If you are curious by nature and want to see all the life happening in the darkness, you need a pair of night vision binoculars. Night binoculars are an ideal way to see what goes on around you at night, without the disturbance or intrusion that a flashlight would cause.
In this article, you’ll learn about the best nighttime binoculars on the market right now, and how they can help you on your adventures. And, if you’re wondering how binoculars with night vision work and what to look for when buying, our buying guide below will give you all the answers.
How To Choose A Night Vision Binocular – Buying Guide
Generations of Night Vision
The first thing you need to do when choosing is to think about how you plan to use the binoculars at night. Night vision technology has evolved significantly over the years, and four generations exist on the market today. The differences between them reflect in image quality, the field of view, longevity, and price.
- Generation 1: Generation 1 night vision binoculars were the first invented and have a low detection range (up to 75 yards). Their light gain is less than a thousand and they usually feature a built-in infrared illuminator for night observations. However, gen 1 is also the most affordable option.
- Generation 2: Thanks to the micro-channel plate (MCP), generation 2 night vision binoculars have a much better range, resolution, image brightness, and sharpness than gen 1. Their range is about 200 yards, and they are better suited for a more serious observation.
- Generation 3: Generation 3 night vision binoculars also use an MCP amplifier, but their photo-cathode tubes have gallium arsenide. This amplifies their resolution and enables them to deliver clear and detailed images even in the darkest conditions. The range is 300 yards, but gen 3 models tend to be very expensive.
- Generation 4: This is the most advanced and powerful night vision technology, with incredible target detection, resolution, and image quality. However, generation 4 night vision binoculars are also the most expensive. It is the best of the best in night vision, and it’s offered by top brands such as ATN, Yukon, and Bushnell.
Construction and Design
In addition to the functionality in low light, construction quality, and design of your binoculars also play a significant role. Not only does this directly influence durability, but it also determines the comfort while using them.
- Weight: Due to the sophisticated technology on the inside, nighttime binoculars tend to be heavier than regular ones. The ideal pair of binoculars are built to last, but also lightweight for comfortable carrying and using on the move.
- Size: Again, the best binoculars with night vision are usually larger than daylight sets because of their complicated engineering. However, modern generations were able to reduce the size without losing clarity. A smaller model is ideal for ease of use and storage.
- Water Resistance: Since these are made to be used outdoors, the likelihood that they will be exposed to water is high. Water-resistant binoculars have a seal that prevents moisture and dust from reaching the internal components. Keep in mind that there is a difference between water-resistant and waterproof and that you should never immerse your binoculars.
- Materials: The inside components of binoculars are quite fragile. For long-lasting performance, it’s important that the housing is resistant to shocks and bumps. For this reason, pay attention to the materials used to make the binoculars for the night. Also, multi-coated lenses with scratch resistant and water repellent coatings are good to have.
- Design: The design plays an important role in the overall ease and of use. The best night vision goggles are ergonomic and comfortable to hold. In addition, the shape of the binoculars bridge makes a big difference. For example, an M-shaped bridge fits comfortably, while an H-shaped bridge can be hard.
Lens and Image Quality
- Image Quality: Higher image quality in your night binoculars makes it easier it is to spot and observe objects. For night vision binoculars, lower magnification power is the best for image quality and clarity. However, a sharper image also usually means a higher price tag.
- Lens Quality: The ambient light will be coming through the lenses, so they must be well-made. Multi-coated lenses that are anti-reflective, scratch-resistant, and water-repellent, significantly increase light transmission. This ensures maximum light gain for the best image quality and long-lasting performance.
- Range Of Detection: Depending on whether you’ll be using your set of night vision binoculars for a short distance or long distance observation, the range of detection is an important feature to consider. The maximum distance for generation one night vision devices is around 75 yards, while later generations have a much better range.
- Gain: Gain refers to the relative amount of light coming through the lens, where higher gain means better image quality. However, the gain goes down as the magnification power goes up. For this reason, some of the best night vision goggles feature a manual gain control to adjust light gain depending on the amount of light available.
- Resolution: The resolution defines the sharpness and clarity of the images through your nighttime binoculars. The higher the resolution, the better the image produced. It is a good idea to go for the highest resolution within your budget, so you will be able to see even the tiniest details clearly and identify targets easily.
- Magnification Power: This tells you the device’s ability to make targets appear closer and bigger (zoom in on them). When it comes to night vision, the highest magnification power is not the best, as it reduces gain, the field of view, and image clarity. For hunters and security professionals, 5x magnification power is the go-to option.
- Eye Relief: Eye relief refers to the distance between your eyes and each eyepiece when the entire field of view is visible. It determines how close to your eyes you will need to hold your binoculars for the best viewing experience. Long eye relief of at least 11mm offers good comfort, as you can hold the instrument away from your face.
Extra Features of Night Vision Binoculars
- IR illuminators: If you want to see even when it’s completely dark (with little or no ambient light available), you need a set of nighttime binoculars that utilizes not only night vision technology but also infrared light technology.
Binoculars with built-in infrared illuminators (IRI) allow you to see in total darkness. The IRI emits a beam of infrared light which the binoculars collect, magnify, and use to produce a visible image.
Most generation one binocular IR illuminators use an 850nm frequency (visible to the naked eye). More expensive Gen 2 night vision gear utilizes a 940nm frequency, which produces no visible light (easy to stay undetected).
- Recording Function: Digital night vision binoculars offer you the ability to record images or videos. They feature a removable micro SD card and USB cable for transferring the recording to your computer. If you require a recording function, ensure you choose digital night vision goggles with a built-in recording system.
- Power Source: Another important aspect is how a set of nighttime binoculars is powered. You want to choose one that has a convenient source of power and a battery life that is long enough for your expeditions. For improved convenience, a set that uses replaceable batteries allows you to swap batteries easily on the go.
- Focus: The focus of your nighttime binoculars greatly determines your viewing experience. We recommend that you choose binoculars with an easily-adjustable focus. Most night vision binoculars allow you to adjust the focus for both barrels (using a central focusing wheel), while some feature a diopter adjustment ring so you can focus each barrel on its own.
- Field of view (FOV): This aspect refers to the width of the area that you can focus on and see, without turning your head. The best binoculars for night vision have a wide field of view, with a bigger area you observe.
- Fog Proofing: The environment and weather can affect the performance of your night vision binocular. If you want to use your night vision binocular in foggy weather, you need to choose a set that has a fog-proof coating on the lenses to prevent condensation.
Ease of Use
Regardless of the model you choose, it should be easy and enjoyable to use. The best night binoculars are comfortable to hold and have an intuitive operation. The controls and switches should be well-positioned for ease of use, so you can operate the device in the dark.
On top of this, the focus should be easy to adjust and focus both eyepieces. A long eye relief allows you to hold the set away from your face, which greatly improves comfort (especially if you wear glasses). Additionally, models that come with a head mount will free up your hands for doing other tasks.
If you’ll be on the move, a set that is compact and lightweight is the best option for you. But, if you’ll stay in place a lot, you can comfortably handle a larger model with more features. Always check reviews for the pair you like to get an idea of how easy it is to focus and use.
Q: How Do Night Vision Binoculars Work?
Night vision devices utilize night vision technology and infrared illumination to help us see in the dark. These technologies work as follows:
- Night Vision Technology: Even when it’s completely dark, some level of ambient light is available (such as moonlight and starlight). Night vision technology enhances this available light using a photomultiplier and a phosphor screen to boost the visibility of dim and dark scenes.
Infrared Illumination: The best infrared binoculars with night vision rely on infrared illuminators to provide a beam of infrared light, which is then enhanced by the mentioned night vision technology. Hot objects (such as our bodies) emit heat in the form of infrared light, which is then captured, processed, and used to make the objects visible.
Q: How Far Can You See With The Night Vision Binoculars?
There is no standard distance that applies to all binoculars with night vision. How far you can see with night vision devices is determined by the binocular’s maximum range of detection and the amount of light available. This can range from 75 yards on lower-end models to more than 500 yards on sophisticated ones.
Q: How Durable Are Night Vision Binoculars?
The best night vision goggles are made to stand the test of time and last. They have tough housings that can withstand bumps and weather elements, and protect the sensitive interior components.
However, they have delicate technology inside, so we advise that you try not to drop or hit them. Lastly, durability also depends on how well they are taken care of.
Q: Who Benefits The Most From Night Vision Binoculars?
People who benefit most from these binoculars are those who work in the military, law enforcement, security, search and rescue, and astronomy. Also, outdoor adventurers (hunters, campers, stargazers, birdwatchers, and many others) will find them very useful too.
Q: Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars During The Day?
While this depends on a particular device, most night binoculars can’t be used during the day. The sensitive optics and light-catching technology inside could be permanently damaged if exposed to a lot of light. This being said, some night vision googles are safe to use in daylight, but we advise caution when doing this.
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Whether you need a night vision binocular for work or want them for outdoor explorations under the night sky, a good pair will open up new possibilities. We hope that you’ve found the info in our buying guide and night vision binocular reviews useful, so you can confidently get night binoculars that you’ll enjoy on all the adventures to come.
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Which of the binoculars on our list is your top choice? We would love to read your thoughts or experience with the infrared binoculars we’ve reviewed! Feel free to share in the comment box below!