What Are Night Vision Binoculars? – In-Depth Guide with FAQs & More

You must be thinking what are night vision binoculars?

To learn all the attributes of night vision binoculars read this article.

How Does a Night Vision Binocular Work?

Night vision devices (NVD) are units that allow you to see in the dark. These lenses are called image intensifiers. Image intensifiers amplify the amount of light coming in. This amplification makes objects easier to see in the dark.

Some NVDs also come equipped with thermal imaging capabilities. These NVDs are commonly used by military personnel and law enforcement officers.

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Night vision devices were first introduced in WWII and have been improved over time. There are three generations of night vision devices.

  • First-generation was very expensive and bulky.
  • Second generation had better resolution but was still too costly.
  • The third generation is much more affordable and smaller than previous models.

First Generation

The first generation of night vision devices was invented in Germany during WWII. Night vision devices were developed in the 1930s. These devices allowed soldiers to see in the dark without being seen themselves.

The Germans used these devices on their tanks. The Panther tank had two different types of night vision devices.

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Sparrow Hawk

The Sparrow Hawk device could be controlled by the tank commander. This device had a 30cm infrared searchlight and an optical system that converted the light into images.

Sparhawk FG1250

The other type of night vision device was the Sparhawk FG1250. This device had a range of up to 300 meters. This device was controlled by the driver.


One more device had a telescope that was attached to the turret. This device had a maximum range of 600 meters. Blacklight was invented by Zworykin, but it wasn’t successful because it was too big and expensive.

These are examples of military equipment used by the U.S. Army during WWII.

PNV-57AM3 SniperscopesSU49/PAS-5T-120 SnipershotM2 Sniperscopes

Second Generation

Night vision binoculars were first used during World War II by the British Army and the US Air Force. These devices use light amplifying technology to make objects appear brighter than normal.

After WWII, these devices became more popular among law enforcement officers. Improved image resolution reliability devices like AN/PVS -3 miniaturized AN/PV S-4 AN/PV S -5 were made.

Later advances in generation II technology brought the tactical characteristic of “gen ii +” devices equipped with

  • better optics
  • supergene tubes
  • improved resolution
  • more signal-to-noize ratios

Third Generation

The third generation uses different techniques and features that make night vision more easy and effective such as,

Autogating (ATG)

The ATG function is a unique feature that works constantly, electronically reducing the duty cycle of the photocathode voltages by very quickly switching the voltage on and then off.

This maintains the optimum performance of the I2 tube, continuously revealing mission-critical details, safeguarding the tube from further damage, and protecting the user temporarily from blindness.

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Figure of Merit

In the late 1990s, improvements in photocathode technology dramatically improved the signal-to-background ratio. This allowed new generations of image intensifiers to outperform older generations.

The U.S. government concluded that the generation of an image intensifier tube is not a determinant factor in determining its overall performance. Therefore, the terms “generation” and “type” were rendered obsolete by the U.S. government.

Vision systems are used to improve visibility under poor lighting conditions. The U.S. military uses night vision devices for training purposes. The U.S., however, does not base export regulations on the generation of night vision systems but instead bases them on a calculated factor known as the “figure of merit”.

This means that if you make a night vision device, you may be allowed to sell it to another country, even though your product is more advanced than theirs.

Purpose of Night Vision Binoculars

Night vision binoculars are used by

  • soldiers and police officers to help them see in the dark.
  • civilians who want to see better while camping or hiking.
  • hunters and wildlife viewers.
  • military forces around the world.
Night Vision Binoculars

What Are Night Vision Binoculars?

Types of Night Vision Binoculars

Night vision is an enhanced version of regular vision. There are two types of night vision binoculars,

  1. Image Intensification Binoculars
  2. Thermal Imaging Binoculars

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Image Intensification Binoculars

Image intensification binoculars let you see things in the dark by amplifying light waves. Everything is coated in a greenish color. This makes things easier to see in dark areas.

Amplify the light entering your eyes, making the previously dim scenes seem brighter. Binoculars do not work well in total darkness. However, they can be used to enhance visibility in dark places.

Thermal Imaging Binoculars

Thermal imaging binoculars let you see heat signatures or body heat. These binoculars use infrared light to create images. They translate invisible heat into a picture we can see.

Thermal imaging technology can work in complete darkness as long as there is something emitting heat. Our eyes can’t see infrared light, but our brain interprets this information as visible light.

Thermal devices display the image in black and white. Hotter objects appear brighter and cooler ones look darker. Animals naturally produce a lot of body heat. Thermal imaging cameras can detect this heat signature and help hunters locate them.

Night Vision Binoculars VS Monoculars

  • Night vision binoculars: These are made for both eyes and have a better view in the dark.
  • Monoculars: These are made for only one eye which gave you a limited sight in the dark.


Many people buy night vision devices because they want to see better at night. Some people use these devices to help them hunt at night. Security services use them to ensure safety and to catch the culprits at night. They are expensive because they use high-tech components.

This whole article will help you to understand what is night vision binoculars and how it works at night. If you find this information useful do share your feedback in the comment section.

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  • John Moses

    John is the Editor in Chief here at The Outdoor Stores. His area of expertise ensures that there is no one better to suggest which rifles are most suitable for your hunting experience. He is also available for you to contact him personally to discuss the types of animals you want to hunt and the terrain you will be hunting on. Feel free to read his posts for expert opinion on Rifles, Scopes, Rangefinders, Bonoculars and Monoculars.

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