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Why are there cheap night vision devices, and what is their danger?

Aug 17, 2023 | 05:30 pm 178 0
Why are there cheap night vision devices, and what is their danger?

Improvements have always been an essential priority for humanity. People develop both themselves and their abilities and try to improve what is around them. We have learned to use what the environment gives us to our advantage. If, for example, fire used to be a danger to her, she turned it into her friend. She also learned to compensate for the shortcomings of her nature with the help of the latest technologies. For example, the inability to see in the dark. A century ago, which was not that long ago, it seemed like something impossible and fantastic. The idea of such capabilities of the human eye was from the repertoire of the tremendous, and the appearance of the prototypes of night vision technologies was something incredible from the pages of H.G. Wells' books. And today, some people can only imagine their activities with this tool. Although this device was created for military purposes, today, the areas of its use are numerous, as are the variations of its models. It is used by utility workers, hunters, law enforcement officers, farmers, etc. 

However, despite its popularity, this device still leaves many questions we are trying to answer. After studying materials about its capabilities, potential users who are just starting to get acquainted with this device are soon horrified to see the price of this device. And naturally, they start looking for new information, or is it possible to find a cheaper IED? How to save money and not lose? And to what extent can this be a wrong decision? 

Looking ahead, we would like to point out one simple truth. A quality item is always expensive. Of course, we are all concerned about whether it is worth the money. And it is difficult to say something definitively. But to make a quality product, you need to purchase quality materials for production. After all, everything has its price. After all, the competition in any market is based on this. 

But before directly answering the questions mentioned above, let's first understand what NVDs are.

How do night vision devices work?

A night vision device is a device that allows the user to observe the environment in conditions of little or no light. The first device was created in 1926 by J. L. Baird, and its use dates back to 1941 when it was used to observe the terrain during nighttime transportation. 

At night, the open countryside has no absolute darkness: the stars and the moon shine, and city lights can be seen. This light must be sufficient for a person to know the environment in detail. But it is enough for a night vision device to capture background infrared radiation from objects, amplify it, and convert it into a visible image. 

The central part of the device is an electron-optical converter consisting of a lens, a voltage multiplier, a vacuum tube with a focusing system, and a power supply. At the moment, it differs by generation, which will directly affect its price. A night vision device can also be a monocular, binoculars, goggles, or a scope - the principle of operation does not change depending on its shape. 

We've already decided that the device works with a CCD. This is a vacuum photoelectronic device - a radio tube similar to the kinescope of an old TV set but more compact. It consists of a photocathode, an electron flux multiplier, and an anode covered with phosphor, on which the image of the observed object appears.

It requires a high-voltage power supply. It converts the low voltage of the battery into the 4-5 thousand volts needed for the device.

The air is pumped out of the flask of the EOP, where the photocathode and phosphor are located. The vacuum is necessary so that air molecules do not interfere with the movement of electrons. Next, a weak stream of light enters the lens. Optics directs the rays to the photocathode. Under the influence of light, electrons appear - the brighter the morning, the more of them. High voltage gives these electrons additional energy - accelerates them. The amplified flux reaches the cathode, which is covered with a particular substance - phosphor. The phosphor glows because of this, and the brightness is proportional to the number and energy of the electrons. As a result, the screen displays a multiply amplified image of the object that has fallen into the lens. The color of the image is green. This is due to the technology of phosphor manufacturing, its properties, and its composition. In addition, green is well-perceived by the eye and less tiring. By the way, in the newer devices of the latest generations, the image is black and white, with greater detail.

Some aspects of the functioning of this device may still need to be clarified to you. Still, this information is only further confirmation that the production of such technology must consider many factors that must pay for themselves and improve over time.

What factors affect the price?

Let's start with the generation. What does it even mean? And how does it affect the pricing of the device? 

According to international standards, NVGs are divided into Gen 1, Gen 2, Gen 3, and Gen 4. They differ in their optical efficiency and the technologies used to produce them. 

Gen 1 is a generation of analog night vision devices. The US Army first used such EIS during the Vietnam War. The first-generation EOP is capable of amplifying the image by 1000 times. The disadvantage of this technology is a dim image with low resolution, the so-called fisheye effect. Remember the short service life of about 1500 hours. In addition, Gen 1 cannot be used in the "passive" mode (without the built-in infrared illumination). Infrared illumination completely disguises the user from the enemy. The first-generation UAS has a smaller viewing angle due to distortions that appear in case of excessive brightness.

A qualitative scientific leap in developing vacuum electronics components preceded the emergence of the second-generation man-portable airborne surveillance device. The critical element in the Gen 2 electron-optical transducer is a microchannel plate that enhances the image's brightness. The device's service life is about 2.5-5 thousand hours, and the working distance is up to 200 yards (183 meters). 

The third generation uses a gallium arsenide photocathode, which increases the sensitivity of the airborne sensor by an order of magnitude. The working distance is 300 yards (275 meters), and the image gain is 30,000 to 50,000 times. The service life is 10 thousand hours. Gen 3 is the "gold" standard used by the military. 

There are no airborne surveillance systems that meet the Gen 4 classification. The term fourth generation of the EMP is a marketing ploy. Indeed, initially, the updated electronic-optical converters were called the fourth generation. 

It turned out that these were third-generation transducers that received improved performance due to removing the ion barrier film. In addition, due to the increased sensitivity, the service life of the EOPs was significantly reduced to one thousand hours. 

EOPs can be classified by appearance: glasses, scopes, monoculars, and binoculars. 

Monoculars are rightfully considered the most functional among all the night vision devices that exist today. A monocular is half of a pair of binoculars, so when using a monocular, the object is observed with only one eye, and the monocular is held with only one hand during use. This technique differs in the degree of possible magnification. 

Night binoculars are used to observe an object at night. The magnification of a modern night vision binocular depends entirely on its generation. As a rule, modern night vision binoculars have a magnification factor ranging from 6 to 10 times. With the help of night vision binoculars, the object is observed with two eyes, while the night binoculars are held with two hands using special devices.

The night sight is very similar to a night monocular. Unlike a monocular, a night sight is equipped with a unique mount to be mounted on a weapon. The night sight is also equipped with a device that allows you to shoot in the dark, which is very helpful when hunting at night. Undoubtedly, this night vision device also increases the safety of everyone who is within shooting distance of the shooter.

Night vision goggles are also very relevant these days. They differ from other night vision devices because they always leave your hands free. Therefore, night vision goggles are successfully used today by drivers who work in the dark, rescuers, and repairmen who help those who get into trouble at night. Also, this night vision device allows you to move around any terrain without lighting.

Also, the company's name involved in the production will affect the cost. How many units are produced, what machines are used in the factory, what material is used, etc?

Is it safe to buy a cheap night vision device?

Like any other, the market of night vision devices can offer you many options and models of this device, where your choice will depend directly on the amount of money in your wallet. 

Can an ABI be cheap? Of course, it can. Can it harm your health, especially your eyes, in direct contact with the device? No. If there are any cases, they are absolute exceptions. And for the most part, it is not the fault of the device itself but the result of the careless actions of the user. What's wrong with cheap appliances, then? In general, nothing. It's just a simple device that is likely to break down regularly. Therefore, if an affordable UAS can harm anything, it only affects your nerves. And, if you do the math and keep going the usual way to save money, you risk paying much more than once for a quality product due to constant device malfunctions. 

Then the question is quite logical: what to do in this case? And how to protect yourself from marketing traps. First, answer yourself why you need this device. And you will start from there. That is, if your field of activity does not require third-generation glasses with a zoom that magnifies the object 100 times, has surveillance recording functions, wi-fi, and you will use it once or twice a year, then why spend much money? That is, it is already a super saving. Depending on your requirements for the device, you will better understand which generation it should belong to, i.e., the functionality will be enough to achieve your goals. First- and second-generation devices will be much cheaper than the latest models.

When purchasing an appliance, you should always contact only trusted distributors who have all the necessary documents and can provide a warranty for the product. You can also buy a used device instead of a new one. Someone, for example, decided to buy a better device or realized that it did not meet the requirements, etc. However, there are many caveats that you should pay attention to before buying a new appliance. 

Therefore, the laws of the market are unchanged regardless of the product that is put up for sale. The more requirements for the product, the higher the price. Reliability, service, materials, operation, maintenance, autonomy - these criteria will affect the cost of the device and the difference between them.

And in conclusion, purchasing equipment is a very responsible matter and requires a meaningful study of the issue. But more than buying even a cheap device is needed to ensure it will last a long time. Such optics require a caring and careful attitude. And most likely, this will guarantee the proper operation of the device.

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