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What is a True Night Binocular?

Sep 9, 2008
Binoculars have become very popular in recent years. They have moved beyond military, police and surveillance use and become a common piece of equipment for recreational purposes. Beyond bird watching, they are increasingly being bought for use in hunting, fishing, boating, camping, hiking, in fact they can add to the pleasure of most outdoor pursuits.

Most of these activities take place not just in daylight but at dawn and dusk or even in the night time. You see many adverts these days for night vision binoculars and they might seem like an attractive proposition, but not all night vision binoculars are made the same. You need to be aware of the differences or you could end buying something that doesn't live up to your expectations or paying a lot of money for functionality that you don't need.

So, what are the options?

Firstly, there is a difference between binoculars designed to make the best use of very low light conditions and a true night binocular. If you will be operating at dawn or dusk, low light binoculars could suit your purpose. You can get an idea of how well a pair of binoculars will perform in low light from its exit pupil.

This is the diameter of the beam of light as it leaves the eye pieces. If you hold the binoculars at arms length, you can see these small circles of light in each eye piece. To find the actual size of the exit pupil, you divide the diameter of the lenses by the magnification. e.g. The binoculars are 12x50. 50mm divided by 12 is just over 4mm. A bigger exit pupil will do better in low light, but there are other considerations.

But for night time pursuits like hunting, you will need binoculars with an infra red light source to be able to see anything in almost total absence of light. The range of these light sources varies so you need to consider what you need. They are no use for hunting if you can only see 10 yards.

Secondly, there are different types of optical device for different uses. A monocular is similar in construction to a telescope. It is sometimes referred to as a spotting scope which describes what it is used for. It is OK for scanning the terrain or the sea to spot a way point or one of your companions.

A bi-ocular has two eye pieces but only a single front lens. This feels more natural to use but is a compromise. A true night vision binocular has two front lenses meaning that each eye is equally adjusted to the night vision viewfinder. If your activity involves long periods of use, these binoculars will feel more comfortable.

So, before setting out to purchase night vision binoculars, consider in what light conditions you will be using them and whether you will be using them for sustained periods. A true night vision binocular can set you back several hundred dollars and may be a waste of your money if they are more than you really need.
About the Author
Rich Russell is the owner of Best Buy Binoculars, a resource for people looking to buy binoculars. It provides guidance on choosing binoculars and links to other resources. For more information and offers visit the site at http://www.bynocular.com/category/night-binocular/
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