IR Illuminators | Optics Trade Debates

Welcome to Optics Trade debates. In each episode, we talk about a different topic and try to answer the most common questions we receive about it. Today, we are going to talk about infrared illuminators.

There is a lot of talk about night vision devices but illuminators are usually neglected. Apart from the best gen 3 devices, all NV optics need illuminators to work. No NV optical devices under 10.000 € can gather enough ambient light to work without an illuminator.

An IR illuminator provides a beam of IR light which is invisible to humans and in most cases animals. Illuminators are a must have on NV devices, that’s why the majority of NV devices have an integrated one.

If the integrated illuminator isn’t sufficient, there are external illuminators which boost the performance.

Integrated illuminators usually have a lot of compromises because everybody is trying to make them as small as possible.

The wavelength on IR illuminators starts at 780 nm and goes up to 940 nm. Lower wavelength illuminators can be used for observations, surveillance… where there are no problems if detected. Everything below 850 nm can be detected by animals and even humans. If the goal is not to be detected, higher wavelengths are needed.

A very important factor when choosing an illuminator is that the device will be able to pick up the wavelength that the illuminator produces.

Generation 1 of analog devices usually use wavelengths of 780 nm up to 830 nm. If an illuminator with a wavelength that is not in this spectrum is paired with a gen 1 device, it won’t work.

Digital NV devices use wavelengths above 850 nm. Most digital devices use 875 nm, which is also used by most gen 2 and 2+ analog devices.

Infrared light with a wavelength of 915 nm or 940 nm is used only on digital NV devices. It is completely invisible to animals.

The pricing is usually based on build quality, the intensity regulator, and the focus. The prices ranges from 100€ to 600€.

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Explanation of the term IR ill7uminator wavelength on our website:

Before explaining IR illuminator wavelength, you need to know what is the meaning of these words separately.

The visible spectrum is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is visible to human eyes. 
Electromagnetic radiation in this area of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light – measured in nanometers (nm).
IR or infrared light has slightly longer wavelengths than the visible light, and that’s why it is not visible to the human eye.

The visible spectrum of human eyes is somewhere between 400 and 700 nanometers (nm) wavelength, while infrared is over 750 nm, which is outside of the visible spectrum of human eyes. That means that our human eye cannot detect an infrared source (its invisible to our eyes). Night vision devices can detect IR light because they work on wavelengths over 750 nanometers. So infrared Illuminator provides light over 750 nm wavelength.

There are 2 different types of IR illuminators – LED or laser and 2 types of night vision devices – analog or digital. This is very important to know when buying the right IR illuminator for your night vision device. Different IR illuminators provide light with a different wavelength and they work better on each type of night vision devices.

The main difference between analog and digital night vision device is that digital type works with all wavelength ranges, but analog works only under around 900 nm wavelength.
Laser IR illuminator wavelength from around 780 nm to 810 nm works fine on generation 1, 2, 3 and digital night vision devices, but the problem is that some animals can detect wavelength up to 850 nm. Because of that, IR illuminators with a wavelength up to 810 nm are not recommended for hunters.
Laser IR illuminators with a wavelength of 850 nm don’t work properly with generation 1 night vision devices, because they work on wavelengths till 800 nm. Whatsoever, they work well with gen 2, 2+ and Gen 3 night vision devices. IR illuminators with wavelengths from 850 nm upwards are suitable for hunting purposes.

Laser IR illuminators with wavelengths from 875 till around 910 nanometers work with some high-quality Gen 2+ night vision devices, Gen 3. and also digital night vision devices. Everything that is above this wavelength is designed only for digital night vision devices.

Products mentioned:
IR illuminators: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/night-vision-optics/ir-flashlights-lasers.html

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