Top 10 Best Night Vision Binoculars

Introduction into the World of Night Vision Devices

The history of night vision devices (NVD) can be traced back to the late 1920’s, when Hungarian scientist Kalman Tihanyi developed an infrared sensing camera, which was used for aircraft detection in the UK. The German military began experimentation with night vision devises in the late 1930s, and began installing them on their tank fleet in the 1940s. Infrared night sighting devices were used by American snipers late in World War II, and again during the Korean Conflict (Wikipedia.com).

OUR PERSONAL BEST CHOICE

Just to summarize everything in one place, let’s reprint our “best of” recommendations here, based on price, ratings, specifications, and features, and the pros and cons of the night vision binoculars we reviewed:

Best Professional Model

Pulsar PL77411

Best Professional Model Runner-up


Armasight PVS-73P

Best Overall

Bestguarder NV-900

Best Performance

Bestguarder NV-900


Best Performance

Runner-up

Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Binocular

Best Value

Solomark Digital Night Vision Binocular

Best Value Runner-up

Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Binocular

Best Value Honorable Mention

Nightfox 100V


Night vision devices generally fall into one of three categories:

  • First one – the scopes. Scopes are monocular (one eyepiece) and are generally handheld. Scopes are best when you want to look at something, then go back to normal vision. Night vision scopes are often mounted on rifles.

  • The second category is goggles, which are binocular (two eyepieces). While they can be handheld, as in the case of night vision binoculars, they are often worn on the head. These are excellent for constant viewing and typically seen in military or law enforcement use, where you might be walking around a battlefield or dangerous neighborhood at night.

  • The last night vision category is cameras. Night vision cameras are typically used in fixed site applications, such as attached to a building and used for security purposes. Images can then be sent to a video monitor or recorded.

In this article, we are going to be evaluating a hybrid of two of the NVD types – the goggles and the camera. The latest technology has merged the binocular capability of goggles with the recording and image capturing capability of cameras. We will review a dozen versions of night vision binoculars that have a camera and/or a video recording capability.

Let’s look at how the technology works in an NVD.

Night vision goggles boost a dim, dark scene in a series of simple steps:

  • 1. Infrared night vision binoculars collect and amplify existing light, such as moonlight, starlight or infra-red light, through the objective lens (#1 in diagram above), which is then focused on the image intensifier.

  • 2. Inside the intensifier, a photocathode (#2) is “excited” by the light and converts the photon energy into electrons.

  • 3. These electrons accelerate across an electrostatic field (#3) inside the intensifier and strike a phosphor screen (#4) (like a green monochrome TV screen) which emits an image that you can see.

  • 4. It is the acceleration of electrons, which provides gain and enhances the image.

  • 5. The image will be a clear green-hued amplified re-creation of the scene you are observing.

So, whether we talk about night vision goggles, binoculars, monoculars, cameras, or scopes, the concept is the same – gather and amplify what light there is to increase visibility at night. This technology should not be confused with thermal vision cameras, which capture sources of heat and make them stand out and become visible from their surrounding areas. There are some models and technologies, however, which allow dual use as night vision devices, and also can be used in daylight.

In addition to the military, security, and law enforcement applications, night vision devices can also be used for hunting, wildlife watching, human surveillance, navigation, and detecting hidden objects. Because of the military-grade technology in several of these models, they are not eligible for export. Some states also have bans on night vision devices, but these typically are related to a gun mounted NVDs. If there are questions about use or applicability, please check with the appropriate regulatory agency.

We’ve selected an even dozen night vision binoculars from Amazon.com. Ten of these would fall into the “budget” category of NVDs; two are definitely not budget, so we can categorize those as professional quality. In this article, we will give you an overview of the twelve, then discuss some features which might influence your buying habits. From there, we’ll drop down one level, and do a detailed review of each model, outlining general impressions, features and specification, and the pros and cons of that particular unit. Finally, we’ll wrap up with some recommendations on which cameras may be right for you, or for specific applications.

The night vision binoculars in the table below are sorted by their ratings, taken directly from the Amazon site. If the ratings are the same between two models, the more expensive of the two is listed last. Prices shown are for the base units only, without any options or extended warranty purchases.

One final thing to consider when looking at the ratings. Some of these units only have a handful of customer reviews, and only one of the twelve has more than 100 reviews. Given that, a couple of five-star or one-star reviews can have a dramatic effect on the overall rating of the binocular. While the ratings are important, they should not be the only factor impacting your decision.

Product Best Features Rating Price Range View on Amazon
Bestguarder NV-900

Bestguarder NV-900

  • 4” LCD viewing screen
  • day and night capabilities
  • built-in LED illuminator for long distance viewing

4.3 out of 5

$360

View on Amazon

Nightfox 100V
Nightfox 100V

  • 3x magnification with 2x zoom for the 6x total
  • seven levels of illumination to see in varied conditions

4.2 out of 5

$130

View on Amazon

Solomark nv400
Solomark Digital Night Vision Binocular

  • 4” LCD screen
  • 7x magnification
  • photo and video capabilities

4.1 out of 5

$285

View on Amazon

Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Binocular
Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Binocular

  • 7x magnification
  • photo and video capability
  • 4G SD card included
  • capable of 32G card

4.0 out of 5

$280

View on Amazon

Sightmark SM15071
Sightmark SM15071

  • 2x magnification
  • illuminator for viewing
  • 24mm objective size
  • designed for closer viewing

4.0 out of 5

$350

View on Amazon

Bushnell Lynx

Bushnell Lynx

  • 2.5X magnification
  • 40mm objective size
  • illuminator for longer distance viewing

3.9 out of 5

$621

View on Amazon

DoCred Night Vision BinocularDoCred Night Vision Binocular

  • 4” viewing screen
  • day/night capability
  • 7x magnification
  • battery or power pack operations

3.8 out of 5

$220

View on Amazon

ATN Binox – HD
ATN Binox – HD

  • day/night capability
  • built-in gyroscope,
  • rangefinder and e-compass
  • wi-fi streaming

3.6 out of 5

$455

View on Amazon

Pulsar PL75095
Pulsar PL75095

  • 20mm objective lens
  • 1X magnification
  • included headgear
  • 36o field of view

3.4 out of 5

$708

View on Amazon

Bushnell 26051
Bushnell 26051

  • day/night capable
  • water-resistant housing
  • 4x magnification
  • 50mm objective lens

3.2 out of 5

$489

View on Amazon

And, as promised, our two professional grade models:

Armasight PVS-73PArmasight PVS-73P

  • Waterproof
  • head or helmet mount
  • third generation technology
  • military quality
  • 40o field of view

5 out of 5

$4999

View on Amazon

Pulsar PL77411Pulsar PL77411

  • magnification from 3.1 – 12.4x
  • built-in Wi-Fi to stream to smartphone
  • 1475-yard range

4.5 out of 5

$3999

View on Amazon

BUYING GUIDE

To make a well-informed buying decision for your night vision binoculars, it’s always a good starting point to understand and evaluate the available features and specifications of the equipment. There may be wide variation of the same specification from unit to unit; a good example of this is the magnification capability of each binocular. The best way to help decide which unit makes the most sense for individual circumstances is to look at the features as a whole, and grade them out as either mandatory (must have it, or the binocular will be useless to me), like to have (could live without it, but offers some value), and “bells and whistles”, features you will never use and have no value to you.

The specifications and features shown are drawn for the most part from the Amazon web site, and occasionally from the manufacturer’s web site. Not all these models will report on the same features and specifications, so further research on your part may be necessary.

Maximum range of view

Maximum range of view

The maximum range of view is determined for the most part by how much light is available. As an example, on a clear moolit night, you should be able to see reasonable details at distances over 500 feet. Range of view can also be influenced by illuminators on some NVDs, which will throw additional light into the viewing field. Range of view will normally be expressed in yards or meters. Most NVDs in this price range will have a range of vision between 400 – 800 feet, or 130 – 260 yards. You will see some higher numbers listed, but remember that these are maximum ranges in optimal conditions.

Magnification level

Magnification level

Magnification will normally be expressed like a multiplier, as in 3X, 5X, or 7X. As an example, with a 4X magnification level, an object 400 yards away will appear as if it were 100 yards away (400 divided by 4 – 100). In the same example, a 10X magnification level would make the object appear 40 yards away (400 divided by 10 = 40).

Screen size

Screen size

Many of these models have a camera and/or video capability, and can be played back on the viewing screen of the binocular. Screen size, as with a television, will influence the detail and object size you will be able to see. Screen sizes typically run between 2 – 4 inches on these models.

Screen resolution

Screen resolution

Screen resolution is a measure of the detail you will be able to see on the screen. Resolution is usually expressed as pixels, and the higher the pixels, the greater the detail you will see on your screen. You will see this expressed as, for example, 320 x 240 pixels, resulting in a total count of 7,680 pixels.

Photo/video capability

Photo/video capability

As we noted in the introduction, many of these night vision binoculars have camera capability, and some have video recording capability, and some of those even have sound recording capability. Key features to review in this arena are the pixilation (see above) of the JPEG photos and video capabilities. Also of interest should be the playback capabilities. Some units can use built-in wi-fi to stream to your smartphone; others can connect to your television or computer by USB cable, and some can only be viewed on the unit’s screen.

Memory storage

Memory storage

Photo and video capability are not of much use if there is not a way to store this information. Some of these units will have built-in memory capability, and others will make use of SD cards for information storage. You should also be aware of how the files stored can be transferred to other devices for permanent storage.

Power source and life

Power source and life

These units all run on some type of battery system, which could be standard batteries, lithium ion batteries, or rechargeable batteries. Some also make use of separate power packs to extend battery life. Be aware that battery life is normally expressed as a maximum number; you cannot always count on that level of power life.

Warranty and technical support

Warranty and technical support

This is a pretty straight forward appraisal. Each of these units will carry some level of warranty from the manufacturer. It may be on the entire unit, or there may be separate warranties on the electronics, lens, and body of the binocular. Supplemental warranties may also be available for separate purchase. In many cases, you will have to refer to the manufacturer’s web site to get full warranty details. Technical support ideally will be domestic, so you don’t have to deal with language or time zone issues in getting one on one help.

Field of view

Field of view

Field of view, or FOV, is an expression of how wide an angle you can view objects while using the binocular. A 0o field of view would mean you could only see objects exactly in front of you; 180o would give you full vision of objects parallel to you. Most of these units will have FOV ranges around 10o.

Objective lens (or objective aperture)

Objective lens (or objective aperture)

The objective lens is at the front of the device, and collects all the available light, and focuses it back to the image intensifier. It will also provide image magnification. See the example in the introduction section of this document. The larger the objective lens, the more light it will capture to enhance the night vision of the device.

Infrared (IR) illuminator

Infrared (IR) illuminator

In situations where there is very little ambient light, such as in caves, an infrared illuminator will emit a light source for the system to amplify, which will enhance the images that you can see. Without the illuminator, only the small amount of natural light could be enhanced, and image quality would be much poorer.

Day/Night use

Day/Night use

Some of these devices are designed strictly for use at night or in the dark, while others can also act as binoculars in normal daylight conditions. In some cases, those units designed for night use only may actually have the optics damaged if they are used in daylight conditions.

Operating temperature range

Operating temperature range

This range will tell you the temperature settings in which the device will work properly. If you plan to use the NVD in extremely cold or hot environments, this could be a performance key measure for you.

Water resistance

Water resistance

There is an International Protection code which measures water resistance in various devices. Since night vision binoculars could very well be exposed to the elements, this is an important specification. Ratings are expressed as IPX-5, for example. IPX-4 and -5 would indicate water resistance on the device; the higher the number, the more resistance. IPX-7, for example, means the device can survive total immersion in water up to one meter deep.

Weight

Weight

Since you will potentially be carrying or wearing these binoculars for extended periods, the weight can be a factor. Binoculars can run from as little as one pound up to almost three pounds. A weight of about 1.7 pounds should be considered average.

Options and special equipment/features

Options and special equipment/features

Some of these models will have optional equipment for purchase, including tripods for camera work, head, and helmet mounting systems, and carrying cases. Special equipment and features may be available on some of these binoculars, but not all. Examples include built-in range finders, time-lapse photography, wi-fi capability, etc. It’s up to the individual user to determine the value or need of these options and features.

Price

Price

In the end, almost all of us have a budget for purchases like this. That budget may very well change what we want into what we can afford. In the end, however, the value can be more important than price. It might be better to wait than to purchase a unit you know will not meet your expectations. Prices here range from just over $100 to over $700, and into the thousands of dollars for the professional models. Features will vary with the prices, and the best value will be the combination of features, specifications, and price that comes closest to your wants and needs.

PRODUCT REVIEWS

Bestguarder NV-900 BEST PERFORMANCE, BEST OVERALL

This NVD has all the basics, and several bells and whistles, all at a reasonable, middle of the road price. Start with the 4” OCD screen. Add in a standard 32GB memory card, and you can view and store your videos and photos with ease. Large buttons allow for easy use, even in the dark. Runs on AA batteries or optional power pack for longer life. One-year warranty.

Bestguarder NV-900

Features and specification:

- 640 x 480 pixels screen resolution gives clear, high-quality images

- binocular has a 5x digital zoom, 4.5x magnification, and a 40 mm objective lens

- takes clear photos, videos, and records with sound

- in full darkness, this NVD has 400-meter (1300 feet) visibility, using the built-in infrared illuminator

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Top end features and performance at a middle of the road price
  • IPX4 water resistant, probably sufficient for most uses
  • Operating temperature range of -30oC to +55oC for use in virtually any environment
  • Time-lapse and pre-set time filming capability, so attendance is not necessary to photo or video
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Cons
  • Not surprisingly, given the features, the unit is fairly heavy at 2 pounds
  • Batteries not included, 8 x AA batteries required for operation
  • Some negative reviews based on facial comfort, distance ratings


Nightfox 100V – HONORABLE MENTION, BEST VALUE

This is the lowest price device on our list but still comes with some nice features. Seven levels of illumination allow vision up to 110 yards at night. It’s compatible with various tripods but is only for viewing, not recording or photos. Offers a special filter for daytime use.

Nightfox 100V

Features and specification:

- not a camera, just a night vision device

- four to six hours of battery life claimed at constant illumination

- warranty is 18 months standard, extended warranties available at extra cost

- widescreen display for both eyes

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Lowest price by far of any of the NVDs on this list
  • Day/night use
  • Weight is 1.3 pounds
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Cons
  • Several reviews claim that the specified 6X magnification is not possible, and only 2X is available
  • Six hours of maximum battery life on 8xAA batteries


Solomark Digital Night Vision Binocular BEST VALUE

The 4” widescreen has 320 x 240 pixels resolution, with 3.5X to 7X magnification and excellent color clarity. The 31mm objective contributes to a maximum viewing range of 400 meters (1300 feet). Can support up to 32GB storage with SD cards (not included, but 4GB is included), and comes with a USB cable to download to computers. Field of view is a fairly standard 9o.

Solomark Digital

Night Vision Binocular

Features and specification:

- photo and video capability, each with 680 x 480 pixels resolution

- operates in both day and night modes

- 9o FOV rating comes with built-in IR spotlight

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Only 16 customer reviews, but 15 of them are 5-star
  • Expandable storage capability is a plus, especially if using for video recording
  • Color, high-resolution LCD screen allows for instant viewing on the device
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Cons
  • Unit is a bulky 3 pounds
  • Despite the weight, user reviews claim plastic is thin, and battery cover breaks easily
  • Needs 8xAA batteries for operation, not included


Bestguarder Digital Night Vision Binocular BEST VALUE RUNNER-UP, BEST PERFORMANCE RUNNER-UP

With both day and night vision capability, and a patented filter, the unit has strong optics, including 7X magnification. A 320 x 240 resolution color LCD screen supports on unit viewing, 4 GB storage included, expandable to 32GB. Time and date stamp available for video and photos. USB and TV cables included. Price is reasonable, given the specifications and performance.

Bestguarder Digital

Night Vision Binocular

Features and specification:

- optical magnification is from 3.5x – 7x

- video and photo resolution are both 640 x 480 pixels

- 400M observation distance in full dark environment

- 3lmm objective aperture, 9o field of view

Check Price!

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Pros
  • IPX4 water resistance should be suitable for most applications
  • Rechargeable batteries can be purchased for use in the NVD. Also works on (8, not included) AA, lithium-ion, or alkaline batteries
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Cons
  • Some users complained about the quality of documentation and operation directions
  • Six-hour maximum battery life with illuminator on, batteries not included


Sightmark SM15071

There is very little information on this product on the Amazon web site, and, surprisingly, not much more on the manufacturer’s web site. The binocular has a 2X magnifier, so the focus of this NVD is on nearby targets and distances. It does come with a three-year tube warranty and a limited lifetime warranty on the housing.

Sightmark SM15071

Features and specification:

- battery life is 72 hours with the IR illuminator activated; no information given with the illuminator used

- has an automatic shutoff if exposed to bright light to reduce chances of lens damage

- imported from Belgium

Check Price!

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Pros
  • The binocular gets a 4.0 overall rating but limited by only 25 reviews
  • A good warranty
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Cons
  • A couple of reviews mentioned they were shipped refurbished or used equipment
  • Very limited technical data and specifications available for this NVD


Bushnell Lynx

This model is moving up on the price scale but also pulls in a good 3.9 rating. Very lightweight at just over one pound, it looks solid and dependable. 2.5X and a 40mm objective lens combine to give excellent optics, although at very short distances. The built-in illuminator is rated for 90-yard distance, overall distance approximately 250 yards.

Bushnell Lynx

Features and specifications:

- runs on only two AAA, which are not included

- 40mm objective lens gives a wider field of view than more standard 31mm lenses

- coated glass lenses, weather resistant rated

Check Price!

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Pros
  • High quality, high definition optics
  • Bushnell has been making binoculars since the 1940s
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Cons
  • Night use only
  • Some customers complained about the ability to properly focus the unit


DoCred Night Vision Binocular

These binoculars drop back to near the bottom of the price range, but still, carry a decent 3.8 rating from a very limited number of reviewers. The work in a day or night setting, and have a photo and video capability. Operates on eight AAA batteries or power pack, neither of which are included.

DoCred Night Vision Binocular

Features and specifications:

- four-inch, 320 x 240 pixels viewing screen

- magnification up to 7x, 31mm objective lens

- built-in illuminator for up to 400 yards of nighttime viewing

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Lifetime warranty, good selling price
  • Six-hour battery life with IR running, 14 hours with IR running
  • IPX4 water resistant rating should be suitable for most outdoor environments
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Cons
  • Somewhat heavy at about three pounds weight
  • Only five reviews of this product, 4 favorable, one at one star


ATN Binox HD

Back up the price list, but a full-featured binocular, with add-ons like a gyroscope, rangefinder, and compass built in. High definition photography and video, in both day and night use. Wi-fi capable, iOS, and Android compatible. Based on the reviews, people either love or hate this product – not much idle ground.

ATN Binox HD

Features and specifications:

- day or night use runs on CR123A batteries, included

- high resolution, high definition optics

- 1080 pixels for photo and video capability. Stream directly to a smartphone with wi-fi capability

- magnification range from 4x to 16x

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Not overly heavy at 1.8 pounds
  • Built in range finder means one less tool to carry
  • Only binocular with over 100 customer reviews – 3.6 rating overall
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Cons
  • Batteries are expensive, and several complaints about how quickly they drain
  • Complaints about the unit not working right out of the box


Pulsar PL75095

This unit is geared not so much for outdoor, nighttime viewing, but rather for maneuvering and walking in darkness. They have only 1X magnification, so are specifically made for short distance viewing. They are the most expensive of the ten base units and have a 3.4 overall rating based on under twenty reviews.

Pulsar PL75095

Features and specifications:

- fifty-hour battery life with IR running

- 1x magnification, 20mm objective lens, 36o FOV

- 20o C to +40o C operating range. Sealed body for inclement weather use

- head mount included

Check Price!

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Pros
  • High performance binocular, but for a fairly specialized application and use, such as patrolling or search and rescue
  • Single CR123 battery required, included
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Cons
  • Fairly pricy for a limited application. The highest price, second lowest customer rating (under 20 reviews)
  • No photo or video capability


Bushnell 260501 Night Vision Binocular

Another binocular with very limited information available on the Amazon web site. This is a day/night unit, with photo and video capability. 4X magnification, 50mm objective lens give a long and but fairly narrow 7o FOV.

Bushnell 260501

Features and specifications:

- 640 x 480 pixels give strong visual clarity

- supports external SD card of up to 32GB, not included

- built in IR illuminator

- IPX4 water resistant

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Built-in USB port to transfer file photos and video to computer
  • User reviews claim up to 250-yard visibility with no moonlight
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Cons
  • Lowest rated binocular from the list. 30% of all reviews were one star, with most complaints about image quality
  • Fairly pricy unit given the quality ratings

PROFESSIONAL LEVEL NIGHT VISION DEVICES


Armasight PVS-73P

This is a military-grade, battle-tested night vision device. It can be used as a hand-held device, or helmet or head mounted. Built for rugged environments, it operates from -40oC to +50oC. Battery life is greater than 40 hours, and it has a two-year warranty.

Armasight PVS-73P

Features and specifications:

- 1x magnification for close in operation, with a 40o field of view

- fully waterproof body for operation in inclement weather

- built-in infrared illuminator, and detachable flood lens

- automatic brightness control to cut off bright lights

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Battlefield tested, durable, operable in virtually any conditions
  • Operates on standard AA batteries, with long battery life
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Cons
  • Price most likely puts it out of range for anyone other than professionals
  • Only two reviews, but one of them mentioned poor customer service


Pulsar PL77411 – Best Professional Model

These are a combination night vision and thermal binocular, with a stated range of almost 1500 yards. Magnification ranges from 3.1X to 12.4X, with 384 x 288 pixels resolution. FOV is just under 10o, and the unit has a built-in range finder. Built-in wi-fi to stream to your smartphone, or even direct to the Internet.

Pulsar PL77411

Features and specifications:

- strong resolution, and picture in picture digital zoom capabilities

- combination of thermal and night vision, with the high-resolution display, gives clear, crisp images

- streaming and wi-fi capabilities allow you to instantly share your results with others

Check Price!

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Pros
  • Thermal and night vision technologies give exceptional viewing range
  • Rechargeable batteries run for up to eight hours, and higher capacity battery packs can also be purchased
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Cons
  • Unit is fairly heavy at three pounds
  • Price most likely puts it out of range for anyone other than professionals

CONCLUSION

So, if you are planning a purchase of night vision binoculars any time soon, we hope this review will help you. The products and features range from very basic, NV only all the way to military grade hardware. Whatever your intended application, we’re sure that there is a product for you here.

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