Help me find a night vision spotting scope!
November 27, 2017 9:51 AM   Subscribe

So my folks live out in the country, and my dad enjoys hanging out on the side porch and watching the wildlife. I'm thinking of getting him some sort of binocular or spotting scope or something with light amplification or night vision so he can see the night critters. Only issue - I know jack squat about optics, and have very little data to differentiate between junk and worthwhile purchases. Experts, I consult you!

I've got a pretty good idea that I want something like this spotting scope with a mount for a tripod, allowing him to set it up and get a stable view up to a few hundred yards. Camera attachment is a plus. Most of the time when I'm searching around for night vision or light amplification, I get a lot of results for handheld monoculars with fairly low magnification, or gun scopes. In addition there seems to be a bunch of options for 50-100 bucks, and then a sharp spike to high end items that can run from 800 dollars to several grand. My budget is closer to the 200-250 range - are there any worthwhile scopes at that price point?
posted by FatherDagon to Technology (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(Short answer: No, but...)
The cheap IR devices on Amazon should work out to 100 yds if you use an external IR flood.

However, most of the interesting critters are going to be on animal paths. Installing inexpensive trail cameras and bait is a good way to snoop on them. Also, it is a bit of a treasure hunt that takes you on short hikes. Once you've identified where the beasts of interest congregate you will know what types of optics you'll need to see them from the porch.

Alternatively, you can buy an lower end unit and flood, find its best range from the porch, and install a bait system at that location. Cheat, win, repeat.
posted by pdoege at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't have any direct experience but here are some thoughts.

First, don't discount the optical spotting scope. Ordinary optical technology can be big help at night because they capture so much more light than the naked eye. You would be looking for something with a large objective lens (the end away from eye). For example, mariners would consider a 7x35 good for daytime, and a 7x50 for night. (The first number is the magnification and second is the diameter of the objective lens in mm.)

Second, hunters form the big market for night vision gear. I would check out the websites of the big sporting retailers that cater to hunters: Cabelas, Bass Pro Ships, Dick's Sporting Goods. You would probably get a polite reception in your local gun store if it's one that has hunting clientele. (Urban guns stores are more oriented to self-defense and competitions of various kinds.) No points off if you find that daunting, however.

Finally, I found this website. Keeping in mind that it's a retailer and has an interest in pushing you towards an upmarket item, there is still a lot of info. It explains that night vision gear has gone through some distinct technical phases. More recent gear is much better but more expensive which explains the price gap between $100 and $800 that you describe.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:13 AM on November 28, 2017

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