HISTORY OF NIGHT VISION GOGGLES
Night vision was first developed for military use during World War II. Both the US and German armies developed night vision. The United States also used the technology in the Korean War. These were “active” devices that required the use of a large infrared illuminator in order to capture a decent image and are known as Gen 0 night vision.
Night vision devices came into widespread use during the Vietnam war with the development of Starlight technology, or Gen 1 night vision. These devices were “passive,” and worked by gathering the ambient light available. Moonlight was required to capture a decent image. They were capable of 1000x amplification of the available light.
Improvements in the technology have continued to date with increases in level of light amplification, image resolution, quality of optics, reliability, and signal-to-noise ratios.
Gen 2 night vision brought light amplification to around 20,000x – allowing them to be used even on moonless nights. This generation was further improved with better optics and resolutions and intensifier tubes. Most current night vision goggles, binoculars and monoculars have included or optional infrared illuminators that greatly improve their performance in total darkness.
Gen 3 night vision is standard issue for the United States military and is also common in law enforcement. Gen 3 night vision has increased performance in many ways: better image resolution, light amplifications of 30,000 to 50,000x, plus technology for increased service life of the intensifier tubes (a key for keeping them the military standard)
Gen 4 night vision was developed to bring further increases in performance, and Gen 4 devices do have significantly improved performance specs. However, due to changes made to the intensifier tubes, Gen 4 devices also have a shorter tube life compared with Gen 3 night vision. Because of requirements for longevity and reliability, Gen 3 night vision remains standard issue for the United States military.
CHOOSING YOUR NIGHT VISION DEVICE
When purchasing a night vision device, you need to decide two basic things:
TYPE OF DEVICE
GENERATION OF IMAGE INTENSIFIER TUBE (IIT)
No matter what type of night vision device you purchase, the generation of IIT has the greatest effect on the quality of the image you will see in the dark.
Gen 1: This is by far the most common type of night vision in use, and also the most affordable.They are perfect for night boating, casual wildlife observation and home security. The image may appear slightly blurry around the edges (geometric distortion)
Gen 2+: Provides a much brighter and sharper image. The jump from Gen 1 to Gen 2 is the most significant in terms of image quality and are commonly used by law enforcement an in professional applications. This jump also represents an increase in cost of $500 to $1000 over Gen 1.
Gen 3+: Gen 3 night vision is standard issue for the U.S. Military for its increased performance and longevity. These IIT’s continue to provide brighter and sharper images, as well as increased tube life. This group also includes white phosphor technology (WPT), which renders a black-and-white image rather than green and white.
Gen 4: This level provides the best performance in contrast levels under all light conditions. They provide reduced halo effects around bright lights in urban environments, significant improvement in light-gathering capability, and tend to have a shorter tube life compared to Gen 3.
For more information on how Night Vision Goggles work, see our other articles.
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