What Is the Difference Between Night Vision Generations?

Nighttime has always created challenges for hunter's security and surveillance professionals and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The lack of available light during the late hours make eyesight difficult even with a full moon.
Thankfully, technology has taken great strides with different night-vision solutions since the late 1980s. But what are the differences between these types of night-vision technologies?

Gen 1

During the Vietnam War Generation 1 night vision became relevant and was quickly considered to be the most popular in the world. These devices rely on ambient light to produce an image. The Gen 1 intensifier tubes amplify light about 1,000 times greater than the human eye but Gen 1 night vision does have its downfalls which include blurry edges, low resolution, and dependency on infrared illuminators. The thing is, that the Gen 1 night vision is the lowest cost device you can buy. This unit will save from $ 200 to 400 just depending upon the brand the features it has.

Gen 2

Generation 2 is brighter, has a sharper image, more distinct imagery. It goes all the way up to what the military is using now which is just phenomenal. It's all of the scales in performance and cost. Generation 2 makes improvements to the Generation 1 tubes inside the device by adding a microchannel plate to help increase light gain and resolution. It is a significant improvement to the Gen 2 image performance but it also has roughly the same light sensitivity as the Gen 1 night vision device. To speak honestly, Gen 2 is a huge step up from 1st generation equipment. In general, a good Gen 2 device is a lot closer to Gen 3 performance than it is to Gen 1 performance.
More recently night vision technology came on the scene, unlike the generation models digital models are not harmed by light exposure because there are no intensifier tubes. Digital devices can also be used during the daytime, however quality is similar to the Gen1 device, and adding infrared illuminators helps make them more effective. The digital interfaces of each device can also make recording day and nighttime scenes possible. Many night vision devices also can zoom and change reticles.
Then there was thermal technology that uses heat to create an image rather than the ambient or artificial light like digital thermal can be used both day and night and also has the ability to record your outings and incorporate a zoom feature. Thermal devices have a detection range past 2000 yards and detect heat signatures from recent movement. Thermal devices are very effective in locating live targets quickly even through the brush.

Gen 3

Naturally, the generation 3 devices became the next step up in the night vision technology. Generation 3 is a great deal. There are several grades/levels of Gen 3, however, they are all excellent. They provide far superior performance in lighted areas such as urban environments or anytime there are artificial lights present, such as vehicle lights, flashlights, house lights, etc. The following are the Gen 3 advantages: Gen 3 night vision uses the same technology as a Gen 2 but it adds a chemical to the tubes photocathode screen. Gen 3 night vision devices have the brightest, sharpest, and increased tube life of up to 10,000 hours. Those reasons make these devices very reliable and that is why Gen 3 devices are currently being used by the United States military. One caution when using Gen 1, Gen 2, & 3 night vision devices is to take great care not to expose the internal tubes to daylight because they can burn out. So, the 3 Gen devices are great and will provide excellent performance at a budget.

Gen 4

There is also a Generation 4 but it's not really something that we as commercial users can have access to. When the new technology was initially introduced the US Army recognized the Gen 4 technology classification. However, after testing the reliability and life span of Gen 4 the Army determined that this technology did not meet their strict necessities and thus recanted the Gen 4 definition. Now some companies use the 'Gen 4' Term as a marketing ploy to say it's the best image. However, there are different quality levels of all generation devices, so make sure to educate yourself and reveal all pros and cons carefully before buying.

White Phosphor Technology (WPT)

White Phosphor Technology is very popular nowadays. The reason for it is that the Us military and other units are selecting it. A lot of dealers are backward on them, so obviously it's a good product. These units have black and white images instead of traditional green and black. The images can appear more natural and provide better contrast in some situations. The color comes from the phosphor used in the tube. When a photon of light enters the tube it is multiplied and is affected by the color of phosphorus on the tube. WPT provides more detail and causes less eye strain than the traditional green phosphor. The only thing is, that this technology provides a zone 3 blemish. As we know, when you look through the tube, there are three zones. Zone 1 is the center, zone 2 is not the center and zone 3 is the outside. A lot of people wouldn't want to buy something that had a blemish on it but the price of it compared to the non-blemishes it's a huge saving in price. But if we look at the pictures and videos, we'll see the blemish will not look that bad. What is more, here’s more information available to the eye with white phosphor than with green because the white one provides much more information to all the visual receptors in the brain. Besides, white phosphor has the same response command as green while giving more contrast and more optical acuity. So, it should be only your personal choice.
As we already know, Image Intensifier is where all the magic happens. There is a charged thin film that collects and amplifies any light particle. Take note of each type of night vision. Notice the low quality of Gen 1 compared to the quality of Gen 3. Also consider the differences between the generational and digital night vision technologies where digital is displayed in black and white and generational night vision is green. The thermal night vision is picking up heat where white is hot and black is cold. Using black and white provides incredible picture clarity which is crucial especially when the need to identify a target accurately at night is essential. Night vision is a great tool to have on nighttime excursions and it is important to know the difference is to determine which kind of night vision suits your needs. Choose the one that will satisfy your needs and we promise, you will not be disappointed!

What Is the Difference Between Night Vision Generations?  - July 3, 2020


July 3, 2020

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