Night vision binoculars are very popular among hunters. They offer an intensified picture for observation in the night but can be used also in dusk or dawn. They are available in different magnifications, which also tells us for what purpose they are meant to be used.
Night vision binoculars are available as analog devices or digital devices. Each of them have some advantages, but also disadvantages. In the past, only a limited number of manufacturers produced night vision binoculars. Today, the number is much bigger, and many manufacturers offer also digital night vision devices. They are normally a lot cheaper and have some other benefits as well.
In the past, the most commonly used night vision binoculars were analog night vision goggles, which were converted into binoculars. These are pretty long and have one big objective lens. Analog night vision means that the image gets amplified by an image intensifier tube, and not with a sensor. Analog devices also don't have a refresh rate like digital ones.
Today digital night vision binoculars are getting a great reputation since they offer a lot of features for a very affordable price. The image quality can be easily compared to Gen.1 NV devices and in some cases even to Gen. 2 NV devices, but they have many additional advantages as well.
ATN Binox 4K Digital NV Binoculars
Night vision binoculars are available in many different shapes and sizes. Years ago, only analog devices were available on the market. These were, and still are, available with different image intensifier tubes, which, in the end, tell us the price.
The cheaper analog night vision binoculars feature a Gen.1 image intensifier tube, but these are very limited in the distance of observing and also the performance in darker areas. The use of an additional IR light is in most cases needed. The better night vision scopes feature a Gen. 2 or even a Gen. 3 image intensifier tube. With these, the detection range extends, but also the price is a lot higher.
With an analog night vision device, you see the image directly through the device without a screen. This means the device has no refresh rate, so the image is displayed in normal time without any delay.
Analog night vision binoculars normally do not feature any additional features. Only a few on the market offer an integrated laser range finder.
The battery consumption is very low, so a small capacity battery can last up to 5x more or even longer, compared to a big capacity battery in a digital night vision binocular.
With a digital night vision device, the image gets into the device with a sensor that is right behind the objective lens. This sensor processes and converts the image you are looking at to an electric signal, which, in the end, is showed on the screen in the ocular. Because the image gets converted, all digital night vision devices have a refresh rate.
The refresh rate tells us how many pictures we see in one second. Good digital night vision devices have a refresh rate of 50 or even 60 frames per second, so the user sees a nice and smooth picture. When the refresh rate is too low, then fast-changing frames can be seen, which affect the viewing experience. Also the display the user is looking at has an important role. If the resolution of the display is good, also the displayed image is better, and you cannot see every single pixel.
Digital night vision devices have also the advantage that they are a lot cheaper than Gen. 2 or even Gen. 3 NV devices. With the combination of a high-quality IR illuminator, the digital NV device can be very useful also on greater distances. In most cases, they perform even better than Gen. 1 night vision devices.
With digital night vision binoculars, the user is not forced to use only the fixed magnification, like with analog NV binoculars. The magnification can be changed digitally, so with bigger magnifications, the image gets pixelated, but with a small increase of the magnification, the pixels are not so visible, so you still get much better detail recognition.
Digital night vision binoculars have one big advantage against analog devices – you can take photos and even videos. These can be easily sent to a smartphone or even a computer. With an analog night vision device, this is not possible.
Digital night vision devices can also be used during the day since the bright light cannot damage the sensor. This is not the case with an analog night vision device, because exposing the device on a sunny day can damage the image intensifier tube.
Both devices have some pros and cons. Night vision scopes (monoculars) that feature more than 1x magnification are mostly used by hunters. They offer a magnified and intensified picture, which helps the user observe animals, nature, etc. during the night.
Compared to NV binoculars, they are a lot smaller in size, and also lighter in weight. Because of that, it is a lot more comfortable to transport since it takes less space. They are also cheaper.
Night vision binoculars offer the user a great viewing experience because when looking with both eyes, it is a lot more comfortable. This is especially noticeable at longer time observations. The depth perception is also better, but they are more difficult to adjust to the user’s eyes. They are mostly pretty big and bulky, and in most cases more expensive than monoculars.
Yukon Digital NV Monocular
The human eye can see light wavelengths from 380 to 740 nanometers. This spectrum is also called the visible light. Wavelengths beyond the visible spectrum are longer wavelengths and are called infrared wavelengths.
An infrared illuminator is a flashlight that emits light in an infrared spectrum, which is invisible to the human eye, but visible for night vision devices. Infrared illuminators are available in different wavelengths, which tells us also, in combination with what kind of night vision they are designed to be used.
Most analog night vision devices with a Gen. 1 image intensifier tube can see wavelengths up to 760-780nm.
The most Gen. 2 night vision devices can detect the light of wavelengths up to 850nm, and some special image intensifier tubes from Photonis, like Photonis ECHO or XR-5, can detect light even up to 900nm.
Currently, the best Gen. 3 image intensifier tubes, like Photonis 4G, 4G+, and XR5, can detect wavelengths even up to 1000nm.
Digital night vision devices can detect wavelengths up to 950nm – 980nm
So, when buying an infrared illuminator, you have to be cautious what is the maximal wavelength your night vision can detect. If the emitted light of your infrared illuminator is beyond the spectrum, it is invisible for such a device.
For Gen. 1 NV devices we would recommend an IR illuminator with a wavelength between 750nm and 780nm,
For Gen. 2 an illuminator with a wavelength of 850nm, or even higher (up to 900nm) if you own a high-quality IIT in your device.
For Gen. 3 an IR illuminator is mostly not needed, but one with a wavelength of 850nm - 900nm would work perfectly
For a digital night vision device, we would recommend an IR illuminator with a wavelength between 850nm and 980nm.
Laserluchs LA 850-50-PRO II
In the past, most IR illuminators were incandescent lamps. These were high power lamps that have a covered infrared filter. This filter blocks the visible light, but lets the infrared radiation passing through. Now, the most popular infrared illuminators are with LEDs or with a Laser emitter. LED illuminators have a group of infrared-emitting LEDs, which have a good IR light output and are very energy efficient. This technology is already very well developed, so many LED illuminators produce IR light as strong as a laser illuminator. Laser IR illuminators are the most powerful illuminators and are based on an infrared laser diode that produces the infrared light. What is also important to know, is that for many animals, the emitted light up to 850nm can be visible. So for digital night vision binoculars, we recommend an infrared illuminator from 900nm up to 950nm, so they are completely invisible for any animal.
Infrared illuminators are available with
adjustable power or
with fixed power.
Some infrared illuminators have also the ability to adjust the beam, for wide illumination on close range, or small beam for long-range observations.
Digital night vision devices, such as binoculars and monoculars (scopes) have the possibility to take photos and videos when observing. This is a big advantage compared to analog devices since they do not feature this option.
Because of this feature, many digital night vision devices have integrated storage. Some devices do not have internal storage but have a slot where an SD or a Micro SD card can be inserted. In this storage, all the photos and videos can be stored.
These photos and videos can be transferred to a smartphone or a computer via a cable, or a special software that is provided by the manufacturer of the night vision or thermal imaging device. The most known software are for example:
the Stream Vision app from Pulsar,
Obsidian 4 app from ATN, and so on.
Stream Vision App
They can be easily downloaded from Google Play or Apple Store. These apps are not designed just for downloading photos and videos, but also for adjusting the settings from your digital night vision or thermal imaging device, streaming images and videos directly on your personal device, updating the firmware, controlling the optic remotely, and so on.
A short presentation of Digital NV Binoculars is available here.