Night vision goggles are not only for military use and many people still believe that they will need to spend a ton of cash if they are looking for this piece of military-grade equipment.
In recent years, many manufacturers have now started to design night vision goggles for commercial use as well and they have done this to make shooting at night and even hunting much easier for any individual.
Being a more effective shooter at night will definitely come down to a few things.
We have decided to look a little deeper into the best night vision goggles and find the selection that we believe should be a perfect fit for you on your nightly shooting expeditions.
Since these goggles are very intricate, we have also decided to look a little deeper into the makeup of these goggles and find the most important features that you will need to concern yourself with when you are looking for them.
In this article, you will find out exactly which features we have used to judge the top night vision goggles and you will also see our choice and selection for the top night vision goggles that you could buy.
We have also included a decent section that will show you exactly how these night vision goggles will work and which benefits they will offer you when you want to be shooting at night.
Why use night vision goggles?
The human eye is actually really powerful and it has been this way since the first age of man’s existence.
As the years have gone on, the human eye has slowly become much more adaptive to certain surroundings and certain colors, but even though the eye is one of the most parts of our body, there are still so many things that we do not yet understand when it comes to the eye.
Unlike animals, humans cannot really see as well in the dark and this has certainly set us back a little bit in terms of the overall spectrum of man vs. wild.
Our eyes can still see pretty good, but we do lack in terms of night vision and this is where the night vision goggles will come into play.
The night vision goggles will light up and area and give us the same bonus that you will find in many animals. This makes it possible for us to have combat at night and also to hunt better at night.
Night vision goggles will give you clear and high definition sight in the darkness. This will even make your camping and hunting expeditions so much easier.
No more losing trails and getting lost in the dark. You will also be able to capture those rare photographs of the nocturnal animals in their own environments.
Key Features to Consider
Like most other products that you will find, night vision goggles also have those intricate details that will set them apart from each other.
We have looked at many of their top features to ensure that we are able to able to make a good judgment on the products and to help you find the best night vision goggles that you could possibly get for your money.
Here are the most important features that you should be concerned about when looking for night vision goggles:
Light amplification or thermal imaging
There are two types of night vision goggles that you will need to be concerned about when you are making your decision. The light amplification and the thermal imaging versions work perfectly, but they are very different from one another.
Light amplification works best when there is limited starlight or moonlight available. The little bit of light that is left will then be amplified to give you the best possible color and image that you could find.
This type of night vision goggle generally includes an already built-in infrared light and this light will be enough to give you a decent light source to work with.
Thermal imaging will use the heat of the object to give off a certain light that can only be seen with infrared light. This light is found at the end of the infrared spectrum and will be visible through the night vision goggles.
Thermal imaging will work great when you are in an area with limited heat signatures, but if there are too many things emitting heat, this system might not be as effective
The resolution will give an indication of how clearly you will be able to see the image and also distinguish between multiple objects or animals that are in close proximity to one another.
The resolution on night vision goggles might also slightly vary from the center to edges and you might find yourself looking at something much better when it has been centered in the goggles.
The magnification is also really impressive and you will have to look at the magnification when you are determining the distance that you will need these goggles for.
The farther away your target is, the more magnification you will need and this will also greatly increase the overall price tag of the goggles.
Depending on when and where you are going to use your night vision goggles, you will also need to keep an eye on the weather resistance capabilities.
A lot of times you will need to go through muddy puddles and even work in the rain. This could all have a huge impact on the goggles itself.
The more durable the goggles are, the better they will be capable of holding up in nearly any weather condition.
Size and Weight
If you are going to hiking or backpacking with these goggles, the size and weight will also come into play.
You will need to ensure that you are capable of carrying it around with you, without having a worry that it might become too much of a burden.
If you are using them on a rifle, the size will also play a huge role and you will need to ensure that the scope can perfectly fit on the rifle, without causing any potential complications for you.
All night vision goggles will need to have some sort of battery for lighting up the dark.
You will need to choose between the standard alkaline batteries or the better lithium batteries. We recommend lithium batteries due to the fact that they have a longer life and you will not need to replace them as often.
Even though the alkaline batteries are much cheaper, they will still require you to replace them much more frequently and this could potentially drive up the costs.
These 6 features will be the most important when you are looking for value and looking to buy a quality night vision goggle.
These features will also need to be taken carefully into consideration to ensure that you do get the best possible value for your money.
Top Performance Factors
Night vision goggles can be solely rated on their performance as well. The better they perform the better success you will have when you are using them.
These 5 factors are fundamentally important when it comes to getting the best performing night vision goggles for your journey and for your goals.
The clarity is in direct connection with the resolution and since the resolution is measured in millimeters, you will also find that the higher the lines, the better the vision will be for you through the goggles.
The range is one of the fundamentally important aspects that you should look at. While night vision technology has not yet reached the level of rifle scopes, you will have to be happy with a few hundred yards of range.
The better the range, the more functionality and versatility you will have when it comes to achieving your goals and setting yourself up for success.
The ergonomics factor is also really important and you might sometimes have to sacrifice the better magnification for a smaller size.
If you are not concerned about having freedom of movement, you will definitely need to go for the larger size and have the best possible magnification and also the more intricate features to help you.
The more durable the goggles, the better results you will have when using them in almost any condition.
You will definitely need to look a little deeper at a few of the features like waterproofness and the ability to withstand as much of the impact as possible from bumping and falling.
With night vision goggles, you should always try and pay attention to the infrared illuminators and if it does have one inside.
This infrared illuminator will definitely make life so much easier for you when you are in total darkness and you are looking to have that small beam of light that the night vision goggles can work with to amplify something that you are looking for through the scope.
These 5 features are the most important performance factors that you will need to keep in mind when you are looking for a really good pair of night vision goggles.
The level of these features will also greatly dictate the overall price tag and you could save a few bucks if you are willing to sacrifice a few of these essential features, but like most things in life, you will essentially get what you are paying for.
Night Vision Generation Technology and Why This is Important?
Night Vision goggles are all divided into different generations when you are focusing on the technology that has been used in them. Depending on the quality of this technology and the time of the design, they will give a generation.
The newer the generation, the more advanced the goggles will be and the more expensive they will also be. Here are the Generations of night vision goggles that you should know about before purchasing one:
These were basically the first type of night vision goggles that were ever designed. The gen 1 night vision goggles were designed in the 1960s and they were specifically used for the Vietnam War.
These goggles each employ 1 vacuum tube with a photosensitivity rating of 120-280 microamperes per lumen.
They also have a light amplification of 120-900 times the ambient light. While these goggles are now the cheapest goggles of the bunch, they, might not be suitable for taking photos and combat.
These goggles will be perfect for those who are backpacking or hiking in the dark to help them stay on the designated route.
These goggles are actually a drastic improvement over the standard Gen 1 night vision goggles and they include a fiber optic plate that has been installed in the front and the back of the tube.
The goggles have a photocathode of 300 microamperes per lumen and they have a light amplification of 900-1000 times the ambient light.
Gen 2 sets are quite different from both of the Gen 1 sets and they feature an electron amplifier that will give you much better amplification of light.
As far as generation 2 goes, they have improved sensitivity of 300-320 microamperes per lumen and they also have great amplification of around 20000 to 30000 times the ambient light that you will have around you.
Gen 2 goggles are quite expensive when compared to the Gen 1 goggles and they are mostly supplied to law enforcement by the government.
Gen 2+ night vision goggles are a little better than the standard Gen 1 goggles and even the Gen 2 goggles.
They have an improved sensitivity of around 350 microamperes per lumen. Gen 2+ goggles are produced in Russian and they are also mostly used in the country since the US directly jumped from generation 2 to generation 3.
Gen 3 night vision is designed in the US and it is only used by the US soldiers and marines. The goggles are much better than the standard Gen 2 goggles, but unfortunately, they are not budget-friendly.
One thing that you will find when it comes to the Gen 3 goggles; is that you will not be able to export them to anywhere outside of the US.
These goggles include ranges of 300 yards or more. They also have the longest life expectancy with an overall estimated lifetime of around 10,000 hours.
Generation 4 night vision technology is very new to the market and it is not yet really accepted by the military.
These goggles have impressive ranges of close to 500 yards, but since the durability and overall effectiveness of the technology are still being tested, it is quite hard to determine when this technology or generation of night vision will officially be introduced and accepted.
Night Vision Goggle Reviews
Admittedly, the ATN OTS-HD 384 has one heck of an atrocious price tag! Ranging from $1500 to nearly $4000, it’s not for those with a light wallet! It’s really pricey and it’s not even a binocular!
However, if you have the budget, you really can’t get a better system than this. It’s loaded with not only tech features, but the build quality is noticeably stepped up from a model that’s priced in the low hundreds. Let’s take a quick look!
The OTS-HD 384 comes in 3 models:
- OTS-HD 384 1.5x – 5x
- OTS-HD 384 2x – 8x
- OTS-HD 384 4.5x – 18x
- OTS-HD 384 9x – 36x
With each degree of magnification (especially at night) the technology has to change to accommodate the lighting (or lack thereof), so the prices and the glass technology start to skyrocket.
This unit contains a very powerful sensor that allows you to see clearly in total darkness!
Its Smart Rangefinder is a thermal sensor that can precisely measure distances to your subject, and the E-compass helps you keep your bearings.
The 384 features a 3D gyroscope which provides for stellar image stabilization for recording in HD or taking photos in the dark. Not only can you record, but HD in total darkness is a reality.
It uses an SD card as the record media, and it includes a Wi-Fi module that allows you to connect to a phone or tablet, and even share that image with others.
One of the other unique features is the zoom. It’s not a regular stepped zoom. ATN Smooth Zoom technology allows you delicate ultra-slow zooming which looks great while recording.
You can’t typically zoom well during the recording process.
There are a number of other features and even more details on the listing at Amazon. Be sure to check it out. This monocular makes the top of our list simply because of the build quality and features.
The price is the thing we really don’t like, but I guess you can’t have it all!
- Extremely durable
- Top build quality
- Great clarity
- Lots of features
- Extremely expensive
The Solomark monocular is number 2 on our list because of two big advantages.
The first is that it has a decent array of features that are most often found on higher-end units, and the second is that the price point of just over a hundred bucks is nearly FORTY times less expensive than the ATN that’s on the top of our list.
Some of its features include the ability to render a usable image in extremely low light conditions even without its infrared illuminator.
Taking both videos and still photos is a breeze with the Solomark, and the 1GB micro SD card is actually included in the deal.
The Solomark also includes an AV and USB function allowing you to display videos and photos on both a computer and a TV set. Amazingly, there are 7 levels of IR illumination so you can adjust and finesse the right level of brightness.
You can also use the unit on a tripod for hands-free functionality.
The one rub with the Solomark (and surely one of the reasons it’s priced so low) is that it can only zoom 1x – 2x. That’s a far cry from the 36x offered by top-end units for upwards of $4000.
- Very lightweight
- Unbelievably low price
- Can be used hands-free
- A very limited zoom range
The Pulsar Helion XP brings us back to a premium-priced monocular running in the $1500 range. The XP comes in three sizes with the entry-level offering heat detection up to 1100 yards.
Of course, it has a built-in video recorder featuring 8GB of storage and built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.
The IPX7 waterproof rating and dustproof/fog-proof performance speak to the quality of the unit.
The price is about three to eight times higher than other half-decent units because (in part) its ability to offer a zoom range/magnification level of 1.4x to 11.2x.
One of the other notable abilities of the Helion is that it can operate perfectly in a ridiculously huge range of temperatures. It works well from -13 degrees to 122 degrees! WOW!
The rechargeable 8-hour battery pack rounds out some of the more explainable, notable options, but a full list of the Pulsar Helion’s features can be seen at Amazon. Just click the photo above to check it out!
- Durable and lightweight
- Includes an 8-hr rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Wide zoom range
- Premium build quality
- A potentially restrictive high price
GThunder is a very cool binocular system that is easy for both beginners and experienced users alike. This unit sets itself apart from others by its large wide-screen viewing monitor for BOTH eyes! What a novel concept!!
You even have options for comfortable eyepieces if you happen to wear glasses. The sensors are boasted to be extraordinarily sensitive, which allows them to effectively function without using the built-in infrared lighting in ambient light (like dawn or dusk).
You can fine-tune the visibility of your subject to meet the needs of a variety of lighting scenarios. The highest setting gives you a 300-yard vision in total darkness.
The GThunder uses an enhanced CMOS sensor and a 2.3 inch LCD screen. Another great feature is that you are able to view your subject in real-time via screens that are apart from the binocular, like on a laptop to which you can connect.
Conventional night vision units must be viewed close to the eyes so only one person can view and it’s a bit more taxing on your eyes (tired, dry, etc.). This device provides 3X Optical Magnification & 850nm Infrared Illumination.
You’ll need 6 standard AA batteries which keep convenience and affordability at their highest level. The batteries allow for up to 6 hours of continuous use during the day, and 3 hours at night (or on the InfraRed setting).
One last thing; this GThunder unit is so good, it’s the only one that is (as of this review) the TOP seller on Amazon. It rates 4.2 out 5 with over 850 reviews. That’s pretty darn good I’d say!!
The Firefield made our list because of that ever-enticing quality called “low price”. A better way to say it for the sake of retail marketing effectiveness would be to use the term “value”.
This unit offers some great features for the price which falls well below $150.
The ergonomic grip and well-featured exterior coating are designed to offer both comfort and environment-repellent qualities. The rubber-armored housing offers top-end durability typically seen in higher-priced units.
It’s equipped with a power-saving pulse infrared illuminator and it has one of the largest objective lenses on the market.
The “objective” is just a fancy way of referring to the lens element closest to the front of the unit, or closest to the object being viewed.
The Firefield is a Generation 1 unit (Gen 1) which is the most common night vision technology used today. It has a classic green display (like typical military units).
The downside to this unit is that the lens is very sensitive to light and is not meant for daytime use without the lens cap.
The cap does have a tiny pinhole to allow daytime use, but if too much light comes in (ie. accidentally leave it out in the sun without a cap), you will permanently damage the optics.
Wanney made our list because it offers something we like – HANDS-FREE operation. After all, most of what you’ll be doing in the dark (while needing to see something in complete darkness) will likely require both hands!
You won’t have any hands to spare!
This unit sees well up to 100 meters. The near-infrared red LEDs can be adjusted for surveillance up to 100m. You’ll see a dim ring of red lights for maximum surveillance ability in the dark, or you turn those off for complete stealth.
The rechargeable battery offers around 6 hrs of power or 1.5 hours of continuous use non-stop.
We like this system for convenient hands-free use for night hunting or wildlife observation and cave exploration. Just try enjoying yourself during a spelunking cave exploration session with a one-hand operation monocular!
Go ahead! Try it and see what you wish you had purchased instead!