Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars During The Day

Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars During The Day?

We get asked this question pretty often here at Binocular Base, so we thought we’d answer it in an article. The short answer is, it depends, you see. There are some night vision binoculars that can be used during the day without causing any damage. But there are others that can never, under any circumstances be used in daylight.

To get a better understanding of the ins and outs of night vision binoculars we need to start at the beginning. Then we’ll have some comprehension of why some get damaged beyond repair if used in daylight, and others will function fine in both daylight and darkness.

How Do Night Vision Binoculars Work?

To see through binoculars at night, they need to pick up as much light as possible from the stars, the moon or any other source of light. This allows you to see the image clearly albeit in a different colour to how you would see that same image in daylight. To create that image the binoculars rely on 3 components which are;

  • A Photocathode
  • A Photomultiplier
  • A Phosphor Screen

How Do They Produce An Image In Darkness?

As the dull night light enters the binocular lenses it hits the photocathode, the photocathode converts photons into electrons via the photomultiplier. The electrons then hit the phosphor screen and create small flashes of light. There are proportionately more electrons than photons which produces a brighter image.

What’s The Difference Between Night Vision & Thermal Imaging?

Thermal imaging optics use radiation and as such, don’t need any light source to create the image. As they detect radiation and heat, the image is not very detailed. Whereas with night vision binoculars the image is far more detailed. So thermal imaging optics can operate in complete darkness, but night vision binoculars need some level of natural light to work.

Types Of Night Vision Binoculars

There are 4 types of night vision binoculars and they are classified as generations, with each generation offering an improvement on the preceding generation. 

Generation 1

These were the first ever night vision binoculars sold to the general public and considered to be suitable for consistent use. They’re usually reasonably priced, readily available and suitable for watching wildlife. They offer a decent image at close range but have a limited resolution and a visual range of around 75 yards (68 m).

Generation 2

Generation 2 night vision binoculars have far more clarity of vision compared to the gen 1 which makes them far better for professional use. They also have a microchannel plate included that creates clearer, brighter images and an increased visual range of 200 yards (182 m).

Generation 3

These are considered as tactical or military grade because they’re the same type used by the U.S. military armed forces. They provide a better picture, perform better in low light and better battery life too. With an improved viewing range of 300 yards (274 m).

Generation 4 

These are the cumulation of all of the other generation night vision binoculars, they are the most expensive but they produce the clearest image and outperforms all of the others in low light conditions. 

Infrared Illuminators

Because digital and intensifier tube night vision binoculars rely on natural light to create an image, they won’t operate on cloudy nights or in pitch black basements. To counteract this many night vision binoculars come with built-in infrared illuminators or have a mounting point for an optional illuminator. 

Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars During The Day?

Night vision binoculars are primarily designed to be used at night but some are able to be used during daylight hours. Some, but not all, unless you are certain that your night vision binoculars can be used in daylight, you shouldn’t take the chance. The models that are usually equipped to function in daylight are mainly digital models.

The reason digital night vision binoculars can be used in daylight as well is because they do not have intensifier tubes. Instead they have a high resolution sensor that projects the image onto a LCD screen. FLIR night vision binoculars allow you to see perfectly clear images during the day without causing any damage.

The optics won’t overheat or over expose in daylight and there are add ons you can buy that will protect your binoculars for daytime use. Even those with the high resolution sensor should only be used in daylight if the manufacturer specifically says they can be. If you’re uncertain it’s always best to contact the manufacturer to make sure.

Can You Use Night Vision Binoculars In Daylight?

The way night vision binoculars work is by using what little light there is  and amplifying it so that the image you can see is bright enough and clear enough to recognise. Using night vision binoculars  in bright sunlight will work in the same way. The light will be amplified and will show as too bright and bleached out to see any clear image.

On top of which the increased power of the sunlight can permanently damage your retinas. Just as you should never stare directly at the sun because it can damage your eyes, looking through night vision binoculars in daylight can intensify that damage. It’s not only your eyes that can get damaged, you can also damage your binoculars.

The intense light can damage the internal sensor of your binoculars which will prevent them from working day or night. It’s the same with thermal imaging binoculars, if used during the day they won’t recognise anything due to high levels of light. This will also lead to them overheating and damaging the optics permanently.

Even though there are some models available that can be used both day and night, they will never be as good as a pair with a specific function. So we recommend buying 2 pairs of binoculars, one for daylight usage and the other for use at night.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are night vision binoculars used for?

Night vision binoculars are used for hunting, wildlife viewing and security work.

Does night vision work in total darkness?

Night vision doesn’t work in total darkness because it needs the light of the moon or stars to operate.

What is Gen 4 night vision?

Generation 4 night vision is the most advanced night vision technology worldwide. It has the best visibility of any night vision binoculars.