came in the form of a pair of binoculars. Working in a similar way to a digital camera, they can be big, small, cheap, expensive, but just as powerful. Once you decide what you need your night vision binoculars for, you’re all ready and set to make the right choice. With the perfect pair of binoculars accompanying you on your trip, you might even see better than any night time creatures.

 

 

 

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1.  How night vision works? Science behind it.

 

If you are the proud owner of night vision binoculars, you are probably wondering how they are able to turn night into day. Night vision binoculars will catch and amplify whatever light may be around you. Whether its moonlight or starlight, but also infrared spectrum light, and send it back to your eyes. A pair of quality night vision binoculars is equipped with an infrared illuminator, which will increase the intensity of the infrared light.

Basically, the ambient lighting will be amplified through a chemical and electrical process within the binoculars, turning the photons into electrons. The electrons are then put into contrast with a phosphorus screen, changing the newly formed electrons into visible light, allowing you to see in the dark. The resulted image will have a greenish hue, but it will be a clear recreation of the scene you have in front of you.

While these may not have the same magnification abilities as daytime binoculars, they still provide a good view at a fair distance, considering the lighting. At the same time, while the distance is shortened, the image is clearer. You will not be able to see in the night without a good pair of night vision binoculars because they were specially made to allow you to see at a fair distance in a low-light condition.

Night vision binoculars will show a different image depending on the lighting conditions. If there is not even a star in the sky, the night vision binoculars won’t be able to show you anything – it’s not a miracle performer. The lower the light, the stronger the binoculars will have to be. This is why you need to be careful in choosing the night vision device you plan on taking with you on your little night time escape.

Credit: BrainStuff – HowStuffWorks

 

2.  Types of Night Vision Technology

Based on the technology used, you can see up to 200 yards away from you on a cloudy, moonless night. Depending on the technology, night vision can work in two separate ways.

2.1  Image Enhancement

This process works by collecting any tiny specks of light, including the ones from the infrared light spectrum, and amplifying them to the point where we can see the image more clearly. While these specks of light may be invisible to the naked eye, they are depicted by the binoculars and used as a light source.

Image enhancement has the ability to amplify the light that is reflected by the object, while the infrared spectrum detects any radiation that is emitted by the objects. If the objects are at a non-cryogenic temperature, they will spontaneously start glowing in the spectrum’s infrared region.

Image enhancement allows you to create something out of almost nothing. It can be used for various outdoor activities for the industrial and forensic purpose. The lower infrared spectrum can reveal a chemical compositional difference that is not really evident with the natural lighting.

2.2  Thermal Imaging

As opposed to image enhancement, thermal imaging works by using the upper part of the infrared light spectrum that turns heat into light. Warm bodies emit their own light, which the binocular depicts of a light source. A live being will emit more heat than, say, a building or a tree.

Here are how night vision binoculars use thermal imaging to show an image:

  • The infrared light that is emitted by the object which is focused by a special lens within the binocular.
  • The light is scanned by the infrared detectors, creating a pattern on the object’s temperature called a ‘thermogram.’ The whole process doesn’t take more than 1/30 of a second. Making the information easily obtainable from miles away.
  • The thermogram is transformed into an electrical impulse, which then sends the image against the phosphorus screen, showing you the image.

Now that you know these types of technology, you can go to the next step of choosing the right pair of binoculars.

 

3.  Buying Guide to night vision binoculars

 

There are a few factors you first need to consider before buying night vision binoculars.

3.1  Image quality

When you purchase a pair of night vision binoculars, one of the first things you will need to consider is the image it provides. It needs to be clear, with little distortion, an excellent resolution and also a high definition. A superior pair of night vision binoculars will provide you with a green monochrome picture of the scene in front of you, with a blurring towards the edges but clear at the center. The green contrast in night vision will be less difficult on the eyesight, which is why it will further enhance the image you receive along with its quality. The less distortion it has, the flatter and less rounded view you will have. Plus, the night vision contrasts in the binoculars will allow you to see dark objects that are set against even darker backgrounds. The high resolution will permit you to detect details in much clearer form rather than a simple shape.

3.2  Gain

The darker it gets, the more difficult it will be for you to get a clear image of a picture even while using night vision. If the light is constantly dropping or if the range is getting longer, you might have to increase the gain of the binocular. At the same time, if the lenses for your binoculars are the long type used for viewing in the distance, you will need to bump up your night vision binocular gain. The reason for that is because a longer lens will not have the ability to transfer light the way shorter lenses do. You also need to be aware of the fact that increasing the gain of your night vision binoculars won’t necessarily improve the range or clarity of the image. If you are in an area with housing or street lights, the system might get overloaded, and your viewing abilities will suffer from it as well.

3.3  Range

When you want to see an image that is at a greater distance from where you are standing, your night vision binocular system needs to be able to magnify a potential image, the available light, resolution and the gain of the product. A powerful, long lens will have the ability to magnify the image, but as mentioned, it will be able to transfer the light too well. If you are in a place with less light, you will need gain to improve your range and see farther away. If you use a high-speed lens with a lower magnification, your binoculars will be able to capture more light, and thus, the range will also improve.  Most night vision binoculars users are satisfied with a 1x to 3x the size of the image, making it easy for them to view an object or subject without getting disoriented.

 

4.  5 Tips on buying binoculars with Night Vision

 

One needs to be careful when buying their first pair of night vision binoculars. Here are some pieces of advice from Travoge for you:

  1. Check for other uses: Many buyers purchase a pair of night vision binoculars for one specific trip or purpose, but you need to consider all of the places you could benefit from a night vision. A pair of night vision binoculars can be utilized for observing animals, birding, fishing, stargazing and much Make it count!
  2. Be careful on the price tag: There are always cheap alternatives to night vision binoculars. There are many binoculars or devices that use low-light sensors to provide a good image which will cost you less than $500, and you will definitely see what’s going on in the shadows.
  3. Be careful with second-hand devices: While buying a used binocular might sound like a better alternative for you, keep in mind that the lifetime of such a device is finite because of the image intensifying tubes. It’s like using a light bulb: it won’t be able to keep on burning forever.
  4. Know what you are buying: Before getting a pair of night vision binoculars, read about what the product offers and discover all the pros and cons. By going through some reviews, you will get an idea from other buyers on what the binoculars offer and what they lack.
  5. Choose a trustworthy seller: in order to feel confident about the quality of a purchase, you need to do some research on the seller. Be sure that the website you’re buying them from is licensed and that your transaction will be safe. Websites like Amazon.com are among the top global trustworthy websites.

By knowing all these, you are now a professional binocular buyer!

 

5.  Best night vision binoculars

 

It’s never easy to pick your binoculars if you’re a beginner at this, which is why the Travoge experts have some suggestions for you.

5.a.  Bushnell LYNX Gen 1 Night Vision Binocular

Bushnell takes binoculars to a next level with the LYNX night vision device. Sporting 400mm objective lenses and a 2.5x magnification, these binoculars have the ability to spot a subject from a distance of 750 feet in the dark. These binoculars are a perfect fit for those night adventurers who want to see just like a predator. They have an infrared system built in, offering the best image possible in any light conditions. The optics have high clarity, offering you stunning HD images.

It’s a very convenient pair of binoculars to use since they can be used for longer times of observation and viewing while only needing two AAA batteries. They’re lightweight but offer a wide FOV and a really long viewing range. Plus, the materials are of high quality, assuring their durability. From surveillance to wildlife viewing and birding, these binoculars can be yours for only $419!

Pros:

  • High-quality optics
  • Waterproof coating
  • A design that was meant to be durable

Cons:

  • The focus can be difficult to adjust
  • Cannot see during the day

 

5.b.  ATN BinoX HD 4-16 Smart Binocular 

Ever wondered how it feels to go on a safari and take all of your devices with you? When you go on a trip anywhere in nature, you are used to becoming one with it. Meaning no ability to see and navigate any more than any day creature would. Well, ATN came with an answer to that and created the BinoX HD binoculars. Built with a smart optic technology, these binoculars will let you see up to 500 yards! They can zoom out an image from 4X and up to 16X, making you go around unnoticed as you ‘stalk’ your ‘prey.’

The binoculars have a great image stabilization that even allows you to record steady videos and take clear pictures. Plus, they offer you WiFi, Geotag, GPS, Altitude, Velocity, and E-Compass. They are capable of coming up with a 1080P image that is as clear as day and as outlined as a professional’s. And they can be used for both night and day!

Pros:

  • HD clear images
  • Flexible zooming in the field
  • It has many features such as WiFi or GPS

Cons:

  • Batteries can run out really fast
  • A clear picture can be difficult to get

 

5.c.  Night Owl Pro Nexgen Night Vision Binocular

Everyone wants to have the eyes of a night owl when going on a safari.  This means that no matter the lighting condition, a pair of binoculars needs to rise up to the challenge and show you the best images it can get. As part of the 1st generation binoculars, the Night Owl can see up to 300 yards, with a magnification of 5 x 50mm. They have an angular field of view of about 12.5 degrees with a resolution that goes to 35 lp/mm in the center.

Without the batteries, the device weighs around 38 ounces, and it has a rubberized soft-touch finish which provides you with a better grip. The two intensifier tubes built inside the binoculars offer great control and precision, for only $434!

Pros:

  • High-quality lenses
  • Infrared system
  • Wide field of view

Cons:

  • Can’t show clear images with porch lights or other external lights
  • Can be heavy for some
  • Not waterproof

 

5.d.  USA Defender Night Prism 10×25 Binoculars

The USA Defender binoculars are the ideal choice for people of all ages, coming at a really convenient price of $19.97! The Ruby Lens Optics offer a really improved light transmission with clear images, giving you the best experience with whatever you may want to see, indoors or outdoors. The USA Defender can be used for hunting, birdwatching or even watching a theater spectacle.

The focus knob is strategically placed in the center so that every user could easily adjust it during the viewing. These night vision binoculars have a 25mm objective diameter which offers you a 1-x magnification. Combining a contemporary style with durability and a traditional quality, the binoculars feature general-purpose use which can benefit anyone!

Pros:

  • Great price
  • Clear images
  • Easy-to-use focus knob

Cons:

  • The materials look rather cheap
  • They are mainly intended for children

 

6.  Best Cheap Night Vision Binoculars

 

6.a.  Aurosports 30×60

When buying binoculars, most people do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on a pair with night vision. This is why one needs to be aware that there are certainly affordable options which can work out pretty well. For that, Travoge recommends the Aurosports 30×60 folding binocular with night vision. Aside from the fact that they only cost $11.99, they are also compact and really easy to carry around. They have a 30×60 magnification, with a field of view that goes to 7.2 degrees with a 126M/1000M. Let’s see what the reviewers say about this:

Pros:

  • Ideally lightweight
  • Can be used for both night and day
  • Quick focus

Cons:

  • Not very durable (can easily break if you’re not careful)
  • The focus can be unclear

These binoculars are, however, highly recommended by most people who want to save some money and still see at a good distance far away. However, if there is no light source near you and you are in complete darkness, it might prove difficult for you to get an image. For a clear picture, make sure that there is moonlight or at least a few stars in the sky.

7.  Maintaining your night binoculars

When you buy a pair of binoculars, you’ll want to make sure that they work properly for a longer time. This is why, when you buy a pair of night vision binoculars, you will need to handle them with care – and most importantly, don’t drop them! Night vision can be a really frail system, and each shock wave can put a dent in this gadget’s performance.

 

Once you have the ‘handle it with care’ down, you will need to know how to clean and store them. First of all, when cleaning the lenses, you need to wipe them with a special lens cloth or another soft cloth. The reason for this is that it stops traces from forming, allowing you a clear view with no obstructions. For dirt or very stubborn spots, you can add a drop of alcohol on the cloth as well. The binoculars are to be stored in a place that is free of moisture so that the night vision system life doesn’t shorten. And last but not least, NEVER take them apart or try to clean your binoculars internally.

night vision device maintenance

Credit: Photo by Tracey Condi courtesy of U.S. Army

8.  What night vision device do I need: Types of NVD

It’s never easy to choose your night vision device. From binoculars to monoculars and scopes, one needs to know the uses of each night time device before buying it.

8.1.  Binoculars

A pair of night vision binoculars comes with two eyepieces and has built-in magnification. These devices are specialized to show magnified images from a long distance while you are stationary. Since the magnification lenses are pretty large, the device itself can be rather heavy. The drawbacks of binoculars are that not many have a flexible magnification – most of them are fixed – which can make it difficult for some to close in on objects. However, if what you are looking for is maximum distance view, binoculars are the main winners. The stationary long range is what these devices specialize in.

8.2.  Monocular

Unlike the binoculars, the monocular only has one eyepiece for the viewer to look into. Having no actual magnification, a monocular is something one would call the night vision’s Swiss army knife. Since they are light and compact, the can be easily carried around or attached to other devices and applications. If you are the kind of person that quickly gets tired in the eyes, a monocular is the best choice for you. Since you can easily switch it from one eye to another. For the best experience, practice looking through your monocular while keeping both eyes open.

8.3.  Goggles

The best thing about night vision goggles is that they have no magnification, but unlike the monocular, they allow viewing using both of your eyes. It’s a device that is comfortable to wear, easy to adjust to and is overall sporting a natural feel. It’s like wearing a pair of glasses that let you see in the night. Unlike binoculars and much like the monocular, you can easily walk around when wearing the goggles – even on a slow drive. The goggles are heavier and less versatile than a monocular; however, they offer a better depth perception.

8.4.  Scope

One can come across two kinds of night vision scopes. The most used one resembles a regular rifle scope, only heavier and larger. The second kind is attached to mounts in the front, and can be removed/changed at any time with regular day ones. A scope is a much more advanced version of a monocular which allows you to see better into the night. It is generally used for night time hunting and checks out more benefits than an average monocular, proving to be more versatile.

8.5.  Camera

A night vision camera has the ability to pick out the glow that is unperceivable by the human eye and turn it into an image visible on a screen. Whether it’s a photographic camera or video camera, such a night vision device has the ability to immortalize a scene that is invisible to the human eye. Whether it’s an image enhancement camera or a thermal imaging one, once you choose the right night vision camera, you can capture images that could not normally be photographed with a regular day camera.

8.6.  Digital Night Vision Devices

A digital night vision device works with electrical signals, receiving energy which it further transforms into electrons. The process is similar to the one we find in most digital cameras and imaging devices created nowadays. By choosing a device with digital night vision (scope, binocular, monocular), etc., you will be provided with a micro-display technology that offers one of the best resolutions created by recent flat paneled techniques. It is also a device that allows you to remain undetected since you will be looking through an eyepiece rather than a screen.

9.  Night Vision Device Generations

 

Depending on their features, night vision devices have been classified into various generations by their manufacturers. They are arranged as such:

9.1  Generation 0

Generation 0 is what one would call the great grandfather of night vision. Back in a time when infrared was usually called ‘black light,’ – and later on, ‘ultraviolet’ – these devices were not initially successful due to high cost. Technology was really advanced considering the times – however, it had limitations. You could not really see really far ahead and the quality of the received image was also lacking. The life expectation of an average night vision device was under 1500 hours, and would use infrared lights for illuminating their targets. The intensifier tubes from a GEN 0 device would use an anode, but also a photocathode made of cesium, silver, oxygen and a sort of electrostatic inversion that used electron acceleration to achieve some gain.

9.2.  Generation 1

This generation became widely used during the Vietnam War, being a better version of the GEN 0. It relied on using natural light from the environment rather than using an infrared light source. Using a more advanced photocathode (s-20), the device manages to show a light amplification that goes around 1.000x, but they still required a fair amount of moonlight to function.

9.3.  Generation 2

GEN 2 is, obviously, an improvement of GEN 1. It had an average life expectancy of 5000 hours, and it had the ability to function in a ‘passive’ way, without actually needing infrared illumination. The range also improved, a device being able to pick up a target from 200 yards away (depending on how advanced the model was). They were also better in terms of resolution, brightness and image clarity.

9.4.  Generation 3

Generation 3 is what one would call ‘the real deal,’ maintaining the micro-channel plate of the GEN 2, but used a photocathode made of gallium arsenide instead, to improve the resolution. They also added an iron barrier coating meant to improve the tube’s life. Such a device usually has a life expectancy that goes over 10.000 hours and a range that surpasses 300 yards. It’s the generation that provides the clearest, brightest images possible.

9.5.  Generation 3+

This generation met some problems when it was first introduced as a GEN 4 classification. Upon testing the abilities of a night vision device in accordance to how it was supposed to act as a 4th generation, the US army decided that the technology did not meet their requirements. That means that while the 4th generation of night vision devices can be as good as or even better than the former generation, it is still prone to failure since it is still considered ‘experimental.

 

10.  Night Vision Device Applications

 

Night vision devices can have more than one use. Depending on what you plan to use it on, a night vision device can make the difference between success and failure.

10.1.  Wildlife Activities

A good pair of night vision binoculars can tell you if your vacation will be a fruitful one or a total disaster. For example, if you go on a Safari, you will need a pair of good night vision binoculars so that you’ll avoid the danger of getting too close to predators. You need to keep in mind that they were born with their own ‘night vision,’ which is why it would be convenient for you to see them as well. At the same time, a night vision device is great for birding, since you won’t risk scaring them by getting too close.

10.2.  Adventure Activities

If you plan on going camping or hunting, a night vision device can also prove to be very helpful. For example, if you are one of those adventurers who love going on night hikes, a pair of night vision goggles can help you see better what is in front of you so that you can safely go forward on your journey. This might be a particularly good idea considering that hiking and climbing usually ask for free hands. In other cases, it might prove a great asset to be able to see what you are hunting in the dark… so that you do not get hunted instead of bring a hunter.

10.3.  Security Activities

night vision photo

Photo by Defence Images

Night vision is great for surveillance as well. Considering that most wrongdoers usually pick nightfall to start on their mischief, a good quality night vision device can help you catch the culprit more easily or before anything even happens. Night vision has been used for ages in law enforcement, military or anything security-related, because it keeps control of the order. Whether it’s preventing a disaster from happening or stopping one that has already fully bloomed. NVD give the upper hand to the human condition, and it has definitely helped soldiers in many wars in defeating their enemies.

10.4.  Navigation

When you’re navigating, whether it’s by boat, plane, car or foot, it is important to see where you are going. Night vision monoculars or goggles can help ‘illuminate’ your path so lessening the risk of getting lost due to poor vision. At the same time, NVD keep you safe during your navigating process, unseen from any dangers that might appear.

10.5.  Entertainment

Night vision can be especially helpful if you’re taking part in games and activities that take part in dark places. For example, if you are in a poorly lit room, the right night vision device could help you scope out your surroundings in a more efficient way. At the same time, if the activity takes part outdoors (like a game, a show or a night race), a pair of night vision goggles can make the difference between a good game in which you saw everything and a bad game in which you’ve seen nothing.

 

11.  Legality of Night Vision devices

In US, there are state – by -state different in regulations related to use of Night Vision device, especially depending on the purpose of use.

Please note that regulations are regularly changing and so would advice you check locally. Hi-Tech Red-Neck Inc has an exhaustive 50 State Guide.

12.  Glossary of terms used

  1. Night Vision Device (NVD): It is an opto-electronic device that allows images to be produced in levels of light approaching total darkness.
  2. Monochromedescribes paintings, drawings, design, or photographs in one color or values of one color
  3. Night vision: Ability to see in low light conditions.
  4. Infrared: electromagnetic radiation having a wavelength just greater than that of the red end of the visible light spectrum but less than that of microwaves. Infrared radiation has a wavelength ranging from about 800 nm to 1 mm, and is emitted particularly by heated objects.
  5. Thermogram: a graphic or visual record produced by thermography (study heat distribution in structures or regions).

13.  Disclosure

“Travoge is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

 

14.  Resources / Referenes

  1. Exhaustive guide on how NV works by Jeff Tyson: How Night Vision Works
  2. Exhaustive guide on legality of NVD in different states: “A 50 State guide – is night vision legal to use for hunting in my State?“. High Tech Red Neck. 2010.
  3. Questions on night vision for policing: 20 Things You Need to Know About Night Vision
  4. Guide on Night Vision goggles by Chris Woodford: Night vision goggles

 

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