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Night vision devices: Background information on how they work, how they are used and how they are used

Night vision devices: Background information on how they work, how they are used and how they are used

The night vision device is used to improve visibility at dusk and in the dark. Due to the different functionality of the devices, a night vision device can be purchased for many areas of application. It is used in many areas, by the military and the police, home and garden owners, industry, building surveillance or hunting.

In the following, read the background on night vision devices, how they work, areas of application, variants and what to look out for when buying.

FAQ night vision devices: function, variants & selection

How do night vision devices work?

The technology for generating night vision depends on the model. Night vision devices with residual light intensifiers and image converters are used:

  • Residual light intensifiers use the weak light that is present at dusk and at night, and reinforce this. Night vision devices with residual light intensifiers use camera systems with a large input lens and a very sensitive CCD sensor. The high sensitivity of the sensor and the large input lens are sufficient to capture and amplify even very low incidence of light. Devices that use residual light intensifiers can also be used to generate color images.
  • Imager are equipped with semiconductor image sensors or image converter tubes. The technology enables it to be invisible to the human eye Make infrared radiation visible. The so-called near infrared (NIR) in the environment can be converted into visible light. The temperature of objects that emit heat differs from the ambient temperature. This technique is used, for example, to observe wild animals and other warm-blooded animals. Shelters and engines that are still warm can also be detected with the help of the thermal radiation.

What is a night vision device used for?

  • Night vision devices that work with residual light amplification and according to the image converter principle in the infrared range are, for example, from Military and police used.
  • The devices are mainly used by private individuals Hunters used. They are available as thermal imaging devices or as an attachment. Before using it, however, the legal situation in Germany should be checked.
  • The techniques of night vision devices are also used in video cameras to, for example, the monitoring of buildings.

What do the generations of night vision devices mean & which ones are there?

Night vision devices, such as residual light intensifiers and image converters, are divided into generations. Generation 0 night vision devices have been known since the 1940s. The other generations range from 1 to 4., the higher the generation, the more up-to-date the level of development and longevity.

Generation 1 night vision devices

Generation 1 night vision devices are short-lived (1,000 to 2,000 hours) Variants that work with image converter tubes. Electron optics are used in the devices, which ensure a high gain (1,000 times up to 8,000 times) cares. At the same time, the devices are designed for image reduction. In the military field, several image converter tubes were used, which were connected in series to enable better visibility. The devices were used decades ago and were considered very clunky.

Generation 2 night vision devices

Generation 2 is characterized by a longer service life compared to generation 1. The service life is approx. 10,000 to 15,000 hours higher. Generation 2 night vision devices also have a microchannel plate (MCP). The MCP is located between the screen and the photocathode. The microchannel plate allows each pixel to be multiplied, resulting in up to one 20,000 times Residual light amplification leads.

Generation 3 night vision devices

Generation 3 has improved microchannel plates. Through the use of gallium arsenide (GaAs), up to 50,000 times Amplification of the light can be achieved. The service life is approx. 15,000 hours.

Generation 4 night vision devices

Generation 4 uses ebCCDs that generate image data. The image data are processed and optimized by digital signal processors. Generation 4 of night vision devices is reserved for the military and unavailable.

What can you do with a night vision device?

With thermal imaging cameras, for example Movements of warm-blooded animals be recorded in the garden. Surveillance cameras with night vision also make sense for remote residential areas. The devices are available with residual light intensifiers or image converters (near infrared). The advantage of Surveillance cameras with night vision devices is that these can be purchased with recording memory. A hard drive or SD card (micro SD) is used to store the nightly recordings, which can be evaluated by the house owner.

Cheap night vision device vs. expensive night vision device


An expensive night vision device is characterized by a larger one, depending on the model Range and versatile properties. In the trade, for example, devices are available that a recording means Memory cards or integrated flash memory. The higher priced devices also enter better picture again. The pictures will sharper and contrasts can be better recognized.

The best models are mainly because of their high Range popular. A large Objektivdurchmesser is also important and enables a better light yield with residual light intensifiers. Expensive night vision devices are also by a long running time marked.


As a rule, one device for the amateur sector is sufficient for private users.

The devices are generation 1 night vision devices and are available at an affordable price. The advantages of amateur devices are a low price and suitability for night vision in complete darkness (infrared ray).

The inexpensive devices, however, convey a grainy, noisy image and can usually only be used for night vision from a short distance. Furthermore, amateur devices only have a short period of use (a few hours) compared to more expensive night vision devices of the 2nd and 3rd generation.

Night vision device – what to look for when buying?

Night vision device
Helmet with integrated night vision device

Variants: Night vision glasses vs. Night vision device

When buying a night vision device, it is important to choose the device variant. For example, night vision goggles, night vision binoculars and thermal imaging cameras are commercially available. Inexpensive glasses with night vision function cost between 20 and 30 euros. There are no professional night vision devices, but only visual aids that ensure visibility in poor lighting conditions. The night vision goggles are interesting for nighttime use in traffic.

There are also night vision devices for hunters that can be used with a telescopic sight. In addition to the “shape” of the night vision device, the properties are also important. So the following points should be decided before buying:

Recording function as a purchase factor

If you need a night shot and want to view and evaluate the image material, you need a night vision device Image storage options. Variants that can be connected to a video recorder or a camera are also available in stores. It is an advantage if the device with a camera connection option has a tripod thread.

Kauffaktor Objective

Good lenses have one high light transmission. The light transmission and the integrated technology of the night vision device enable good image quality. A good lens has a low F-number (aperture ratio).

Compare product data

With the favorites, the facts can also be easily compared with one another. The following points should all or largely be included in the product data:

  • Range: How far does the view have to be?
  • Zoom and magnification: Which values ​​should be chosen here?
  • Operating time: How long does the device have to go without charging?
  • Height Weight: There are also differences here. However, these points usually do not play a major role.
  • picture quality: How important are sharpness and contrast?
  • price: Where is the pain point, the best thing to do is to set an upper price limit.
  • admission: Should the device have a recording function?
  • Software: How does the download of the data work, which software / app is behind it.
  • Montage: Should the device be installed somewhere? Are there monthly instructions or material?

What is a residual light amplifier?

A residual light amplifier uses the residual light that exists during twilight and at night. At night, the visible light (moonlight, starlight) is amplified by 5,000 times, 10,000 times and more. Which residual light amplification can be achieved depends on the respective model.

How expensive is a night vision device?

First of all, you have to be clear about the category: Prices start at 200 euros and can reach up to 6,000 euros (night vision lens for hunters). As drastically as the prices differ, so are the areas of application, the image quality and the target group.

High-quality models from well-known night vision technology manufacturers such as Yukon, Jahnke and Pulsar naturally have their price.

What is the range of night vision devices?

Depending on the model, the range is between 30 meters and 200 meters. Higher priced devices can reach ranges of up to 1,000 meters. However, this point is a cost driver, so you should only choose the range that is actually required.

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