iF you're looking to do a spot of nocturnal observation, a pair of the best night vision binoculars and goggles will see you right. While most of us want to be indoors in the warm when it gets dark, more intrepid souls look for observational opportunities that only the onset of dusk can bring. Enter night vision binoculars and goggles
The latter might be something we're perhaps more familiar seeing the army and special forces wearing in movies, while the former still feels like something from a sci-fi adventure. And yet, excitingly, there are consumer level versions available too, for those who want to spot otherwise skittish wildlife at night, or use for surveillance and security purposes.
They differ from today's best binoculars in that they're specifically geared towards use in low light. These devices work along the same principle of amplifying available light to provide an enhanced monochromatic image that's often green hued. Green having been chosen as a colour as our eyes are more sensitive to and capable of looking at for longer periods without getting tired. While we've focused on devices with two eyepieces here, some of today's best monoculars are also specialised for night viewing. Read on for some key features to look for, followed by our pick of the best night vision binoculars and goggles you can buy today.
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How to choose the best night vision binoculars and goggles for you
When it comes to choosing the best night vision binos and goggles for you, first decide on what you want them for, and then, having surveyed a broad range of options available, set your budget. Obviously price will vary dependent on the number of features and the degree of specification provided, including how much wear and tear they might be able to withstand.
Feature sets aside, practicality and portability are almost as important as performance. Are you comfortable with wearing a head set, which is what night goggles typically are, or would you prefer something to hand hold, in which case night vision binoculars may feel both more comfortable and more familiar?
Being hands free with a pair of night vision goggles does have its obvious advantages though, including being able to, with a turn of the head, look rapidly in multiple directions to track our visible quarry. As ever it's a case of horses for courses and whatever feels right for you.
Be aware that unlike regular binoculars, night vision devices require power, such as, typically, AA or AAA batteries. While this adds to the weight, it also means that we need to make sure we have a ready supply with sufficient juice to see us through our period of observation. Also, it's worth taking a look at those models that incorporate an automatic power saving auto cut off function during periods of inactivity, so our viewing period can last longer.
If you do really want the lightest option available in terms of weight, then also check out the available options for night vision monoculars. Comprising a single tube with a lens and an eyepiece, these tend to be more affordable too, if less commonplace overall. And if you're curious about the inner workings of it all, head to our guide to how exactly night vision goggles work.
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The best night vision binoculars and goggles 2021
This versatile option is capable of providing a view even in complete darkness thanks to an infrared illuminator that allows viewing up to an impressive 1300ft/400 metres on a moonless night, and, more unusually, can be used in the daytime as well if wanted. Further talking points include its large 4-inch viewscreen, multi coated lenses, a more generous than most 7x magnification plus 2x digital zoom, 50mm objective lens size and integral 1/3-inch CMOS sensor.
In short this one would seem to have it all, including, unusually, a generous 32GB microSD card provided out of the box with the rest of the kit. Video is of an HD quality 1280x720 pixels at 30fps, with photos basically video grabs, plus a supplied AV cable plus micro USB 2.0 cable provided for hooking up to a TV monitor or PC. Power comes courtesy of eight regular AA batteries, which we need to purchase separately as usual. Or we can plug the provided USB cable straight into an optional portable power bank for extra juice while in the great outdoors. In terms of protection for our kit when out in the wet and the wild, this Solomark device offers IPX4 grade water resistance, which translates as being suitable for use in the rain but not for fully submerging in water.
Resembling a standard pair of binoculars with extra ‘webbing', this hand held option from respected German brand Bresser may be relatively modest in terms of specification, but this also makes it very affordable for newcomers to nighttime observation. Here we get a 3x magnification, which can be further boosted 2x digitally, married to a standard resolution 640x480 sensor with 320x240 LCD. Maximum detection range is up to a very useful 130 metres, while there are five adjustable infrared brightness levels, plus a large hooded screen for comfortable viewing with both eyes, and even when wearing glasses.
A carry strap and bag are also usefully included in the box with the item. OK, so its black rubberized exterior may resemble Darth Vader's handbag to some; but in the dark, no one can see us, right? We just need to remember to pack the 4xAA rechargeable batteries it requires for power – battery life is up to an OK if hardly remarkable five hours – and an SD card if we want to actually record any images. In short though, this is a great value option that ticks most boxes and will suit those who want to try out night vision for themselves without breaking the bank in the process.
This robustly rubber-armoured, weather-resistant option may look bulky, but in fact weighs a manageable 413g; just as well, because a head strap is included so we can go 'hands free' operationally if desired. Alternatively there is a padded shoulder strap in the box. The key specification here includes a 1x magnification with 2x digital zoom booster if required, while the built-in 7-step infrared capability is such that it can illuminate a subject in complete darkness from as far as 70 metres away.
A hooded view screen and large display makes things comfortable for spectacle wearers in providing relaxed observation using both eyes, while there is a micro USB interface provided for recharging the 5V rechargeable battery that's capable of delivering up to eight hours of operation. Perfect for chilly winter evenings spent out in the wild in complete darkness, there is simple control layout with large buttons, all designed to facilitate use as well as aiding those who may be wearing gloves.
This ‘fox' is a cunningly sleek device offering a respectable 50 metres range and the ability to record video clips. A bonus that sets it apart from most is that it additionally offers a GoPro-compatible mounting bracket, meaning that this pair of night vision goggles can be helmet mounted if so desired for hand-free operation. Offering 1x magnification, a decision taken because its manufacturer suggests that when using night vision on the move, the best magnification is no magnification at all – though a 2x digital zoom function is offered if the user doesn't agree – included also is an infrared LED with reduced visible glow, thereby allowing the wearer to roam unseen. Unfortunately there is something of a trade-off here, as the reduced glow results in a reduced viewing range of the 50 metres quoted.
Keeping things simple and operation speedy, one-touch recording onto microSD card, which here is an optional extra, is offered, as is one-button adjustment of screen brightness to save us having to scroll through menus when we want to be concentrating on whatever we're observing instead. A widescreen display for viewing with both eyes is also provided. Power comes courtesy of 4x AA batteries. Again, as with the required memory card, these are an additional purchase.
Bushnell is one of those solid consumer brands that matches reliability and performance with decent value for money. Its current offering for those seeking a pair of digital night vision binoculars is no exception, which in this case weds a 2x magnification to a 40mm glass objective lens. As expected, the build here is both rugged and water resistant, while the binoculars themselves can be utilised for both day and night operation. Sailing and not just night time wildlife watching is suggested as one of their possible uses, for example. Also included is an infrared spotlight, described as powerful enough to deliver its 55 yard range. It's not just all about the viewing however, as image capture and video recording are part and parcel of the package too. In short, we get just about everything we need from a device that is relatively familiar to use from the get-go.