A debate for night vision vs. thermal optics can really be tricky. This is because many people don’t know the difference between the two. Especially when it comes to deciding which one to buy, most people end up making wrong decisions. Remember that your decision should be based on the kind of job you want the device to do. For instance, you need to know when and where to use either gen 3 night vision goggles or thermal binoculars. So, prior to dishing out your hard-earned money, try to learn more about the merits and drawbacks of each. You should know the abilities, potential issues, as well as the price for each product.  To get started, you need to be aware of the differences in the technology.

Thermal optics

It’s good to understand that thermal optics can’t be classified as cameras; they are thermal imagers. They are used for detecting heat or radiation. Objects with higher temperatures usually emit relatively higher radiation than those with lower temperature. And since the temperature of the target object is most often greater than that of the surrounding area, the optics create an image. Remember thermal optics only detect radiation, so no light is needed for an image to be created.

One good thing about thermal optics is that they can focus animals in their hiding spots. For instance, an animal covered by mist can be detected. This is because light is not needed in thermal optics. Although you’ll be able to detect animals covered by mist, you will not be able to get a full visual image, since you’ll be viewing a thermal image.

In order to use thermal optics properly, you need a lot of practice. For instance, interpreting the image with certainty, so that you can fire a shot can be quite challenging. This is because the image will not be detailed. Also, you need to learn how to handle your firearm correctly, since thermal scopes will add to the overall weight of the gun.

Night Vision

Night vision technology requires a source of light in order to create an image. After sunset, available natural light comes from the moon and stars. These limited light sources can sometimes cast shadows that act as obstacles to getting clear images. The latest night vision optics have built-in IR illuminators or flashlights to help increase image visibility. Images produced by night vision technology are clear and natural.

For a long time, night vision technology has been primarily used by military personnel, and fixed on rifles. The only major issue with night vision is the vulnerability of the intensification tubes. If they are exposed to excess light, they can easily be damaged. Also, night vision optics are only be used in the dark, where thermal optics are not limited to dark conditions.



Both night vision and thermal optics play an integral role in hunting. But before making a final decision, you need to consider the following aspects:

  • Environment

Being aware of the conditions of the place you’ll go hunting will enable you make an informed decision. If you’ll be exploring a thick forest, consider going for thermal optics because it can sense an animal in its natural hiding spots. If you’ll be hunting in extremely cold places, consider going for night vision because cold temperatures can distort the image quality.

  • Price

Price is an important consideration for most people. It’s obvious that these devices come with different prices. For example, a thermal scope can be four times the price of a night vision scope. These devices have different features and this may be the cause of the price differences.

  • Light

As stated earlier, night vision scopes require a source of light. So, if you’re planning to go hunting in a place where light is unavailable, consider going for thermal optics.

Merits of Thermal Optics

  • You’re able to see in any condition of light
  • Ability to penetrate thick bushes
  • Ability to track residual heat

Issues with Thermal Optics

  • They’re very expensive as compared to night vision devices.
  • They’re bulky and heavy to carry around
  • Image quality is not good
  • Battery has limited lifespan
  • Not able to see through glass
  • Extreme coldness affects image quality

Merits of Night Vision

  • High quality natural image
  • Less expensive compared to thermal optics
  • Quality models
  • Have a large field of vision

Issues with Night Vision

  • Shadows and dust can affect your target
  • Don’t work during the day


The decision between thermal and night vision can really be a tough one. That is why you need to be fully equipped with the right information before proceeding to the market to buy any of these devices. Knowing in advance the conditions of the places you are going hunting and the nature of your game can enable you to choose the right device. Also, it’s good to draft a budget that you likely to keep. You can look in the local stores or go online. Always do the proper legwork to ensure you buy from legitimate dealers.


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