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Night Vision FAQ’s

The first successful infrared Night Vision device was invented in 1939 during World War II, but came into wide use during the Vietnam War. Ever since, night vision technology has improved greatly and now you can enjoy the quality of high-performance night vision devices at affordable prices. From observation and hunting to surveillance and military purposes, night vision devices are a real tactical advantage used on a large scale nowadays.

There are three main technologies used for Night Vision devices today:

  • Image Enhancement technology

  • Digital Night Vision

  • Thermal Imaging

How Night Vision Works

When most people think about night vision, they actually think about Image Enhancement systems, also known as Night Vision Devices or NVD’s. Starlight Night Vision works by gathering existing low amount of ambient light (e.g. Starlight, Moonlight and infrared light) and amplifies it until dark images become visible to the human eye.

Night Vision Devices are constructed of four main parts that help collecting and amplifying existing light, and those are the objective lens, an eyepiece, a power supply and an image intensifier tube or Photocathode Tube. You don’t really look through a NV product, you are actually looking at the amplified electronic image on a phosphor screen. Night Vision Devices can’t be used during the day, otherwise the powerful daylight sun would instantly burn the image intensifier tube.

NV products have different magnifications, which means that the distance at which you can properly identify shapes or figures depends on both the magnifying power of the objective lens and the strength of the image intensifier. If you want to be able to see at a greater distance, you will need a product that offers a higher magnification (that means a higher generation), but remember: the higher the generation, the higher the price!

How Digital Night Vision Works

Digital Night Vision devices allow the user to see in almost complete darkness by amplifying low levels of ambient light which is processed in a charged coupling device before projecting it onto an LCD display. Just like optical night vision, digital night vision devices cannot work in total darkness, but most units are equipped with small infrared illuminators that provide the necessary light to properly function even in these conditions. Many digital night vision devices also offer the possibility to record what you see, unlike optical night vision units that need additional equipment to do that.

Most digital night vision devices offer the possibility to select your preferred viewing mode, from classic green or red to the revolutionary B&W mode. Even though digital night vision units have significantly reduced range, they exceed the capabilities of some Generation 1 or 2 starlight night vision products, because they lack the distortions we may find in earlier NV generation models.

What’s the difference between Night Vision and Digital Night Vision?

Unlike Night Vision, Digital Night Vision uses digital technology and can also be used during the day, due to the fact that it doesn't have an Image Intensifier Tube ( or IIT). Because they lack an IIT, Digital Night Vision products are more affordable and more user friendly, and even exceed the quality of some Generation 1 or 2 units.

While Digital Night Vision delivers brighter images, the gain is changing constantly thus limiting the view, Night Vision offers darker images but with a higher resolution and a much larger field of view.

How Thermal Imaging Works

Thermal Imaging technology uses heat recognition and does that with the help of a thermal core which makes small temperature differences visible to the human eye.Thermal Imaging units offer users the possibility to see even in complete darkness or extreme weather conditions. One of the most important features of a thermal imaging device is the frame rate and it refers to the number of images displayed per second. The higher the frame rate, the smoother and faster motion you see. Depending to the motion precision they offer, there are four main frame rate devices:

Slow-Rate Imaging Standard Imaging (SI) Fast Imaging (FI) Enhanced Imaging (EI)
Frame Rate 7.5Hz 9Hz 30Hz 60Hz
Suited for Observation purposes Commercial exportable version Standard professional thermal system Professional thermal system

There are two types of thermal imaging devices:

  • cooled systems - more expensive but not very durable. These systems offer an incredible resolution and sensitivity, are able to observe even the smallest temperature differences at more than 1000 feet away.

  • uncooled systems - much more common, cheaper and durable than the cooled systems. These systems are completely quiet and have built-in batteries. Do not require cryocoolers like their counterparts and have great thermal isolation.

Differences between Night Vision and Thermal Imaging

The most obvious difference between Night Vision and Thermal Imaging technologies is that the first one needs ambient light to function, while the other can be used even in complete darkness. NVD's are better suited for observational purposes, while thermal imaging devices are perfect for detection.

The view you have with thermal imaging and the one you have with night vision are also very different. The fact that thermal imaging technology is not based on light amplification, means things like shadows and reflections that we are used to seeing with classic night vision devices, do not appear while using thermal imaging units.

Even though Thermal Imaging is ideal for detecting people or working even in complete darkness, if used for hunting purposes you might encounter situations where you won't be able to distinguish which animal you are looking at. This is why Image Enhancement systems are better suited for this type of activity.

Choose the right Night Vision Device

Before purchasing a night vision product, you have to know exactly what type of device best suits your needs, something you can easily discover by answering 3 simple questions:

  • What am I going to be using it for?

  • How far do I need to see?

  • What’s my budget?

After you’ve answered these questions, browse our wide collection of high-performance units and should you need additional information, do not hesitate to contact the NightVisionPlanet team.

How to select a NV Binocular

As we already know, Night Vision Binoculars are a lot like traditional binoculars, most having two front lenses, two eyepieces and built-in magnification, but also feature an additional image intensifier tube (also known as IIT), which helps gather existent ambient light, thus offering users the ability to see in the dark.

Unlike NV scopes, Night Vision Binoculars are able to magnify the view with realistic depth perception, which makes them perfect for scouting and navigation both on land and on sea. Even though they allow you to see at fair distances in dark or low light conditions, they are not dependable in extreme distance viewing and, due to their high magnification, you cannot use them whilst in motion or mounted on your head. If you are looking for NV Binoculars with higher magnification range, you’ll also need a tripod or bipod to stabilize the image, otherwise you won’t be able to clearly understand the image you are looking at.

Just like NV Binocular Goggles, there are two types of Night Vision Binocular models :

  • single tube models (feature only one front lens)

  • dual tube models (feature two front lenses)

If you are looking for a NV Binocular that delivers the best depth perception, you should choose a dual tube binocular. This type of unit delivers two slightly different images to each eye, which means that each eye views things from a slightly different angle and this helps you determine what’s the exact distance between you and the object you are looking at. This “stereo vision” resembles the normal human vision a lot more and is a lot more comfortable and easy to get used to, especially if you’re a novice when it comes to Night Vision device usage.

If you’re not looking for the best depth perception, but rather for a NV Binocular which is lighter and more suited for nighttime activities that also require movement and long range viewing, then a single tube NV binocular is the perfect choice for you.

Because Night Vision Binoculars were designed to magnify images at longer distances while standing still, they are also perfect for observational purposes both on land and sea.

Night Vision Binoculars for Hunting

Choosing a trophy-worthy pair of NV binoculars is a tough thing to do, but the best choice is a Night Vision unit that has a wider objective lens and lens coatings which maximize light transmission in low-light conditions. When hunting, you often have to travel on foot in search of game and also carry a lot of gear, this is why most experienced hunters will choose a smaller and lighter unit, and some even prefer a device like an 8x42, to enjoy an ample light intake and great magnification at the same time.

A real disadvantage when using NV binoculars for hunting purposes is the fact that most models have fixed magnification and this might be a problem when you are trying to look at objects which are closer to you.

When you’re looking for a NV binocular the most important factors you need to keep in mind are the price, magnification, ease of use, comfortability and how ergonomic and rugged the device is.

Night Vision Binoculars are the perfect choice for the outdoorsmen who need to see as far and as clear as they can, and who want to enjoy the best night viewing experience they can get. Keep in mind that when you are planning to buy a pair of NV Binoculars, quality should always stand before price, otherwise you may find yourself buying a cheap product which is not worth the money.

Night Vision device maintenance

Most Night Vision devices we use today have rugged construction and are extremely durable, but you mustn’t forget that each device also has parts that must be protected at all times. To prevent any damage you may cause to your Night Vision instrument, you should always avoid scratching or touching the external lens surfaces with your fingers.

When using a high-performance tactical Night Vision device you should handle it with care so you don’t cause any damage to the sensitive parts that each unit houses under its powerful and rugged coating. The required maintenance varies greatly from one product to another, depending on its Night Vision technology, as follows:

Starlight Night Vision device maintenance

When you are using an optical instrument, you should never test the device during the day, not even with the daylight filter or lens cap on, because the long bright light exposure will damage the Image Intensifier Tube, which is the main part of an Image Enhancement System.

Never use detergents or excessive moisture to clean your Night Vision Device and dry or wipe the external lens using only cleaning cloths specially designed for optical cleaning.

When you are not using your optical Night Vision instrument it is best to keep it stored without the batteries in order to avoid any leakage that might harm your device.

Even though most Night Vision units are water resistant, you should always be careful while using your device in moist environments for long periods of time. The device’s Image Intensifier Tube is highly sensitive to moisture and you should avoid using it in this type of environment for a long period of time.

Salt water may also damage the device if it is not cleaned properly, so you must wipe the salt off carefully when you are using your unit in this type of environment.

Digital Night Vision device maintenance

Even though sunlight doesn’t affect Digital Night Vision devices, there are other things you must be mindful of when using your digital NV unit. If the device is not used for an extended period of time (more than 10 days), you have to remove the batteries in order to prevent leakage or damage to the contacts in the battery compartment.

Do not touch the lenses with anything but a Photographic lens cleaning tissue. When you are not using your Digital Night Vision device, remember to always keep the lens cap or daylight filter on.

You can evaluate the functionality of your Digital Night Vision device by looking through it in a lit environment. Even though most digital NV devices have a rugged construction, you should not subject your unit to a powerful shock or impact because you might damage the parts which are housed inside your device. It is best to turn off your device when you aren’t using it or when you are moving it from one spot to another.

If you are using your Digital Night Vision unit in low temperature conditions, you should wait for up to 5 hours before using it in warm temperatures, this way you can prevent condensation of the lenses. Even though you can use your Digital Night Vision device during the day, it is recommended that you do not leave it in direct sunlight or rain. To ensure your IR illuminator is always working properly, you should frequently clean its grid.

Always be careful not to scratch the external lens surfaces and to never clean them with any kind of paper, this can seriously damage the coating. Store your device in a dry and well-ventilated area, where temperature is greater than 50°F (10°C) and humidity does not exceed 70%.

Thermal Imaging device maintenance

A Thermal Imaging device is a powerful precision electro-optical instrument that must be handled with care at all times. A thermal imaging device’s maintenance consists of operational tests, inspections for unit serviceability, cleaning and mounting procedures and corrective actions. It is important to read the unit’s user manual before using it,so you follow the exact steps required to properly use and maintain your thermal device.

When you are cleaning your thermal device you must only use dry soft cloths and gently brush off any dirt you may have on it. If the device is extremely dirty, you can also use a moist cloth to remove the dirt, but without touching the optical surfaces.

When you have to clean your thermal device’s optical lens surface you must always use a lens brush to wipe off the dirt so you don’t scratch the lens. After you’ve removed the excess dirt, use a cotton swab dipped in ethanol and lightly wipe the optical surface using only circular movements from the center to the edge, without touching the lens holder. It is important to change the cotton swab after each circular stroke and to repeat the steps until the lens surface is cleaned.

If you are using a thermal imaging sight you should perform bore sighting in the following situations:

  • when the device is mounted to a weapon for the first time

  • after repairing the weapon

  • in case of systematic inaccuracy and missing the target

No matter what type of Night Vision Device you are using, you should take care of it by prolonging its life and respecting the required maintenance specified for each product. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of your Night Vision tactical device for longer periods of time!

Smart HD technology explained

You’ve heard about Smart HD technology, but do you know exactly what it is? Smart HD optics are the most technologically advanced optics ever made. From digital binoculars and day/night smart rifle scopes to gun cameras or trail cameras, there is an entire line of smart HD optics, that includes a high powered computer processor, are very ergonomic and rich with innovative features that will impress even the most demanding professionals.

These advanced HD optics work both day and night, so you can replace your old daylight devices with these high-performance optics that will impress you with incredible HD optics, the possibility to record everything you see and store it on an SD card. This way you can relive your favourite outdoor experiences any time. These remarkable optics offer numerous action-packed features, including a digital zoom, optical zoom, day/night use, Wi-Fi, smooth zoom, video/photo recording and much more.

Now you can achieve a smoother and steadier zoom and stream live videos to a computer or mobile phone through Wi-Fi, or switch between daytime and night vision with just a click of a button. Enjoy incredible depth perception, advanced image stabilization and built-in compass available in the HD scope line and make every shot count.

Another real benefit of HD optics consists of the best possible clarity, sharp images, ease of use and the best accuracy and precision both day and night.

Enjoy a digital innovation which delivers a smoother and steadier zoom and the ultimate HD viewing experience!

How to select a NV Monocular

NV Monoculars are the most versatile night vision devices because they are lightweight, easy to use and most can be used both as handheld devices and head mounted units. The most important thing you need to remember before buying a NV Monocular is to choose the right unit for your needs and to use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Choosing the right NV Monocular is extremely important, if you select the right device for your needs, it will drastically improve your nighttime experiences, but if you don’t, it might be just a waste of time and money.

The first thing you need to establish before purchasing a night vision product is your budget. Even if there are a lot of cheap monoculars on the market, price shouldn’t be the most important thing to look for. A bigger investment means you’re getting a higher quality item that you can use for a longer period of time.

There’s no doubt that comparing a few products helps you make a better choice, but before selecting several NV Monocular models, browse the web and find out which are the most appreciated devices or brands on the market. Reading customer reviews and ratings is a great source of information, this way you can find out what are the main faults or advantages of every product and make a better choice.

After you’ve chosen a few NV Monoculars to compare, the next thing you need to do is to look at their features, specifications, prices and compare them. The most important feature you should pay attention to, is Magnification. This is the main element that gives an optical device value. But, remember that a higher magnification means a narrower field of view and a more unstable image. For situations that might require different magnifications, it’s important to know exactly how easy changing the magnification is and if the device has interchangeable front lenses. The more clear, crisp and brighter images it offers, the more a monocular is worth.

Different levels of magnification are better suited for some activities or others, depending on the intended use of the NV Monocular

Magnification Description
1x - 4x
  • have a smaller magnification, but a large field of view

  • steady images

  • suited for camping, boating or home security

5x - 7x
  • higher magnification, but a narrower field of view

  • easy to steady images

  • suited for hunting, scouting, observation

  • high magnification, but narrow field of view

  • harder to steady images

  • hunting, spotting, birdwatching, military use

  • great image magnification, but a really narrow field of view (you can only see one object)

  • extremely hard to stabilize the images

  • spotting

Remember to choose the Objective Lens Size. A larger objective lens will capture more light and will deliver a better optical performance, but the bigger the lens, the bigger and heavier the monocular will be.

Eye relief is another really important feature you must take into consideration if you want a comfortable view, because it determines the farthest distance from the eyepiece to your eye at which you can still see the widest possible field of view. For people who wear glasses it is recommended that they use a monocular with a minimum of 14 mm eye relief.

Because you can also use it as a handheld device, it is extremely important for a monocular to have a rubberized body or a handle for easy gripping and usage.

Another important fact you have to keep in mind is to also compare the distinctive features of the products you are looking at. Find out what differentiates one product from another and which monocular is more worth your money. Once you’ve made up your mind, there’s one last thing to do and that’s buying the right NV Monocular for you!

How to select a pair of NV Goggles

Night Vision Goggles are a great asset for those who need mobility and free hands at all times. A real disadvantage consists of the extra weight you’ll have to carry while wearing them, because let’s face it: NV goggles aren’t exactly as light as a feather. But using a Night Vision Scope for scouting and holding up the rifle or gun for long periods of time is even more fatiguing and so is looking through your scope with one eye closed. This is why NV Goggles are the perfect choice for those who need a night vision device that can be used without occupying their hands.

There are three types of Night Vision Goggles as follows:

Monocular NV Goggles

Monocular Goggles are actually headset mounted monoculars and are the lightest and least expensive night vision goggles on the market. A real disadvantage is the fact that they are not as comfortable as binocular or bi-ocular NV Goggles, because they only have one eyepiece, one optical system and thus, don’t provide any depth perception. Their main advantage consists of their compact size and lightweight, which makes them the perfect unit for head mounting.

Bi-ocular NV Goggles

Bi-ocular NV Goggles feature one front lens (a single tube) with two eyepieces, which makes them more comfortable than Monocular Goggles and allows the user to see with both eyes. Because they feature only one front lens, both eyes see the same image and, unlike monocular goggles, they provide depth perception.

Binocular NV Goggles

Binocular NV Goggles feature two front lenses, two eyepieces and deliver the most natural viewing feel and are really easy to get used to. However, they are a lot heavier than Bi-ocular or Monocular Night Vision Goggles, which makes them a lot harder to carry on longer distances. These dual tube goggles offer a slightly different image to each eye rather than sharing the same image with both eyes, which looks a lot more like the natural human vision. They offer the best depth perception amongst all other Night Vision Goggles and allow a better judgement of distances.

Night Vision Bi-ocular and Binocular Goggles are perfect for short distance scouting, navigation and observation, while Monocular Goggles are better suited for nighttime activities that require constant movement and free hands at all times.

The most important factors you have to consider before buying Night Vision Goggles are the price, size, weight, ease of operation and last but not least, reliability. Always make sure to choose the optical lens package, unit size and price that suits you best and make no compromise on quality.

How to Select a NV scope

What differentiates one NV scope from another is its size, image quality, magnification rating and the technology used. You can choose from a wide list of Starlight NV, Digital Night Vision, Thermal Imaging or White Phosphor products.

Higher power-rated scopes help you see farther, but are a lot more expensive. This is why the first question you have to answer before you buy a Night Vision Scope is: What’s your budget? After you’ve answered that question, it’s a lot easier to choose, because a different NV technology usually means a different price range.

When you are thinking about your budget, it it is important to remember that spending a ridiculous amount of money on a gun or rifle is useless if you don’t plan on doing the same when it comes to buying a scope. There’s no point in having a great gun if you can’t see where you are shooting.

Night Vision Scopes for Hunting purposes

When it comes to hunting, it is better to buy a scope with a lower magnification level, because when you’re using high magnification, close shots become really blurry and are difficult to judge. This is a case where the expression “Less is more” applies perfectly. A scope with three or four times magnification and a maximum adjustment of nine times is considered to be the perfect choice for standard hunting purposes, due to the fact that it provides a better versatility with your weapon.

Night Vision Scopes

There are actually two types of Night Vision Scopes, dedicated NV scopes and attachable or mountable scopes. The most popular scopes resemble normal daylight scopes but are a bit larger, heavier and are generally known as Weapon Sights. The second type of night vision scopes can be attached or mounted in front of a daylight scope and are widely known as Day and Night Systems, because you can easily remove them and use your regular daylight scope during the day without having to rezero.

Day and Night Systems

Even though today you can find a great selection of high-quality Day and Night Systems, most hunters prefer a dedicated NV product for the best performance, especially when it comes to long range night hunting. Day/Night Systems work by providing light amplification and using the daytime scope’s magnification and reticle for aiming. These products are a great tactical advantage when you are hunting both day and night and it’s impossible to carry two rifles. Just attach the day/night system in front of your daylight scope and you’re ready to go.

If you’ve decided which type of Night Vision Scope best suits your needs, then go ahead and choose from our wide selection of high-performance tactical scopes and hunt on!

How to select a Thermal Imager

If you’ve decided that the best tactical device for you is a thermal imager, it means that you are looking for a product that allows you to see even the most subtle temperature differences in your field of view. But before choosing a thermal imager, you must know exactly what you will be using it for: hunting, military and law enforcement, or other purposes.

Thermal Imaging for Hunting

Thermal Imagers are especially popular among hog or deer hunters, due to the thermal imaging technology which allows them to see past anything that might obstruct their view (like high grass, trees, etc) and spot game a lot easier than with any other night vision device.

Thermal imaging technology is most hunters’ go-to device but it comes at a cost. Even though today’s market offers a large number of cheap thermal imagers made by unknown foreign brands, if you want a rugged and long-lasting device, you should consider buying a high-quality device constructed by well-known and respected names in the industry.

Up until not so long ago, thermal imaging devices were used almost exclusively by military, police, fire departments, and specialized applications. Today, hunters are more and more interested in pursuing and this is why thermal imaging technology is so popular, especially because of its ability to rapidly scan fields without a spotlight. When you are using a thermal imaging device for hunting, you are defeating any method of visual concealment that an animal may benefit from, allowing you to easily spot your game.

The most relevant applications of thermal imagers for hunting are:

  • scouting fields both day and night

  • finding wounded or downed game

  • predator hunting

  • identifying the thermal efficiency of winter clothing

Choosing the right Handheld Thermal Imager

Handheld thermal imagers come in many shapes and sizes, but it is hard to decide which one is right for you, this is why you should have a few things in mind before choosing one product or another.

One of the most important aspects you have to think about when you are planning to buy a thermal imaging device is the budget. Once you’ve established exactly what’s the maximum amount of money you are willing to pay for a product like this, the next thing you have to figure out is exactly when and where you are planning to use it.

Size is also a really important aspect you need to keep in mind when you are looking for a handheld thermal imager, because the larger a product is, the more difficult it will be to hold for long periods of time.

Before choosing a thermal imager, you have to answer a really important question: Do you want a really affordable or a high-quality product? Because if you are looking for quality you need to choose a thermal imaging device that offers higher resolution, lens magnification and frame rate. Remember that the higher the resolution, the more crisp and defined the images will be.

Choosing the right Thermal Weapon Sight and Thermal Rifle Scope

There are two main categories of Thermal Scopes on the market, but before buying anything, you must decide which one perfectly suits your needs: the clip-on thermal scope, or a stand alone thermal scope.

A stand alone thermal rifle scope is mounted to your rail and resembles your traditional daytime scope because it has an internal reticle which you can adjust for windage and elevation in order to “zero in” your weapon. A real disadvantage is the fact that after a stand alone thermal scope has been zeroed in, if you have to take it off and put on a daylight shooting scope you’ll have to sight in your scope, and zero your thermal imaging scope in again, after you put it back on.

A clip-on thermal scope is perfect if you have a single weapon and you want to use it both day and night without having to rezero every time. A clip-on scope turns your standard daylight optical scope into a thermal scope by simply clipping it on in front of your daytime device. If you don’t need thermal vision anymore, you simply take it off and start using your daytime device.

After you’ve decided which product is best for you, there’s only one thing left to do: go ahead and purchase your dream thermal imaging device!

Operating NV devices in difficult conditions

Operating NV devices in difficult conditions

Starlight night vision optics are prefered by tactical operators when the sky is clear and there is some ambient light available. A starlight device can produce images sharp enough for a positive ID, which means that you can see more than a dark silhouette of a person or animal and actually identify who or what it is. These devices definitely dominate the battlefield of night time tactical operations as they deliver the best results; but bad weather conditions and other field obscurants may drastically reduce their effectiveness. This is why you should always have a backup plan for difficult conditions when using a NVD.

Fog, smoke and rain

Unfortunately, fog, smoke or rain obscure the image of a night vision device, so using it such conditions is quite impossible. Image intensification devices are defeated by complete darkness, fog, rain and any other field obscurants like trees and dense vegetation which may soak up the light. There is only one thing you can do when you encounter foggy, rainy or smoky conditions: use a thermal imaging device. If you don’t have a thermal imager available, you’ll be forced to wait until the weather conditions improve.

Even though there are many water and fog proof night vision devices, you should always wipe off your unit after using it in such conditions, because long term exposure might still damage the device. But be careful to wipe your unit only with a soft cloth, and always clean the lenses with a specialized glass cleaning cloth.

Total Darkness

As we already know, night vision devices require some ambient light to function, this is why most units are equipped with an IR illuminator that allows you to see even in total darkness. There’s only one big disadvantage: using it during a tactical operation might prove disastrous as it can give away your location to anyone else using night vision. You can use the IR illuminator while hunting, but when you have to keep your location hidden, remember not to use the IR illuminator and wait until some ambient light is available.

Shadows and Powerful Light

When you are using a night vision device, your vision will be affected by shadows and dark shapes may constantly appear. For this situation you must adapt your eyes to night vision and avoid looking directly at a faint object, thus reducing confusing visual illusions. The best way to confirm the presence of a dark object is by looking 10 degrees above, below or on either side of it rather than looking straight at it.

Looking directly at visible light sources causes the device to shut off, or saturates the viewing area as seen through the device, making it unusable. So remember to avoid looking at bright sources when you’re out on the field.

Don’t Drop It !

Even though most night vision units have rugged and durable construction, the Image Intensifier Tube inside each device is really sensitive so you must be careful not to drop it, or else you may really damage the IIT. No matter how tough a situation may be, don’t drop it!

Remember the situations presented above, the solutions provided and you should be prepared for any obstacles you may encounter while using your night vision device. No matter the situation, always be prepared!

How Day/Night Systems work

Night Vision technology has evolved greatly over the years. When night vision devices first appeared on the market, you could only use them for nighttime operations, but today you can purchase night vision devices designed for both day and night time usage.

There are two types of such night vision devices:

  • Night Vision Clip-On Systems

  • Digital Night Vision devices

Night Vision Clip-on Systems

Day/Night Systems are usually clip-on scopes which can be mounted in front of a daylight scope and deliver instant night vision capabilities without having to detach or re-zero.

Day/Night Vision systems were developed in order to eliminate the traditional requirement of removing your daylight optical device and replacing it with a dedicated night vision unit. These systems can be mounted in front of your daylight scope without having to zero in every time, and provide excellent target acquisition and aiming capabilities.

Day/Night systems are perfect for those who plan on using a single weapon for day and night operations. If your daytime scope is already zeroed in, your clip-on system requires no further modifications. No shift of impact, no need to re-zero and no change in eye relief occurs; you just mount the clip-on system in front of your regular daylight scope and enjoy night vision capabilities in just a few seconds. Day/Night systems are available in a wide variety of configurations to suit every need, therefore you can find generation 1,2,3,4 and WPT products, designed for short, medium or long distance usage.

Digital Night Vision Devices

As we already know, digital night vision devices do not feature an image intensifier tube and this is why you don’t have to worry about exposing them to bright light. Most digital night vision devices are fully coloured, which is why they are more versatile than starlight night vision optics and can be used in the darkest conditions as well as in broad daylight. On some DNV units you even have the possibility to choose your prefered display colours and select your favourite viewing mode.

Digital Night Vision devices work by using a charged coupling device that amplifies existing ambient light and projects the resulting image on a liquid crystal display, also known as a LCD screen. Another real advantage is the fact that you can also record what you’re seeing and this is an ability that most optical night vision products do not possess.

Even though day/night systems and digital night vision units are more versatile and come in handy when you are looking for a device you can use for both day and nighttime operations, these night vision products cannot compete with higher generation dedicated night vision optics in terms of image quality and performance.

NVD Glossary

Accuracy - measures how well aligned a weapon aiming device is to the bore of the weapon.

Automatic Brightness Control (ABC) - this is an electronic component that reduces the voltage to the microchannel plate in order to protect the image intensifier tube (IIT) from excessive brightness which can seriously damage the tube. This feature can be easily observed when an optical night vision device is quickly moved from low-light to high-light conditions and the image gets really bright before it dims to a constant level.

Black spots - these are usually simple cosmetic blemishes in the image intensifier tube or dirt gathered between the lenses. Black spots do not affect the performance or the reliability of the device in any way and are inherent in the manufacturing process.

Blooming - this is a common effect seen in Generation 0 and 1 units and is also known as a “halo” effect. It happens when the image intensifier tube is overloaded by a bright light, causing the loss of part or the entire night vision image as it becomes too bright and the viewer sees a halo effect around visible light sources. This effect usually goes away when the light is blocked out, but if it doesn’t, the device is considered unserviceable.

Bi-ocular - bi-ocular vision refers to seeing a single image source with both eyes.

  • Bi-ocular night vision device - this device is composed of two separate eyepieces that see through only one optical channel, meaning that both eyes see the same image.

Binocular - binocular vision refers to seeing an image through two channels; one channel per eye.

  • Binocular night vision device - this device is composed of two separate eyepieces that see through two optical channels and each eye sees a slightly different image, but the brain automatically compiles the two images to form a single one.

Boresighting - the process of adjusting an aiming device and aligning it to the bore of a weapon.

Bright Spots - these are signal induced flaws caused by a fault in the film of the microchannel plates. Bright spots are small and bright dots that glimmer or appear constant, but they usually disappear when the light is blocked out.

Bright source protection (BSP) - this is an electronic function that protects the image intensifier tube from damage when the device is exposed to bright light sources. The BSP works by reducing the voltage to the photocathode tube. Though this function may enhance the device’s life, it also lowers resolution while its in use.

COMSPEC - commercial specifications

Daylight lens cover - this is a cover usually made of soft plastic or rubber that has a pinhole, allowing a small amount of light to enter the objective lens and is normally used for training purposes as it may damage the image intensifier tube if used for long periods of time.

Distortion - is a non-linear alignment of the outside view to the output image plane. The more an output image departs from a straight line, the worst the distortion is. Night vision systems usually have two types of distortion, one is caused by the design of the optics or the IIT, and the other is associated with the manufacturing processes of the fiber optics used in image intensifier tubes.

Exit pupil - refers to the amount of light transmitted to your eyes and more light means better contrast. The exit pupil is measured in millimeters and can be obtained by dividing the power into the objective lens diameter.

Eye relief - is the farthest distance from the eyepiece to your eye at which you can still see the widest possible field of view and a clear image.

Eyepiece Focus - matches your night vision devices to your specific eyesight.

Field-of-View (FOV) - is the width of the scene that can be viewed through the intensifier tubes. The FOV is usually measured in degrees or feet.

Focus Range - the extent to which an optical unit can be focused or adjusted on a target.

Gain - also known as brightness gain or luminance gain, it represents the number of times a night vision device can amplify the existent ambient light available. This is one of the most important measurements of a night vision device because it is directly affected by the quality of the optics and can be reduced by the system’s lenses.

Generations - a classification of optical night vision devices according to differences in the type and performance of the image intensifier tubes within each device. A new generation is assigned by the US Army’s Night Vision Laboratory and underlines a new technology or improvements in the manufacturing process.

Image Distortion - this effect appears when an optical device is moved and vertical objects appear to bend or wave and the ground looks like it’s sinking or swelling. The image distortion of a NVD is an important specification you must take into consideration as it does not change during the life of the intensifier tube and interferes with the viewing performance of a night vision unit.

IR Illuminator - this is an infrared diode (IR) that emits invisible light and is incorporated into many night vision devices because it provides them with the necessary light to function even in complete darkness.

Image Intensifier Tube (IIT, I2) - this is the main part of an optical night vision unit, a special tube that collects and amplifies infrared and visible light to produce visual images.

Lumen - a unit that measures the amount of light perceived by the human eye in one second.

Magnification - this is actually the magnifying capacity of the lens, in other words, how much closer does an object appear when seen through the NVD.

MILSPEC - military specifications

Objective Lens - the objective lens of a night vision device is the part that gathers the ambient light and focuses it on the photocathode of an image intensifier tube. It also provides image magnification.

Resolution - a function of the objective lens diameter that allows a night vision system to see details and offers you the ability to distinguish even the smallest details of the image you are looking at.

Photocathode - the front end of the image intensifier tube that gathers light energy and turns it into electrical energy that forms an electron image.

Variable Gain Control - allows the viewer to manually adjust the gain control in different light conditions.

Zeroing - this is a method of calibrating an aiming device to a weapon and adapting it to compensate for projectile characteristics at known distances.

What to look for when selecting a NVD

NVD’s are suitable for many recreational activities like camping, hiking, fishing, boating and nature viewing, as well as for professional uses like surveillance, property management or search and rescue. The key to making a night vision device an essential part of your outdoor equipment is to perfectly match it with your outdoor needs.

Three of the most important performance factors of any night vision device are:

  • Gain

  • Magnification

  • Resolution

The Gain of a night vision device is actually the number of times a device amplifies existing light and it’s one of the most important specification of a NV unit. Gain is usually measured as tube gain or system gain. Tube gain can be reduced by the system’s lenses and is affected by the quality of the optics or any filters, this is why system gain is a far more useful and accurate specification, because it takes into consideration the light loss of the entire device, including loss of light from objective lens, electronic filters, phosphor screen and eyepiece lens.

The Magnification of a NVD determines the number of times an object is enlarged while seen through a NV unit. Night vision devices are dedicated units that allow you to see in the dark, but their magnification is limited so you can’t see as far and steady as you do with a daytime optical device. This is why you have to know how far you need to see. There is no point in choosing a night vision device with a really high magnification if you’ll be using it to look at objects which are really close to you.

The Resolution of a NVD is the ability to distinguish between objects close together and the ability to see details. This specification is really important because it determines the quality of the images and how well you’ll be able to distinguish the objects you are looking at. However, the higher the resolution, the higher the price as well.

Remember that even though any night vision unit will really improve your ability to see in the dark, some environments tend to soak up the light, especially those with trees and dense vegetation. This is why it’s really important to establish in which type of environment you are planning to use the device.

The image intensifier tube of night vision optical system is also important. Image intensifier tubes are classified by generation, so each new generation indicates a new improvement in technology or manufacturing process and a higher quality compared to previous generations. Remember that choosing a high-quality image intensifier also means choosing a tube that has a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and System Resolution (SR) that deliver a high Figure of Merit (FOM) scale.

Other factors to be considered when selecting a NVD which are not as important as the above mentioned performance specifications, but could determine your choice are:

  • Price

  • Size, weight and ease of operation

  • Batteries

  • Reliability

Although price shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind, it does matter. This is why you have to establish your budget before choosing one device or another. This is the moment when you have to think about how much you are going to use your device. If you’ll only use it once in a while, there’s no point in investing a large amount of money on a unit you are not going to use. But if you plan on using it 24/7, then it’s important to choose a higher quality product you can rely on at any time. Also, remember that cheaper and older NVD’s will have an increased distortion and more black spots that newer, higher-quality units, so if image quality is what you are looking for, then choosing a cheaper, low-quality product might not be the wisest choice.

If the device is too heavy to carry, too large to fit anywhere and extremely difficult to use, it might turn out to be a burden and not a useful tactical device, especially when you’re planning to use it in tough situations where movement is key. So be careful not to select the heaviest units you can find.

It’s important to be able to use your device for a long period of time, because there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to use your NVD when you need it the most due to low battery. Most common types of batteries we find in night vision devices are alkaline or lithium, but replacing them is quite expensive, this is why rechargeable batteries are recommended, especially for civilian use.

As we already know, the inside parts of a night vision device are really fragile, but you need to be able to rely on your unit when things get rough, so choosing a high-quality product that lasts longer even in tough situations is quite important.

Most of your choices are closely related to how and where you plan on using your night vision device. Remember that buying the wrong NV product might prove disastrous and can limit your outdoor experience, so choosing the right night vision unit for you is crucial. We hope this guide has helped you better understand your choices and made your search for a night vision device a lot easier. If you need more information about night vision devices, feel free to contact the NightVisionPlanet Team at any time.

What do the different night vision generations mean?

First introduced by US manufacturers through the US government, the classification of night vision devices by generation outlines the differences in the type and performance of the image intensifier tubes within each device.

While EU manufacturer’s don’t abide by this classification, US manufacturers adhere to strict standards set forth by the US military in terms of components, performance requirements and quality parameters specific for each night vision device generation.

Generation 1

First generation or GEN I devices, have been around since the Vietnam War, when the US military adapted the active GEN 0 technology used by the Germans in WWII to produce a night vision device with a light amplification of around 1,000x.

Although rather bulky compared with later generations and reliant on ambient light, Generation 1 devices are still a great choice for the budget conscious nature observer and camper. Dubbed “Starlight” by the US military, the devices use amplified ambient light provided by the stars and moon, which means they also tend to be less reliable in a cloudy environment. For best performance, we recommend devices using fully-coated all-glass optical elements.

Generation 2

Second generation devices are a big jump in both quality and price from first generation optics. Primarily used for professional applications these devices offer a greater range, a considerable increase in battery life and are much more versatile than their Generation 1 counterparts.

By using an improved image-intensifier tube, manufacturers were able to obtain a much clearer image even in low-light conditions, making the devices reliable even during moonless nights.

Generation 3

Although not as big a leap as Generation 2 devices, third generation night vision optics bring quite a few improvements from an image quality and tube-life standpoint.

The micro-channel plate used is the same as for Generation 2 devices, however, a gallium arsenide photocathode ensures much better image resolution. Thanks to an iron barrier coating on the MCP added to the image-intensifier tubes within Generation 3 devices, the life of the tube is dramatically increased.

Generation 4

While the term Generation 4 is widely used, there is no official Gen 4 classification accepted by the US military, who refers to these night vision devices as Filmless & Gated image intensifiers.

4th Generation night vision optics offer a significant overall improvement in both low- and high-level light environments. The automatic gated power supply system allows the device to respond quickly to fluctuations in lighting conditions, while removing the iron film allows for more bright, less distorted images.

White Phosphor Technology

Unlike most night vision optical devices, which offer a black and green images, white phosphor image tubes produce more natural, black and white images. Studies have shown that this type of image provides much clearer information about contrast, shapes and shadows. This type of device is intended for the most demanding missions and meets the expectations of every tactical operator.

Generation 1 Generation 2 Generation 3 Generation 4
Photo Cathode - Multi-Alkali Thin Film GaAs or Gallium Arsenide Filmless GaAs
Resolution from - from 40 to 72 lp/mm 64 to 72 lp/mm 64 to 72 lp/mm
Resolution in the Center 25-30 ln/mm 30-68 ln/mm 45-68 ln/mm *
Resolution on the edge 15-20 ln/mm 30-68 ln/mm <45-68 ln/mm -
Maximum range ≈ 75 yards ≈ 200 yards ≈ 300 yards -
Signal to Noise Ratio - 12 to 24 25 to 30 25 to 30
Image Intensifier Light Amplification 300-900 20,000-30,000 20,000-30,000 -
System Light Amplification <1,000 <6,000 <6,0000 -
Tube life ≈ 1.500 hours ≈ 5,000+ to 10,000 hours 10,000+ hours 10,000+ hours

How to choose between night vision device types?

Night vision devices come not just in a wide range of generations and boasting different technologies but can also be split into different categories according to type. Almost every outdoor enthusiast has heard of monoculars, binoculars, goggles, scopes and day/ night vision systems but not everyone understands the difference between them and their applications.

You might have a great device but unless you’re putting its strengths to good use, your investment will probably not amount to much and your night vision experience will be less than satisfactory. Listed below are summaries on each device type currently available on the market, as well as pros and cons for each so you can make an informed decision when purchasing night vision devices.

Night Vision Monoculars

Consisting of a single eye unit, night vision monoculars are among the most versatile night vision devices available. Lightweight and compact they are the perfect choice for tactical operators who use head-mounts, but are equally as reliable when hand-held or mounted on weapons.


  • compact and lightweight, making them ideal for head mounting

  • easy to switch from one eye to the other when fatigued

  • wide range of accessories

  • easy to carry and doesn’t require a special device case


  • the single eye piece can be uncomfortable for some operators

  • using the device correctly, with both eyes open, requires practice

Night Vision Binoculars

Night vision binoculars consist of two eye units, making their use very intuitive for the most experienced users, as well as amateur night vision device operators. While they do offer larger magnification, their construction makes it difficult for users to navigate while using them. Still, they remain the top choice when maximum-distance viewing is required.


  • perfect for nighttime, stationary long-distance viewing

  • greater magnification

  • dual eye units


  • fixed magnification on most devices

  • cannot be mounted on head gear

  • generally unusable while on the move

Night Vision Goggles

Night Vision goggles are a great combination between the versatility of a monocular and the advantages of two-eye units. You can either choose a two-eyepiece device with one image tube or go for stereovision, in which case, you have two eyepieces and two image tubes as well, with each eye seeing its own, slightly different image. Although being heavier than a high-quality monocular means they are harder to use with a head-mount, night vision goggles are the go-to device when your mission requires constant, hands-free use.


  • more versatile than a binocular

  • work well with head-mounts, although their weight can make them uncomfortable when walking

  • enhanced depth-perception compared to a monocular


  • less versatile than a high-quality monocular

  • cannot be mounted on weapons

  • heavier than most monoculars

Night Vision Scopes

Most often used by military and law enforcement personnel, night vision scopes are optical devices that resemble conventional rifle scopes. Slightly larger and heavier, they are easy to use, while stationary or on the move, because they easily mount on most types of weapons.


  • easy to use for most tactical operations

  • mount in front of regular rifle scopes making them easy to carry


  • cannot be used to perform multiple tasks

Day/Night Systems

Much like night vision scopes, day/time scopes mount on the weapon; in this case, directly in front of your daytime scope. They not only allow you to operate in multiple environment conditions but also make use of the daytime scope’s magnification and reticle for a much more accurate aim. While their use extends beyond nighttime operation, day/night systems are not as good at multitasking like a high-quality monocular.


  • complex lens system

  • small and compact

  • suited for day and nighttime operation


  • cannot perform multiple tasks

The above comparison is by no means exhaustive and is intended to offer a basic idea of the differences between the types of devices currently available and help you make a more informed choice when purchasing night vision devices. Should you need additional guidance, don’t hesitate to contact the NightVisionPlanet team to help you choose the perfect device for your needs and within your budget.