Read this before buying night vision in South Africa

When you’re in the market for night vision equipment, it’s crucial to know what to prioritize and understand the key factors that make a difference in your night vision experience. Let’s explore the essential considerations when purchasing night vision devices:

Specifications that matter


Recommendation: Gen 2+
As a civilian, a Gen 2+ night vision device is going to give you the best bang for your buck giving you 80% of the performance of a Gen 3 at less than half the price. It is also the highest you can go without getting an end-user license from the government.

Digital Night Vision falls short in terms of performance compared to traditional image intensifier tubes. It relies heavily on supplemental light, potentially compromising stealth. It’s prone to noticeable lag and lower resolution, making it unsuitable for serious use.

Gen 1 Night Vision devices are characterized by shorter-range capabilities, lower-resolution images, and notably dimmer visuals when compared to Gen 2+. These factors significantly limit their usability and effectiveness, making them best suited for recreational activities rather than real-world applications.

Gen 3 Night Vision provides unmatched performance and image quality but has some significant drawbacks. Firstly, it comes with a high price tag, making it unaffordable for most South Africans. Additionally, acquiring Gen 3 devices is difficult in South Africa, and ownership requires obtaining an end-user license certificate from the South African government, adding an extra layer of complexity and restriction.


Opt for a night vision device boasting a resolution of 60lp/mm or higher.

When seeking a night vision device, pay close attention to the Resolution, typically measured in line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm). This measures the device’s capacity to provide detailed and clear imagery for effective object identification.

Don’t bother with anything higher than 64lp/mm as the human eye cannot perceive further quality improvements.


Look for a device with an SNR of at least 25 for optimal performance.

Another important spec to pay attention to is the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). A high SNR means a clearer image with less graininess.

The SNR is a crucial metric that measures the quality of the image under low-light conditions. Essentially, SNR quantifies the contrast and clarity of the displayed image by comparing the level of the desired signal (the actual image you want to see) to the level of background noise (undesired fluctuations and artifacts).


A luminance gain of 10,000 is excellent and achievable in a Gen 2+ device.

However, make sure it comes with an SNR of at least 25 and a Resolution Ratio of 60+lp/mm to ensure not only brightness but also clear object identification.

Luminance Gain refers to the amplification factor of the device. It’s a measure of how much the available light (typically from sources like the moon or stars) is amplified to produce a clear and bright image in low-light conditions. Luminance Gain quantifies how many times the light is intensified as it passes through the night vision device.

Typically, the luminance gain is represented as a ratio. For example, if a night vision device has a luminance gain of 1,000, it means that the light entering the device is amplified 1,000 times by the time it reaches the viewer’s eyes.


Look for a Gen 2+ device with an EBI of 0.2 or lower. This shouldn’t be hard to find, as most modern night vision devices are well within this range.

Equivalent Background Illumination (EBI) refers to the “noise” level in the image when there is absolutely no light entering the device. This internal noise is usually a result of thermal emissions from the photocathode and other electronic components.

A lower EBI value is desirable as it indicates less internal noise, leading to a clearer image. High EBI values can cause a grainy or “snowy” appearance in the image, especially in very low light conditions.





Specs and features that don’t really matter

Halo: A lower Halo value is preferable as it minimizes blooming around light sources.

Autogain vs Manual Gain


Extended battery pack

Infrared illuminator


Blemishes, peppering fixed pattern noise

You need to train to get the best out of a device (it will look crap when you first put them on)

2. Consider Your Use Case:

  • Blemish Pattern: A clean tube with minimal blemishes is desirable, especially for critical applications.
  • Gain Control: Determine if the device has manual gain control, allowing you to adjust brightness as needed.
  • Auto Gating: Auto gating is vital to protect the tube from damage, making it valuable for various scenarios.
  • Phosphor Color: Choose the phosphor color that suits your preference, such as white phosphor for enhanced contrast.

6. Experience the Power of Night Vision:

  • Remember that night vision technology offers unparalleled capabilities, and even devices with slightly lower specs can provide exceptional performance.
  • Ultimately, owning night vision is about experiencing its real-world advantages, so don’t let minor spec variations deter you from this incredible technology.

In conclusion, when buying night vision, prioritize image quality and consider your specific needs and use cases. Look beyond just the numbers on spec sheets and focus on how a device performs in real-world scenarios. Night vision technology offers a world of possibilities, so embrace it and enjoy the incredible advantages it brings to various applications.

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