The evolution of thermal imaging technology in past decades has made it no longer restricted only for military purpose.
Thermal imaging has seen much more widespread adoption in various industries and applications, including binoculars for hunting and law enforcement that were once dominated by traditional night vision technology.
For instance, Valparaiso University reported thermal imagery has been used by police officers to detect indoor marijuana cultivation, while thermal imaging is made legal for feral hog night hunting in certain states.
So what are the best thermal imaging and night vision binoculars/goggles on the market?
And what are the differences / pros / cons of thermal imaging vs night vision?
N-Vision Optis Atlas Thermal Imaging Binocular
Best High End
Thermal Imaging Binocular
ATN BinoX-THD Smart Night Vision Thermal Binocular
Thermal Imaging Binocular
Armasight BNVD-40 2HD Night Vision Goggle / Binocular
Best Night Vision Binocular
(Without Thermal Imaging)
Thermal Imaging vs Night Vision Comparison In A Glance
But first, in case you are not aware or you need a quick recap:
The brief video below gives a good overview of Thermal Imaging vs Night Vision, including their respective pro and con.
Thermal imaging and night vision help in detecting, recognizing and identifying targets, however both have some key differences:
Traditional night vision or green vision use optics to collect all small traces of available light, and amplify this light for you to see in the dark. Night vision gives better facial recognition compared to thermal imaging, however it is hindered in low light situations. Night vision device also cannot be used in daylight, because regular sunlight could permanently damage its light intensifier tube and light capturing abilities.
Thermal imaging technology captures infrared light and heat emitted from living/non-living objects, and turn the infrared energy into visible image. Thermal imager does not require any visible light to work, whilst it operates equally well day and night to detect objects at distance. Thermal imaging has advantage over night vision in detecting objects behind bushes/foliage and under bad weather conditions like fog and rain.
For your better understanding, the following video shows side-by-side comparison on the actual images of thermal imaging vs night vision, and the advantages and disadvantages of these technologies — particularly in the field of law enforcement and security control.
If you like hunting, there is an excellent video in the middle of this post later, don’t miss that!
3 Top Thermal Imaging Binoculars: How To Choose?
When come to choosing a thermal binocular, some key consideration factors include:
- Thermal Sensor Resolution: Higher resolution is always better, as it contains higher quantity of pixels per unit of area for finer details and clarity.
- Pixel pitch size: Normally measured in microns (μm), refers to the spacing between pixel centers. Smaller pixel pitch gives more image detail in a smaller package.
- Refresh Rate: Also known as frame rate, normally measured in Hertz (Hz). Refers to the frequency/rate of image creation by infrared detector. For instance, a 60 Hz thermal imager does so 60 times per second. Higher frame rate gives better visual experience with smoother motion transition.
- Detection Range: Refers to the distance you can see a given target with a thermal imaging binocular.
- Pricing: Thermal imaging binocular with higher specifications and capabilities typically cost more, so choose one that fits your budget and application/needs.
Let’s start with the 3 thermal imaging binoculars for hunting, law enforcement, search and rescue, wildlife observations, and many other purposes:
#1. N-Vision Optics Atlas Thermal Imaging Binocular
N-Vision Atlas Thermal Imaging Binocular is based on 12-micron technology that gives you an increased temperature sensitivity even with the most minimal difference in temperature, for maximum performance. It is actually the first thermal imaging binocular to be based on this type of technology for excellent image quality with small pixel pitch.
This thermal imaging binocular is equipped with state of the art high resolution 640×480 thermal sensor (307,200 pixels) with 12-micron pixel pitch, which is superior than the more commonly used 17-micron technology in thermal imagers on the market today.
It also has top notch 60 Hz refresh rate, which is the highest available on the market today compared to others that commonly use 30 Hz frame rate.
The N-Vision Atlas binocular delivers high-resolution images and excellent detection, recognition and identification ranges that improve the functionality of the device even in the most challenging environmental conditions.
It has over 1.25 miles (2012 meters) detection range for man size target.
This is a powerful tool for search and rescue professionals, hunters, law enforcers, sailors, wildlife observers, among many others who always look for high-quality thermal binocular.
Built with anti-reflective coated high-speed Germanium optics as well as 2x and 4x digital zoom function, the N-Vision Atlas binocular offers ultra-high performance that you can actually detect heat signatures day or night. It allows you to scan and observe targets in complete darkness, and you have the option to choose among white hot and black hot color etc pallets for image display.
This device also has internal storage for the images that have been captured. You can share the images with your colleagues or friends. You can take photos at any time and even record more true-to-life details.
N-Vision Atlas thermal imaging binocular is lightweight and fully waterproof with IP67 rating, which makes it great for use in any scenario in the field. Built with durable composite plastics, it can withstand most of the element out there in the field.
This binocular is purged with nitrogen and hermetically sealed to ensure airtightness and thus make it able to float. It uses three CR 123 batteries which provide a continuous operating life of approximately 4 hours. The long-lasting battery makes Atlas a great thermal imaging binocular for the outdoors.
Watch the video below with sample pictures taken from N-Vision Atlas.
#2. ATN BinoX-THD Thermal Smart HD Binocular
The ATN BinoX-THD utilizes the ATN obsidian core technology and is able to detect a human size target that is as far as 1500 meters (0.93 miles) away.
The Obsidian Core and UI is cutting-edge technology that has been used by ATN in the manufacturing of its high end thermal imaging riflescope. This technology offers powerful processor for thermal binoculars with lightning-fast speed and a lag-free performance.
The weather resistant ATN BinoX-THD utilizes thermal sensors to collect the infrared lights emitted from the surrounding objects, and give you the necessary information that you need to go about your field activities in the night.
It is well designed, features great ergonomics and a 50 mm germanium lens. The device can record videos and capture images which are stored in the micro SD or you can stream them to your mobile device via the Wi-Fi.
The video below covers all the key features of this thermal binocular, including its sample footages taken at daytime and nighttime.
The ATN BinoX-THD features 4× Optical + 18× Digital Zoom that allow you to bring an image closer to you giving you a clear view of your target.
Its Gyroscope enhances the ability to smoothly spot your target. By activating the gyroscope and image stabilization, you can easily improve your view and enhance your viewing experience out there in the field. Its E-compass also allows you to identify the direction you need follow in order to get closer to your target and get a better shot.
The BinoX-THD can capture and record your experiences out there into 1280×960 high resolution video. You can capture very clear images of your target, take your shot as you record everything. The device will then store the captured videos and image on the micro SD and you will be able to share them with your friends or colleagues. Now with the video recording feature, you cannot miss a chance to catch your adventurous moments.
The built-in Wi-Fi module allows you to connect the thermal binocular to the smartphone or tablet. As shown in the video below, you can actually live stream the captured videos or images on your mobile devices via the Wi-Fi, by using the ATN Obsidian app to get connected to your mobile device and have the control of your device. Once you are on the app you can go to the gallery and playback your captured moments.
When compared with top notch N-Vision Atlas thermal binocular, the more budget friendly ATN BinoX-THD day and night thermal viewer has a 50% lower refresh rate at 30 Hz.
Nonetheless this thermal binocular offers great functionality at a lower price.
BinoX-THD Thermal HD Binocular is available in 2 thermal sensor configurations of 384×288 (110,592 pixels) and 640×480 (same 307,200 pixels as N-Vision Atlas’ resolution).
#3. ARMASIGHT by FLIR Command Thermal Bi-Ocular
Armasight Command is the newest technological advancement into the list of Bi-Ocular with thermal imaging made.
Made with stunning and sturdy features based on the core of FLIR VOx microbolometer, you will enjoy its smooth compatibility during its use in various fitness and law markets.
So what’s the difference between Binocular vs Bi-Ocular?
- Binocular is an optical system with 2 independent eye piece channels with its own objective lens. These two separate channels present a slightly different image to each eye, then human brain brain compiles the two images to create one image.
A binocular with night vision technology amplifies light to display one image, and relay it to the viewer via two optical channels.
- Bi-Ocular sight has 2 separate eyepieces, but only one 1 objective lens, as shown at the right. It presents the same image to both eyes at the same time.
With the 17 µm FLIR Tau 2 technology, this Armasight Command Thermal Bi-Ocular optimizes the cost and delivers stunning capabilities during image detection in any mission or during its use – even in low light or no light conditions.
This unique advancement in technology provides you with high standard details 30 Hz refresh rate, which include the ability to detect different targets at any range irrespective of the weather condition, as you can see though dust, smoke, and even fog.
Designed for long range observation up to 2 miles detection range, Armasight Command is small enough to be used as a regular binocular.
Its thermal sensitivity at 336×256 pixel array format, alongside 5.3x / 6.3x magnification and 1x/2x/4x digital zoom, are useful for missions you will be on which might occur either during the day and night – to give high quality images without the need of an IR illuminator.
The high resolution images with 800×600 pixel display format are presented via AMOLED SVGA screen.
Available in different lenses of 75mm or 100mm, it uses external power source – an external battery which enables you to effortlessly record images for a longer period.
Armasight Command was previously known as Armasight ‘Helious’, and you can watch the video below to learn more about this high end thermal bi-ocular.
(Note: The unit shown in video is Armasight Command 640 with the bigger 100mm lens)
This thermal bi-ocular also features an imaging tool that allows you to optimize scenes using different levels of contrast. In addition, it can enhance your pictures digitally by an automatic update of the different correction coefficients turning your pictures into clearer and sharp images at the end of the process. Using this technological advancement, you will achieve a better gain as it has an automatic control over the gain.
Equipped with a video function, you can record videos or take images requiring thermal sensitivity while detecting different targets at any range without having to use/need laser or near-infrared targeting methods.
Check out the video below using the user-friendly Armasight by FLIR Command thermal bi-ocular, with ease of functionality controls and design.
Its outstanding bi-ocular design enables you to enjoy a longer period of viewing images and scenes at the same time enhancing the assessment of distance. This state-of-the-art bi-ocular is easy to use given its characteristic features placed amidst various direct functions with controls that are simple but intuitive to give you the ability to actively carry out longer observations of scenes with an enhanced depth perception.
With this, you can go for 24/7 missions which require 2 eye operations to get a better view with additional convenience of which a monucalar with thermal sensitivity cannot offer. This gives you the advantage of getting an easier experience of vision with your two eyes right in the dark or any weather condition, alongside a wider field of view.
Compare Night Vision and Thermal Imaging For Hunting
So far we’ve covered the top thermal binoculars / bi-ocular in the earlier sections above.
Before we proceed, check out this excellent video by Todd Huey of Lone Star Boars, with side-by-side comparison of night vision vs thermal imaging for hunting.
You surely don’t want to miss this:
The video below from Keith Warren compares thermal imaging vs night vision for hog hunting.
The Best Night Vision Binoculars/Goggle On The Market?
In case you prefer night vision binocular/goggle without thermal imaging feature –
then you should look at the next 3 recommendations in this list.
#4. ATN PS15-4 GEN 4 Night Vision Goggle System
If you are roaming around in the top end of night vision devices market, then no doubt ATN PS15-4 Generation 4 Night Vision Goggle System is the one that you should go for.
ATN PS15-4 is equipped with two 4th Generation image intensifier tubes with resolution of 64-72 lp/mm. This high performance binocular design with filmless cathode and auto-gated power supply have been adjusted with increased depth form of perception, as such it is capable to deliver extremely crisp and clear set of images – even under dynamic lighting conditions.
This night vision binocular also features Total Darkness Infra Red System that allows you to use it when the surroundings have no light at all. It is made possible with the built-in Infrared illuminator that allows close-up and long-range viewing under total darkness environment.
It also has Automatic Brightness Control with the Bright Light Cutoff functions that help to preserve night vision lens for better longevity.
This waterproof GEN 4 Night Vision Goggle System with rugged housing is recommended as in favor of the professionals and so as the law enforcement use too.
The drawback is that this premium ATN PS15 Generation 4 NV Goggle is very expensive, and obviously it’s not for everyone.
#5. Armasight BNVD-40 2HD Compact Dual Tube Night Vision Goggles/Binocular
then this Armasight HD BNVD (Binocular Night Vision Device) with advanced and specialized dual-channel optical system is the right choice for you.
As a soldier or law enforcement expert, it is required you embark on night missions and there is need to enhance your night vision from already existing light, be able to read while in the field and as well estimate the depths and distance of various objects.
The ideal solution you need is a timeless binoculars with ease of use and uniqueness in all these features is. In night combat missions, the compact and rugged Armasight by FLIR BNVD amplifies your vision given the duality of its night vision channel without having to dwell on the use of its own source of light.
This night vision device can be used as binoculars or goggles. It gives you a wide Field of View with slight distortions without your having to move your head or the binoculars. The increased view makes it easier for you to focus while tracking objects that are moving.
Watch the following video to get an excellent overview of how can this Armasight Night Vision Goggle / Binocular help you.
This Armasight BNVD HD night vision device is built to stand the test of times with optics that are multi-coated and advanced.
Equipped with IR illuminator and dual tubes that provide better depth perceptionan, Armasight BNVD is a sure bet while on your mission as it enhances your night vision.
With the use of a single AA alkaline battery or one CR123 battery, you can be confident to operate in your field mission for long hours of up to 20 hours.
If you want to stay for longer periods say 80 hours, there is a park of optional battery which is seen mounted at the back of the helmet.
The video below gives a detailed run-through of this Armasight BNVD-40 NV binocular’s specification and features.
Armasight BNVD-40 night vision binocular comes with flexible mounting options and configurations. For hands-free operation, the BNVD includes head and helmet mounting options that is suitable and easy for long period of use.
Given that it could be used on a helmet, this binoculars offers you a smooth mounting process with the size of your helmet, giving you the perfect performance you need.
While on your helmet during a target observation mission, you can easily operate it with a single control knob.
In addition, you can easily mount it on your head should you have no need for a helmet. This dual use either on a helmet or simply on your head makes it to serve you different options of being a binocular while on your helmet or as a monocular or goggle while on your head.
Learn more about Armasight BNVD-40 Night Vision Binocular/Goggles >> here.
#6. Budget Friendly Armasight Discovery 8X QS NV Bi-Ocular
The Armasight Discovery 8X QS Night Vision Bi-Ocular is built with “Quick Silver” White Phosphor technology which helps enhance the image thus producing very clear images.
This is indeed a bi-ocular, thus it provides two eyepieces that make this night vision device more convenient and comfortable than a monocular when you are using at night. A bi-ocular device has a unique design such that your two eyes have a place to sit on while you go about your night watching. Most military personnel have relied on the use of bi-oculars that have this kind of technology for their night duties.
Equipped with detachable long-range infrared illuminator, the Armasight Discovery offers a great 8x magnification which makes it a good choice of night vision bi-ocular, especially or anyone who really needs long-range vision binocular that can be used for a longer time in the night observation and surveillance.
It also utilizes the enhanced Bright Light Cut Off technology that allows the unit to cut off its own power supply in case there is a sudden show up of bright light during your night vision. This helps to protect the night vision lens. Any night vision device that utilizes this technology is always recommended for night vision purposes since the night vision will not get destroyed in case there is a sudden show of bright light when you are out there using your device.
The Armasight Discovery 8x has been built with a rugged design whilst it is also lightweight at around 3.5 pounds. It offers optimal resistance against water, fog, cold weather and altitude impacts this rugged design thus makes it an ideal device to use in defence and law enforcement activities and also in hunting.
The technological advancement that has been utilized in this device makes it a great device for night vision activities which make you more effective out there in the field. Users are able to benefit from an enhanced functionality all night long in the field. It also has the hand strap and neck strap for ease of use when in the field.
Armasight Discovery 8X QS Night Vision Bi-Ocular is available in GEN 2 and GEN 3 options. Both received good user reviews; However, as shown, their price gap is substantial.
So you can decide on one that fit your budget and expectations.
Understand Differences of Night Vision GEN 2 vs GEN 3 Generations
Don’t miss the excellent video below with clear side-by-side comparison of Night Vision Generation 1 vs NV GEN 2, NV GEN 3 alongside Digital NV and Thermal Night Vision.
GEN 2 Night Vision devices are capable to operate without the necessity of IR illumination, with a useful range of about 200 yards. Compared to GEN 1, GEN 2 with the addition of Micro-Channel Plate (MCP) offers much better resolution and cleaner images, and longer life expectancy at around 5,000 hours.
GEN 3 Night Vision devices is more superior than its previous generation. It has useful range of about 300 yards, with better reliability and longer life expectancy of over 10,000 hours. GEN 3 offers better low-light performance together with better image quality and resolution compared to GEN 2.