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Do you need night vision? Of course, it depends on the light conditions you find yourself in, and what you want to do. If you are just hacking around in the moonlit suburbs, a first generation night vision scope is probably good enough.
*If you are out in remote areas, or deep into dark forests, or need to spot targets at a longer distance, you'll want a High-gain 2nd generation scope.
Hamlet never said: "Monocular? or binocular?, that is the question." But I bet he never knew the difference between the two. Do you know the difference?
Monocular scopes tend to be smaller and lighter, plus you don't have to mess with separate eye focusing. Binoculars can be more comfortable for longer periods of use but can make readjusting to the ambient light a little difficult. With a monocular scope you can keep one eye open to retain your natural night vision, which is a definite advantage at night.
In the world of riflescopes, 'more gain, less strain' is not always the best policy. People who know about these things tell us that in high light conditions some high-gain 2nd generation models can become overloaded by artificial light sources, like street lighting, or even by a bright full moon.
High light conditions may reduce the life of the intensifier tube. A Generation 1 night vision scope might be OK if you will be viewing mainly on moonlit nights or in urban environments.
Could we cue the MIT professor again, please? Here's the explanation of how an image intensifier works:
• An image, ultraviolet, visible light, or near infrared, is projected onto the transparent window of a vacuum tube.
• The vacuum side of this window carries a sensitive layer called the photocathode. Light radiation causes the emission of electrons from the photocathode into the vacuum which are then accelerated by an applied DC voltage towards a luminescent screen (phosphor screen) situated opposite the photocathode.
• The screen's phosphor in turn converts high energy electrons back to light (photons), which corresponds to the distribution of the input image radiation but with a flux amplified many times.
First generation night vision scopes don't have anything to do with ancestry or immigration—it's just a name the scope experts gave to scopes that amplify the ambient light between 150 and 400 times. You can see the image perfectly in the centre of the eyepiece, but out around the edges things get a little fuzzy.
First generation models have a shorter viewing range (typically half that of 2nd generation models), although they can still manage 100 yards in low light if you use an infrared illuminator. As the technology used is less sophisticated, first generation scopes are likely to cost less than their second generation relatives.
When it comes to low light conditions your second generation night vision scopes are first-rate. They amplify light by 20,000 to 30,000 times. This means that you can see a man at 675 yards with a full moon, (which could be embarrassing to both of you), 330 yards in starlight and 100 yards on a dark overcast night.
The sparkling image you see can be a little eerie on a dark and starry night, but there is virtually no geometric distortion and the focus is spot on 100% across the eyepiece.
Cranking up the magnification in your night vision scope won't do you much good because the higher you crank it, the lower your light gain becomes. So, it's a wash at best.
Higher magnification may help you see smaller animals but it decreases the range of your scope. If you want, you can goose up the range by using an infrared illuminator. Some models of night vision scopes offer optional additional lenses that will increase the magnification and provide more flexibility.
These bad boys make it possible for us to see stuff in the dark, which can be very useful at night. IR illuminators act like an invisible torch by shining invisible infrared light on the person, place. or thing you are scoping out. The subject is not disturbed but the infrared illumination increases the light available to the night vision scope. This makes it more effective, especially at very low natural light levels.
*An infrared torch, or ordinary torch with infrared filter, will show a visible red light, but not enough to cause disturbance to wildlife in most cases.