Digital night vision clip-on devices are on the market since 2013 when Pulsar introduced the DFA 75. It was the first such device on the market, and since then many companies started to develop their own devices.
These devices have a similar build like other digital night vision devices, so they consist of the following parts:
light-sensitive sensor (CMOS or CCD),
blocks of electronics for image processing and control,
They do not feature a fixed eyepiece, but on many devices, an eyepiece can be mounted to the device so it can also be used for observation purposes.
Digital night vision clip-on devices are designed to be mounted on the objective of a daytime optic with a suitable adapter, or with a mount on a rail in front of a daytime rifle scope. Some clip-on devices are even designed to be clipped on the ocular of the daytime optic. Clip-on devices were developed to replace night vision rifle scopes since replacing the main optic on a rifle was inconvenient, and the zero of the rifles changed. Since the magnification of a daytime optic is used, digital night vision clip-on devices do not feature additional magnification.
With a clipon device the zero does not change, so every daytime optic like a rifle scope, binoculars, scopes (monoculars), and so on, can be transferred into a night vision capable optic. Whatsoever, with digital night vision clip-on devices, it is important that the magnification of the daytime optic is not too high. The optimal magnification ranges from 1x to 8x.
Digital night vision clip-on devices are very popular among hunters since almost every daytime optic can be equipped with. They can be used for observation purposes when mounted on a binocular or a scope (monocular), but also as an aiming device when mounted on a rifle scope.
They offer an intensified picture during night time observations, so the user can detect animal life in complete darkness. Thanks to that, one device can be used for all hunting scenarios, so the user has to buy only one device for the night hunt. That is also a lot cheaper than separate night vision binoculars, or another night vision device.
Clipping the night vision clip-on device on a daytime optic can be done only in a matter of seconds, so if the device is used on a binocular or a monocular, it can be very quickly swapped and clipped on a rifle scope to engage the animal during the hunt.
Owning a night vision clip-on device is not forbidden in most countries in the European Union. They can be used for observation purposes, but mounting them on a daytime rifle scope is in some countries forbidden. For hunting abroad, whatsoever, they can be used.
Because these laws are constantly changing, we recommend you to make some research about owning and using it in your countries.
Night vision scopes (monoculars) are observation devices for usage during the night. But so are the night vision clip-on devices.
What are the main differences?
Digital night vision clip-on´s are designed to be used in combination with a daytime optic, mounted on the ocular or on the objective.
So, these devices can be used on:
To get the best image possible when it is mounted on a daytime optic, the ocular has to be designed differently. This does not mean that observation without a daytime optic is not possible, but without an additional ocular, the image is small and it looks like the image is in a tunnel (away from the eye). Many digital night vision clip-on devices do, because of that, offer also an additional ocular solution that can be mounted in front of the screen. This ocular solution also offers a diopter adjustment. The device itself has only the parallax adjustment.
Night vision clip-on devices are also designed to withstand the recoil of a rifle. Before buying, you always have to be careful that the device can withstand the recoil of your caliber. Many digital clip-on devices on the market are designed for calibers up to .308 Winchester and similar, so if you want to use it on a stronger recoiling caliber, the internals of the device can get damaged.
Many users try to attach their 1x magnification scopes (monoculars) to their rifle scopes with special adapters. These are mostly available for attaching the device on the ocular of a rifle scope. This is very common among airsoft players, but we would strongly NOT recommend attaching these on a centerfire caliber – it can be very dangerous! Doing that can damage the internals of the night vision monocular, but it can get even worse – to look through an NV monocular, you have to be very near (almost touching the ocular of the NV device). So when the shot is fired, because of the recoil, it can hit you in the eye.
Night vision clip-on devices are available as
Every manufacturer has a different design with different pros and cons. 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 and the quality of the image.
The cheaper devices feature a Gen. 1 image intensifier tube. These are very limited in the distance of observing and in the performance at darker areas. The usage of an additional IR light is in most cases needed. Better night vision clip-on devices feature a Gen. 2 or even a Gen. 3 image intensifier tube. The detection range is much bigger, but also the price is a lot higher.
With an analog night vision device, the image is seen 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 clip-on devices do not feature any additional features like taking photos or videos, connecting to a smartphone, and so on.
The battery consumption is very low. A small-capacity battery can last up to 5x longer, compared to a big capacity battery in a digital night vision device.
Analog Night Vision Clip-on
Since digital night vision clip-on devices work with converting the image to an electrical signal, they all have a refresh rate. It tells us how many pictures we see in one second. High-quality digital night vision clip-on devices have a refresh rate of 50 or even 60 frames per second. With such a fast refresh rate the user sees a nice and smooth picture. If the refresh rate is too low, then fast-changing frames can be seen. This drastically affects the viewing experience.
Also the small display the user is looking at has an important role. The resolution of it has to be high, so the displayed image is better, and every single pixel is not visible.
Digital night vision clip-on devices are a lot cheaper than Gen. 2 or even Gen. 3 analog night vision clip-on devices. With the combination of a high-quality infrared illuminator, the digital NV clip-on device can be very useful also on long distances. In most cases, they perform even better than Gen. 1 night vision devices.
With digital night vision clip-on devices, the user is not forced to use only the fixed (1x) magnification, like with analog NV devices. The magnification can be changed digitally, which is, to a certain degree, a great feature. With big digital magnifications, whatsoever, the image gets pixelated.
The biggest advantage over analog night vision clip-on devices is the possibility to take photos and even videos. These can be easily sent to a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone. With no analog night vision device on the market, this is possible.
Digital night vision clip-on devices can also be used during the day. The bright light cannot damage the sensor, like the image intensifier tube in an analog night vision device. Exposing the device on a sunny day can damage the image intensifier tube, which cannot be repaired.
To mount a clip-on device to a daytime optic, an adapter is needed which clamps directly on the objective or the ocular of the daytime optic. With many clip-on devices such an adapter is included, for the most common outside diameters. Some manufacturers include also additional plastic reduction rings, to fit even more optics on the market. The included adapters are normally made of hard plastic, which does not have a high quality.
If the daytime optic has a different outside diameter then which is included, an aftermarket adapter is needed. The most known aftermarket adapters which have a high-quality come from companies Rusan and Smartclip. They are made of aluminum and feature a small micro-adjustment screw for the perfect fit on the optic. Inside these adapters is also a protection tape, so the daytime optic can not get damaged or scratched when mounting.
Some clip-on devices, like Pulsar, for example, have a brand-specific mounting solution. These need a special adapter or a special reduction ring (converter) that fits the normal adapter. If the clip-on device has a specific outer thread that is different than the one in adapters, a different reduction ring can be used to pair the device with the adapter.
A short presentation of Digital Night Vision Clip-on Systems is available here.