Best Night Vision Goggles: If you’re looking to enhance hunting, stargazing, or simply for something to help you see at night, there is a chance you could benefit from night vision technology. This article aims to depict some of the best options for a decent value. Like a lot of technology, if you spend a lot of money, you’re probably getting a higher quality product, so for the sake of budget I’ll keep my suggestions under a thousand dollars, as these devices can easily break a couple thousand each.
Here is a list of the Best Night Vision Binoculars
Night Vision Goggles
Before I jump right in, it is important to understand the variation in the types of technology.
There are two major categories:
- Image intensification - Uses device to draw in as much light from minimal sources.
- Thermal imaging - Detects different temperatures to produce an image using infrared.
A thermal imaging device will be a lot more powerful, and likely more practical for many activities. Many times, a thermal imaging device can work as an image intensification device if infrared is turned off. For many of the devices, infrared is best if you are looking to be interacting with people, hunting, or using them to distinguish heat sources. Intensification can best if you are using the device around dusk, in low light situations rather than pure darkness, and often activities such as stargazing.
With so many variations, I’ve broken my list down into the best of 4 categories: binocular, monocular, phone camera/app, and scope, as each can be utilized for drastically different activates. I can’t really suggest one over another, because each one is essentially it’s own product.
One other thing to know before making a purchase is that many of these devices may have a restriction on where they are allowed to be sold due to various laws. Check with the seller before buying to be sure they are legal to own where you live.
Now that you know the basics, here are my recommendations.
Bushnell LYNX Gen 1 Night Vision Binocular, 2.5x 40mm
If you’re looking for a good pair of stand-alone night vision binoculars, this should be where you start. Almost every review is complete praise for various aspects of the product, mainly highlighting the quality received for the price.
- Generation: 1st
- Price: $428.06
- Size: 6.5x3x6.3 inches
- Distance: perfect clarity at 270ft./90 yards but visibility up to 750 ft./250 yards
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Power: 2 AAA Batteries
- Infrared: Yes
- Image Capture: No
First off, these are generation 1 night vision binoculars. However, almost everyone seems to agree that they perform much better than this would lead you to believe. Part of the reason they come with the small price tag is due to the fact that they are using older technology, but the results achieved are plenty to be happy with. The infrared illuminator allows for a good range of visibility, but to get the best range from these, a bit or moonlight, as may reviewers have said, yields the clearest and sharpest images up to about 90 yards away and visibility up to 250 yards. Motion is detectable from further, as well as when the binoculars are functioning in extreme darkness.
Image wise, these binoculars give HD clarity in a wide range of situations. This again relies on the distance and amount of light, but does provide a good image in those conditions. They include 2.5x magnification with 40mm objective lenses and a built in infrared illuminator to better enhance your image.
Other than only being generation 1, the only real complaint from customers is that these are not usable during the day as well. In fact, bright light may actually damage the product, so if you are looking for something to transition between day and night, these are not the product for you. However this does not take away from their night vision capabilities, but rather improves it, as the focus of the design is for nighttime viewing. This is again where you need to know what your function will be, as no daytime usage could easily be a major issue or a non-factor.
- Infrared ability
- Lightweight, durable construction
- Long battery life
- High quality vision
- Comfortable for extended periods
- Not for day use – may actually damage equipment
- Not for significant distances
- No video hookups for image capture
Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision Monocular (3x)
For something a bit smaller and compact, I suggest this monocular from Night Owl, which is a highly favorable option. While only a single lens, it is a bit bigger than the binoculars, so don’t expect this to be a smaller option. Personal preference may dictate a choice between monocular and binocular, but this product may convince many to try the single eyepiece, as I’ve found that I agree with most of the reviewer claims about the benefits.
- Generation: Comparable to 3rd
- Price: $382.23
- Size: 9x3.5x2.5 inches
- Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Power: 4 AA Batteries
- Distance: ~900 ft./~300 yards
- Infrared: Yes
- Image Capture: Yes
While Night Owl may not be using the standard generational scale in their production of night vision technology, their new iGEN tech is very impressive. With claims of it being as powerful as a 3rd generation device, it’s definitely something to pay attention to. It includes both infrared but high quality and intensifier tubes to function well under low light conditions as well as in the dark. A monocular may be better suited to your needs, especially when you consider that one specific advantage is that by only using one eye to view the display, that it keeps your other eye adjusted to the night. It is a highly affordable option with a durable build that should last you a long time.
Image wise, there is a reason that they claim to be comparable to 3rd generation equipment. The light amplification adjusts from 300x to 10,000x giving the ability to see further. Adjustable frame rate (2fps to 30fps) allows for further variation and an ability to see at different ranges. Magnification goes up to 2.6 times as well. There is a video composite output to allow for direct recording, allowing you to capture everything you see.
People haven’t found a whole lot of things to complain about with this monocular. One of the biggest issues seems to be that it will go through batteries quite quickly while in use. This may not seem like a big complaint, but it suggest that you will either be spending a lot on batteries or needing to also invest in rechargeable. It unfortunately does not come with any other options to power the device either. Other than that, this is a fairly heavy device, and for periods of long use, it may also be a good idea to consider investing in a tripod or other such support, again adding to the total cost.
- Infrared ability
- Video out port for image capturing
- Clear vision
- Good magnification
- Variable background illumination colors
- Built in tripod mount
- Variable frame rate for image capture
- Goes through batteries quickly
- Tripod/Lanyard not included
FLIR ONE Thermal Imager for iPhone 5/5s
If you’re looking for something that’s more just “for fun” than my recommendation goes to FLIR ONE’s add on for iPhone. Not all night vision has to be super expensive or super specialized to work for what you need it to, so a low budget product that can still do what you need it to can sometimes be your best choice.
- Generation: Comparable to 1st
- Price: $200.00
- Size: 5.1x1.1x6.8 inches
- Weight: 12.8 oz.
- Distance: ~150ft./50 yards
- Infrared: Yes
- Image Capture: Yes
- Power: Lithium ion batteries (included) and phone’s charge
For around $200 you can turn your phone into a reasonably powerful infrared camera. Depending on your needs, this highly affordable and exceptionally popular device works well, especially due to the fact it is already directly attached directly to a camera. I’ve seen it used from everything like a handy tool to check for drafts in a room to a useful way to look outside at night. The customer rating seem to go a bit all over the place, mainly due to issues in the supporting iPhone app, but most seem to be sorted out in newest updates.
Image wise, it’s pretty grainy to begin with, but the infrared sensor does work fairly well up to about 150 ft. Up close photos show a good amount of detail, and especially if being used to determine hot or cold sources, does the job well. This is a phone camera so don’t expect too much. This is the most impractical of my suggestions, but don’t rule it out as I’ve seen it go from a fun toy to a useful tool easily. If it fits your needs in this slightly niche category, this is your best bet.
This is not a highly powerful device. This is obviously the biggest mark against it. Customers have found a few other issues from time to time as well, one of them being that the phone must be removed from its case to attach the device, which while not a major issue, is worth noting. On occasion there are issues with the application used to run the camera, however, these are almost always fixed in the frequent updates to the app.
- Light Weight
- Directly Connected to a Camera
- Have to remove the case to charge the phone
- Drains the phone battery
- Short range
- Application can sometimes glitch
- Phone specific, only for iPhone 5/5s (other versions exist, just be sure to purchase the correct one)
ATN X-Sight 5-18 Smart Riflescope w/1080p Video, Night Mode, WiFi, GPS, Image Stabilization, IOS and Android Apps
Avid hunters need high performance products, and ATN’s X-Sight should not disappoint. It’s a fully packed, and super reliable product that should serve your needs for well under the price of its competitors.
- Generation: Comparable to 2nd or 3rd
- Price: $639.00
- Size: 10.4x3.5x3.2 inches
- Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Power: 4 AA batteries
- Distance: 750+ ft./250+yards
- Infrared: Yes
- Image Capture: Yes
Where to start? This thing is packed. Ilove that it’s loaded with features such as Wi-Fi, GPS, Geotag, E-Compass, 1080p HD video recording, daytime use and more, and Iknow you won’t be disappointed in what this can do either. It’s 1080p image capture works fantastically, with easily accessible video connection, and the Wi-Fi which allows wireless connection to either a phone or computer is great. On top of everything it can do, if you encounter a problem with any of it their customer service is top notch. It’s expensiveat about $700, so it is definitely an investment, but if it fits your needs, then I think it’s well worth the money.
Image wise, this scope will serve you well. With a comparable range between 2nd and 3rd generation technology, the clarity is great up to about 150 yards, but often under many conditions good up to over 250 yards. Zoom works well, as it is electronic, giving it a nice smooth and clear transition. Video recording wise, it can output 1080p at 30 fps or 720p at 60 fps, giving you multiple options to capture your images.
There is one major issue with this scope, which was that the screen was not centered in the view. However, recent firmware updates have almost completely invalidated all of the negative reviews this device has received. Their customer service is top notch, and willing to work with you to fix any issues that may arise from their products. Other than that, the only real issues seem to be the fact that it takes a bit of time to get set up and running, and that it is a bit heavy for a scope.
- Loaded with features
- Built in HD Video recording
- Electronic Zoom
- Excellent zero function
- External power source capability
- Runs through batteries quickly
- Software can encounter issues (glitch/freezing)