Just because it's dark outside doesn't mean your visibility should decrease. If you're camping, hunting, or wildlife watching, night vision goggles let you check out the landscape.
Choose from monocular, binocular, and goggle styles based on your nighttime activity. Some night vision goggles even have the capacity to take pictures and record videos. If you're planning on watching a site for an extended period of time, you may be glad to know that several models of night vision goggles can be mounted on a helmet, hat, or tripod.
If you never want to miss out on nighttime-viewing opportunities, take a look at the models we examined in the following buying guide. Our top pick, Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular, delivers professional-quality imaging with recording capability.
Considerations when choosing night vision goggles
Monocular: This style of night vision goggles allows for viewing through one eyepiece, similar to that of a periscope. They can be handheld, and in some models, you can mount them to a hat or helmet.
Binocular: These goggles let you see through them with both eyes, though they're considered to be a bit cumbersome for long-term holding. On the upside, unlike monocular styles, binoculars have magnification capabilities.
Goggles: Like binocular styles, traditional goggle styles allow for viewing with both eyes. They're designed to fit onto your head, so they're completely hands-free. While they often have advanced features, magnification is not one of them.
Night vision goggles have evolved and continually strive to incorporate cutting-edge technology, which is expressed in four generations. Gen 1 night vision goggles have the earliest night vision technology and are geared toward civilian use like camping, hunting, or amateur film production.
As for Gen 2, Gen 3, and Gen 4 night vision goggles, these generations utilize the latest technology. They're mostly used by the military or law enforcement agencies, so they offer the crispest imaging through exceptional light amplification. Given their superior capabilities, these night vision goggles are more expensive.
The basic features found in night vision goggles are system light gain, system resolution, and photosensitivity. These are the main items you should compare when researching different models, and they may vary between generations.
System light gain (SLG)
This is the number of times that visible light is amplified by the device, which in turn affects how bright objects appear. Gen 1 models peak at 900 times, whereas Gen 2 has an SLG between 20,000 and 30,000 times.
The resolution refers to the clarity and crispness of images. Gen 1 models have resolutions up to 1,000, while Gen 2 models feature up to 6,000. Gen 1 models can appear grainy, but Gen 2 models are sharper with better-defined images with detail.
Photosensitivity measures how well the night vision goggles perform in low-light atmospheres, which is based on the minimum light levels to register an object.
Gen 1 night vision goggles have a photosensitivity between 180 to 240 uA/lm, whereas Gen 2 models exceed 240 uA/lm. Gen 2 models have clear images and successfully navigate low-light environments, whereas Gen 1 models often distort the images and details.
Night vision goggles prices
Night vision goggles range in price between $100 and $9,000. Monoculars are generally less expensive than binoculars, and full goggle styles cost the most. Generation, recording capability, and design all affect price, so take those into consideration when comparing models.
Q. I'm traveling and plan on using my night vision goggles. Can I bring them in my carry-on luggage?
A. Yes, according to current TSA regulations you can. Even though they're allowed, given that they are an unusual device, assume that TSA agents may want to inspect them anyway.
Q. I am a private investigator. Which style of night vision goggles is best for me?
A. Since you probably need photo and video capabilities, invest in a monocular set or goggles. They're also very convenient since they can be hands-free, as monocular sets typically have mounting capabilities.
Night vision goggles we recommend
Best of the best: Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular
Our take: Top performer with picture quality and video production features, but might be too delicate a device for some.
What we like: Pro-level quality with a solid manufacturer. Produces consistent quality images even at 750 yards away.
What we dislike: Given the performance level, there's a moderate battery power drainage that is of concern to those who want extended viewing experiences.
Best bang for your buck: Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2x24 Night Vision Monocular
Our take: Straightforward functionality. As it's a basic model, it's easy to use for the average person. Impressive warranty.
What we like: Superior level of durability. High-quality infrared illuminator produces well-lit images.
What we dislike: Picture quality is somewhat inconsistent and is poor quality and grainy at times.
Choice 3: Solomark Night Vision Monocular
Our take: Ideal for people who want to share what they see thanks to its unique photo and video capabilities.
What we like: Assortment of features, functions, and compact style makes it a value buy, especially considering it's a sturdier model.
What we dislike: It's somewhat difficult to get a clear view of objects and people at a far distance.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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