Humans are naturally diurnal creatures, which means we are active during the day. Vision is our main source of information processing, and it is severely compromised at night.
However, like humans tend to do, we can fix that. Through technology and machinery we’ve come up with devices that allow us to see at night. Night vision devices come in all shapes and sizes; there are goggles and monoculars, but today we talking specifically about night vision binoculars.
Night vision binoculars gives you the same advantages as any binoculars:
- They extend your vision.
- They allow you to pick up finer details and better observe distant targets.
Night vision binoculars do all that, and they allow you to do it night. Modern night vision binoculars have changed how hunters, police officers, and nature observers view the world.
This article will help you to make specific considerations when purchasing night vision binoculars since there are a lot of models to choose from, each differing in their capabilities and function.
Not matching these features to your intended task may lead you to spend a lot on the wrong pair of binoculars.
The 8 Top Infrared Binoculars of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for night vision binoculars in 2018:
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Best overall||Best for the money||Best cheap|
|Resolution||47-54 lp/mm||40 - 45 lp/mm||36 lp/mm|
|Range of Focus||-||10 yard/m to infinity||4 - 750 ft|
|Diopter Adjustment||±5 diopter||-6 to +5||±4|
|Weight||1.3 kg (2.8 lbs)||31.2 oz||17 oz|
|Dimensions||12" x 5.5" x 3.4"||7.9" x 6" x 3"||6.5" x 6.3" x 3.0"|
|Power Supply||CR123 Lithium 3V (1) or CR123 type rechargeable batteries with voltage 3.2V (1||1 x 3V (CR123A)||2 x AAA batteries|
|Battery Life||Up to 50 hours||60 hours||20 hours with IR on, 70 hours with IR off|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best NV Binoculars for the Money 1#: ATN NVB5X-2
ATN is well known for making high-quality optics and accessories. They make a wide variety of night vision optics, and for the money, their gear is some of the top-notch.
The ATN Night Vision Binocular 5x-2, or ATN NVB5X-2, is a powerful pair. It is a Gen 2+ optic that is designed perfectly to fill a hunting, a tactical, or a simple observation role.
- 5-power fixed magnification with a massive objective lens.
- Large single lens that feeds into two individual lenses. This reduces weight, makes the system simpler and more affordable.
- The Gen 2+ intensifier makes the system very clear with minimal noise and excellent clarity, making it possible to have similar detection range to a standard Gen 3 device.
- The recognition range is lower than a Gen 3 unit.
- Comes with a lanyard, a lens tissue, and soft carrying case.
The IR850-B3 helps you to see better during darker nights. It is a powerful illuminator that considerably increases the range of your device. One of the downsides of the single output design is the smaller field of view.
The ATN NVB5X-2 isn’t the fanciest set of binoculars, but when you consider the price and its features, they are one of the most affordable and powerful pairs on the market.
- Generation: 2+
- Magnification: 5x
- Resolution: 40 – 45 lp/mm
- Battery Type: 3V CR123A
2. Best NV Binoculars For the Money #2: Bushnell 4×50 Equinox Z Binoculars
Bushnell is one of the best companies when it comes to well-made and well-priced optics. That’s why the Bushnell 5×50 Equinox binoculars are perfect for those looking to get great night vision for a reasonable price.
The Bushnell 5×50 Equinox Z binoculars are digital, and this makes them a little more affordable. However, there are also tons of little features that make the Equinox Z a great deal for outdoor men and women.
- Water-resistant housing
- Built-in illuminator for low light situations
- Handy video out capable design to attach to a television or monitor
- Tripod mountable
The 4-power magnification is perfect for night vision in the evening and standard viewing during the day. The Bushnell Equinox features a great design with an even better execution. These Z’s are great for security use, hunting, and extended observation.
- Generation – Digital night vision
- Magnification – 4x
- Resolution – 36 lp/mm
- Battery – 16850 3.7V
Bushnell 4×50 Equinox Z Binocular is also available at:
3. Best Overall Night Vision Binoculars #1: Armasight Discovery 5X
If you need to observe the world at night, then the Armasight Discovery will work great for you! This system is powerful and doesn’t play around. In a wartime situation, you want to have the Discover 5x with you!
The Armasight Discovery 5X is a Gen 2QS system. QS stands for Quick Silver white phosphor. This actually replaces the traditional green view with a more user-friendly white. No longer will you have to see your prey through a green-colored eye!
- Crystal clear night vision for any and all situations
- Powerful built-in IR device – it’s basically a spotlight!
- Tripod capable
- Larger and heavier
- Crisp resolution
The 5-power optical magnification is a nice option for serious night vision users. Just keep in mind the Discovery weighs more than the other binoculars on this list. However, we found this Armasight to be quite comfortable. You probably won’t mind a little extra weight when you see how detailed the view is!
The Discovery 5X is perfect for long-term and long-range surveillance. Simply set it up on a tripod, lay down, and start watching. The included high-performance image intensifier tubes are perfect for recognizing moving targets, including facial recognition. Overall, this Armasight is a powerful and expensive unit that’s designed for professionals.
- Generation – 2+
- Magnification – 5X
- Resolution – 54 lp/mm
- Battery – CR123A
4. Best Overall Night Vision Binoculars #2: Iris 221 3.6X
The Iris 221 3.6X is another professional grade optic. These binoculars are slightly smaller, but still pack a 3.6x magnification rating!
- A Gen 2+ series optic that really stretches potential
- Packs a 51 to 70 LP/mm resolution
- A bright and crystal-clear picture
- Detection range of 902 feet
- Recognition range of 656 feet
Powered by a single CR123A battery, these optics last up to 30 hours. Although that’s a relatively short lifespan, keep in mind CR123A batteries are cheaper than their AA counterparts. They might not last as long, but you are getting more bang for your buck with these Iris binos.
Built like traditional binoculars, the Iris 221 is ergonomic and easy to wield. However, they are also a little heavy at 35 ounces. Fortunately, the ergonomic design gives your hand or hands a comfortable place to rest.
The 221s feature a built-in IR illuminator and automatic brightness control, not to mention the design is weather resistant and quite compact. The dual tube design also gives you true stereoscopic vision! That’s why hunters that need a wide field of view will get the best use out of the Iris 221 3.6x.
- Generation – Gen 2+
- Magnification – 3.6X
- Resolution – 70lp/mm
- Battery – CR123A
5. Best NV Binoculars For Hunting #1: Night Optics Iris 321
Hunting at night can be quite difficult. States that allow night vision hunting usually permit the hunting of small game or invasive hog species only.
To hunt these small- to medium-sized animals, you need a pair of night vision binoculars that are crystal clear. The Iris 321 binocular by Night Optics has the power to spot these animals. It is a Gen 3 optic, so you get a long service life and a clear picture.
- Comes with a built-in illuminator that helps in the absence of ambient light
- Has two options for magnification: a 3.6 power and a 1 power for close viewing
- A traditional binocular that has two visual inputs and two optical outputs
- Gives an accurate stereoscopic view with a wider field of view
Remember that it has two optics, so the high price tag makes sense. Quality night vision technology isn’t cheap, and you get what you pay for when you buy night vision equipment and optics in general.
It has a detection range of 1230 feet and a recognition range of 984 feet. This is on human sized targets, of course, but even if you cut that range in half, it’s still impressive.
- Generation: 3
- Magnification: 1x
- Resolution: 64-72 lp/mm
- Battery Type: 3V CR123
6. Best NV Binoculars for Hunting #2: ATN BinoX-HD
Hunting is a dynamic sport that takes place at all times of the day and night. To meet the challenge of modern hunting, you really need modern binoculars. One of our favorites is the ATN BinoX-HD.
The ATN BinoX are digital night vision optics that also provide fantastic daytime performance. So why are these binoculars perfect for hunters? One reason is the fast speed and performance. Thank you digital obsidian core!
- Day and night capable
- Takes digital photography
- Built-in wireless connectivity to IOS and Android devices
- Can choose between black, white, or green vision for nighttime use
This ATNs magnification ranges from 4 to 16 power, and the zoom is ultra-smooth and digital. On top of that, you have a gyroscope for perfect image stabilization. In addition, you can easily switch between green and black and white night vision (all at the same resolution), so it’s completely a matter of personal preference.
Looking through the BinoX-HD will give you a complete heads-up display. This includes a built-in compass, GPS, and altimeter that allow you to geotag locations for later exploration.
You can also take pictures with these binoculars. This is an awesome feature that makes it easy to show your unique view of nature to family and friends. There is even a wireless connection function so you can broadcast to a tablet or cell phone. The ATN BinoX-HD is a great system for hunters and nature lovers. We strongly recommend these binoculars for the fall hunting season!
- Generation – Digital Night Vision
- Magnification – 4x Optical 16x Digital
- Resolution – NA
- Battery – 3 CR123A
ATN BinoX-HD is also available at:
7. Best Cheap NV Binoculars: Bushnell 2.5x40mm Lynx
The Bushnell 2.5x40mm Lynx night vision binocular is small and straightforward, yet it still provides a clear picture. This is a Gen 1 device but it comes packaged with an IR illuminator to help during those moonless nights.
It gives a solid 2.5 power magnification that makes scouting and nature watching possible. The more moon and ambient light, the better. But for the price, they are hard to argue with.
- Ruggedized to resist short falls and some limited moisture
- Can serve as a daytime binocular
- Can be mounted to a tripod
- Has a video output option for recording
- The glasses give a very clear and consistent picture, which makes tracking animals or people easy
- Runs off 2 AAA batteries and provides an impressive amount of runtime; it’s an NV device but it drains batteries like it’s cool
- Compact so it’s comfortable to carry and use for extended periods
- Uses a white and black color palette that is less clear than green but is more comfortable to the eyes
- Ideal for a beginner who’s just getting into night vision or someone on a limited budget
The Bushnell 2.5x40mm Lynx is impressive for the cost. If you are on a budget or looking to experiment with night vision, this is an excellent place to start.
- Generation: 1
- Magnification: 2.5x
- Objective Lens: 40mm
- Battery Type: AAA
8. Best Cheap NV Binoculars #2: Nightfox 100V Widescreen Digital Night Vision
It doesn’t get much cheaper or efficient than this. The Nightfox 100V night vision binoculars are a newer product that provides effective night vision at a low price. You won’t see any facial features or crazy details, but you can easily spot the difference between a person and an animal.
- Uses digital technology to see in the dark
- 3×20 power vision system
- 2x digital zoom
- Up to 6x magnification
- Nighttime viewing range of 100 meters
The Nightfox 100V uses a widescreen viewing monitor that makes it very compatible with glasses. We think this monitor is much easier on your eyes than your standard two eye ports.
The Nightfox 100V is easy to use, making it perfect for beginners. The whole thing starts up with the press of a single button! Additionally, this optic features a standard focusing wheel and a tripod base. For the cost, the Nightfox 100v is a simple and effective night vision system.
- Generation – Digital
- Magnification 3-6x
- Resolution – 36 lp/mm
- Battery – 8 AA Batteries
How Night Vision Binoculars Work
Night vision binoculars are somewhat unique in their design. They provide not only a magnified view of what’s in front of them, but they also have the ability to see through the dark. Night vision binoculars work like this: both dim light and infrared enter the lenses of the binoculars, and the light meets a photocathode which converts the light-based protons into electrodes. These electrodes are amplified, and then they strike a phosphor screen which creates small flashes of lights. A million tiny flashes of light create a picture which is now amplified and brighter than the original picture. The use of lenses then makes this image bigger.
What Are Night Vision Binoculars Good For?
Night vision binoculars are the perfect choice for law enforcement, nature watchers, and hunters. The magnified vision they provide makes it easier to see further in the dark. Night vision binoculars are powerful devices that allow you to zoom in (so to speak) and see what’s moving with excellent accuracy. This makes watching targets and subjects at night much easier than mixing magnified optics with night vision devices.
Night vision binoculars are better suited for individuals who will mostly be in a static location, meaning they aren’t moving, just watching and observing. The use of magnification doesn’t make it easy to move while using night vision binoculars. Their extended range does increase your ability to see, and this is critical for surveillance purposes. Instead of just recognizing the shape of a person, you can tell who the person is. The difference is the ability to recognize facial features, as well as other important descriptors.
The same can be said for animals. You won’t just be able to see a deer, but be able to tell if its male or female via their antlers as well as how large their antlers are. In certain situations, there is no substitute for night vision binoculars.
Night Vision Binocular Price Ranges
On average, night vision binoculars are going to be more expensive than other night vision devices. There are two image tubes that add costs, as well as the need to magnify the image. This creates more complications when it comes to sight picture and clarity, which drives the cost up even more. Some of the more ingenious designers have helped lower the cost by using one larger image tube that feeds into two eyes, which really helps with price, clarity, and design.
A standard Generation 1 set of night vision goggles with nothing too fancy is gonna run you 500 bucks or more. If you’ve shopped night vision before, you’ll notice this can be a pricey step up. Digital night vision can be had slightly cheaper for around 150-300 bucks. Night vision binoculars in the Gen 2 category, with a durable, professional grade build, will run you in excess of 2,000 dollars.
Getting into Gen 3 devices that are well built, we are reaching prices above 5,000 dollars. A Gen 2 or Gen 3 device will provide you with an amazing sight picture, especially Gen 3 devices. Gen 2 devices are where you start getting into professional grade optics. Gen 3 devices sweeten the deal with a clearer picture and less need for ambient light.
Important Choosing Considerations
What is the purpose of your binoculars?
First, identify the task you want to use these binocs for. Hunting, security, recon, nature observation, or just to play with night vision? This will allow you to better choose the proper generation as well as the correct budget.
Less serious roles mean you don’t have to spend as much money. If you are playing airsoft, there is no reason to drop 5K on a pair of night vision binoculars. If you are a law enforcement office surveilling a drug dealer, then that cost can be justified.
When it comes to magnification, night vision binoculars usually cap out at 5x. If you are hunting in a wide open area, you’ll need more magnification than a brush hunter. If you want to observe nature, you must understand how far away you need to be to do it efficiently and safely. This means checking the recognition and detection ranges. If you are looking at smaller subjects, you’ll want a higher magnification. If you are looking at person-sized subject, you can go smaller and lighter if the mission allows it.
Once you identify that, ask how dedicated you are with the task.
Will these optics withstand a drop or fall?
Are they waterproof in any way? If not, are they useful for hunting or for exploring? Look at the ins and outs of how your binoculars will be used to determine what’s appropriate for them. These systems are made of electronics and glass, which are both inherently fragile. A high-quality system will often be built to withstand the scrapes, bumps, and drops that might occur when you’re operating at night.
Aluminum bodies are a sure sign of strength, as are glass lenses versus plastic. Higher-end optics made for professional use are often quite tough. Not tough as a brick, mind you, but they are typically at least as strong as a standard rifle scope.
How serious are you about night vision binoculars?
If you want an entirely perfect picture, you have to invest in a good quality system. If you are a hardcore night hunter, then you probably want to invest in quality. If you are just a casual user, you can drop some features to save money.
Generation is the biggest deciding factor between price and investment in optics. For a more detailed rundown on the generations, check out the night vision device guide. I just want to highlight what generations are suitable for certain tasks.
- Suited for casual observation and beginner’s night vision
- Low detection range and low recognition range
- Needs an IR illuminator on most nights
- Short battery lifespan
- Light amp is up to 900 times with higher end units
- Perfect for airsoft
- Easy to find online
- An affordable gadget that can give you a taste of what night vision is and what it can do
- Suited for more serious tasks, including hunting and study of nocturnal animals
- Recognition and detection range are considerably longer
- Happy median of price and clarity
- Light amp up to 30,000 times
- Much clearer picture
- IR Illuminators rarely necessary
- Long life expectancy
- The lowest grade of professional optics
- A good choice for hunters, especially those who hunt over longer ranges
- An ideal choice for security professionals who work primarily at night
- Offers one of the clearest image options available
- The current generation used by the US military
- IR illuminators rarely, if ever, needed
- Sight range of up to 300 yards
- Longest battery life
- Microchannel plate allows for gain control
- Clearest image possible
- Hard to find and expensive
Night vision and magnification do not function exceptionally well together. Night vision binoculars almost never meet the same magnification ranges as standard binoculars.
Typically, past 6-power you’ll begin to notice substantial flaws when it comes to picture clarity with night vision. It’s suggested to stay under 6-power, and keeping close to 4-power will result in the optimal level of magnification and picture clarity balance. Higher magnification is actually hard to find, as most units sit between 3x and 5x magnification. Again you have to keep the intent of night vision binoculars in mind.
They aren’t there to increase your overall vision range, but to allow you to see things in finer detail in your vision range. Night vision technology simply isn’t there to allow the use of high magnification just yet.
Finding higher magnifications is possible with digital night vision, but it is not true magnification. Instead of actually magnifying the target, you are magnifying the picture. This means the resolution drops as you “zoom” in. However, digital night vision can go up to 12x or 24x.
Weight and Size
Night vision binoculars are already quite large because night vision technology isn’t the smallest tech. As the magnification goes up, you will notice a sharp increase in size as well. This is necessary to present any semblance of a clear picture. The higher the generation, the smaller you can go and maintain a clear picture.
Night vision tech isn’t that heavy until compared to daylight binoculars and their magnification differences. A 5-power set of night vision binocs can weigh over 30 ounces, whereas a normal set of 5x binoculars are typically much lighter.
Bi-oculardesigns are one way to reduce size and weight, and it’s done through reducing the two eye pieces into one that feeds into two. This reduces weight and actually cuts price as well.
Brands that are small and lightweight should be looked at cautiously, since small and light could mean blurry and dim. Gen 1 devices with plastic bodies are firmly in the hobbyist level of night vision optics. Be cautious when handling them because a short fall could mean a quick end.
Night Vision Binocular Range
With normal binoculars, you can see potentially hundreds of yards with ease. A high-end pair of binoculars can allow you to see small things at an impressive distance, and if you approach night vision binoculars with this in mind, you’ll be disappointed. Night vision binoculars aren’t necessarily for scanning long distances but for zooming in on what you can already see.
The clarity and range of these devices are still tied to the generation of night vision you are using, so a 5X optic during the day can see a man-sized target at 500 yards, but don’t expect that from most night vision binoculars. On clear nights, with a full moon, you might see a man-sized target out to 300 yards, but you won’t be able to see fine details. Night vision binoculars allow you to get a little closer to the target and allow you to see finer details like facial features, clothing, animal features, and more.
At 100 yards, it’ll be much easier to see a target and evaluate what it is, and what it is doing, with better distinction than other night vision devices. These binoculars get you closer to the target and make it easier to see the smaller details of the environment.
Other Necessary Features
The most important feature you should consider is the ability to attach an IR illuminator. Remember night vision binoculars are kind of large, so carrying them by hand and trying to use an illuminator can be difficult. Attaching one is convenient and useful. I also suggest making sure you can attach a sling system to the binoculars. When they get heavy (or when you need to move a bit), it is invaluable to have a sling, chest harness, or retaining device of some kind.
Additionally, the ability to slap on a tripod can be invaluable for extended viewing. This takes the weight off the user and gives you a much more stable platform for long-term viewing.
Still having second thoughts if you really need an IR illuminator? Read our complete overview of it.
Night vision technology is quite fragile, so a water- and weather-resistant outer shell is good to go. Automatic brightness control makes it possible to comfortably observe for extended periods and helps adjust the picture as the cloud cover changes.
Night vision binoculars are powered by batteries, and like most night vision devices, they tend to chew through them after 50 to 100 hours of use. The most common batteries you’ll see for night vision devices are AA and CR123 batteries. You’ll want to go with lithium for longer life and less risk of battery issues.
Some companies produce extended and rechargeable battery kits that are great for extended sessions, but are also quite expensive. These power sources are device-specific or company-specific most of the time and can run several hundred dollars.
Features to Avoid
There aren’t a lot of features to avoid, but the biggest one I can think of is an integrated rechargeable battery. This sounds nice, but night vision binoculars drain batteries quickly. Waiting for a recharge can take hours, so swapping regular batteries is much simpler.
See the World Differently
Seeing the world through night vision binoculars is an exciting experience. They can provide you with an accessible tool, an interesting toy, or some peace of mind for security. The golden rule with optics: you get what you pay for. Always take note of that.
Other helpful resources:
North American Integrated Technologies Inc. (NAIT) – NV device repair and upgrades.
Recoil – Night hunting tips.