How To Choose Between Night Vision Devices
Q:Which device is best and what are the Pros and Cons of each: Goggle? Binocular? Monocular? Scope? Day/Night System?
A:This will be one of your most important decisions and most often it is deciding between a goggle, monocular, or binocular. Along with choosing the right generation and choosing who you will buy your equipment from, it is the most important decision you will make and will effect your night vision experience for years to come. Keep in mind some manufacturers of this equipment tend to "blur the lines" of what they label their devices. This is most prevalent in Gen 1 products where a single eyepiece device with a 2.5x lens may be labeled a goggle, when it's really part goggle, part binocular, and part monocular. Lets look at the four types of devices that are available.
Night Vision Monoculars:
Our definition of a monocular is a single eye unit that has no magnification. These are what we call the Swiss army knife of night vision equipment. A quality monocular is the most versatile of all the night time devices. Their compact size and lightweight make them ideal for head mounting. Many of the higher generation monoculars can be attached to rifle scopes and spotting scopes and can also be mounted directly onto a weapon. Many of these same higher generation monoculars can be mounted onto a weapon in front of a red dot sight that is night vision compatible, such as certain models of Eotech's. Most of these devicess can also be adapted to a camera for photography with the use of a camera adapter. These versatile optics are often small and lite enough to fit in a shirt pocket.
There are both pros and cons of the single eye of a monocular verses both eyes of a goggle. The pros are that you can switch back and forth between your eyes when you get tired and that your unaided eye will maintain it's night adaptation and some of your peripheral vision. The US Military feels that this gives the user better situational awareness. The cons to this single eye is that it doesn't feel as natural and will take some time to get used to. With a monocular the user needs to get used to keeping both eyes open to have the best experience.
To sum it up monoculars will give you the most versatility as well as the most accessories to choose from. They are a great choice for those who want a product that will have the ability to do a lot of multi-tasking. The king of the monoculars is the PVS-14 Night Vision. It is great at everything it does and has the fantastic feature of manual gain control. See our manual gain section to learn what this feature does. Click here to see all of our night vision monoculars.
Night Vision Goggles:
Our definition of night vision goggles are a device that allows both eye viewing, has no magnification, and can be head mounted. The great thing about these types of devices is that they feel very natural when wearing them and there is very little learning curve to get used to them. There are two types of goggles; a two eye-piece that views through a single image tube and a two eye-piece that views through dual image tubes, also known as stereo-vision. Like monoculars a goggle is a great navigation device in that you can walk and even drive slowly - not recommended but has been done on more than a few occasions. Dual tube goggles offer "stereo vision" meaning each eye sees it's own slightly different image rather than the same image being shared with both eyes. This stereo-vision gives the dual tube goggles even better depth perception allowing for improved navigation ability. The down side of a goggle is more weight and less versatility than a quality monocular. Goggles tend to give a bit better depth perception than a monocular and a dual tube goggle gives even better depth perception than a single tube goggle because each eye sees a slightly different image which allows for better judgment of distances. This better depth perception does help with navigation, weather you are walking through a field or navigating your boat around the rocks, it will help. The disadvantage is increased size and weight and less versatility. When wearing a goggle in a head mounted position the extra weight tends to cause the unit to ride down below your eyes when walking, and you'll tend to get more tired with the extra weight as well. Goggles do not have the option to be mounted on rifles or adapted to rifle scopes and camera adaptation is limited also.
Goggles really excel at shorter duration navigation and stationary observation activities. However, if you will be doing more time consuming and physical activities that require constant head mounted hands free use, than the lighter monocular is probably the better choice. The top choice in single tube goggles is the legendary military quality PVS-7 (they take a licking and keep on ticking) or for a good lighter weight alternative see our NVG-7. For the best depth perception you can get with a night vision device check out the D-321G which actually can transform into a binocular with the optional binocular kit. See all of our night vision goggles.
Night Vision Binoculars:
Our definition of a night vision binocular is a device that has two eyepieces and comes with magnification built in. These devices are generally too heavy to head mount due to the large magnification lens or lenses, if it is a dual tube model. In addition the magnification zooms you in too much to be able to navigate with so head mounting is not practical anyway. These are specialized devices that are primarily designed to magnify images at longer distances while standing stationary. If your main task requires stationary long range night viewing than binoculars should be your top choice. The caution to this is that in general the more magnification you put on an optic, such as a night vision device, the dimmer the image will be due to loss of some light. So adding a lot of magnification to an already fairly dim Gen 1 unit will often negate most of the magnification benefits. However a good Gen 3 device can handle the magnification with extra light to spare. So keep in mind you are much better off going up a generation to achieve distance rather than adding magnification to Gen 1, budget permitting of course. The biggest drawback to binoculars is that with the exception of a few models they all have fixed magnification so they are always "zoomed in". This is a problem if you want to navigate with them or view close in areas as the field of view will be quite limited and close objects will appear too large.
To summarize, binoculars are the clear winner if you need maximum distance and close-in viewing will be covered by another device or close viewing just wont be necessary. Our top choice of binoculars is the D-321B. These are dual tube for the best depth perception and with the optional goggle kit they can be transformed into versatile goggles in a matter of minutes. For a more affordable single tube binocular the Night Shadow is a great choice. If you want the absolute longest range possible check out our big tripod mounted NO-LRB 10x night vision binocular (were talking 1000 yards plus with this sucker). See all our night vision binoculars.
Night Vision Scopes:
There are actually two types of night vision scopes. The most popular type is just like a regular rifle scope only larger and heavier. We refer to these as just scopes others call them weapon sights. The other type of scope attaches to or mounts in front of a regular rifle scope. These are called day/night systems because you can remove them and use your regular scope in the day time. Although some of the day/night systems are very good we usually prefer dedicated night vision scopes for the best performance. A versatile alternative to either of these types of scopes is attaching a monocular like a PVS-14 to the eyepiece of your regular rifle scope with our day/night adapter or mounting the monocular directly to your rifle in front of a night vision compatible red dot sight like an EOtec sight. This allows you to remove the monocular and use it for scouting, navigating and other tasks when your not hunting with it. However, it does not give you the great scope performance that a dedicated night vision scope would like a D-760 or D-740 scope.
To conclude nothing beats a dedicated night scope for long range night hunting like a D-760 night vision scope. If you would like to perform multiple tasks and can only own one device than check out a quality monocular. It would be a good idea to discuss some of your many options with one of our experts to make the best decision.
A day night system refers to a device that either attaches to the objective (not the eyepiece) of a regular daylight scope or mounts to the rifle directly in front of the objective of the daylight scope. These devices provide the light amplification and use the daytime scope's magnification and reticle for aiming. This kind of optic is useful in tactical settings when the sun goes down you can just attach the day/night unit to the front of your scope and be ready to go. Due to their more compact size and smaller and more complex lens system they do not gather as much light as a dedicated night scope and thus would be a second choice to a dedicated model of similar quality. However if you need both day and night capability and can't carry "two" rifles than a good day/night system can't be beat. With these systems it is important to use a high quality daytime scope so you gather as much light as possible. We offer a great selection of "day/night kits" that are complete set ups that include high quality daytime scopes with the kits.
We hope this brief comparison has helped you to better understand your choices. Nightvision4less has a great selection of products from Gen 1 all the way up to thermal imaging and we would be happy to help you with what ever budget range you are looking for.