Night vision devices are great tools for hunting and have a multitude of uses, from scouting to navigation to weapon sights. As a result, more and more hunters are adding them to their standard gear, but knowing where to start can be difficult if you don’t have any prior night vision experience. Devices are available in a wide range of prices and there are three night vision technologies that function very differently. It is important to understand the basic differences between the technologies in order to select the device that will best meet your needs and budget. Below you will find a brief summary of each technology and its respective pros and cons:
Standard night visionPros: Better image quality than digital in very low light conditions. Best overall image quality for the cost.
Cons: Overall the most fragile of the technologies. Problems can occur resulting in scope damage due to recoil if the device is not properly matched to the rifle. Standard night vision devices can be damaged by accidental exposure to bright light; they also will not work in total darkness without the aid of an IR illuminator.
Digital night vision
Digital night vision uses technology similar to that of a digital camera. A CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) sensor converts incoming light into an electronic signal which is then processed and displayed to the viewer.
Pros: The device can be used during the day or night and will not be damaged by exposure to bright light. The image produced can be black and white or, when enough light is present, some devices will display in color. Many digital devices have a built-in capability to capture both video and images; in addition, digital devices are typically less expensive than standard devices.
Cons: The technology is more limited in very low light conditions (i.e., no moon present) than standard night vision. When little natural ambient light is present, the best digital devices rely more heavily on IR illumination for acceptable performance than is the case with higher end standard devices. A digital device will not work in total darkness without the aid of an IR illuminator.
Thermal night vision
Thermal night vision, as the name implies, produces images by sensing heat (infrared energy) not light. Thermal technology detects variations in heat and exhibits the differences in various shades of black and white or colors on the display.
Pros: No light is necessary to operate the device making it more versatile (can be used day or night). Because it works by sensing heat, wildlife or humans will stand out in the image when they would otherwise be camouflaged and unable to be seen by the human eye.
Cons: Thermal devices are very expensive. Low end devices start around $2000 and a quality thermal scope can run about twice as much as a high end standard night vision scope.
Understanding the basic differences along with the pros and cons of Standard, Digital, and Thermal devices is the first step in determining which device will best meet your needs. After deciding upon the technology you need, the next step is to learn more about the specifics of that technology – this will help you determine the level of performance you desire.
Guest Blogger Bio
Adam Alm is a night vision and outdoor enthusiast. A former Air Force fighter pilot, Adam gained night vision experience in combat missions and, more recently, with commercial night vision products. Originally from state of Washington, he now owns and operates ViperEyes.com with his wife Lindsay.