Night Vision Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

Night vision devices have been in use since World War II, but in recent years, night vision has become available to civilians as well. Night-vision devices allow you to see in very low lights. Like other optics and binoculars, night-vision devices can also magnify objects so they will appear closer, but the main use of night vision is to see things that your eye wouldn't normally be able to see in the dark or in low light. With all of the great uses for night vision, you may want to join in the fun, but if you're not sure how to buy night vision, then it can be tricky to know where to start. This night vision buying guide was designed to help you understand the different types of night-vision devices so you can find the one that works best for you.

Buying Night Vision Devices:

Night Vision Buying Guide

Shop Night Vision ▸

  • Goggles:

    Night-vision goggles give you a hands-free option for low-light vision, often without magnification. Night-vision goggles are perfect for exploring the woods at night.

  • Binoculars:

    Combining night vision with magnification, night-vision binoculars will magnify the view with realistic depth perception, making them perfect for navigation on land or sea. You can also use night-vision binoculars for security purposes.

  • Monoculars:

    Night-vision monoculars are lightweight and designed to fit conveniently in a pocket. Use a night-vision monocular when you only need to check things out for a few minutes at a time, such as for security.

  • Cameras:

    Take pictures of what you see in the dark. Night-vision video recorders let you film the action while you're at it.

  • Eye glasses:

    PNight-vision glasses can be used while driving at night or in foggy weather because they don't magnify at all. They also help reduce the glare from oncoming headlights.

Night Vision Methods

  • Light amplification:

    When there is only a bit of starlight or moonlight, night-vision devices take that small amount and enhance it enough to allow you to see better. It even uses light at the low end of the light spectrum that is not noticeable to the naked eye. This is either done passively, by filtering colors and relying totally on ambient light, or actively, with an infrared light source within the device.

  • Thermal imaging:

    The heat given off by objects, animals and people appears as light at the upper end of the infrared light spectrum, which is not visible to the naked eye. Thermal-imaging night vision detects this heat and creates an image with it. The image created by these night-vision devices is called a thermogram.

Night Vision History

  • First generation:

    Using technology from the 1960s, first generation night-vision devices are still in wide use today because they are the least expensive. Most first generation night-vision devices need the equivalent light of a full moon in order to function. These supply enough night vision for the typical hobbyist.

  • Second generation:

    With technology dating back to the 1970s, second generation night-vision devices require less light to make an image brighter. These can be much more expensive than first generation night-vision devices, but the image produced is noticeably better.

  • Third generation:

    Starting in the 1990s, night-vision devices have been made with gallium arsenide inside the light-amplification tube. This technology is very expensive, but the image is significantly clearer and brighter than second generation night-vision devices. This is the level of technology used by the military.