Whether you need some tactical equipment for a night shooting competition, gear for hunting or you just want to feel like you’re part of SEAL Team Six, night vision goggles are an incredibly valuable piece of gear to have in your arsenal. Here’s what you should know about night vision goggles before you make a move to purchase:
- How night vision goggles work
- What generation 1-4 means
- How much the best night vision goggles cost
Night vision goggles amplify the light that is basically invisible to the naked eye. The light goes into image intensifying tubes that make the light visible to our eyes. Night vision goggles do need some light to function properly. Moon and starlight will help your image look brighter.
Generation to Generation
As you explore night vision goggles, you’ll notice different generations of goggles. This refers to the technology used in the model. In a nutshell, the higher the number, the better night vision image quality you are going to get. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect from each:
- Low resolution
- Short battery life
- Least expensive
- Good for hunting, shooting
- Roughly 200-yard range
- Distortion control
- Medium battery life
- Roughly 300-yard range
- Long battery life
- Tactical military-grade
- Sharp image detail
- Daylight will not damage tubes
- Most expensive
How We Chose the Best Night Vision Goggles
The night vision Goggles that you strap on your head aren’t the only available option to see clearly when the sun goes down. We chose a wide range of goggles that also include night vision binoculars and monocular options to fit your needs. Here are additional criteria on how we chose the best night vision goggles.
Price – If you want serious — we’re talking Zero Dark Thirty — night vision goggles, you’re going to need to spend a pretty penny. We left out anything that broke the $9,000 barrier but also included many viable cheaper alternatives for activities like bird watching or seeing wildlife when time starts to slip past dusk.
Range – All of the options below have close to, or better than 500 feet of range. That means you’ll be able to see something almost two football fields away in the dark.
Battery Life – At a minimum — for less expensive options — you can expect a battery life of at least three to six hours. For Gen 4 level night vision, you can expect upwards of 50 hours of battery life.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our recommendations for the best night vision goggles available below:
1. Superior Tactical PVS-7
For military-grade night vision capabilities, the Superior Tactical PVS-7 is a prime choice. It’s lightweight and waterproof and works well under extreme weather conditions. It doesn’t come with headgear but can attach to it. It sports about 50-hour battery life and has a low battery indicator when it comes time to charge. If it’s good enough for the military, it’ll more than likely fulfill your needs.
2. ATN BinoX 4K Smart Day/Night Binoculars
More than just night vision goggles, the ATN BinoX 4K Binoculars have plenty of tricks up their sleeve. For starters, a built-in laser range finder helps you determine the exact distance of your target. And IR illuminators help bring clarity to otherwise unclear objects at close range. Plus you can even record 4K video using the binoculars and using the Laser Ballistics app. These are impressive for a sub-$1,000 price tag.
3. Bushnell Night Vision Equinox Z2 Monocular
Using WiFi, the Equinox can live stream footage from the monocular to your smartphone. This essentially turns your smart device into a display for your monocular. By doing this, two people can track and see wildlife at night. Beyond that nifty feature, it also has incredible 6x zooming capabilities to magnify objects over 1,000 feet away.
4. ATN PS31
For rugged night vision goggles that can see in pitch-black darkness, look no further than the PS31-3W. The 50-degree field of view helps you see more area at night, and the built-in IR illuminator helps brighten the picture so you can see more clearly. It comes with a helmet strap to comfortably fasten these goggles to your head, so you can focus on tracking through the night instead of adjusting your night vision goggles.
5. GTHunder Night Vision Goggles
Great for camping, birdwatching and casual outdoor use, the GTHunder Night Vision Goggles are an inexpensive way to get night-vision capabilities to go along with your outdoor equipment. The goggles can take pictures, video, playback video and can even export photos and video using the USB SD output. You get about six hours of battery life when video recording and 17 hours of regular use. Not a bad investment at only $260.
6. SiOnyx Aurora Digital Night Vision Camera
This monocular has a bunch of cool features. First and foremost, the low-light IR sensor helps create color night vision in low ambient light. You can even take this to the sea, as it is IP67 waterproof and can be in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes without any damage. Perhaps the coolest feature, you can stream the footage captured by the monocular to mobile devices when you sync it with the Sionyx app.
7. Nightfox 110R Widescreen Night Vision Binocular
If the 7x optical zoom or the near 500 feet worth of range wasn’t enough, the Nightfox Night Vision Goggles can also record video and take photos. Then, you can either look back at the footage on the device or transfer the images and video through microSD. You can expect up to two hours of battery life when going full-bore with infrared, or up to five hours with limited infrared use.
8. Nightfox Swift Night Vision Goggles
These night vision goggles come with a head strap, so you can get to prowling in the night from the jump. You can squeeze just over three hours of use before they need a recharge (depending on the illumination setting). It only has a 10-degree field of view and the screen isn’t very high resolution, but it’s an affordable way to see what wildlife is around at night.
9. Creative XP Digital Night Vision Binoculars
The Creative XP binoculars are great for spotting wildlife in the middle of the night. The 7x optical zoom combined with the 850 IR illuminator helps you see clearly even on moonless nights. It comes with an adapter to quickly connect a smartphone or other smart device and download videos and photos from the XP. It’s not only rugged but smart too.
10. ATN PVS14-3
If this night vision goggle is good enough for military personnel around the world, as well as law enforcement, it’s good enough for you. It can be mounted to a helmet or be used as a handheld device. It will even help keep your eyes safe when a healthy dose of bright light is sensed by the device and will shut off automatically. Keep in mind that since you’re getting something good enough for the military, you’ll be paying a pretty penny.
11. ATN Nightvision PS15-3P
Providing a clear night vision image and a wide field of view, the binocular-style Nightvision PS15-3P is worth the splurge. When you’re out scoping the scene at night, you’re backed up by a lengthy 60 hours of battery life. And the built-in illuminator helps you see images clearly at close range. This is an expensive headset, but worth it for the extra performance.
How Do Night Vision Goggles Work?
The way night vision goggles work by capturing and amplifying faint visible light and infrared light to produce a clear, greenish image (we’ll get to that in a minute) that humans can see. This light is directed to what’s called the photocathode which converts photons into electrons. Then the photomultiplier amplifies and converts the electrons into an image.
And if you’re wondering why night vision is green, well, that’s not what amplified infrared light actually looks like. There is a filter built into night vision goggles that turns the picture green. Why? Our eyes are actually rather receptive to that color — we can look at it with minimal eye fatigue for long periods of time.
How Much Do Night Vision Goggles Cost?
The price of night vision goggles varies widely depending on the level of night vision you’d like. Entry-level, or Gen 1 night vision goggles will run about $150 to a few hundred dollars. But, when you start to get into more professional night vision googles, like any of the ATN models, you should expect to spend a few thousand dollars.