Australia's oldest & most respected night vision & thermal imaging specialists - supplying night vision, thermal imaging & specialised low light imaging kit to the Australian Government & Defence since 1990

Night Vision Devices

In the mid 1950’s, Night Vision Devices (NVD's) were developed by the U.S. Military. The initial NVD's were classed as "Active" IR (infrared) devices, that being, the viewing kit could ‘see’ infrared light concentrated at an object, in a similar way to how our eye sees a conventional torch beam. The difference is that the IR light beam isn’t detectable to an unaided eye, so the observer could surveil the target whilst remaining hidden. The operator would focus an IR beam, then ‘see’ what the IR light from the introduced light source would illuminated with their Night Vision kit. The issue with this methodology was that the enemy was also developing IR viewers, and once the spotting Infrared beam was activated, the enemy could see it too. This first NVD technology was known as Generation 0.

10 years or so later on, the 1st ‘Passive’ Starlight Systems were developed, utilising available ambient light from the stars & moon. These Night Vision Devices would subsequently amplify available light by electronic means, resulting in a presentable image without the necessity of ancillary IR beams. This Night Vision technology is referred to as Generation 1. A true Gen 1 piece of kit would provide a bright image in moonlight, or if used with a suitable IR (infrared) light/illuminator. Today, many if not all of the very inexpensive ($500.00 range) and poorly made Night Vision Devices sold into the market via the internet use Gen 0 tubes with an IR illuminator and call the product a Gen 1 unit. Buyers should exhibit caution!

By the 1970's, Generation 2 Night Vision became available, which offered far more improvements in performance, light gain and reliability over the earlier Gen 1 units. With enhanced Night Vision technology over the earlier Gen 1 predecessors, this made for an advanced variety of beneficial devices for the military as well as law enforcement operators.

Around 1990, the sought-after 3rd Gen tube was created. These afforded even greater light gathering & amplification enhancements and dramatically improved performance over Gen 2. Generation 3 Night Vision is the most advanced Night Vision technology to date.

The term NVD is characteristically used as an shortening for Night Vision Devices, Night Vision Scopes & Night Vision Monoculars. NVD’s fall into 3 groups: Night Vision Devices, Night Vision Modules and Night Vision Goggles.

Night Vision Devices are usually used hand-held, head-mounted or in conjunction with dSLR’s & camcorders for low-light image gathering. Night Vision Modules capture extremely high resolution image when used with cameras & camcorders.

Night Vision Goggles are low-light surveillance devices typically used when driving or in an OP (observation point).

Common when buying Night Vision from web-based resellers, is Image Intensifier Tube substitution or fraud. See  Tube Substitutions for more information.

The diversity of Night Vision gear use many grades of Image Intensifier Tubes (IIT), which exhibit a variety of resolution & sensitivity, see for more information:

Tube Specifications

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