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How Does Night Vision Work?

Night vision was once something referred to only in James Bond movies and the offices of private detectives, but now everyone can take advantage of the benefits of night vision optics.

But how do they work?

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

1. Dim light from a night scene enters the lens at the front. The light is made of photons (particles of light) of all colours. 2. As the photons enter the goggles, they strike a light-sensitive surface called a photocathode. It's a bit like a very precise solar panel: its job is to convert photons into electrons (the tiny, subatomic particles that carry electricity round a circuit). 3. The electrons are amplified by a photomultiplier, a kind of photoelectric cell. Each electron entering the photomultiplier results in many more electrons leaving it. 4. The electrons leaving the photomultiplier hit a phosphor screen, similar to the screen in an old-fashioned television. As the electrons hit the phosphor, they create tiny flashes of light. 5. Since there are many more photons than originally entered the goggles, the screen makes a much brighter version of the original scene.

In layman’s terms, any night vision device or technology works by amplifying all available light to provide an image. Even when our eyes feel like an area is pitch black, there is still light present on the lower portion of the infrared light spectrum which our eyes cannot see. Much equipment now also has a built-in Infrared illuminator which provides additional light for when there is none or little to take advantage of.

All night vision devices are classed by their ‘generation’. The generation refers to the type of image intensifier tube which is used, and which ultimately is responsible for creating the image. 1st generation devices are the most popular and provide bright, sharp images at a low cost. 2nd generation devices are commonly found in professional applications, such as in use by the police or armed forces, and the subsequently cost a significant amount more. Meanwhile, 3rd generation devices are the ultimate in night vision technology and use gallium arsenide to give a sharper and brighter image. Again, these devices are significantly more expensive than a 1st generation device.

Emmett and Stone are specialists in night vision and thermal imaging equipment and have an extensive range of night vision goggles, monoculars, binoculars and scopes available. Whether you are hunting at night or just observing nocturnal wildlife, we’ll have something to meet your needs. We’re always happy to help if you have any questions too, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.