The Best Night Vision Binoculars of 2020 – See Through the Night
Seeing in the dark by a human-made device was once the domain of only the military and law enforcement. A mechanism to see in the dark was first used in World War II and came into full acceptance during the Vietnam War. Through the decades, night vision technology has evolved, with equipment and performance increasing while prices have decreased.
Under the term “Night Vision,” there are three generally accepted technologies.
- Image intensifier; This technology was first used in 1939, and everyone associates the green and black images with the term night vision. With this technology, a device has an intensifier tube that converts the infrared light reflected from an object and transforms it into a visible image.
- Digital night vision; The least know of the three technologies, digital night vision, uses a CCD (charge-coupled device) or SMOS (complementary metal-oxide sensor) similar to a digital camera. These two types of sensors exhibit sensitivity to a near-infrared spectrum. These sensors are resistant to damage from a bright light.
- Thermal Imaging Night Vision is the most sophisticated of the three technologies. These devices detect heat or long-wave infrared light. Any object with a temperature above absolute zero can be identified by one of these thermal imaging night vision devices.
Night vision devices and software are expanding rapidly, as more companies are utilizing this cool technology. Law enforcement and the military continues to broaden the capabilities of night vision. The consuming public is using night vision technology for products such as video games, hunting scopes, and wildlife observation. Law enforcement and the military have produced sophisticated night vision devices, well above any available consumer product.
A massive influx of new and exciting products have been commercialized in recent years; however, fake products and scams have found a way into the marketplace. As an example, head to Amazon and type in “night vision binoculars.” Close to 900 products with “night vision capabilities” will be displayed. Some of these products are too ridiculous to consider.
If you have decided night vision binoculars, scopes, or video game technology is just too cool to pass up, here are a few tips to help purchase the right device.
- Buying for one purpose: Most people buy electronics or a new piece of technology for one use only. This behavior is a big mistake with night vision. Yes, buying a pair of night vision binoculars for security is a good start. However, night vision devices open up a whole new world of exciting possibilities. The most fantastic thing to do with night vision binoculars is night gazing the stars
- Wrong generation: Companies build new technology and devices by generation, as new understanding of old tech. comes on board. Companies redesign a device based on the latest technology and keep the outer shell of the older equipment. Understand what you are buying; there is a considerable difference in performance and longevity between generations.
- Purchase from the right company: This tip seems like a no-brainer; however, it is incredible how many people are scammed into buying products for ridiculously low prices from late-night TV advertisers. Lower quality, yields lower performance and durability. A good indication of the company is its product warranty. If the company offers some ridiculous short term warranty, steer clear of the product and company.
The following products are some of the very best night vision binoculars available. Keep in mind, technology continually evolves and improves itself. As this piece is written, there is no doubt, a breakthrough transforming the industry happening in someone’s garage. Also, be wary of scams. As we detailed in our binocular buying guide, the night vision binocular space is riddled with fake products that aren’t actually night vision.
Eight Of The Best Night Vision Binoculars
BinoX 4K by ATN. ASIN – B07RD7YKN8. Price $827.00. Founded in 1995, ATN is quietly revolutionizing day/night vision optics. Their 4th generation line of products was introduced in 2018, including digital and thermal night vision. The company boasts of its Smart HD imaging technology.
The BinoX series of day/night vision products by ATN is medium-priced capable binoculars, well suited for hunting and wildlife viewing. The OpticGuru binoculars are loaded with advanced features. Live stream or record video in HD with crisp imaging, either in day or night conditions.
OpticGuru can be used for a variety of functions. Use the precise range finder for hunting and outdoor sports, one-click, and the target is ranged. Ultra-sharp sensors extend metadata and video records with compass orientation. Advanced technologies allow the user to record or view imaging for over 18 hours.
4K Ultra HD Sensors power ATN’s advanced digital imaging with a dual-core processor. There is no loss of image up to 10X magnification. ATN has developed advanced communication technology called BIX (ballistic information exchange). This technology allows ATN devices to talk with each other without the need for independent software or apps.
Other advancements from ATN is the ability to Dual Stream Live Video with no lag or loss of image. Stream video via Wi-Fi to any mobile device and record the same image in the binocular.
PVS-7 by Armasight/FLIR. ASIN – B009MRARHI. Price $3,195.00. Armasight and FLIR combined assets in 2016 to become one of the pioneers in digital optics. FLIR was founded in 1978 and, through the years, built its technology base on the acquisition of other high-tech companies. Its acquisition of Agema in 1998, provided the company with massive engineering and sales infrastructures.
The PVS-7 was built on the same framework as military-grade night vision devices. Consumers can experience enhanced tactical awareness capabilities with battle-tested designs. The PVS-7 features a head mounting system, the same as in the military. The Gen 2 device weighs less than 1 pound for easy carrying on longer hikes and hunting. An enhanced infrared illuminator is perfect for total darkness situations and map reading.
The PVS-7 captures crisp images across the visual spectrum. Realistic details and depth perception are significant assets for these binoculars. Other features include excessive light cutoff in any condition. 2.5 mm eye relief gives the user plenty of comfort for long-time viewing situations.
A good field of view of 40° and a 1X magnification are a few of the advancements. The FLIR system provides the user with crystal clear imagery in minimal light situations. High-grade electronics and advanced intensifier tubes make the PVS-7 an excellent choice for hunting or night gazing.
PS15 3W by ATN. ASIN – B07DSCD91Y. Price $7989.00. ATN has dedicated itself to complete customer satisfaction and the advancement of their technology. ATN supplies the world with the most advanced image intensifier technologies. The company provides all types of industries with their technology—everyone from sporting goods to the military, benefit from ATN’s tech.
The PS15 is a complete night vision system, utilizing two high performing image intensifier tubes. The ATN technology produces crisp, clear images, no matter the conditions. The 3rd generation PS15 provides increased depth of field and clarity in total darkness.
Use the PS15 as a handheld device or use the included clip-on for hands-free operation. The lens system generates high resolution black and white images with a short 9.8″ close focus distance and a full 40° view angle. A handy function is the bright light cutoff, to handle sudden bright light situations which can damage the device.
Adjust the binoculars easily with the help of the extra-wide rubber winged eyecups. Built-in optical performance and polished all-glass lens provide excellent depth perception. Ergonomic design, flip-up headgear, and durable, lightweight polymer construction makes the PS15 easy to handle and carry.
The PS15 is designed to handle any type situation or condition. An infrared illuminator, automatic brightness control, and long battery life are just the tip of the feature iceberg.
Discovery 8X-HD by Armasight. ASIN – B007SYII28. Price $2,473.24. The combination of FLIR and Armasight created a company that specializes in image perception and awareness. The company’s solutions provide products for both consumer and government markets. FLIR aims to build a more stable and sustainable future for the world.
The Armasight Discovery is a lightweight and sturdy 8X binocular, suitable for a variety of applications and conditions. The Discovery is a robust outdoor piece of equipment that is both water and shock-resistant. It is ready for a tripod to be used as a spotting scope if necessary. All glass optics are multi-colored. Waterproof and fog-resistant with a dual eye cup viewing system for long-range nighttime observation.
The Armasight Discovery features all digital controls with automatic brightness and a bright light cutoff. The ergonomic and lightweight design of the Discovery makes long-range viewing and monitoring easy under harsh conditions. Discovery features a lithium battery with up to 50 hours of charge time.
Use the Discovery binocular for a host of viewing applications such as wildlife observation, hunting, law enforcement, and military. FLIR offers a solid 2-year warranty for the Discover 8X.
Bushnell Equinox Z by Bushnell. ASIN – B00T9N2Z80. Price $319.99. Bushnell has been a pioneer in optics for over 65 years. The company continually pursues technology that enhances its overall value. Bushnell engages in a host of product lines from outdoor spectator sports to stargazing and military applications.
The Equinox Z night vision binoculars have magnification up to 2 x 40 with a rugged, water-resistant housing. Bushnell has built a number of technologies into the Equinox Z, including zoom and image capture. Supercharged digital video recording is a nice feature for these binoculars.
These binoculars can be used as handhelds or mounted on a tripod and used as a spotting scope. The Bushnell binoculars feature powerful infrared illumination with either day or night viewing. The Equinox line consists of both monocular and binoculars for any type of condition.
Bushnell’s Equinox features a four-power set of lenses with a big 50mm objective lens. The Equinox is a fully digital device that makes it versatile with any condition. These binoculars provide two built-in color displays. This feature gives users a much higher definition in low-light situations.
If nature gazing or making home movies is your thing, the Equinox can be used as a video camera. These Bushnell’s can use a micro SD card or accept .jpg images, if needed. If you are a night vision beginner, Bushell Equinox binoculars are affordable and a perfect device to start night vision journey.
Night Owl NOB5X by Night Owl Optics. ASIN – B004VHZD8C. Price $757.18. Night Owl Optics is a company with decades of industry experience. They understand consumer behavior and their expectations. Without a doubt, the company realizes the formidable challenges behind creating a high-tech product. Night Owl Optics has a firm resolve to dominate this industry.
The NOB5X features 5X magnification with a central focusing mechanism. These generation 1 binoculars have the most advanced optics in the industry. Ergonomic design and device aesthetics make these the perfect companion on long-range hikes and hunting trips.
The lower 35 lp/mm (line pairs per millimeter) resolution is consistent with a gen 1 device. Add in the excellent magnification of the NOB5X, and you have a great sub 1K set of night vision binoculars. The magnification of the Night Owl can easily distinguish between objects at 150 yards. (under optimum conditions)
The optical quality of the Night Owl binoculars is excellent at an affordable price. At a distance of 150 yards or less, the NOB5X provides clear, crisp images. Lenses are made from a thermoplastic, which is impact resistant and increases the rigidity and strength of the device.
These Night Owl binoculars have a small and convenient design, making them easy to carry on long hunts or hiking. The NOB5X can be worn around the neck without feeling like you are weighed down. The Night Owl has an excellent CR123 battery, which can last 70 to 80 hours. The binoculars come with infrared illuminator for extremely dark situations.
Model Apache 12AA9123353011 A-9 Aviator by PRG Defense. ASIN – B07PN7GX8R. Price $11,530.75. PRG Defense is a mission-critical supplier to law enforcement, the US Government, and security organizations around the world. The company supplies, among other products, thermal imaging, night vision, ballistics equipment, body armor, and x-ray systems.
If money is no object and you have clearance from Homeland Security, the Apache A-9 binocular may be just what you need. The feature set of the A-9 Aviator is extensive. The Generation 3 A-9 has a 40° field of view and a 1.0X magnification.
The objective lens on the Aviators is specially coated and provides a high contrast white phosphor image. The large-format eyepieces are easily adjusted from +2 to -6 diopters (optical power of a lens). The A-9 Apache features a powerful battery system with over 80 hours of run time per charge.
The Apache comes with a helmet mounting system for use in mission-critical situations. The Apache is exceptionally lightweight at only 500 g. To highlight the extreme capabilities of the Apache, it is a variant on a standard Army/Navy field issue system. PRG Defense delivers two types of intensifier tubes with the Apache A-9 binoculars. The Apache accommodates a 10° tilt for use in a wide array of helmet applications.
NVG7 WPT by ATN. ASIN – B00CQU7U8M. Price $1999.00. ATN is dedicated to night vision technology and its products are universally accepted as some of the very best available. It wasn’t until 2012 that ATN stated to develop NVD products and the technology that comes along with it.
The NVG7 is at the top of its class when it comes to included technology. The lightweight and durable binoculars can handle any situation of condition. The NVG7 features high resolution image intensifier tubes as its core. Auto brightness and bright source cut off are just a few of its features.
A built in IR illuminator are for total darkness operation if needed. The 1X magnification and 40° field of view makes the NVG7 an excellent choice for hands free night vision viewing. These binoculars feature a Proshield Lens Coating for durability. A robust CR123A battery system gives the NVG7 nearly 60 hours of run time.
The ATN binoculars are water resistant and a re extremely lightweight at only 1.1 lbs. Optional 3X, 5X, and 8X lenses are available from ATN.
- Choose a binocular if your primary task is long-range night viewing. There is a caveat to this, the more magnification you place on an optic, the dimmer the image will be, due to loss of light at long range. Adding a lot of magnification to an already darker older technology negates the price benefit. A useful Gen 3 device can handle the extra magnification with light to spare. As a general rule of thumb, it is better to go up a generation, rather than adding more magnification to older technology devices.
- Digital night vision devices are rapidly becoming a significant technology. Starting with Generation 2 devices, the performance gains are a huge advantage over other technologies. Digital night vision devices are easier to attach to CCD cameras with the help of the RCA video cord. Another significant advantage, bright lights are not as harmful as most other technologies. An advantage to digital, as technology takes hold, size, and the price gets smaller. With this yield curve, digital night vision will eventually become available to anyone who wants the technology.
- Night vision technology is about seeing objects in the dark, not about long-distance viewing. No device, designed for night vision, will have the same optical resolution as a daytime device. Never try to compare daytime optical resolution with their nighttime counterparts. The issue becomes, as magnification increases, image quality in a nighttime device, drops dramatically. Excess magnification with night vision technology degrades an image to the point of it being useless. Until better technology is developed, image quality is restricted to about 1X to 3X normal vision. Other optical factors are better at lower magnification, such as field of view, steadiness, and ease of use.
- Infrared Illumination is a must-have for any nighttime device. As an example, with no ambient light, there is no way to read a map or see directions. IR illuminators were initially designed for reading maps in the dark. Despite advertising claims, these devices are extremely limited in power. As an example, a 450 MW powered IR illuminator has the power of a small penlight. For most uses, an IR Illuminator is a must-have piece of equipment.
- Understand the technology of night vision devices. An objective lens is an optical element that gathers the light from the target you are viewing. An objective lens can be as simple as a single mirror or a complex set of mirrors and a lens placed together to capture the image. The objective lens is the closest element to the object being viewed. As an example, a microscope’s lens is the part of the device that is directly above the specimen. A microscope’s lens is a complex combination of optics to filter and enlarge the object. In general, an objective lens is responsible for image formation, quality of the image produced, total magnification, and resolution.
- Magnification is often the most critical number a user looks for to determine whether they will buy a particular binocular. The magnification number is basically; object focal length divided by the focal length of the eyepiece. In other words, it describes how many times an object appears enlarged. How do binoculars magnify an object? The device requires two pieces of optics, an objective lens, and an ocular or eyepiece lens. The objective lens collects the ambient light of the target object, and the ocular or eyepiece lens collects and enlarges the object. Magnification is an essential aspect of choosing the right binocular; however, crisp detailed images are just as critical.
The ability to see in the dark has been with us for decades. Most people only know of the technology through the movies, or maybe an advertisement. However, night vision technology is giving everyone the ability to enjoy and benefit from science and amazing re-engineering products.
Law enforcement and the military have made spectacular strides in developing new products to keep each of us safe. Hunting with night vision binoculars, spotting scopes and rifle scopes have brought further enjoyment to the sport. People are finding the night sky holds more amazement than ever before.