Selecting the Best Night Vision Goggles, Binoculars, and Monoculars
Taking on the darkness of night is something hunters, navigators, defense personnel, and other users oftentimes want or need to do. But they can’t accomplish that effectively without selecting the best night vision goggles, binoculars, and monoculars. Here are some important considerations before dropping that cold, hard cash.
Definitions to Know When Selecting Night Vision
Those who plan to choose between the best night vision monoculars, binocular, and goggles should first be able to understand the primary differences between these.
Goggles: Goggles operate the same as night vision binoculars and monoculars. That said, these oftentimes come with four tubes (two feeding into each eye). This increases the user’s field of view.
Binoculars: Binoculars are much the same as night vision monoculars. However, these have two tubes rather than one.
Monoculars: Monoculars are handheld night vision devices that amplify light and make it easier to see your surroundings at night. These have a single tube.
Definitions aside, Phil Otto, night vision equipment sales manager for Photonis Defense, knows more about this industry than most. Here’s what he had to say about important questions relating to selecting the best night vision binoculars, monoculars, and goggles.
JH: What are the major differences (pros/cons) between the monoculars, binoculars, and goggles?
PO: The major differences for what we offer will be the amount of image tubes that come on the device. Obviously, monoculars have a single tube. Binos have two, one to cover each eye. So, if you’re looking at getting in the door with night vision, a monocular is probably the way to go for most. You can go all the way up to a panoramic goggle, which has four, and gives you the widest field of view. Of-course, that would likely be for a professional user, or someone with a lot of disposable income. That’s the primary difference — how many tubes you want to incorporate. Obviously, as you go up, the price goes up.
JH: What are the primary factors to ask oneself when choosing the right night vision product?
PO: The No. 1 consideration would be what’s your primary use for this. If you think you’re going to be more static in your use of this device, meaning a seated hunting scenario or stargazing, the monocular is going to do fine. If you think you are going to be dynamic, or on the move, you are going to want a second tube, which would get you into the binocular category. The big difference there is it’s just a more natural state of perception to have both eyes receiving information that’s relayed to the brain. So, when you use a monocular, one eye is looking at pitch black and unsure of what’s in front of it. The other eye is illuminated and can see a lot of what’s in front of you. So that does not create the most natural experience. That’s why I say, if you’re going to be dynamic, you’ll want both eyes covered. If you’re going to be static, a monocular is going to be fine.
JH: How can consumers make better decisions on design differences for hunting, maritime use, defense and navigation?
PO: As far as marine use, and navigation, I would go with a dual tube, or a binocular setup. Again, I’m taking that as a more dynamic environment, and you’re using it as more of a safety device. So, I wouldn’t try to go the cheapest route at that point. If your navigation is more for casual hiking or camping, the monocular could probably do just fine. Realize that it might take a little time for your body to acclimate to operating, walking around, climbing, or whatever it is with a single tube.
JH: What are the primary factors for durability?
PO: It’s mostly the housing construction. That would be the first thing as far as a night vision device. If you think you’re going to be a little rough with the device or need to expose it to different environmental factors and conditions, the housing is the first thing. So, we offer the most robust night vision devices in the industry. With our PD Pro lineup, it’s an all-metal housing on every device. Our Vyper-14 is very similar to a PVS-14, but the chassis is reinforced polymer. That is rated to go onto a weapon up to a .308 and resist the shock of it. We don’t build anything that isn’t a robust system. After the housing, if you really want to get into the weeds and get technical, you can start pulling information on image tubes. Some of these can be found on the internet. But our tubes are built to withstand a higher shock value than the latest military standards.
JH: As we go up in price, what are we paying for?
PO: That can be a few different things depending on what you’re looking at. The most glaring and obvious is from a monocular to a binocular. You’re paying for two monoculars when you step into the binocular arena. The other will be the quality of the image tube. If you want the brightest tube that has the widest spectrum of photon detection, and the highest signal-to-noise ratio, you’ll pay more the higher up the ladder you go, in most cases. Our tubes are well known for offering a high-level performance at a lower price point. We’re very consistent. What that means is that when a dealer buys image tubes for their device construction from Photonis, they can expect a tube within a range of performance and clarity that surpasses other competitors (on average). We hear that quite a bit from dealers that sell all types of image tubes.
JH: Overall, when it comes to selecting the right night vision, what’s your best advice when sifting through the offerings?
PO: Know what you’re going to use it for most of the time. Understand what your budget is. Try to get the best value for your budget. Find a reputable dealer. Give someone a call. Speak to them on the phone. Say, “I’m looking for the best value for my dollar. Here is what I’m going to use it for. Where do you think I should start?” Dealers are pretty savvy with night vision. They know quite a bit. They offer a lot of different options. To me, that’s a good starting point. Also, talk to folks who have night vision, and see what they like or don’t like about their purchase or experience. If you’re looking for the best value, look at the Photonis ECHO tube in any products that are loaded with that image tube. I think you’re going to see the value is better than the competition. What you get for your dollar with a Photonis image tube is, in my mind, top notch. I don’t think anyone really comes close.
Optimizing the Hunt
Those who decide to purchase night vision for hunting purposes should think about important aspects that pertain to them.
“Our line of night vision devices allow — within certain parameters — the ability to hunt wild boars, coyotes, and other things that you can legally hunt at night,” said Sean Kirk with Photonis Defense, Inc.
One of these factors or parameters is weight, size, and bulk. It’s important to find something that’s lightweight but also well-built and durable.
“When you’re carrying gear around, weight and size matter,” Kirk said. “You not only have thousands of dollars worth of gear but also a lot of weight. Rarely are you getting out of the truck and setting up right there. You’re packing or riding in. With other models on the market, size and weight are issues. Ours offers about a 40% decrease in weight and size [from other models]. It’s not as stressful on your neck, and not as heavy on your head.”
Furthermore, while some hunters think thermal is the way to go, in most cases, that isn’t true. Night vision reigns supreme in most categories and situations.
“A lot of hunters think they should have thermal,” Kirk said. “But there are some disadvantages to thermal. You might have brush in front of the shot that you cannot see when looking through the thermal scope, because you’re only seeing the heat signature of the animal. With a night vision device, you would be able to see and identify the animal, and anything that would impede the shot along the way.”
Night Vision Scope Attachments
Those who are looking for a night vision scope attachment, rather than something they hold, have different things to consider. The first is the platform itself. Oftentimes, night vision scope attachments are made for AR10 and AR15 platforms. It’s also important to determine whether this will be a dedicated nighttime rifle, or not.
A great option for dedicated nighttime rifles is a static, in-line optic. It remains in this position unless you remove it entirely. At that time, it will likely lose zero. On the upside, this method tends to be slightly hardier and more shock resistant.
Another option is a flip mount. This is great for switching back and forth between daytime only (without night vision) and night vision use. However, unless you buy a robust option, such as offerings by Photonis Defense, you risk a lesser build that isn’t as durable. While unlikely, it can lead to an optic that loses zero.