Outdoors / Buying Guide

Seeing Through Darkness with Armasight Night Vision Devices


Night Vision is not just for military and law enforcement personnel. A wide range of commercially available night vision devices (NVDs) means that nature enthusiasts, homeowners, and tech heads won’t be left in the dark when they need to see through the night. Although technologies using image intensification to amplify almost imperceptible levels of light were developed throughout the 20th Century to assist the armed forces, there is a fast-growing industry of civilian-suitable NVDs intended for outdoor recreation and other task-specific needs.

Although the various manufacturers of commercial NVDs probably have hobbyists, hunters, and campers in mind during product development, I continue to be surprised by the uses that friends and coworkers find for their night vision devices. A former classmate, who has grown averse to the conventional incandescent darkroom safelight, uses an NVD to help him navigate the photo studio while preparing and processing film slides. I sent my parents a night vision monocular for home-security purposes—mostly, they use it to keep an eye out as our cats prowl in the backyard every night.

Many hunters are in their tree stand before dawn; some hunters linger in their blind until well after sunset. Why feel around in the dark for that last piece of jerky or for the lid to your thermos? More importantly, why wait for the sound of rustling leaves or a snapped branch before identifying that 12-point buck? A night vision device doesn’t have to weigh you down or empty your wallet, and it can be a seeing-eye for you in dark places.

The image quality of a night vision device is defined by the image contrast and resolution transmitted by the device’s intensifier tube. An intensifier tube is the essential piece of technology that allows you to see in the dark by amplifying the amount of available visible and infrared (IR) light. When using the NVD in pitch-dark conditions indoors, or outdoors under a moonless sky, infrared light will be the primary source of light amplification. Each of the NVDs listed below has its own built-in IR illuminator for such situations.

Usually, the generation of an intensifier tube determines the image quality it produces. Gen 3 and Gen 3-Filmless represent the latest night vision technology; these NV tubes are currently in service with US Military aviators and ground forces, as well as US federal and law enforcement agencies. For you, me, and almost anyone else using NVDs for recreational purposes, a device with a Gen 1 tube will provide adequate detail of the night scenery.

Since many of us have a camping trip planned for the summer months, and White-Tail season is right around the corner, I’ve highlighted three of Armasight’s Gen 1 NVDs that can help campers, hikers, homeowners, and hunters find their way (or target) when left in the dark.

A monocular offers some advantages over binocular and bi-ocular (one objective lens/two eyepiece) devices. Most importantly, monoculars offer portability and handling that binocular NVDs cannot match. Both of the night vision monoculars mentioned below will fit in a cargo pocket, side pocket of a daypack, or in the glove compartment of your car or boat.

For an NV monocular that offers an impressive performance-portability factor, Armasight’s Spark CORE NV Monocular is up to the task. Although this NVD technically falls into the Gen 1 category because of its tube components, it produces 45-55 lp/mm resolution that is comparable to many Gen 2 devices. An unmagnified, 35mm f/1.7 lens system provides a wide 30-degree angle of view that reveals a field of view that is approximately 157 feet at 100 yards, enabling enhanced observer awareness and increasing the light-gathering ability of the optics.

The Spark CORE monocular weighs only 13 oz and has three accessory rails that provide several mounting options for hands-free head gear, or adapters (sold separately) for a spotting scope, Weaver rail, or Picatinny rail. Additionally, the Spark CORE is compatible with a range of night vision accessories, including a focal length magnifying lens, infrared illuminator, and camera adapter.

If the Spark CORE monocular’s built-in 50mW infrared illuminator doesn’t have the range needed for your specific viewing needs, the IR810 long-range infrared illuminator will help you see those far-flung subjects of interest and enhance detail at almost any distance.

Mounting the Spark monocular to your digital camera or camcorder has a range of novel and practical uses. Instead of capturing grainy, underexposed images in low light, give the Spark CORE a chance to shine. Sure, the green-filtered photo and video will look interesting, but night vision photography will enable novices and hobbyists to record their observations in a way that, until recently, was only available to National Geographic naturalists and embedded front-line journalists.

The Spark CORE monocular has a water-resistant housing and is capable of operating in freezing temperatures and extreme humidity. Complementing its durable yet lightweight housing and notable functionality, this multi-purpose monocular has comfortable 20mm eye relief and can be focused as close as 10”. Included with the monocular is a CR123A battery, lens cloth, and zippered nylon carrying case that has MOLLE-attachment ladder straps and a front accessory pocket with hook-and-loop closure.

For more general-purpose use, like backyard feline location or a nocturnal snack-finding mission, the Prime3 Gen 1 NV Monocular is for you. This monocular has 3x magnification and transmits a 21-degree angle of view. Combined with its 5-foot close-focusing distance, its 50mm f/1.2 lens system is well suited for close to mid-range observations.

The Prime3 offers some of the same features as the Spark CORE, such as a built-in IR illuminator, accessory rail, and weather-resistant housing. The Prime3 also has a ¼”-20 tripod socket integrated with the accessory rail, allowing you to tripod-mount this NVD right out of the box—perfect for campers scanning the treeline or keeping an eye on the bear vault.

An ergonomic and user-friendly design makes the Prime3 easy to handle—even while wearing gloves or when the monocular is wet. There are only two buttons, power On/Off and IR On/Off and both are raised for easy access and tactile feedback. The rubberized housing has raised ridges on both sides and on the focus wheel to provide an enhanced gripping surface.

The Prime 3 monocular comes with a CR123A battery, lens cloth, and nylon carrying case that has an adjustable shoulder strap and fold-over flap with hook-and-loop closure, as well as an interior compartment for storing spare batteries.

When the subject of your interest is typically in motion or likely to keep you in the field for hours (or nights) at a time, then a binocular NVD will deliver a superior viewing experience compared to its single-ocular counterparts.

Armasight’s 5x Dark Strider Gen 1 NV Binocular combines two Gen 1 intensifier tubes and 80mm f/1.7 optics with a weather-sealed housing and long-range IR illuminator. The Dark Strider’s 5x magnification and 33’ minimum focus distance make this NVD well suited for intermediate to long-range observations. The dual-intensifier tube system and two optical channels help create a more immersive viewing experience and deliver more depth of field than a monocular device.

In addition to its dual-tube configuration and multicoated lens system, the Dark Strider binocular NVD features a rugged aluminum chassis and a fiberglass-infused composite body. Rubber armoring and textured gripping surfaces enhance durability and handling.

Like many non-intensifier binoculars, the Dark Strider NVD has a familiar push-pull interpupillary adjustment, as well as individual focus eyepieces and fold-to-side objective covers. An extendable ¼”-20 tripod socket between the two objective barrels allows the Dark Strider to be mounted for improved stability and long-duration viewing comfort.

Weighing 3 lb, this NVD isn’t exactly lightweight, but it feels robust and is built to take some (accidental) abuse. An included neck strap and carrying case with adjustable shoulder strap will share the weight when you’re not glassing that wild boar or seeking the ideal place to set up your blind. The carrying case has a fold-over flap secured by hook-and-loop fastener and provides several accessory storage places, including a zippered front pocket, a mesh accessory compartment, and two holsters that will fit batteries or a pen light.

If you’re gearing up for a summer camping trip or that safari for which you’ve been saving up—or looking for a seeing-eye when something goes bump in the night—don’t forget your night vision.

For more information, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.

  Spark CORE NV Monocular

Prime3 NV

Dark Striker 5x50 NV Binocular
Magnification 1x 3x 5x
Lens Focal Length 35mm 50mm 80mm
Lens Aperture f/1.7 f/1.2 f/1.7
Angle of View 30° 21° 14°
Eye Relief 20mm 20mm 15mm
Exit Pupil 8mm 8mm 5mm
Minimum Focus Distance 10" 5' 33'
Diopter Adjustment Range ±5 ±4 ±5
Image Intensifier
Generation CORE Gen 1 Gen 1
Resolution 45-55 lp/mm 30-40 lp/mm 30-40 lp/mm
Built-In IR Illuminator Yes Yes Yes
Power Supply (1) CR123 battery (1) CR123 battery (1) CR123 battery
Runtime (IR Off) 40 hours 58 hours 58 hours
Operating Temperature -40 to 124°F -22 to 113°F -22 to 113°F
Tripod Mountable No Yes Yes
Dimensions 6.3 x 3.2 x 1.9" 6.3 x 2.9 x 2" 8.9 x 5.9 x 2.3"
Weight 14 oz 12 oz 49 oz