Nighttime game viewing or hunting can be a wild experience. A whole new world opens up when you're spotting and tracking nocturnal creatures. And while this is thrilling, having the right night vision equipment goes a long way to improving visibility at night. Which is why today we're talking about night vision binoculars.
But it's not only for leisurely activities this type of night vision gear is used. Security companies, the police, and the military all use night vision binoculars for surveillance, navigational and targeting purposes. The next time you see James Bond hauling out his night vision binoculars, know this piece of equipment is for real!
To make your search for the type of night vision binoculars best suited to your personal or business needs, we've compiled a review of the eight best night vision binoculars.
But before we get talking about the different night vision binoculars, let's cover the basics of how binoculars for night vision work, what digital night vision means, and the story behind night vision generations.
How do Night Vision Binoculars Work?
If you haven't used night vision binoculars before you may be wondering how they work. How often do you see the guys on action movies peering into the darkness with night vision gear and seeing green, almost sci-fi like images? We can confirm your night vision binoculars will do the same. You use them when it's dark and you'll see green objects through the lenses.
Night vision gear relies on the ambient light coming from the moon, stars, or infra-red light through the illuminator. This is where it gets complicated but we'll try to keep it simple.
The photons from this ambient light enter a photocathode tube and they change into electrodes. Through a chemical and electrical process, the electrodes are amplified. These amplified electrodes bounce against a phosphorous screen and as a result, are changed back into a visible light seen through the eyepiece.
The image you're observing is now seen clearly as a green, amplified object.
When using night vision binoculars you'll need to familiarize yourself with the controls and different adjustments. Forget about thinking these binoculars operate in the same way as your daytime binoculars. You're about to learn a whole new game when using binoculars with night vision features.
In general, you can expect to find on/off switches, the eyepiece focus, and the front lens focus. The switches manage the main power and IR illuminator. Some binoculars will have IR illuminator controls so you can adjust from a narrow beam to wide-field illumination.
Before setting out into the dark, make sure you've focused your eyepiece. Once you've done this you won't need to adjust it again. The front lens focus is adjusted as you observe the object you're viewing.
Some top models include an aperture ring. This is similar to the operation of a camera and it controls the amount of light entering the binoculars. This is particularly useful when you want to dim or lighten the display for a better-lighted view.
Gen 2 and Gen 3 binoculars with night vision include technology which stops power should the equipment be exposed to bright light. Automatic image brightness control features also prevent damage to the unit when there's unexpected exposure to bright light.
Exploring Digital Night Vision
Night vision equipment can be expensive, so looking for an affordable pair of night vision binoculars is possible if it's using digital night vision. This new form of technology allows for viewing results comparable to the Gen 1 Starlight technology at a cheaper price. You can also expect less distortion with this top technology.
Instead of amplifying light with an intensifier, they work with a digital signal. The image is processed and converted to an electric signal. This signal goes through an image sensor known as the charged coupled sensor which sends an image to an LCD screen. You'll be viewing the image on a screen and not directly at the image itself.
While digital night vision is simpler to use and kinder on the budget, it does have its limitations in range and resolution compared to the top quality Gen 2 and Gen 3 night vision binoculars.
The Story Behind Night Generations
Over time, generations of night vision devices have developed. Each generation is a reflection of improved night vision technology and reduced costs. With the advancement in technology, night vision equipment has become available for a wider range of applications.
While the Generation 1 night vision devices were developed in the 1960s and put to use during the Vietnam War, these tools were first used by the German army in 1939. Based on the first designs, the U.S military patented the night vision device using ambient light. They were bulky and needed moonlight to operate fully. This was the first time the term "Starlight" technology was used.
The Gen 2 night vision equipment came about in the 1970s as an improvement to the Gen 1 model. The performance was improved by using a more advanced image intensifier tube which used a microchannel plate and S-25 photocathode. The result was a much brighter and clearer image. The Gen 2 device allowed for operation in low ambient light conditions such as moonless nights.
As Gen 2 technology improved so did additional features. Such devices were now characterized by better optics, enhanced signal to noise ratio, SUPERGEN tubes, and even better resolution.
Night vision equipment didn't stop at Gen 2. In the late 1980s, in response to a need for further improvement changes were made. Image resolution was improved using a photocathode made with gallium arsenide. Light amplification is improved as well as aspects like light sources.
It was around this time civilian use of night vision devices came into demand. Improvements continue and some call the Gen 3+ range the Generation 4. This naming is not authorized by the US Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate. Why do they have a say in this matter? It's because they're part of the governing board responsible for naming the generations of night vision equipment and technologies.
8 Best Night Vision Binoculars
With all this background information, you're now well-informed about night vision binoculars. We've picked the top products in this review for their particular features and how they can be used in different situations.
1. ATN BinoX 4K 4-16x65 Smart Day/Night Binocular
The smartest feature of these binoculars has to be the Ballistic Exchange Information technology. This allows the binoculars to communicate with other smart devices. How is this done? By using the integrated laser ranger to find the precise distance to the object being viewed. The binoculars then transfer this information to the ATN Smart HD optic. This relays the optimal point of aim.
You can also use these smart binoculars to record 1080p videos. That's one nifty feature when you want to share your wild nighttime experiences with friends and family back home. You can dual stream to other smart devices with a WIFI connection. And, the built-in IR illuminator will pick out any nocturnal creature lurking in the dark.
It operates with digital night vision generation. The binoculars include top additional smart features like 3D Accelerometer, 3D Gyroscope, 3D Magnetometer, a 4 to 64 GB Micro SD card, ATN 4K M265 Sensor, Bluetooth, E-barometer and E-compass, IR Illuminator, microphone, and a smart range finder.
The ATN Smart Day/Night Binocular is weather resistant with a night vision mode and has an image stabilizer feature. Battery life is up to 15 hours which is good if you're planning to spend a lot of time out with your binos. It allows for interpupillary adjustment. ATN has gone the extra mile and has included a carrying case with a neck strap, a USB C-cable, lens cover, and lens tissue.
Other specifications worth noting are:
- Magnification: 4 - 16 x
- Field of view, Linear: 220 ft at 1000 yards
- Field of view, Angle: 6 degrees
- Focus range: 15 m to infinity
- Minimum focus distance: 10 ft
For nighttime hunting, these binoculars with the smart features can only improve the way you target. And if you want to keep an eye out for intruders on your property, day or night, you'll find these binos will do the job well.
2. CREATIVE XP Digital Night Vision Binoculars
Not only are these binoculars affordable but they're designed to see in 100% darkness. Known as the GlassOwl High-Tech Night Vision binoculars, this device uses digital night vision generation. It'll give you top quality photos and videos. You save everything on a memory card, download and show them off to your buddies.
But, it doesn't stop there. Use these high-performing binoculars to check out the wildlife, hunt down a hog, or carry out surveillance on your property with the No-Glow IR illuminator. The batteries last FOREVER so you don't need to stress being caught short with drained batteries.
The design of this unit can handle the most rugged conditions thanks to its durable and tough build construction. But that doesn't mean they're cumbersome. You can hold them comfortably for as long as you're using them.
These binoculars include features like a 4 inch TFT screen and 2 x digital zoom giving you excellent sighting up to 1 300 feet away. Crystal clear viewing is made possible with the 31 mm objective lens. And while we're on the lens - they're easy to adjust and they focus quickly. They're also fully multi-coated.
Going cheap doesn't mean you have to lose out. CREATIVE XP adds more value by including a protective case with a neck strap, a phone card reader, a 32GB SD card, a cleaning cloth, USB cable, and a user-friendly manual. The binoculars are waterproof up to the IPX4 level.
Some notable features of the binoculars are:
- Magnification: Optical - 7 x / Digital - 2 x
- IR wavelength illuminator: 850 NM
- Weight: 3 lbs/lightweight
- IR levels: 3 with rechargeable batteries / 7 with external battery
These binoculars have you covered for any nighttime expedition whether you're hunting, surveying your property, or monitoring your cattle. What's more, you can use them during the daytime as well by replacing the IR cap and switching off the IR button. You're certainly getting a whole lot of value with this affordable pair of binos.
3. ATN PS15 Night Vision Goggles/Binoculars
These Gen 3 dual goggles/night vision binoculars are compact and lightweight. They make use of two high-performance image intensifier tubes giving you absolute clarity when viewing images, when in low light no matter how dark it is. The dual tube design gives you increased depth perception and clear, crisp images.
You can choose between the ATN PS15-3 or the ATN PS15-3A each with their own resolution features. The ATN PS15-3 has a 64 lp/mm resolution compared to the PS15-3A with a 64 - 72 lp/mm resolution.
It's light enough (weighing in at 1.54 lb) to be mounted on a helmet for hands-free convenience. They come with flip-up headgear which takes the "ouch" away for the price you have to pay for these goggles.
The optional 3 x A focal lens turns these goggles into a very powerful night vision binocular. You get to own the night by turning it from pitch black to a clear (eerie) green-hued daylight! It doesn't have zoom features but its focus range is from 0.25 yards to infinity. The objective lens diameter is 27 mm. The IR illuminator is built-in.
It's water and fog resistant, making them excellent hunting binoculars in marshy or wetland areas. The field view angle is great at 40 degrees. The magnification is fixed at 1 x.
Besides the headgear being included, you can expect to find the following also included with the product:
- Lithium battery
- Soft carry case
- Goggle kit
- Soft lens tissue
- Warranty card (limited two-year warranty)
- User's manual
While you're paying a premium price for these dual goggles/night vision binoculars, you pay for high-quality, high-performance advanced features. If nighttime viewing is something you do on a regular basis, whether it's hunting or for surveillance purposes, you can't go wrong with the ATN PS15 night vision devices.
4. NightStar 1 x 20mm Head Mounted Night Vision Binoculars
This unit comes with a powerful infrared illuminator. You can be sure you'll get some of the best clear images no matter how pitch dark it is outside. It comes with a nifty head mount gear which means you can go hands-free when you need to. Plus, when you need to get them out of your vision, simply use the flip-up feature on the head mount.
It has a diopter adjustment range of -4 -4 dpt with a lens resolution of 35 lp/mm. The objective lens diameter is 20mm.
The IR illuminator is built-in with an extra IR button for even more clarity. You can expect excellent clarity of up to 100 yards with the focus range being 40 inches to Infinity. For close up focusing you can't go wrong with these binoculars.
These are Gen 1 night vision devices so don't try comparing them with digital night vision equipment. They're not designed for daytime usage. They're small and lightweight, weighing in at 440 g. You won't even notice them sitting on your head!
Some notable features of this unit include:
- Magnification: Fixed/1 x
- Eye relief: 10 mm
- Battery: 1 x CR123A
If you're looking for a budget night vision binocular without compromising on good features and quality this one is for you. It's perfect for recreational purposes and if you're in a large area, the limited IR width won't impact your hunting skills too much.
5. Night Owl Optics Explorer Pro 5x Night Vision Binocular
If your idea of nighttime viewing includes a pair of Generation 1 night vision binoculars, then you've found one of the best with these binoculars. Compared to other products in the same niche, these binoculars have 5 x magnification.
While you're getting the high performance in terms of magnification, you're also getting a unit that's aesthetically pleasing and comfortable with its ergonomic design.
A defining feature of this night vision device is the central focusing wheel. This allows you to focus easily and quickly with both objective lenses. The inter-ocular distance is adjustable with a range of 2.27 inches to 2.95 inches. It centers the dual optical channels over each eye with absolute precision.
Both the objective and eyepiece lenses are made with high-quality all-glass optics. The objective lens diameter is 50 mm. The field of view at 200 feet is 53 feet wide. The lenses are impact-resistant with molded thermoplastic lens housing.
With two premium quality image intensifier tubes, you can expect only the clearest and sharpest images when using these binoculars. The built-in infrared illuminator is columnated and is ideal for complete darkness. For the hunter using this device, they can be sure they'll have target recognition improvement in any environment, which may earn you more respect among your fellow hunters.
It's worth your while to take note of these specifications:
- Resolution: 35 lp/mm on center
- Diopter adjustment: +4 to -4
- Minimal focal distance: 6.6"
- Field of view, Angle: 15 degrees
- Batteries: 1 x 3 v Type 123 lithium battery
Not only are these binoculars pleasing to look at (and to look with!) they're also made with material that has a soft-touch rubberized touch. You can also expect the battery life to be anything between 40 to 80 hours depending on the infrared usage. You can't use these Gen 1 binos for daytime use though and while they're water resistant they are not waterproof.
6. Barska Night Vision NVX300 Infrared Illuminator Digital Binoculars
If you're looking for night vision binoculars with 7x magnification, then you've found them with this pair of binoculars. The powerful integrated IR illuminator lets you see up to 100 yards in the darkest environment.
This smart unit allows you to capture images and take videos. You can check them out either on the binocular's internal screen or share files for viewing on your computer or television. So, impress your friends the next time you go hunting or game viewing and share all your nocturnal adventures with them.
These digital binoculars can be used for both night and day viewing. It has wide-angle viewing and an objective lens diameter of 20 mm. The focus system is an adjustable center focus.
The rubberized matte black finish allows for a firm grip. A neck strap is included for extra convenience, giving you hands-free time when you're not using the binoculars. The device is constructed to handle rugged conditions and is weather and water resistant.
Additional specifications to take note of are:
- Built-in tripod mount
- Field of view, linear: 328 ft at 1000 yds
- Resolution: 640 x 480 pixels
- Batteries : 4 x AA (not included)
Whether you're looking for digital binoculars for camping or for law enforcement, these binoculars will be a good buy. Try them out - you'll be amazed when you can even see the letters on the wall despite being in complete darkness!
7. Bestguarder Night Vision Binoculars
Here's another pair of binoculars you can use for both day and night viewing. It comes with a 4-inch viewing screen and allows you to take pictures and videos. The IR level and screen brightness can be adjusted accordingly depending on the lighting environment.
If your navigational skills are slightly dodgy, never fear! Both the latitude and longitude GPS points will be clearly indicated on the screen.
This high-performing night vision binocular gives you 4.5 x optical magnification, 4 x digital zoom with an objective lens diameter of 40 mm.
The built-in 850NM 3W infrared illuminator gives you up to 1 300 feet long range viewing at nighttime. It operates off batteries as well as a power bank option. This means you never need to worry about your binoculars dying out on you at the most crucial moment.
Other notable features of this nifty, affordable device are:
- Tripod mountable
- A non-slip wrist strap for extra protection
- Automatic shooting mode setting
- Includes a 32GB memory card
- Carry case with a strap
These binoculars can go with you when you're fishing, hunting, scouting, doing surveillance work or exploring caves. And, when you're camping out in the middle of nowhere and need to step out into the darkness, take these binoculars with you to be sure you're safe among the wild!
8. Bushnell 260500 Nightvision 2 x 40 Equinox Z Digital Binoculars
This neat and compact pair of night vision digital binoculars by Bushnell will serve you well for both night, low light, and day viewing. Powerful infrared illumination gives you ultimate clarity and an excellent field of view.
You can take pictures and videos with daytime color. Its easy on/off switch button makes this unit simple and quick to use. It has 2 x magnification and an objective lens diameter of 40 mm.
Not only are these binoculars easy to carry and use, but they're designed to withstand rugged conditions. Its water-resistant housing means your device will not ruin easily in wet conditions.
The built-in IR illuminator gives you up to 500 feet viewing with outstanding optical clarity. The lenses are also housed in durable material giving them added protection against rough handling while traversing rugged environments.
Take note of some other features of this unit:
- Uses 4 AA batteries
- Tripod is mountable
- It includes a carrying case and neck strap
Built to handle the rough and tough of the outdoor environment, this binocular will not let you down at nighttime.
Additional Buying Information
Understanding night vision terminology can go a long way in helping you when picking the best night vision binoculars for your own purposes. Let's explore the most common terms you're likely to come across the next time you're discussing night vision gear with a salesperson.
In order for a night vision device to work it needs an infrared (IR) illuminator. It releases light in the infrared spectrum. This kind of light has longer wavelengths than visible light and usually responds to heat. Infrared radiation is invisible to the naked eye.
The IR illuminator acts as a flashlight for night vision devices. Remember, it's not visible to you or the creatures you're viewing so don't imagine a beam of light striking out into the darkness!
Most Gen 2 and Gen 3 night vision gear rely on ambient lighting from either moonlight or starlight. But, in order for a night vision device to function optimally, it requires an IR illuminator. This is ideal for areas with zero lighting.
All the products we've reviewed today include built-in IR illuminators. This is a great feature and worth looking out for when choosing a pair of night vision binoculars. You can also get attachable and handheld IR illuminators.
Field of View
Also marked as FOV, this specification is noted in all binoculars. It describes the field of view as the width of the viewing area, measured in degrees (for angular viewing) or feet (for linear viewing).
The FOV of your binoculars varies depending on the quality of the device and the build construction. High-end binoculars can expect to have further and wider viewing ranges compared to cheaper units having lower FOV features.
Resolution refers to the ability of the unit to provide and display a detailed image. It's described as the maximum number of lines per millimeter (lp/mm).
The image intensifier tubes are responsible for ensuring the amplification of light and presentation of a usable image which is detailed through resolution.
Detection Range, Focus and Magnification
Without effective detection range, your night vision binoculars are useless especially if you're using them for hunting. When a product mentions a viewing range in feet, you can rely on this to be your detection range. In other words, if it's 500 to 800 feet, you'll not miss out on seeing objects clearly within this distance.
Obviously, the higher this rating, the further away you can see your target. You can expect to pay more for your binoculars as the detection range capabilities increase. This is an important criterion when choosing night vision binoculars for different purposes.
Magnification also plays a major role in your decision-making process when deciding on the best night vision binoculars. Magnification refers to the degree by which an object or target is amplified. When you see a specification stating the binoculars have 5 x magnification it means the object viewed appears 5 times closer than without binoculars.
Focusing of the lens is another factor to consider. Are they adjustable and easy to use? What kind of focus do they give you? All binoculars can be focused for infinity. So look at the minimum focus range. If you're a birder you'll want a rating of 15 to 20 feet.
The Importance of Weight and Head Mounts
Night vision binoculars are something you'll be carrying with you while out and about in the dark. Unfortunately, the longer you hold something the heavier it gets. So try and go lightweight as much as possible when picking a night vision device.
If you're intending to use a head mount, it's even more important to go with the lighter weights. Head mounts are excellent for hands-free convenience. Look out for headgear that gives you the flip-up option too. This means you can easily and quickly flip the unit out of your vision when you need to.
Weather and Water Resistant
It's a given that if you're going to be outdoors you're going to be dealing with a number of elements. Weather is unpredictable and there'll be times when you face rainy nights or fog. You may also be bird hunting or hunting for nocturnal creatures close to rivers and marshy areas.
It's vital to ensure your night vision binoculars can handle wet conditions. Look out for water and weather resistant features. Bear in mind, water resistant doesn't mean the unit is waterproof. Water resistant features are measured at different levels.
Your night viewing experiences can be enhanced even further with the inclusion of smart features. These can include the ability to stream images and videos with a WIFI connection, an E-compass, laser rangefinder, the ability to switch between day and night mode, and smooth zoom features.
Other smart technology features to look out for are GPS, 3D gyroscope, and HD video recording with audio.
The world of night vision binoculars is not short of brands. But some of them stand out when it comes to night vision gear. Bushnell has been in the business of binoculars for over 65 years. And they make sure they keep up with all the latest technological developments in the field of optics.
American Technologies Network, otherwise known as ATN, are well-known for their night vision and thermal imaging products. They've been in operation for over 20 years and their headquarters are based in San Francisco, California. When looking for the most advanced range of night vision equipment, ATN is the company to go to.
CREATIVE XP is a family-owned business based in New York. They've been in business for 12 years and pride themselves on producing a high-end range of optic products. The founder of the company is a hunter himself so he knows exactly what a hunter needs from binoculars.
Nightstar Optics is a world-class manufacturer producing world-class night vision gear at affordable prices. They rely on a highly skilled workforce and specialized R&D engineers to come up with innovative products.
With decades of experience, you can rely on Night Owl Optics to bring you the best in night vision equipment. They understand the high expectations of their customers and strive to meet it with innovative night vision technology.
Barska runs all of its operations from Pomona, South California. They offer an extensive range of optics and are committed to using the latest technology to bring superior quality products to their customers. Their motto says it all - "To Enhance the Consumer's Lifestyle".
Bestgaurder is another professional manufacturer engaging in designing, manufacturing, and exporting a wide range of digital game and scouting cameras, hunting scopes, and more. Emphasis is placed on quality control.
Our review of night vision binoculars showed us the range of prices you can expect to pay for this type of equipment. The most expensive unit went for well over $5 700 with the next most expensive one being in the region of $890. Mid-range prices varied between $300 and $500 with the cheapest one coming in at just under $190.
It's important to remember when pricing night vision binoculars often the key features are in proportion to the price being charged. So if you're looking for better features expect to pay a higher price for them.
How far can night vision binoculars see?
Night vision binoculars' typical viewing range is 400 feet to 800 feet. Most models of night vision binoculars come with a fixed magnifier which is perfect for maximum distance viewing but not great for close viewing.
Can night vision binoculars be used in daylight?
With the advancement in technology, night vision binoculars can be used during the day. The key factor here is an IR illuminator that can be switched off when using the binoculars in daylight. A protective lens cover is another option for limiting the amount of light entering the binoculars. The digital system allows for day and night viewing as it doesn't use an intensifier tube.
Night vision binoculars are a man's (or woman's) best friend when venturing out into the darkness. It's a companion for those enjoying nocturnal game viewing, hunting at nighttime, or carrying out surveillance tasks in complete darkness.
This buyer's guide is intended to not only inform you so you're well-equipped to picking the best - and right for you - night vision binoculars. In addition, it's meant to introduct you to facts you never even thought of before.
So, get out there and explore the darkness with the best binoculars for night vision on the market.