Night vision or thermal scope – what do you need?

In the dark, it becomes increasingly difficult for the human eye to perceive the world around it. The quality of the observed image depends on the degree of natural or artificial lighting. However, we cannot see anything in complete darkness without light sources. This problem has bothered humanity for centuries. For example, when hunting animals that wake up at this time. And at that moment, all the advantages were with the wildlife, not humans. In wartime, the lack of quality lighting was a life-saver, or in another situation, a serious problem that needed to be solved immediately. However, using an artificial light source, such as a fire or flashlight, attracts unnecessary attention. 

Some living organisms on our planet have certain privileges, but humans are still endowed with the essential thing – imagination. Imagination and logical thinking have become our most important tools, thanks to which we are at our level of development today. Therefore, despite the above problems bothering humanity for many centuries, the first steps towards solving this problem were taken in the last century during the Second World War. From that moment, night vision technologies began to develop, and a little later, thermal imagers. They help to dispel darkness and monitor objects located at a considerable distance. 

The market can offer night vision scopes, night vision binoculars, night vision monoculars, thermal goggles, thermal areas, thermal sight, etc. In addition to being distinguished by their functionality and operating principle, these devices are also differentiated by their appearance. They also differ in appearance. 

The most popular applications for these devices are hunting or military. However, beginners often have questions about what to prefer and what is better to choose. When someone advises you to buy a thermal imager for a hunting trip, sometimes people buy a night vision device instead, and as a result, the hunt is ruined. How do you distinguish between these two devices to make the right choice?

Night vision – pros and cons

Night vision is a class of optoelectronic devices that give users an image of the terrain in low or poor light conditions. The optical elements that makeup CCTV have long been well-developed. In most cases, such devices’ main parameters and final cost depending on the electronic-optical converters (EOCs) used. This technology has evolved. And it is the technologies used to manufacture this device that will affect its cost. 

The design and principle of operation of modern modifications are based on using an electron-optical converter. It acts as an amplifier for displaying the image (amplified) and a receiver of radiation. In low-light conditions, it is tough to see any particular object. However, light is reflected from its surface and enters the surface of the optical system lens, i.e., the lens. The lens collects all this light and then focuses the image of the object on the surface of the CCD. An electron-optical converter amplifies the light flux hundreds or thousands of times, then transmits the image to a luminescent screen. 

Because of this principle of operation, the use of night vision devices is impossible in complete darkness. For example, in the forest, objects can reflect the light coming from the moonlight. Yes, the human eye’s capabilities may not be enough to navigate independently in space. But this will be enough for the stable operation of the PNB. 

The image you will see as a result will be green in color. Since studies have shown that the human eye perceives the most shades of green, and it does not tire the eyes. 

It is advisable to use this device to navigate space and better perceive the environment in the dark. The night vision device allows you to read maps or inscriptions, drive a car, disassemble equipment, etc., without additional external lighting. 

Those interested in night hunting should look closer at night vision sights. In principle, such a night vision sight is similar to a night monocular, but unlike it, it is equipped with mechanisms for attaching to the weapon and “alignment.” The latter is necessary to align the aiming line of the gun with the mark in the device’s field of view, which serves as a “fly” during night shooting.

In addition, this device is entirely autonomous and does not require frequent recharging. The price of the device will depend on many factors. First of all, it depends on the generation it belongs to. At the moment, there are four of them. The first generation is where it all started. The CRT works without amplification. The image is evident only in the middle and blurred closer to its edges. The second generation is more advanced. New technologies are used to create the device. Infrared radiation is added to enhance the work of the CCD. And so the tendency to increase technical properties increases to the fourth. Also, its pricing policy will be influenced by the magnification of the image, the viewing angle measured in degrees, and the reticle. And it is equally important to pay attention to such an additional function as recording the observed image. 

We have already mentioned one of the main disadvantages of this equipment above. It will be of little use in conditions of complete absence of light. All other disadvantages depend entirely on the model you choose. After all, any advantage is offset by some weakness. In general, if we talk about night hunting, the thermal scope will be more helpful because it reduces to zero the likelihood that you will not see the animal, even if it is hiding behind some objects.

Thermal imaging- pros and cons

Modern technology allows human eyes to see well in complete darkness in the infrared spectrum. This is possible thanks to a current electronic device called a thermal imager. The device forms a relatively clear image of various physical objects on display or in the optics (depending on the design features of each model). External – daylight or artificial – lighting is not required when using it.

The basis of the thermal imager is the matrix, which captures infrared radiation invisible to humans. The price of the device depends on the size of the matrix. The larger the matrix size, the more expensive the machine is and the more detailed the picture you can get.

A thermal imaging scope for hunters allows you to choose the right trajectory for the game. This device will enable you to see invisible things to the naked eye. For example, fresh animal tracks, unlit cigarette butts, or heat marks from a recently passed car. It also lets you notice another person in the dark and not harm them. 

When you look through such a device, you will see a multi-colored pattern, and the colder the shades, the lower the temperature of the objects of your observation. 

The main advantage of such devices compared to traditional day and night sights are that they give you the ability to see the target, observe, aim, and shoot in almost any light conditions (both day and night) and in any weather conditions (snow, rain, fog, etc.). 

Among the disadvantages of this device are the following. If you do not have experience using it, you will have difficulty with it on your first hunt, for example. Any equipment you add to your arsenal must pass some test with you; it needs to be studied in detail, not only in theory but also in practice. Therefore, if you have chosen this device, it will be easy to consult with more experienced people to help you set it up. 

A thermal imaging scope works when there are as few obstacles as possible in your line of sight. It only shows targets that emit heat. For example, if a deer hides in a dense thicket, it won’t be easy to see. Therefore, in addition to using your technique skillfully, it is essential to remember your physical fitness. 

And the last and no less critical disadvantage is the price. The price includes additional features such as recording and connecting to a network or phone, its autonomy, etc. Of course, the materials used for its production are more expensive, increasing its cost. It may also depend on the company that manufactures such devices.


There is a tendency that when people talk about night vision technologies, they also refer to thermal imagers under this term. However, this statement needs to be corrected. These are two different technologies that have a similar purpose. Namely, to improve human capabilities in the dark. 

A night vision device requires visible light to function correctly. A thermal imager does not require any light to operate.

It works by amplifying visible light in the immediate vicinity. The thermal imager uses infrared sensors to detect temperature differences between objects in the line of sight.

The thermal imager amplifies the light in the scene and converts it into a green-tinted image. Thermal signatures are transformed into clear visible images using thermal imaging, and objects with higher thermal signatures are displayed in bright yellow, orange, or red.

Conditions such as dust, smoke, cloudy nights, rain, and fog impair night vision. These conditions do not affect the thermal imager, which can see in complete darkness.

However, if we talk about their effectiveness, it is worth emphasizing that this issue is quite controversial. First, it will depend on where and what you will use these devices for. 

Thermal imagers are often used by employees of construction companies when they need to assess the thermoregulation of a building, for example. And in this case, a concrete wall will not be an obstacle, as it also heats thanks to the warm pipes underneath. However, if we are talking about hunting, namely scopes, a scope capable of showing a heat map will not do its job due to apparent obstacles such as dense thickets, stones, etc. Thanks to an area with night vision technology, in some cases, you will, on the contrary, expand your capabilities because you can see more apparent objects around you. An interesting note is that if there is glass on your horizon, the thermal imaging scope will not be able to show what is behind it, while a conventional NVR will offer you a clearer picture and the object behind the glass surface. This is because glass is a cold object in itself so it can mask the heat radiated by the object of your observation. 

So, as we can see, there are specific disadvantages where there are clear advantages. And such moments can easily confuse beginners when choosing the device they need.

For more successful night hunting, experts advise using a night vision device with a thermal imager together. As a rule, a thermal imager is mounted on a night vision device. Thus, the hunter can see everything that can be hidden from the eye using only one of the devices. The military uses a similar method when they need to work clearly on the target.

Although this advice looks practical, a decisive factor can be a hindrance – finances. Therefore, to make your choice easier, first, answer yourself for what purpose you will use this device. Because if your state, for example, prohibits night hunting, then you may be satisfied with a conventional red dot sight, which will only enhance your ability to see at dusk. Whatever the case, products in this segment are much cheaper than thermal imagers. 

You may want to have a rich arsenal of equipment at home. However, professionalism is characterized by order on the shelves when every device and gadget is used and performs its function

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