Have you ever heard a noise outside at night, looked outside the window only to see a wall of black? Your mind starts going into overdrive as you convince yourself someone is in your garden. This is especially true if your security lights have been tripped. If you want to be sure nobody is on your property, buy a pair of night vision binoculars.
Night vision (NV) as a technology offers us the best seat in the house when we want to catch a glimpse of what goes on well after the sun has disappeared into the horizon. Unlike a flashlight, it is the least intrusive way to see the world at night.Night vision binoculars are a lot like owl eyes – huge front-facing nocturnal eyes with terrific binocular vision and field of view.
Quick Answer – Editor’s #1 Choices
- Perfect for home security
- See potential intruders up to 200ft away
- 5x Magnification
What to Look for in The Best Night Vision Binoculars
While the basics remain the same across all binoculars – magnification, field of view, eye relief and other essential features – there are a few additional things you need to pay attention to when shopping for night vision binoculars.
It’s always good to envision the kind of setting you will be using the binoculars in.
One thing to think about is the weather. Since it affects visibility and light levels, consider opting for a more powerful NV device, although it will also be more expensive.
You also need to think about the purpose of your night time viewing. If you intend to be observing things at fairly close range, you don’t need the same pair as someone who wants night vision binoculars for wildlife that might be far away.
Binoculars have different distances, and the longer the distance, the more money you are likely to spend on the gear.
Generation as pertains to NV binoculars is the name for the technology used in the image intensifier tube of a given binocular model. This ‘tube’ is the heart and soul of night vision devices as it has the biggest bearing on the quality and sharpness of the images you are going to get. In other words, the image intensifiers, and by extension the generation, in night vision gear makes it possible for us to see in the dark. This is achieved through amplification of light collected in the intensifiers hundreds and even thousands of times until the human eye can perceive the image.
We currently have four generations of night vision binoculars:
• Generation 1 – Developed by Americans during the Vietnam War, first generation devices provide a decent view up close, but nothing too brilliant over long range. This is the most common type of night vision and by far the most affordable. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. Actually, a Generation 1 unit will serve most people fine, irrespective of application.
• Generation 2 – Professional binocular use starts here. Despite the single leap in generation, the change in terms of clarity is massive. This is thanks to the introduction of the micro-channel plate (MCP) which enhances the brightness and clarity of images. But that’s not without an addition in cost. Gen 2 NV binoculars are about three times more expensive than Gen 1 devices. But if money is not a consideration, by all means, opt for this one.
• Generation 3 – Third generation devices are reserved for professional use proper. Think the kind used by military forces around the world. They contain a chemical known as gallium arsenide which boosts brightness and sharpness. You surely don’t need these for your home security. But if you want them, be prepared to fork out a couple of thousand grand. And scour the market for one.
• Generation 4 – The current cream of the crop and most expensive of the lot, Gen 4 devices provide extremely clear images and their performance in low light is top-notch. These are hard to come by and we will not be touching on them in the reviews as you probably need to be a member of Seal Team 6 to use them. In which case, they will be provided for you.
Military Grade 4 Night Vision Goggles: ATN NVGOPS1540 PS15 ($9K+)
System light gain is another feature you should consider when shopping for the best night vision binoculars.
Gain simply refers to the relative level of light you see when peering through the device – the number of times light is amplified by the unit. Generation 1 devices have a gain of 300-900 times while Gen 2 devices and above amplify light 20,000 to 30,000 times.
The higher the gain, the better the vision – although this depends on device. Think about camera megapixels on smartphones. Usually, more isn’t always better.
Also, keep in mind that the greater the lens magnification in a NV device, the worse gain it will have.
This has to do with the type of light the sensor picks up, in addition to the minimum amount of light required.
Determines image clarity and sharpness. Cheap models won’t guarantee you as good a resolution as you may wish to get, so this might be cause for you to evaluate your budget.
This is a cool feature you might want to have, especially if you want to capture intruders to show Police. Binos with this functionality usually come with an SD card, USB connector or both for ease of file transfer to your PC or laptop. Some binoculars have the ability to record in full HD.
Without prolonging this one, let’s just say multi-coloured/coated lenses are the best.
The way a night vision pair of binoculars is powered is another important consideration you need to make.
Typically, you have two options:
Rechargeable batteries – these are integrated into the unit and are more affordable in the long run. This type of battery can piss on your bonfire if you don’t plan device usage (read carry extra batteries) in advance.
Regular batteries – changeable or separate batteries which have the advantage of not needing to wait for them to recharge.
Our Choice of Best Night Vision Binoculars
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at our picks for the best binoculars for night viewing.
Sightmark SM15071 Ghost Hunter Night Vision Binoculars
- High quality image and resolution
- Close observational range of focus
- High power built-in infrared illumination
As far as reliable night vision binoculars go, you can never go wrong with Sightmark. The award-winning brand’s products are inspired by applications related to the military and law enforcement.
The SM15071 Ghost Hunter night vision binoculars is part of a series of top-of-the-line Generation 1 binoculars whose predecessor (SM15070) could very well stake a strong claim as one of the best NV binos out there.
The notable difference between the two lies in their magnification capabilities – the SM15070 comes with a 1x magnification lens versus SM15071’s 2x, albeit the objective lens diameter on both is similar (24mm).
The SM15070 is a world beater in its own right and well worth a look. What you will love about the Sightmark SM15071 (as with the SM15070) is its outstanding performance when it comes to close viewing and image resolution.
The pair boasts an exceptional observation capability in the dark so much so that it – or rather this series in general – is considered one of the best home security night vision binoculars on the market. This is accentuated by a built-in high power infra-red illuminator which provides for even clearer viewing in pitch darkness.
This unique binocular has a 30-degree angular field of view, with bright light protection and a first-rate individual focusing system. These make for an easy-on-the-eyes viewing experience you are bound to appreciate.
The SM15071 Ghost Hunter is compact and lightweight and can be used in three ways. You can head-mount it for those occasions when you need a lengthy but comfortable hands-free viewing session. There is also the option to use on a tripod. And of course, you can hold it by hand as a regular bino.
These Ghost Hunters have a battery life of 72 hours when not using infra-red. When IR is turned on, the juice drains much faster and will give you a 20-hour service. Not bad, but even better is that the binocular is powered by Triple-A batteries which are both cheap and readily available.
Speaking of cheap, for night vision binoculars that fetches at roughly 300 bucks, there are few units in this price range that promise such splendid night-time views as the Sightmark SM15071.
And they come with a good warranty in case something gives. A lifetime housing warranty is testament to the robust construction, while the optics get a decent 3-year warranty.
What’s more, an auto-shutdown feature protects against bright light sources which adds years to the NV tube. A safety bag is part of the deal.
• Durable construction
• High quality lenses guarantee great imaging
• Individual focus function enables extra precision
• Comfortable viewing even for long durations
• Auto-shut feature protects device
• Accessories such as lens covers and carry bag
• Minimum magnification and lack of digital zoom
• Does not support photo or video taking
Bushnell LYNX Night Vision Binoculars
- Quality optics with stunning HD clarity
- 100% quality materials used and tested extensively
- Beautiful design and durability built to last
- Gen 1 Night Vision binocular with 2.5x magnification and 40mm objective lenses
- Built in Infrared Illuminator for long distance viewing up to 90 yards
Bushnell is one of the best binocular brands in the world. And if you are looking for a night vision pair, their devices are hard to beat.
The Bushnell LYNX is a NV binocular designed to provide high quality night viewing without breaking the bank.
Coming in at around USD $600, this might sound a bit steep for an ‘entry-level’ unit. But if you are really serious about acquiring a device well suited to the task without going overboard in terms of outlay, few can do what this bad boy can.
One of the most lovable aspects about this binocular is that it is multi-purpose and can be used for anything including night surveillance, secuirty observation and navigation.
It has a Generation 1 intensifier tube and a powerful infrared spotlight which makes for good viewing in low ambient light. Image clarity is very good and you will love the fact this binocular has little glare.
The Bushnell LYNX has a viewing range of 750 feet which is phenomenal considering night vision binoculars generally have a range of 400 to 800 feet. It comes with AR coated glass lenses, has a magnification of 2.5x and 40-mm objective lenses.
Its close-up and zoom are excellent. It has a 4-inch minimum viewing distance and a 36 lp/mm sensor resolution.
What’s more, the focus is also very good, with an individual focusing system and a +/- 4 diopter adjustment.
In terms of design, this is a beautifully constructed unit packed with attractive features and durability to last. It is created using quality materials tested for use in rough and tough settings.
The manufacturer designed it to be weather-resilient in order to protect the structure from damage. What this means is you can use the bino in all kinds of weather – rainy, snowy, cold; it will hold up quite well.
The Bushnell LYNX is powered by a pair of AAA batteries which you will have to purchase separately. It can also be used with a tripod, but this is an add-on that comes separately.
This is one of the best Gen 1 night vision binoculars in the market. Its one glaring downside is that it does not support video and photo taking, a shame given the cost.
• Ergonomic design that is both lightweight and handy, with sturdy housing
• Weather-resistant binoculars
• Ideal for multi-purpose night viewing
• Good intensifier tube makes for excellent optics
• High viewing range
• Does not support photo and video taking
• A bit pricey
If you desire a great night vision alternative from Bushnell albeit one that comes with a cheaper price tag, the Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Binoculars is very much worth exploring.
ATN BinoX-HD Smart HD Binocular
- Use Day and Night in HD resolution - take your shots in color at high resolution with Binox-HD. No blurry images regardless day or night!
- Smart Rangefinder - built in rangefinder allows you to range your target without carrying additional equipment. The rangefinder will calculate the distance of an object from the point you are viewing.
- 3D Gyroscope and E-compass - binoculars have a gyroscope built into them. The gyroscope keeps images steady and blur-free. Smart e-compass helps you navigate by pointing to your destination.
- E-Zoom - lets you magnify to target without losing what's in your FOV like with step zoom systems.Angle of view:6 °
- 1080p HD Video Recording & Photos, Wi-Fi Streaming - allow you to record all of your hunting trips, using your phone / tablet as a viewfinder. Firmware upgradeable.
American Technologies Network (ATN) is a global leader when it comes to night vision and thermal imaging equipment. Therefore, to say the BinoX HD binoculars is one the best models to roll out of the company’s production lines in San Francisco, California, is quite a statement.
The ATN BinoX Smart HD binocular is designed for civilian use and would especially be an asset for home security. But this is not any run-of-the-mine bino.
As you are bound to notice, there is a lot of emphasis placed on “HD” with this unit. It isn’t for nought. This night vision binocular guarantees HD viewing both at night and in the daytime, and this has to be one of its biggest advantages.
It doesn’t end there.
The state-of-the-art model makes it possible to capture your experiences in colour, a pretty big deal as not many binos in this price range guarantee you that. And not just any colour. The resolution of the photos is HQ and the videos come in a 1080p format.
The ATN BinoX-HD night vision binoculars has a rather odd magnification. It is 4x optical, although the image can be zoomed in up to 16x. The former is the original magnification, while the 16x image zoom is akin to zooming in on your phone.
Another quirk on the ATN BinoX Smart HD binoculars is the automatic range finder that is built in. The feature enables equipment-free target locating which saves you valuable time and improves the viewing experience considerably. Beginners in particular will appreciate this function.
As a bonus, the smart feature also comes with a distance calculator.
Another notable high-tech feature is the 3D gyroscope which helps steady images and removes any blur from images.
What’s more, the BinoX Smart HD binoculars from ATN is also equipped with an e-compass feature. This plays the role of magnifying the target zone without impacting on the field of view control.
In this connected world we live in, you will love this night vision binoculars high connectivity features. You can link it with your smartphone, computer, TV and Wi-Fi. It also features an SD card slot (the SD card itself has to be purchased separately) and a USB cable.
• Unparalleled daylight and night-time viewing, with excellent zoom courtesy of 65-mm aperture
• Records images and videos in HD
• Good eye relief makes for comfortable viewing
• Hi-tech features – automatic range finder, slow zoom, 3D gyroscope, e-compass
• Has Wi-Fi
• A bit large and heavy
• Uses C123A batteries which are expensive and not the most common
• Available for shipping only in the USA
Night Owl Pro Nexgen Night Vision Binoculars
- Field of view: 200ft at 53ft
- 2 electronic intensifier tubes inside stringer system for precision & control
- Powerful built-in columnated IR illuminator provides clear & bright Viewing in complete darkness
- High-quality, all Objective & ocular lenses
- Generation 1 technology; 5X magnification
Night Owl Optics is a heavyweight night vision tech company whose binoculars are known for three things in particular – outstanding quality and simplicity, with attractive price tags to boot.
If you are looking for a top-of-the-range night vision binoculars that does not cannibalize your finances, look no further than offerings from the Texas-based company.
One of their NV releases that epitomizes these three traits is the Night Owl Pro Nexgen NV Binocular. With a price that hovers slightly above USD400, it is obviously not the most affordable night vision bino out there. However, you will also be hard pressed to find a better bargain.
This is a Generation 1 device with a 5x magnification and 200 field of view which might just make it the ideal option for most nighttime outdoor activities – surveillance, wildlife observation and recreation activities. It has a minimum focus range of 6.6 feet and an interocular distance of 2.27-2.95 inches.
The pair has built-in IR illuminators which makes it a better candidate for nighttime viewing as this means you can see your target even on moonless nights, provided it is within the view range.
There is a central focusing ring which is easy to manoeuver, and in typical Night Owl Optics style, you only have two buttons to fumble with – one for switching on/off, and the other for triggering the IR illuminator.
The Night Owl Pro Nexgen Night Vision Binocular has high quality lenses and a 50-mm aperture. The tubes are impact-resistant and are enclosed in a thermoplastic housing.
Its rubberized material enhances the device’s comfort and helps when viewing for extended sessions, which is highlighted by the unit’s compact and lightweight design.
This device relies on a single three-volt Type-123 battery which is purchased separately. The battery life is impressive (80 hours of use) although this will depend largely on how you use the infrared, something that could shave off half the battery life per full charge.
The Night Owl Pro Nexgen Night Vision pair comes with a padded neck strap, which boosts its ergonomics the more.
If you find the field of view a bit on the lower side and price isn’t a big factor, you can get a more dominant upgrade on the Nexgen Pro for an extra less than $200 on top: the even more impressive Night Owl NOXB-5 Explorer Pro NV Binoculars. Check it out here.
• Powerful IR illuminator makes for clear and bright viewing in total darkness
• Great precision and controlling system
• Adjustable focusing system
• Ease of use, an often underrated but important factor
• Very comfortable
• Good battery life
• View range limited to 200 feet
• Lacks recording option
Bestguarder NV-900 Digital Night Vision Binoculars
As with every other brand on this list, Bestguarder has about 5 night vision offerings that could very well have made an entry on our list.
But we could say the Bestguarder NV-Series features some of the most solid releases from the company and you will rarely go wrong whatever your choice. Each upgrade includes an enhancement or two which explains the difference in price.
Now, the Bestguarder NV-900 Digital Night Vision Binocular is a well-equipped unit for the budget conscious. It provides a decent magnification of 4.5x and 5x digital zoom. The device is big on image clarity and stability to the extent that it is hard to find any competitors in this price range.
The time lapse function of the NV-900 is one feature that stands out. This means the pair can not only record your experiences, but can do so automatically at a preset time period.
One of the standout features of the Bestguarder NV-900 is its 4” LCD viewing screen which makes it a unique bino from most others out there. And it is not just for aesthetics.
A screen resolution of 640×480 promises a stunning level of detail while managing to remain very easy on the eyes. It can capture high quality pictures (2592×1944) and videos with sound (1280×720).
The NV-900 has a night vision range of 400 meters, with multi-coated optics that reduce glare and boost light transmission. There is an integrated infrared LED illuminator which enhances the night vision in pitch-dark settings.
This pair is easy to use with 8 well placed buttons.
As well, we cannot overlook its overall ergonomic design.
The surface on the sides is intentionally rough to enhance grip. This is emphasised by the inclusion of removable and adjustable wrist straps. There is also a tripod jack socket on the bottom for when you want to use it hands-free.
Combined, these are the little things that show great thought went into the design of this binocular.
And there is more.
There is a time and date notification bar that can be relied on, details that can also be stamped on your photos and videos if you so wish.
The bino can be connected to your TV or computer (package includes two separate cables), although the missing Wi-Fi feature could have been the icing on the cake.
In addition to an SD card slot, the included 32GB SD card is a cherry on top. The Bestguarder NV-900 Night Vision Binocular comes complete with a carrying case.
All things considered, this is a competitive well-priced model that can hold its own against night vision binocular models worth double the money.
• Large 4” digital view screen
• Stunning image and video quality
• Videos are recorded with sound
• Time-lapse function
• Ergonomic design allows for perfect grip and comfortable viewing
• IR illuminator not as powerful as other models on this list
• Batteries are not part of the deal
• Requires refocusing
• One-year warranty is too little