Hello and welcome to another episode of Optics Trade Debates. We have been debating over the categories you can find on our webpage, as well as individual characteristics that define certain products. Today’s topic is the features of low light riflescopes.
Products are listed into the category of low light riflescopes if they feature at least the following: a 50/56 mm objective lens (the bigger the objective lens, the better light-gathering capabilities), high-quality optics, and an illuminated reticle.
Some scopes are specifically made for low light use, like Schmidt & Bender Polar, Zeiss Victory HD, and some similar ones, which usually feature a 4x zoom and a Schott HT (high transmission) glass for the lenses.
The second group of scopes that fall into this category are fixed-power 8×56 models – they used to be true low light scopes. They were the brightest because they had a small number of lenses inside – the lower the number of lenses, the higher the transmission rate. They are no longer made by many manufacturers (except Noblex, Kaps, Meopta, and Schmidt & Bender). With 8x magnification and a 56 mm objective lens, they feature a 7 mm exit tube, which is optimal for low light use. Even if your eye pupil is not able to dilate to 7 anymore, they are still the most comfortable to use because of the eye box and exit pupil.
Then we have the Polar and Zeiss Victory HD models – the scopes that are made with a specific glass, specific coatings, and a specific reticle illumination, usually with a 4x zoom. The 4-16, the 3-12, and the 2.5-10 models are specifically produced for low light use.
The high-quality scopes like Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski, and Noblex feature a bigger zoom (6x or 8x). They have a big number of lenses inside and achieve more than 90 % of light transmission ate. The newcomers on the market (American, Japanese manufacturers) sometimes say that they have a 90 % transmission rate, but this is only marketing. So if you wish to have a riflescope with a good light transmission rate, you should turn to those made in Europe.
If a scope has a light transmission rate above 90 %, if it features a 56 mm objective lens, and if it is meant for hunting, then it can be listed in this category.
With some recent premium low light scopes, the tube is a bit thicker. However, the tube diameter does not affect the light transmission rate. It is easier to produce a scope with a higher light transmission rate if you have more space – so bigger lenses can be inserted.
The most important factor is that the reticle illumination is done appropriately – so you can fine-tune it. If the reticle illumination is too strong, you will not see anything behind the reticle. Usually, in this category, the scopes only have a center point of the reticle illuminated and they offer the possibility to fine-tune it, so the best possible performance in low light is achieved.
In this category, we list only hunting rifle scopes, even though some tactical scopes are also used in low light. They are specifically made for hunters. What is also common is that their magnification range starts at 3.5, and they are mostly big and heavy.
It is also true that in the future, these scopes will disappear from the market because night vision optics will replace them. There will be no need to carry around a big and heavy scope and you will be able to get the same results with night vision optics. At the moment this is not the case because the optical quality of the scopes is far more superior than night vision optics.
We mentioned all the characteristics that define these riflescopes. What we can also mention is that some of these hunting riflescopes have thick reticles – so even without illumination turned on, you can see the reticle immediately because it is really thick. Some of these models also still feature a first focal plane reticle, which is highly uncommon with hunting scopes. In low light, the optimal setting is 8x magnification – the reticle becomes thick and you are able to pick it up and see it at twilight.
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Products mentioned in the Low light riflescopes debate:
Low Light Rifle Scopes: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/riflescopes/hunting-rifle-scopes/low-light-rifle-scopes.html
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