The Best Night-Vision Binoculars and Goggles in 2023
Not so long ago, night vision binoculars and goggles were only used by the military for night ops, or gadgets you’d see in sci-fi and spy movies. Now they’re available to almost everyone at an affordable price, making it possible for you to gain a closer view of the world around you – regardless of it being day or night.
With this in mind, who would benefit the most from using night-vision binoculars and goggles? And what should you consider before investing your money?
Table of contents
- Why Use Night-Vision Binoculars and Goggles?
- How Do Night-Vision Binoculars Work?
- How to Choose the Best Night-Vision Binoculars
- Our Top 3 Best Night-Vision Binoculars
- In Conclusion
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Use Night-Vision Binoculars and Goggles?
You might think that night-vision binoculars and goggles are just for hunters. While it’s true that hunters can gain a definite advantage from being able to clearly see their prey in the dark, they’re not the only ones who could find night-vision goggles useful.
Campers can also benefit from being able to see better in the dark. Nothing’s scarier than camping outside and being woken by a noise in the middle of the night – and not knowing what caused it. Night vision binoculars and goggles can play an important role in your safety, and the safety of your family, friends and anyone else who might be camping with you.
It might also surprise you to learn that some night-vision binoculars and goggles can also be used during the day. This, along with their ability to record images and video, can make them a great choice for anyone looking to record their camping or hiking experiences, including posting them to social media.
How Do Night-Vision Binoculars Work?
There are several ways that night-vision binoculars and goggles can work. The first is through thermal imaging, which produces the kind of image you’ve probably seen on TV or in a movie.
Many objects emit heat, in the form of infra-red light. Thermal imaging is able to detect that infra-red light and show it to the user.
This technology is great when it comes to people and animals, as their body heat makes it easy for them to stand out against a cold background. With these goggles, different areas of the target will appear different colors, depending on the amount of heat being given off. The downside is that if the environment is also warm, the goggles will also detect the heat from the background, making it difficult for the target to stand out and be easily seen.
Therefore, thermal imaging goggles work best under very dark (and ideally cool) conditions
Another way that night vision binoculars and goggles work is by detecting infra-red light. Except in rare circumstances, there is always a very small amount of ambient light that can help you to see a little in the dark. However, objects also reflect infra-red light that the goggles can detect and enhance.
This is called optoelectronic image enhancement, and it results in an image that has a strong, greenish tint. It’s a well-established technology and still the most common way that night-vision binoculars and goggles work,
A newer, but less common, method is digital image enhancement. This works by taking the ambient light and then enhancing it to produce a more realistic, true color image. The downside? Since this technology is younger and more effective, it’s also more expensive.
How to Choose the Best Night-Vision Binoculars
There are a number of factors you should take into consideration when buying night-vision goggles or binoculars:
- Image Quality
Night-vision goggles and binoculars will have a more limited range when compared to your own daytime vision. More specifically, your eyes can see objects and detect movement from miles away, while night-vision goggles and binoculars are typically restricted to targets closer than a mile.
On average, our choices have a range of about 700 yards, or a little less than half a mile.
While regular binoculars use a combination of glass lenses and prisms to produce an image, night-vision goggles and binoculars use light-sensitive chips. These chips take the incoming light and enhance it to produce a clear, sharp image. This also gives you the added bonus of being able to record what you see onto an SD card.
Another benefit of using electronics to process the image is that many night-vision goggles can digitally zoom in, in much the same way that your cell phone camera can (but not usually to the same extent.)
Just as with regular binoculars, it’s important to take weight into account when choosing night-vision goggles. You’ll want to have quick and easy access to the binoculars while outdoors, and you won’t want them literally dragging you down, or causing your arms to ache during prolonged use.
On average, 10×50 binoculars will weigh between 1.5 and 2.0 pounds. Fortunately, it may surprise you to learn that night-vision goggles will weigh a little less – perhaps 1.25 pounds on average.
Our Top 3 Best Night-Vision Binoculars
Generally speaking, when it comes to good quality night-vision binoculars and goggles, Nightfox is a reputable manufacturer whose products are well-received by their customers. As a result, two of our three choices are from Nightfox, while the third is from Hexeum, a manufacturer that’s quickly earning a good name for itself.
With this in mind, here are our top 3 night-vision binoculars and goggles:
- Best Overall: Nightfox Vulpes
- Best Long Range Option: Hexeum NV3180
- Best Budget Option: Nightfox Corsac
Best Overall: Nightfox Vulpes
When it comes to features and functions, it’s hard to beat the Vulpes night-vision goggles from Nightfox. These goggles have an optical magnification of 6x a digital zoom of 3x, and they can be used during both the daytime and the night. The battery should provide about 6 hours of continuous use.
As with many other models, the Vulpes is capable of capturing images and recording video. In this case, it records video at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels (potentially blu-ray quality) and also records audio for the complete experience. It even comes with a 32GB memory card so you can start recording straight out of the box.
One other nice feature is the integrated laser range finder. This handy feature can measure and display the distance of your target, and will also record that distance onto any video or images it records. Lastly, with a range of 660 yards (0.4 miles / 604 meters) you’ll find these goggles are more than capable of showing you everything in your local environment.
The downside? These are also the most expensive of our three options, but still within the same price range as other comparable goggles, and excellent value for money.
Best Long Range Option: Jumelles de vision nocturne HEXEUM
If you’re looking for affordable night-vision goggles that can see a little further than average, then consider the NV3180 goggles from Hexeum. These have a range of roughly 984 yards (0.6 miles / 900 meters), making them a good choice for hunters looking to spot their prey from a distance, and potentially farmers and ranchers who may need to patrol their property at night.
Like the Nightfox Vulpes, these goggles can be used during both the day and night, and are capable of capturing both images and video (albeit at a lower resolution than the Vulpes.)
One advantage over the Vulpes is the battery life: 8 hours of continuous use with infra-red (compared to 6 from the Vulpes), but whereas the Vulpes has built-in rechargeable batteries, Hexeum’s goggles require 6 regular AA’s.
Hexeum’s goggles are capable of 3x optical zoom and 4x digital, compared to a maximum of 6x (optical) from the Vulpes. Lastly, they’re the lightest of our three choices, weighing in at 576g (about 1.26 pounds), so you won’t have to worry about any aches and pains resulting from long-term use.
Best Budget Option: Nightfox Corsac
Lastly, we come to the Nightfox Corsac. At less than half the price of the Vulpes, the Corsac goggles are an outstanding option for anyone on a budget and come with some great features. Firstly, like the Vulpes, they’re capable of recording HD images and video at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels and can be used during both the day and night.
However, they don’t have rechargeable batteries and require 6 AAs, like Hexeum’s goggles. You’ll also find they’re only capable of about three hours of continuous use, although this can be extended by lowering the infra-red settings.
The range is less too, but still adequate for the majority of uses. Under pitch black conditions, the range is about 200 yards (0.1 miles / 183 meters), but this is increased if there’s sufficient ambient light, up to a potential maximum range of nearly 600 yards (0.3 miles / 550 meters.) Lastly, the 6x magnification is comparable to the Vulpes.
Night-vision binoculars and goggles are no longer just for the military and sci-fi action heroes – they’re now within the reach of consumers everywhere, and they have real-world applications. Whether you’re a hunter, camper, or simply want to see the wildlife at night, there are night-vision binoculars and goggles to suit your needs and your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
That really depends on the goggles or binoculars themselves, with many consumer models being restricted to distances of less than a mile. On average, most goggles and binoculars have a range of a little under half a mile.
The short answer is no. Night-vision goggles and binoculars require a small amount of ambient or infra-red light in order to work. If there’s no light of any kind, then the goggles will be unable to produce an image for the user to see.
Yes – although you might think that night-vision goggles and binoculars are meant for the military, the truth is that anyone can own and use this technology. There’s no license, permit or training required either.