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Night Vision vs. Thermal Imaging: What's the Difference?

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What is Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging cameras are actually heat sensors (also called thermal energy or infrared). Technically, these devices detect radiation. Temperature increases radiation.

FLIR and Fluke cameras take heat photos. Heat (infrared or thermal energy) and light are both part of the electromagnetic spectrum, yet a camera that can detect visible light cannot detect thermal energy.

With suitable precision, a thermal imager can display minute heat variations as an image (or thermogram) on a screen. The most advanced devices can detect 0.01°C temperature variations. The lighter the color in a black-and-white thermal image, the hotter the object (newer thermal imagers can invert this or use a wide variety of colors). A thermal imager can see humans, animals, and cars because they emit heat and are warmer than their surroundings. Cold-blooded animals like snakes and alligators blend with their surroundings.

What is Night Vision

Night vision cameras employ the same technology as standard cameras, but at a higher magnification.These systems detect and absorb nocturnal visible light. Magnified light produces greenish pictures. Night vision devices are called "image intensifier" devices. Since image intensifiers and thermal imaging or infrared cameras all enhance night vision, "night vision devices" is a better, more particular term for them.

Night vision image intensifiers are simple cameras that boost light. When magnified, the moon, stars, and distant light sources appear greenish.The military, law enforcement, and hunters utilize this technology to find deer in the woods at night, as seen in movies, video games, and TV shows.

Night vision image intensifiers' efficacy diminishes with nearby light, which is their major source. This means that if the night is foggy and overcast, obscuring the moon and light, the night vision image becomes blurry. If there's fog or heavy rain, light can reflect off many objects, making it hard to see.

Night-vision image intensifiers are just cameras with a green image, and some individuals have trouble seeing through them. They work only if there is adequate light and clear weather, although they are cheaper than thermal cameras.

Is Thermal Imaging or Night Vision Right For Me?

Answering this is tricky. Thermal imagers and night vision have similar applications.You may utilize both, but consider these:

  1. Price matters. A competent piece of night vision equipment, even weapon-mountable, costs a few hundred dollars, but a thermal imager that can be mounted to a rifle and resist recoil costs at least $2,000 and typically considerably more. Image intensification night vision devices cost less than thermal vision devices.
  2. Environment: Knowing the conditions your thermal imager or night vision unit will be utilized in can make a big difference. Is there a certain amount of fog?Cold? Is there much foliage? Thermal imaging is required in fog or greenery. In extreme cold, night vision wins. The military is improving environmental conditions to boost technology. Desert helicopter pilots can make thermal imager-visible mini-sandstorms.
  3. Image enhancement Night vision requires light; therefore, consider the lighting situation. Even a modest amount of light should be plenty, but consider thermal vision before buying night vision.
  4. Thermal imaging excels at detection but not recognition. Once an object is detected by night vision, it is straightforward to identify the person or animal, but if the person is wearing camouflage or the animal is standing still, it can be difficult to spot. These issues can be solved by using a thermal imager to scan the field and a night vision rifle sight to shoot.Hunters use spotting scopes or binoculars during the day to find animals before switching to rifle scopes. Night hunting works similarly. Handheld thermal imagers are best in these scenarios.

Difference Between Night Vision and Thermal Imaging

  • Night vision requires nearby visible light. Thermography works without light.
  • Night vision boosts nearby visible light. Infrared sensors detect temperature differences between objects in thermal imaging's line of sight.
  • Night vision magnifies and green-tints light. Thermal imaging converts heat signatures into clear images, showing objects with higher heat signatures in bright yellow, orange, or red.
  • Dust, smoke, weather conditions, rain, and fog hamper night vision. Thermal imaging can see in total darkness, so these conditions don't affect it.
  • Night vision has its benefits, but it's an outdated, cheaper, lower-quality technology. Thermal imaging is a popular technology that increases nighttime safety while remaining economical.

Night Vision vs Thermal Imaging FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers about Night vision vs thermal imaging

Is Thermal better than night vision?

Thermal detection is the most accurate.If facial recognition is required or deer depredation is needed, night vision is optimal for game detection, identification, and harvesting. Thermal imaging is the best 24/7 imaging solution.

Does the military use night vision or thermal?

The US military uses augmented reality night-vision eyewear. The ENVG-B combines low-light, thermal, and augmented reality imagery.

Is night vision or thermal better for coyote hunting?

Night vision is better for identification, but thermal is better for detection. Several individuals, including myself, use an ATN OTS Thermal monocular for detection and an X-Sight 4K for ID and shooting.

Is infrared and night vision the same thing?

Infrared is a novel technology used in night vision goggles. Infrared goggles use heat-emitted infrared wavelengths instead of visible light. Infrared goggles avoid this issue because they don't use ambient light.

Can you see a laser with thermal?

Through a thermal scope, the IR laser is visible. FLIR thermal night vision scope Its laser is visible with any nod, but use a Gen 2+ unit.

Why are night vision goggles illegal?

Americans can employ night vision and thermal optics. However, exporting these devices is illegal. ITAR regulates night vision and thermal devices.