Like many of you, I like to shop for gadgets. I do. And I often shop on impulse. But there are some gadgets that should not be purchased without a little research, particularly consumer night vision devices (NVDs).
The benefits of night vision technology are amazing and cannot be understated, particularly around the home and office, in the car and boat, and on your favorite outdoor adventure. But with so many types of NVDs on the market today, how do you know which is right for you?
A Perfect All-Rounder.
Well I was faced with this very question recently when I was shopping for the perfect all-around night vision device for myself. What I found was the Night Owl Optics iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision Monocular (AKA: The iGEN Night Vision Viewer).
And though it may not be perfect, with an average customer rating of 4.5 stars at Amazon, it’s pretty darn close.
And as you will see in my Night Owl Optics iGEN review, this lightweight, easy-to-use device delivers on its promise of greater image quality at an affordable price.
Why a Monocular?
Night vision devices come in several forms: goggles; binoculars; scopes; glasses; and monoculars.
What makes a monocular a great choice is that it’s lighter and less bulky than the other types of NVDs, yet still maintains optimal field of vision and quality. It is operated with one hand and easily stowed.
No need to wear it on your head, which can limit peripheral vision. Simply use the neck strap for convenient and comfortable mobility.
This Night Vision Viewer is one of the few on the market capable of recording video, making it useful for home security purposes, as well as for law enforcement, hunting, and outdoor nighttime adventures.
Revolutionary Image Processing.
According to the US based manufacturer, Night Owl Optics, “The iGEN Night Vision Viewer is the leading edge of the new “tubeless” night vision technology. Traditional night vision devices employ electron-bombardment vacuum tube technology to amplify ambient light. iGEN technology uses image processing techniques, special optics, and low-light sensing technology to bring night vision into the digital age.”
Traditional night vision devices using intensifier-tube technology to capture light at night struggle with a few inherent issues, namely image quality and light amplification.
But by making use of an adjustable and extremely sensitive electronic video capture system, Night Owl has been able to create a more affordable unit with adjustable light amplification (300X to 10,000X) on par with very expensive Generation 2 and 3 devices. This means high quality at great savings to you the consumer.
Further benefits of using electronics for video capture is that you can adjust the frame rate (from 2 to 30 frames per second) to greatly improve light gathering capability, and you can connect the iGEN 20/20 to a camera or CCTV system through a built-in video output.
And for those wanting to take the video capture and output technology a step further, Night Owl offers a version which allows for image capture directly to an inserted SD-memory card.
This Owl is intelligent! It has a 3-way slide switch for gain control situated underneath which is ergonomically located and adjusted with your thumb: center-off; decrease-left and increase-right for a scale of 10 settings.
The heart of the unit is a digital microprocessor which automatically adjusts the intensity of the side-mounted infrared emitter as the ambient light conditions change. It’s like hassle free optimum image quality on auto-pilot!
And because the microprocessor automatically compensates for changes in ambient light, there is no risk of damaging the device in high light areas, including daylight.
What I find very convenient with this device is the location of the On/Off switch and the infrared emitter switch which is used to select any of three settings: Auto-Off-Maximum.
Both buttons are on top of the unit and the close alignment allows for two finger operation, which is nice, just don’t forget which button is which and accidentally shut off the unit when what you want is the infrared emitter setting button.
Better Image Quality.
The Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Night Vision Monocular comes with high, 30-line-pair per millimeter (lp/mm), edge-to-edge LCD display resolution. That may not mean much yet, but once you understand the importance resolution plays in image quality, it’ll mean quite a bit. Basically, the higher the number of line pair per millimeter, the sharper the image.
Now, 30 lp/mm may not seem very high in relation to, say, a 150 lp/mm high-resolution black and white photograph; but keep in mind that the human eye is only capable of resolving 5-10 lp/mm anyway. That means the image quality of 30 lp/mm offered on the LCD display is very crisp to the human eye.
And because the iGEN does away with tube technology, images are free from distortion typically caused by the photo-cathode and phosphorescent screen found in intensifier-tubes.
Performance Features That Deserve a Mention.
The most noteworthy is the impressive choice of user adjustments neatly presented on-screen. You’ll get a kick over the cool factor and convenience of this heads-up-display allowing you to make modifications without losing track of your target.
The list of adjustments include:
- Frame speed 2 to 30 frames per second
- Gain control 10 position
- Infrared emitter control Auto-Off-Max
- Infrared emitter off at start up
- Auto off timers for power and infrared emitter up to 45 minutes each
- LCD display dimmer 4 settings and off
- Display color and menu-text color 4 settings each
- Video signal out NTSC or PAL
The choices for display color on the LCD are: black and white; traditional green; red or blue. My favorite is red, since it does not interfere with my natural night vision as I alter from peering through the viewer to scanning the horizon for my target. The choices for menu-text color are: white; green; red or amber.
The next feature that deserves an honorable mention is that the Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Night Vision Monocular can be mounted to a tripod, just like your camera.
This frees up your hands and steadies the image, which can be particularly nice when viewing an object for longer periods of time or when viewing at less than 10 frames per second capture speed. If you enjoy viewing the stars at night as I do, you’ll find this particularly helpful.
The tripod fitting is located on the underside of the device, and, according to the owner’s manual, fits to all standard tripod mounts with a fitting size of 1/4 – 20. This also makes mounting for perimeter surveillance a snap.
Also noteworthy is that the monocular comes with two built-in adjustable glass lenses, an ocular lens and an objective lens.
The ocular lens (eyepiece) provides focus adjustment for viewing the LCD display for your particular eyesight, which is different for everybody, while the objective lens, located at the end of the device, lets you adjust the focus according to the distance of the object you are viewing.
The benefit of course is that adjustable lenses will allow for an even better nighttime viewing experience, easing fatigue on your eye as well.
The unit has a magnification multiple of 2.6 which I find is just right for viewing objects far and near. Perfect for bringing out stars, and great for seeing detail in targets.
And finally perhaps, I like that the device is powered by four AA batteries, NOT included in the box. I use good quality re-chargeable batteries and find I have up to five hours use on a single charge. Still, it’s good to know that in a pinch I can use an easy to find backup.
What Comes In The Box.
- iGEN 20/20 Night Vision Monocular
- Custom carrying case
- Owner’s manual
- Batteries NOT included
Where To Buy.
Naturally no research is complete without tracking down the best deal. I found that Amazon has the best prices on both the Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Night Vision Monocular and the second version with memory card image capture technology.
And Amazon usually has free shipping, one of the biggest reasons why I shop there myself. For peace of mind, their return policy is infallible should you find the need to send it back.
I hope you found my Night Owl Optics iGEN review helpful. I am sure you will love this device and like me, just keep looking for excuses to get it out. Feel welcomed to contact me if you have any questions.