Night Vision Binoculars – How Do They Work?

Night Vision Binoculars – How Do They Work?

Whether you are hunting, camping, hiking, or viewing wildlife, night vision binoculars will come in handy. 

Night vision binoculars allow you to see in low-light conditions such as evening or nighttime.

While they are popular instruments for military and law enforcement personnel, you can also get your hands on them as a civilian. 

However, if you are not too familiar with these devices, choosing your first pair can be quite confusing. 

Whether you are looking to buy or simply just curious, this guide will give you all of the information you need. 

We will cover everything from how night vision works to the different types of night vision binoculars.

Lastly, this guide will explain whether you can use night vision binoculars during the day or not. 

If you are ready to learn more about these unique binoculars, keep on reading. 

What Are Night Vision Binoculars?

What Are Night Vision Binoculars?

Night vision binoculars are optoelectronic instruments that produce images in very low-light settings. 

The image that night vision binoculars produce is usually monochrome green.

This color was chosen since green is one of the easiest colors to look at during prolonged periods of darkness. 

However, some newer models produce color images that the user can see on an LCD screen.

The most common uses of night vision binoculars are for military and law enforcement purposes. However, civilians can also purchase these devices. 

Types of Night Vision Binoculars

There are four main kinds of night vision binoculars that you should be aware of before choosing a pair.

Each model is suitable for different purposes, and each will give you a different experience. 

  • Generation 1: Generation 1 binoculars are the most common night vision devices. These models were the first to be released to public consumers. They are the most affordable option out there and provide consistent, long-term use. Many people use generation 1 goggles for common activities such as wildlife observation and camping. However, these devices only work well for close range. They have a max visual range of about 75 yards, and their resolution is quite low compared to other models. Even so, if you are just beginning to dabble in night vision equipment, these models will perform well for simple activities. 
  • Generation 2: When it comes to generation 2 night vision devices, people prefer these since they are so functional. With these models, you get the added resolution, image clarity, and yardage. Generation 2 night vision binoculars have a range of up to 200 yards, making them great for professional use. Furthermore, these devices have microchannel plates that increase the brightness and clarity of the image. 
  • Generation 3: You won’t find many hobbyists owning generation 3 night vision binoculars. These models are tactical and are mostly used by military personal such as the United States Armed Forces. Generation 3 night vision binoculars have an increased battery life, perform better than other low-light models, and produce higher resolution images. Lastly, these models have a range of around 300 yards.
  • Generation 4: Generation 4 binoculars are the best performing optoelectronic instruments on the market. Only serious hobbyists or military/law enforcement personnel own these models. Even though they are the most expensive binoculars out there, they produce the highest image quality. So if you are going for the clearest image you can get, generation 4 will be the way to go. 

How Does Night Vision Work?

How Does Night Vision Work?

There are two main technologies that modern night vision binoculars use: optoelectronic image enhancement and digital image enhancement.

In this section, we will review both of these technologies and explain how they work.

Optoelectronic Image Enhancement

This technology is a bit older, but you can still find it in some models today. 

The two main components of optoelectronic image enhancement technology are optical lenses and electronic vacuum tubes.

These two parts work together to capture the visible or infrared light that bounces off objects and amplifies it. 

One of the most important lenses is the objective lens. The main job of this lens is to capture any low infrared light or visible light that is bouncing off of the subject.

The photon particles that make up the light then pass through a tube called the image-intensifier tube.

This tube converts the photons into electrons and then sends those electrons to the phosphor-coated screen. 

When the electrons hit this component, they light up the screen. This action produces a glowing green image that the viewer can see. 

Digital Image Enhancement

Digital image enhancement is a more modern technology that has recently been circulating in the industry. 

Some people prefer this technology because it can produce lighter-weight instruments that are easier to maneuver. 

When it comes to digital image enhancement, the objective lens converts the oncoming visible and infrared light into a digital signal.

The device then electronically enhances the digital image and magnifies it, so it is easier to see. After the device magnifies the image, it sends the image to an LCD screen. 

Something to keep in mind with these models is that the quality of the image will depend on the size of the CMOS sensor.

If you want high resolution, you will need a large sensor. You can easily find a device that will record 1080p HD video. 

Furthermore, you can connect many digital image enhancement devices to separate video cameras to view the image remotely.

One of the main benefits of this kind of technology is that it can produce colored images instead of having a glowing green color scheme. 

Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars During the Day?

Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars During the Day?

Perhaps you already have a pair of night vision binoculars or are thinking of buying one.

Whatever the case, at some point in time, you will probably wonder if you can use your night vision device during the day.

It would be pretty handy if you could hit two birds with one stone and just carry around one instrument for both day and night. Let’s find out what the verdict is. 

As a general rule of thumb, most manufacturers design night binoculars to function optimally at night, not during the day. 

Even so, some models do allow you to use the device both during day and night. If you have digital night vision binoculars, you may have this perk.

However, if your device is not optimized for day use, you could severely damage your night vision binoculars.

If the optics are damaged, you could end up having to replace the entire thing. 

Daytime Use Will Not Damage Most Digital Image Night Vision Binoculars

You can use most digital image binoculars in the daytime since they do not have intensifier tubes. These tubes are what the sun would damage. 

Instead, these devices only have high-resolution sensors that project the magnified image on an LCD screen.

Since most of these models do not have intensifier tubes, you can use them in the daytime. 

However, make sure to refer to the manual before doing so. Some digital binoculars will have a daytime mode, but some might not.

It is better to take some time to check beforehand instead of spending money after to repair parts. 

Do Not Use Infrared or Thermal Night Vision Binoculars During the Day 

While you can use some digital image binoculars during the day, it is a different story regarding infrared and thermal devices.

The way that many traditional night vision binoculars work is by collecting light from the moon and stars.

These instruments won’t be able to do this in daylight.

Furthermore, many of these night vision binoculars use infrared to produce images, which is not compatible in the daytime.

Using thermal night vision binoculars is also a bad idea.

These models produce images by detecting heat. The amount of heat that objects produce is very different between night and day.

If you use a pair of thermal vision binoculars during the day, the intense amount of heat could ultimately overheat the device and damage the sensors. 

One last thing to note is never to use first-generation traditional binoculars during the day. The sun will most likely damage the sensor. 


Night vision binoculars are great tools for camping, wildlife observation, and hunting. 

There are four basic kinds of night vision binoculars, including generation 1-4.

Many hobbyists own generation 1 and 2 binoculars since they are more affordable and produce relatively high-quality images for the price. 

You will most likely find military and law enforcement personnel using generation 3 and 4 binoculars since they are more expensive and produce the highest-quality images for night vision devices.

Furthermore, night vision goggles use two main types of technology: optoelectronic image enhancement and digital image enhancement.

The former is more dated technology, while you will find the latter in many modern night vision gadgets.

When it comes to using your night vision binoculars during the day, you should be very careful.

Never use generation 1 binoculars or thermal or radiation binoculars during the day. Doing so could damage your device beyond repair. 

However, you can use most digital image night vision binoculars during the day since they don’t have parts that sunlight can damage.

Even so, make sure to refer to the manual before taking your night vision binoculars out for the afternoon.