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Best Night Vision Goggles

Updated November 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 186 Models Considered
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best night vision goggles

    Last Updated November 2018

    Whether you’re camping, hoping to check out local wildlife, or want to make sure your home is secure as possible, there are plenty of times when it would help to see a little better in the dark. Night vision goggles allow you to see even in near total darkness, so they’re ideal for camping, birdwatching, hunting, home security, or any activities that require improved visibility at night.

    They’re an investment, though, so it’s important to choose the right model when you’re shopping for night vision goggles. You need to know what type of night vision device, generation, and other features to look for in order to wind up with a tool that suits your needs. Keep reading to find out more about what to look for in night vision goggles.

    The U.S. military first used night vision devices during the tail end of World War II, and during the Korean War.

    How does night vision work?

    Even in extreme darkness, there are small amounts of light present, including infrared light that can’t be seen by eye.

    Night vision goggles utilize image enhancement technology to amplify the light that’s present, so you can see objects even in the dark.

    Night vision goggles uses

    Night vision goggles are ideal for birdwatching or catching glimpses of other wildlife at night.

    You can also use them to make your way around campsites after dark, or take them with you on boating trips. They can even assist you when you’re stargazing, or help you see inside caves on spelunking trips.

    A pair of night vision goggles is also a handy tool if you’re concerned about your home’s security, because they allow you to spot intruders in the dark.

    Night vision goggles are ideal for birdwatching or catching glimpses of other wildlife at night.

    Types of night vision goggles

    Goggles

    Night vision goggles allow you to view objects with both eyes, but offer no magnification. They are mounted to the head, so you don’t have to hold them to your eyes in order to see through them.

    Binoculars

    Night vision binoculars also allow you to view objects with both eyes, but provide magnification as well. They’re fairly heavy, though, so they can’t be mounted to the head.

    Monoculars

    Night vision monoculars only allow you to view objects with one eye and offer no magnification. They are compact and lightweight, though, so they’re usually easy to use, and can be mounted to the head.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Compared to many animals, like foxes and owls, humans have very poor vision at night.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The best night vision goggles typically allow you to see a person standing more than 200 yards away.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The view through a night vision device can be up to 50,000 times brighter than what you can see with your naked eye.

    What should you look for in night vision goggles?

    Type

    If you plan to use your night vision device on the move, it’s best to choose one that mounts to your head. Goggles or a monocular are your best bet.

    If you plan to use your night vision device while mainly staying in place, a head mount doesn’t really matter. Goggles, a monocular, or binoculars are all good options.

    Generation

    Night vision goggles are available with four different generations of night vision technology.

    Gen 1 is the oldest and most common type of night vision technology. It can amplify existing light up to several thousand times, so you can see items clearly in the darkness. They offer a clear, sharp image at a fairly budget-friendly cost, and work well for boating, camping, watching wildlife, and home security.

    Gen 2, Gen 3, and Gen 4 night vision technologies are used mainly by the military, law enforcement, and other professional applications. They can amplify light many more times than Gen 1 devices, so the images are even sharper and brighter.

    Higher generation night vision devices can cost up to thousands of dollars, though, so they are a serious investment for home use.

    Most night vision goggles designed for consumer use feature Gen 1 or 2 technology.

    System light gain

    The system light gain for night vision goggles refers to the number of times that the visible light is amplified by the device.

    • Gen 1 devices typically have a system light gain of 300 to 900 times.

    • Gen 2 and above devices can have system light gains of 20,000 to 30,000 times.

    System resolution

    Night vision goggles’ system resolution reflects how sharp and clear images are when wearing the device.

    • For Gen 1 models, the system resolution is less than 1,000, so the image is fairly clear. However, you have to get closer to the object to see smaller details.

    • For Gen 2 goggles, the resolution is a little less than 6,000, so you can see more clearly at greater distances.

    Photosensitivity

    Photosensitivity refers to the minimum light levels that night vision goggles require to pick up an image, as well as what type of light it can detect.

    • Gen 1 devices typically have a photosensitivity of 180 to 240 uA/lm, which means they don’t do well in low light situations, and may sometimes distort images if exposed to bright light.

    • Gen 2 and above devices usually have a photosensitivity of more than 240 uA/lm, so they can work fairly well in low light situations, and don’t have an issue with distorting images.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you’re going to be on the move while you use night vision, opt for goggles or a monocular, which can both be mounted to the head for greater mobility.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Night vision goggles utilize image enhancement technology to amplify the light that’s present, so you can see objects even in the dark.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Night vision goggles prices

    Night vision goggles vary in price based on the type, generation, and other features, but you can typically expect to spend between $100 and $9,000.

    • For night vision monoculars, you’ll usually pay between $100 and $1,000.

    • For night vision binoculars, expect to pay between $250 and $2,500.

    • Night vision goggles typically run between $275 and $9,000.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Handle night vision goggles very carefully. If they fall against a hard surface, they can break fairly easily.

    Tips and tricks

    • It can take some time to get used to using a night vision device. Be patient and practice regularly to improve your vision while using the goggles.

    • Don’t squint when you look through night vision goggles. Keep your eyes relaxed, and look for movement to locate what you’re looking for.

    • Walking with night vision goggles is often tricky. That’s because looking through the device can be slightly disorienting, making it easy to fall. Take it slow, and practice on even terrain until you get the hang of it.

    • When you move with night vision goggles on, you’ll have to adjust the goggles’ focus — distance affects how clearly you can see an object.

    It can take some time to get used to using a night vision device. Be patient and practice regularly to improve your vision while using the goggles.

    FAQ

    Q. How far can you see with night vision goggles?

    A. It depends on a variety of factors, such as what generation your equipment is and how the size of the item that you’re looking for. Keep in mind that you may be able to observe an item but not necessarily know what it is, such as seeing a person at a distance, but not knowing if it’s a man or woman until they get closer. That’s the difference between detection range and observation range. In most cases, the higher generation device you use, the farther away you’ll be able to spot things.

    Q. How durable are night vision devices?

    A. Night vision goggles should be handled carefully because they’re not particularly durable. If you drop your goggles, chances are good that they’ll break. Some devices are designed to take more wear and tear, though, so if you’re afraid that you’ll damage your night vision goggles, look for a model that can take a little more abuse — and comes with a warranty to protect your investment.

    Q. What’s the difference between night vision and infrared technology?

    A. Night vision technology works by gathering whatever small amount of light is available, then amplifying the light to make objects discernable to the eye. Infrared technology works with the infrared waves that are put out by heat-emitting objects, so differences in temperature allow you to discern between objects. As a result, infrared technology doesn't need ambient lighting to make items visible.

    The team that worked on this review
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