Human eyes do not have tapetum to allow night vision. But we have the technology. Thermal imaging devices or thermal monoculars and night vision devices allow one to see during the night. In this article, we will compare night vision and thermal imaging to help you see the light during dark.

Night Vision

While gathering light by any scope is impossible, some scopes transmit light better than others. This depends on factors like glass and quality coatings. With electricity, the scope can transmit moonlight or starlight better. This is why Night Vision (NV) scopes and monoculars are often called Starlight Scopes. 

Providing 20,000-50,000 times brighter images, these have been around since WWII. With vast improvements in technology since then, the NV scopes are capable of offering so much. Typically, they are very similar to optics matter and rifle scopes, with the power to provide images and allows intensification.

Working Principle and Types of NV Scopes

Put Simply, an NV scope takes the minimal light available and converts it into electricity. Later, it is intensified and converted back into light to be viewed as an image. Since NV scopes have been around since the 40s, they have undergone massive improvement. To track the advancements, the NV Scopes can be classified into the following generations:

  • Generation 1
  • Generation 2
  • Generation 3
  • White Phosphor Technology
  • Ceramic technology (CORE)

Different levels or grades can be found within the generations too. The quality of the scopes also differs among manufacturers.

Popular NV Scope Brands

Out of the numerous optics brands in the market, not all participate in NV technology. Some popular names that you can trust for NV products and scopes are ATN, Armasight, Firefield, Yukon, and Sightmark.

Thermal Imaging

Some portions of the spectrum aren’t visible to the naked eye. Thermal imaging helps in interpreting the wavelengths of these light rays and see those parts. This enables us to perceive radiation from animals, people, and objects in both light and dark. 

With a thermal monocular or scope, images offering cool colors can be seen, facilitating identification of objects. This is very useful in pitch black conditions and obscure terrains.

The Working of Thermal Scopes

The resolution of thermal imaging does impact the image produced. The 640X480 format is considered to be best suited for handheld optics. With a higher resolution, the cost of the scopes goes up.

The brief working of a thermal imaging scope looks somewhat like this:

  • The IR elements are activated and focused on the target area.
  • The temperature data is picked up by the detectors.
  • With the data, a thermogram is created and converted into electric impulses.
  • The impulses are forwarded to a circuit board and chip containing unit that processes the signal.
  • The data is sent to the display that flashes varying colors based on the intensity of the emission from the objects.

Types of Technologies for Thermal Imaging

There are two kinds of common thermal imaging techniques:

  • Un-Cooled – The most commonly-used system in most devices, the primary features in system function at room temperature. With no additional equipment requirements for cooling, these devices are covert and quiet.
  • Cryogenically Cooled – This is a very expensive technology where the components are kept sealed to maintain steady temperatures less than 32⁰F. This provides Enhanced sensitivity and resolution improvement.

Popular Thermal Monocular Brands

Since thermal imaging is a relatively new technology, these products have relatively higher prices. Some of the reliable thermal imaging product brands are Armasight, ATN and FLIR Systems.

Choosing the Best One – Thermal Imaging or Night Vision?

Both thermal vision imaging devices are suitable for night vision, based on different principles. Since thermal imaging devices do not need light to work, they are considered active devices. NV devices are regarded as passive as they work with minimal light. Let us now compare both devices to see which one is better:

  • Day Use – In some situation, thermal imaging or NV is used during the daytime to get positive target identification. Most NV devices are usable only during the night as bright conditions can destruct the internal components. As thermal imaging devices do not depend on light for their operation, they are better for such applications.
  • Identification of Game – While Thermal imaging detects game excellently, it fails to produce identification features. On the other hand, NV scopes produce detailed images facilitating identification. A high-resolution NV scope is the winner for this.
  • Durability – Both scopes are reliable and durable optics. Both features vital elements that need proper protection, with the ability to withstand 0.30 caliber recoils.
  • Price – NV scopes have been available in the market for a long time now. Thus, these scopes have become quite affordable. Thermal imaging being comparatively new is still extremely expensive. Thus, NV scopes are a better choice for their price.

Luxury Tools at Their Best

NV scopes and thermal imaging devices are both luxury tools that are necessary equipment for hunting, controlling pest infestations and several security and tactical purposes. However, spending a few bucks is guaranteed to get you results.



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