The best night vision goggles aren't just for the obvious uses of security and surveillance – they can also open up whole new opportunities for nocturnal wildlife-watching. Night-vision goggles could help you catch sight of those skittish creatures we live cheek-by-jowl with, but only come out at night.
When we were young, our mums told us to eat up all our carrots so we’d see even better in the dark. For those that rebelled and pushed the vegetables to the side of their plate, however, help is at hand. Night vision goggles are no longer the preserve of Batman-like superheroes – you can now buy your own in just a couple of clicks.
But which night vision goggles are the best to get? We have some illuminating tips and recommendations to help with your purchase decision.
What kind of night vision devices are there?
Night vision devices like those below utilise image enhancement and light amplification technology to enable us to see in the dark. Naturally, if you’re looking for hands-free night vision and a solution that will enable you to observe your subject(s) while on the move yourself, then night vision goggles are king. These, like anything else, will vary in price depending on the number of features and degree of specification on offer, how much wear and tear they’re designed for, and how new the model is.
Our guide doesn't just list night vision goggles that you strap to your head, though, but night vision binoculars too. Night vision binoculars make it possible to magnify your subject in the dark, but may be heavier to carry around and use, so for those looking for a more compact option, we've also listed our pick of the best lightweight night-vision monoculars.
With the above in mind and without further ado, let’s examine the best night vision goggles and night vision binoculars and monoculars you can buy in 2021.
The best night vision goggles and binoculars
Night vision goggles
This pair of night vision goggles are designed to be used with the supplies head mount – and thanks to the fact that there is a 1x magnification, it is possible to walk with them without difficulty. This uses a built-in digital camera to create the image with 840nm infrared LEDs for illumination - giving a quoted maximum range of 70m (76 yards). The Nightfox uses rechargeable battery giving you between 90 minutes and three hours of operation, depending which of the brightness you set the seven LED brightness settings you opt for. The resolution from the 320x240-pixel screen is not especially high – and the 10° angle of view is a touch narrow - but for the price these goggles provide a great entry to those who want to observe wildlife after dark, or other special ops assignments.
This is a video-based set of night vision goggles, that use a CCD sensor - outputting the video feed to an LCD screen in the eyewear. The screen is decidedly low-resolution with a 800 x 225 pixel array – and what you see is monochrome – but there is an output socket so the video can captured using a suitable external video recorder. The system promises to let you see up to 200 feet in total darkness – and up to 1000 feet in moonlight. It is powered by a 12V rechargeable battery.
Night vision binoculars
The Solomark Night Vision binoculars offer a decent level of specification for the price. Included here is an infrared illuminator that enables viewing up to 400 metres, plus a sufficiently large 4-inch viewscreen. The other key features are 7x magnification and a 31mm objective lens size, along with a 1/3-inch CMOS sensor. Unusually, a 4GB microSD card is provided as part of the package. You can capture video in HD quality 1280x720 pixels at 30fps, and the binoculars come with an AV cable plus USB cable for hooking up to a TV or PC. You'll need eight regular AA batteries for power.
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Though not the cheapest option here, who could resist a pair of night vision binoculars with the words ‘ghost hunter’ in the product name? For prolonged nighttime observation, the Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2x24 binoculars may prove more comfortable than strapping on a pair of goggles. Two AAA batteries, which helpfully come included, will provide up to 72 hours of operating time.
Features include a 2x magnification and 24mm objective lens, plus high-powered infrared illuminator, all wrapped in a durable polymer construction. Usefully, also on board is an automatic shut-off feature that deactivates the unit if it’s exposed to bright light, helping to prolong the binoculars' lifespan and provide years of (ghost-busting?) use.
Night vision monoculars
The Equinox Z2 monocular from optical specialists Bushnell offers a magnification factor that, at 6x, is bigger than most of its ilk, coupled with an effective light gathering tool in a 50mm lens. This Wi-Fi enabled option shows its mettle by enabling users to livestream footage straight to a mobile device, and even control the zoom video, image capture and IR brightness directly.
A built-in IR illuminator enables users to view long-range subjects comfortably during the day or night, while video capture is of the full HD 1080P variety, which is respectable for its class. Overall this monocular is a comprehensive choice, if a little weightier than lower-specified alternatives.
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A slightly more affordable night vision option than most, the Hawke Night-Eye 2000 weds a useful 5x magnification to a 40mm objective lens and offers a 200-metre range. This monocular enables you to capture both stills and up to 10 minutes of video, although both could be improved – footage is of modest VGA resolution, and stills are just five megapixels, which feels almost retrograde.
There's a built-in infrared sensor to enhance the view, which boasts nine levels of brightness. Peace of mind is provided via a two-year warranty and the fact the unit is waterproofed, while, unusually, the device comes supplied with a 8GB microSD card out of the box. For added convenience, the battery is rechargeable via a USB lead.
SiOnyx make a range of night vision monocular devices - but the handheld Aurora Sport is the most affordable of the range. It has its own 1-inch CMOS sensor, which means it can record 720P color videos when you are out after dark. Design primarily for marine use, it is fully water-protected and claims it can be submerged to 3 feet for up to 30 minutes. It is offers a 3x digital zoom, and is designed to be able to pick out a man-sized target at 150m in near moonless starlight.
For when portability is as key as a device’s light-gathering ability, the Yukon NVMT Spartan monocular device aids its users via the combination of a sizeable 50mm objective lens, a useful 4x magnification, plus a built-in IR (infrared) illuminator for viewing in not only low light conditions, but also in complete darkness.
This monocular comes with a rubber coating to repel moisture and dust and offer a firmer grip (although a standard 1/4-inch screw thread for a tripod mount is also provided). Large buttons and controls provide further ease of operation in the dark. The only extra needed is the 3v lithium battery that powers it.
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