First Time Buyer's Guide

This guide goes into more detail than our FAQ page.

What are the different types of night vision technology?

1.  Standard night vision - standard night vision devices contain an image intensifier tube that gathers existing light in the atmosphere from the moon, stars, distant street/city lights and “intensifies” it, enabling the user to see in darkness.  Standard night vision devices produce the green images that most people associate with night vision.  It comes in 3 different generations - 1, 2, 3 - with 3 being the highest quality.  Standard night vision - also referred to as simply "night vision" - cannot be used in daylight or bright light as it will damage the image intensifier tube.

2.  Digital night vision – Digital devices work similarly to a CCTV camera (surveillance camera) and aren't damaged if used in daylight.  They also come in varying levels of quality depending on the device and produce a black/white image. Entry level digital devices have better image quality than generation 1 standard night vision while higher quality digital devices are comparable to generation 2.  Some digital devices come with built-in recording enabling the user to easily record their observations. 

3.  Thermal imaging – thermal technology works very differently than digital and standard night vision as it registers the heat signature of people, animals, and objects verses amplifying light. Thermal devices can see objects from great distances in total darkness or daylight, and in conditions that affect visibility such as smoke, fog, dust, rain, and dense foliage.  They can even detect fire through building walls and enable the user to see through materials such as canvas. Thermal devices also have built in recording capability and are considered the pinnacle of night vision technology.

What are the different configurations of night vision devices?

Monoculars - viewing through one eye piece.

Binoculars - viewing through two eyepieces.

Goggles - monoculars or binoculars that attach to a head or helmet mount. 

Rifle scopes - night vision scopes that mount on a rifle.

What are the most common accessories for night vision devices?

Infrared Illuminators - All of the different night vision technologies have accessories to enhance performance.  Infrared illuminators are a very popular accessory for standard and digital night vision devices (thermal devices do not need infrared illuminators since they do not amplify light). Since standard and digital devices work by amplifying existing light, they also amplify infrared light. This greatly enhances the image quality and the distance you can see. Infrared illuminators also enable you to see in situations where there is no ambient light at all to amplify. Infrared illuminators come in invisible or visible wavelengths which is important if you want to remain completely hidden while observing.  Infrared illuminators with a wavelength of 800-920 nanometers will be visible as a small red dot to people or animals standing in the line of sight. If the infrared illuminator is above 920 nanometers, however, it will be invisible.  Visible infrared illuminators are used with generation 1 and lower quality generation 2 devices and invisible infrared illuminators are used with higher quality generation 2 or generation 3 devices.  Although all of our monoculars, binoculars, and rifle scopes have built-in infrared illuminators that you can switch on and off, external infrared illuminators are typically more powerful and can boost performance.

Battery Packs - Battery packs can extend the continual use of a night vision by double or triple.

What is the visibility of the different night vision technologies?

Standard night vision - Generation 1: On a clear night with no clouds and a full moon you will be able to see a man size object up to 100 yards away. On a cloudy night you might only be able to see the same object 50 yards away.  
Generation 2: You can see twice the distance compared to Generation 1.
 Generation 3: You can see triple or quadruple the distance compared to Generation 1.  Generation 1, 2 and 3 devices also differ in image quality.  A Generation  2 or 3 device will have a much clearer, brighter image than Generation 1 so you'll be able to see in much greater detail. 

Digital night vision - The quality of digital night vision is a step up from Generation 1 standard night vision but not as good as Generation 2.

Thermal imaging - Thermal devices provide the greatest viewing distance and image quality and are considered the pinnacle of night vision technology.  You will be able to see humans and larger objects or animals up to 2200 yards away, depending on the device. Visibility with thermal imaging devices will also be influenced by weather but not to the same degree as standard and digital night vision.

Do night vision devices have magnification?

Yes, magnification on standard and digital night vision devices comes in 2, 3, and 4x and enables the user to see in greater detail, particularly at shorter distances.  However, there's a trade off as the greater the magnification, the poorer image quality because magnification affects the ability of the device to gather light in the atmosphere.

In Conclusion:

There are many things to consider when purchasing night vision which is why we strongly encourage you to contact us - especially if you are a first time purchaser. We give customers honest, accurate, detailed information so their expectations are met and hopefully exceeded.  We encourage you to watch our What is Night Vision video which offers easy to understand information and a demonstration of what night vision can do.  You can also search for devices by how you wish to use night vision - simply select SHOP OUR PRODUCTS on the menu bar and then Night Vision By Use to find activities that interest you. You will then see a page of products we have selected specifically for that use.  You can also narrow down the options with filters such as brand, category, and classification.  Finally, check out our videos page for a demonstration of what night vision can do - keeping in mind that a video is not going to be as good as observing through a device in real time.