Guide To Night Vision Binoculars

The Ultimate Guide To Night Vision

When you think of Night Vision, you probably think of science fiction movies like ‘The Predator’ where the villain of the story has Godlike Night Vision abilities, and you are probably scratching your heading asking yourself “How Does Night Vision Work?”

Predator Night Vision
In this article we will explain how night vision works, what the difference is between different night vision generations, and we will empower you with the knowledge the determine which night vision product is best for you.


To understand how night vision works we need to go back to Physics class and understand that ‘Light’ is made up particles known as ‘Photons’ and night vision devices basically work by manipulating these particles to produce a clearer and brighter image. The following diagram illustrates how night vision optics work:
Light (photons) enters through the front of the lens

How Night Vision Works

  1. Photons are converted to Electrons by Photocathode
  2. Electrons are multiplied millions of times by Micro Channel Plate
  3. Electrons are accelerated and thrown into a Green Phosphor Screen to produce tiny flashes of light
  4. User sees an image that is brighter and clearer, but green in color


The key difference between each generation of night vision is the intensifier technology used, and the quality of images produced. As technology has evolved over time, these image intensifiers have seen gradual upgrades to their build:

  • Gen 1: Utilized S-20 Photocathode for Light Amplification of about 1000x. (About 1000hrs Life Expectancy)
  • Gen 2: Utilized S-25 Photocathode and Micro-Channel Plate (MCP) for Light Amplification of about 20,000x (About 2,500-5,000 hrs Life Expectancy)
  • Gen 3: Utilized Gallium Arsenide Photocathode and Micro-Channel Plate (MCP) for Light Amplification of about 30,000-50,000x (7,500-10,000hrs Life Expectancy)
  • Gen 3+: Utilizes Automatic Gated Power Supply System to regulate Photocathode Voltage and allow NVD to simultaneously adapt to changing light conditions, and/or removes ion barrier of MCP to reduce image noise and increase luminous Sensitivity to 2,800 K of only 700, compared 1,800 of Gen III Image intensifiers

What is the difference between different night vision generations

Tips when researching and comparing night vision optics:

  • Not all image intensifiers within the same Generation are created equal. Just like you have different versions of cars such as standard, sports and pro, you have difference versions of Image Intensifiers E.g. Gen 2 SD might be 45-61 lp/mm, whereas Gen 2 HD might be 55-72 lp/mm.
  • When it comes to comparing Gen 3+ Image Intensifiers you want to use a difference reference point know as ‘Figure of Merit’ (FOM). To calculate this simply multiply ‘lp/mm’ with ‘signal to noise ratio’ (SNR).
  • An infrared illuminator is a must, as you never know when you will be in pitch darkness without even the faintest of light from the moon or stars...


Although Night Vision was originally forged for military use, it has emerged into civilian life and provided benefits in security, hunting, sailing and aviation. The question to ask yourself is what am I intending to use these night vision optics for and how much am I willing to pay? For most recreational uses and professional uses the Gen-1 Night Vision Optics will provide adequate light amplification and will be more affordable. However, if you are Law Enforcement or Military Personnel, who can afford the higher price tag, then you want the Gen-2, Gen-3 or Gen-3+ Night Vision that will provide you with Superior Light Amplifications and Functions.

At this stage we are primarily catering to the Civilians market and the Night Vision Binocular we recommend is the Luna Optics LN-NVB5 5x50 as it is more affordable, easy to use, and boasts the highest magnification and largest objective lenses in its series. Glimpse into the Luna Optics LN-NVB5 5x50 here:

Best Night Vision Binoculars For Civilians

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