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Night Vision Questions & Answers
1.Q: How far will I be able to see with Night Vision?
A: This is like asking who is going to win the Super Bowl in early September. There are a lot of variables to this such as how big is the object you’re looking for, is it a person, a house or a mouse. If it is a person you’re looking at, with a good Gen 3 piece of equipment you may be able to "detect" that person 300 yards away, however, you may not be able to "recognize" if it is a man or woman until they are 150 yards away. This is the difference between "detection range" and "recognition range". Another big variable is the amount of light available; is it a cloudy night with no moonlight or is it a bright clear night. The brighter the night the farther you will see and the better your detection range and recognition range will be. What generation and even the levels within each generation will make a huge difference on how far you will be able to see, especially on lower light nights with a 1/4 moon or less. For an easy guide on different generation levels see our EZ Generation Levels Guide. The recognition range of a good Gen 3 device can be several times farther than a Gen 1 device. The device itself will have a big impact on distance as some devices are made for longer distances, such as night vision binoculars and long-range binoculars. However, a binocular will sacrifice field of view, navigation ability, extra weight, and hands-free operation for distance. See our "Which Device is Best" for the Pros and Cons of each type of device.
2.Q: Do you have photos of different night vision so I can see the difference?
A: Yes and no. The problem with "real" night vision photos is that you lose resolution and brightness when taking a photo at night. So actual photos through night vision devices do not realistically represent what your eye would actually see. The type of camera used along with the settings on the camera, as well as how the picture was taken also affects the image. As mentioned in other areas, image tubes are like diamonds where no two are the same, thus making it difficult to use a photo as comparison. Many of the photos that you see on the internet are photo-shopped images of daylight shots made to look like night vision photos. Of the real night photos that are out there many are a poor representation or are photo-shopped as well. Light conditions such as cloud cover, half moon, and full moon will also have a dramatic effect on photo differences. Unfortunately too many variables exist to get an accurate representation of what various devices will look like for comparison purposes. These are some of the reasons why we do not rely heavily on comparison photos to guide and educate our customers as it is too easy to mislead someone to the upside or the downside with photos.
3.Q: What is an IR Illuminator and do I need one?
A: An IR illuminator is a device that projects out infrared light similar to a flashlight. However, infrared light is virtually invisible to the naked eye but it is very visible to night vision equipment. Many devises come with a built in infrared illuminator and most of which are short range flood light style that are good for close range and indoor night vision use - usually about 30 yards max distance. There are many circumstances when even the best Gen 3 devices need the help of an IR Illuminator such as inside dark buildings and anytime moonlight and starlight isn't getting to the viewing area like in wooded environments and in areas of shadows created by buildings, trees or other obstructions. Medium and long IR Illuminators are quite different from the built in illuminators as these powerful external illuminators can send a spotlight like beam of infrared light out to distances of up to 500 yards. These valuable accessories can increase the effectiveness of an optic significantly. The down side to any infrared illumination is that if you are trying to operate covertly anyone with even a Gen 1 device will be able to spot you like a shining beacon. Keep in mind that all Gen 1 equipment has built in IR illumination that is always on. The reason for this is that you would see very very little with Generation 1 products without the aid of the IR light. Gen 2 and Gen 3 gear has over 1000 times more light amplification then Gen 1 so an always on IR illuminator is not necessary. Equipment with built in illuminators that are Generation 2 or better have on/off switches for their illuminators and with Gen 1 there is no switch as the illuminator is always on. In summary with high quality equipment you won’t always need an infrared illuminator however in many circumstances it can double the capability of your devise and allow you to see things that would be impossible to see without a long range illuminator. Nightvision4less recommends a long range IR illuminator as your number one accessory. See our IR Illuminator section to view all available.
4.Q: How durable is night vision equipment. What if I drop it?
A: People often ask us "what if I drop my Night Vision?". The short answer is that you will probably break it. Remember that devices are fairly delicate equipment and the internal parts contain precision electronics and are not designed to take the impact of dropping. The longer answer is that it depends on what you drop it on how you drop it and other variables. One variable that does make quite a difference in durability is the type of device that you have. Some products are Mil-Spec quality and are designed to take more bumps and burises such as PVS-7 Goggles and PVS-14 Monoculars. Over all it is recommended that you take good care of your night optic and treat it like the expensive electronic device that it is. One more thing, if you are going to accidentally drop your device, try and make sure it falls into a big pile of feathers or at least something very soft!
5.Q: Do You Sell Used Night Vision?
A: NightVision4Less does not sell used equipment. The problem with used products are that you have no idea how many hours the device has been used. Unlike a used car there is no mileage meter on night vision gear and the image tubes have a finite life. Generally speaking the image tubes loose brightness with use hours. Much of the used equipment available today has seen very high use hours by agencies or industries where the units can easily see 3000 hours in a year, however the consumer will have no way of knowing. The standard story with sellers of used equipment is: "It's in great condition, I hardly ever used it!", however what they fail to tell you is they bought it used from a law enforcement auction and it has over 10,000 hours on it. Our recommendation on used equipment is to avoid it, as you just don't know what you’re getting.
6.Q: Is it legal to own Gen 3 night vision? And do I need any kind of permit?
A: This is actually a question we sometimes get from our customers after they receive their new Gen 3 device. They look through it for the first time and say wow is this even legal to own? The answer is that it is perfectly legal to own Generation 3 night vision but it is a federal crime to carry or ship it out of the U.S. (see our exports policy), and no you do not need a permit or need to be law enforcement to own Gen 3 inside the United States. We sell hundreds of state of the art Gen 3 and 4 pieces of equipment to regular people every year.
7.Q: What else can I do with night vision?
A: Night vision can be used for many different tasks such as wildlife observation, amazing what animals will do when they think you can't see them. Other common uses are camping, hunting, home security, night fishing, night boating, night birding, night photography, caving or spelunking, and many other interesting things, some of which you can find in our "Night Vision by Use" section. One of the most awe inspiring and overlooked uses of higher performance devices is night sky viewing/astronomy. Look up on a clear night with a good Gen 3 piece of equipment and you will just about fall over at what you'll see... Stars, ten times more stars than you've ever seen before, also airplanes, satellites, and other "night sky objects". Don't blame us for the stiff neck yore gonna have from looking up so long, or get a comfortable lounge chair - that’s what we do. So yes there are lots of very cool uses for a good piece of night vision equipment.
8. Q:Thermal vs Night Vision?
A: Something that is often misunderstood in the night vision world is how well Thermal Imaging works verses night vision. Most people are under the impression that any thermal device will allow you to see like in the movie "Predator". Unfortunately this is not true and lower to moderately priced thermal units less than 5 or 6K just don't give you very good resolution with hot objects usually appearing as "blobs" of heat rather than recognizable targets and range is limited as well. In this same price range or less you can get fantastic resolution in a night vision device. However, some of the latest 640 x 512 format Thermal devices do begin to approach the resolution of Gen 3 night vision. The best we have seen in Thermal is the FLIR LS64 Thermal Viewer, it's moderately priced, is absolutely awesome and should be on everyone's wish list . Nothing can hide from one of these things and you can actually recognize what you are seeing, just outstanding, you get what you pay for with this stuff! Over all we like both Night Vision and Thermal however with Thermal you need to get the higher FPA formats of 320 x 240 and preferably 640 x 480 to appreciate what they can do. For the money vs performance we would go with a high-end night vision device over a lower-end thermal device every time, no doubt about it!