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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: SuperVision IRNV & Yukon Optics NVMT

IR Night Vision
Today I got the opportunity to play around with SuperVision - a digital night vision system utilizing IR technology. I've only ever played with first generation night vision, back in the day - this is distinctly different from those primitive devices. I was also able to use a Yukon Optics NVMT infrared illuminator.

To start off, I'd like to apologize for not having a formidable way to capture accurate pictures of the device in use. I tried my DSLR - even my cell phone camera... nothing really accurately portrays what's going on through the lens. I did manage to find a good video of the device in use though - and it's JUST like this;


Since I was a kid, using an old, old NV system, I've always categorized night vision as a toy used only by elite military units and the richest toy collectors. With a price tag of $1,200+, this is no exception. It's expensive, but it works. It works way better than you'd expect.

I hate cheesy tag lines. Xenonics's 'seeing is believing' is just the kind of line that I'm talking about. They claim that you won't believe it, until you see it. I'm with them on that one. When I had heard we had a new NV rig to play with, I expected the usual 'cool' exclaimation, about an hour of play then to put it away and write something up about it. I must say, however - this thing is cool.

Variable zoom, CRYSTAL clear, manual focus and CRYSTAL CLEAR - you can't help but to feel like some kind of special agent when you're looking at a pitch black room like it was the middle of the day. The device has an IR illuminator built in, you can navigate even the darkest corridors.

A full spec sheet provided by the manufacturer can be found here.

Box Opening
When you open up the packages, this is what you get. For the Supervision unit - the usual paperwork, a battery charger with a 12v car charger for the batteries, a carry case and the unit itself. The NVMT - a variety of filters, the unit itself and a few paper items. Particularly, I was happy to see a honeycomb filter for the IR illuminator, concealment to any other gear-whore-NV-enthusiasts in your area...

So, how does it work?

I'll let the manufacturer take that question - this excerpt will put it into better words than I ever could;

"Nothing less than a paradigm shift in “night vision” technology, SuperVision utilizes a sensitive and sophisticated multispectral sensor to capture infrared and low level visible light and digitally process the information into a sharp clear HDTV high-resolution display."

I don't have any means of actually measuring the statistical output of this device but my eyes tell me that this night vision monocular is clear, crisp and bright, so bright in fact that you'll find it hard to adjust to the darkness should you look away from the monocular's screen inside. That's something that kind of threw me off initially - you're looking at a video screen. It kind of puts your depth perception out of whack but not enough to notice hardly at all - more just a mental adjustment.

I can view anything in my basement, anything in my windowless bathroom and anything outside, clearly. From pitch black darkness, your details are missed the further you get from each focal point. Unless you have some way to amplify the IR light in the area, you have to get a little closer to make out fine details. Looking down my street, with environmental IR light plentiful with streetlights and the ambient light, it's truly amazing what I can make out. Without zooming in, I can clearly make out my street - enough to know exactly where I am if I were to just see a projected image of that particular view through the night vision system.

With the zoom, I could close in on a guy walking his dog and easily make out what he was wearing. I can read license plates, street signs and house numbers. Really, really easy to use, there's buttons on the top, just like a video camera. The hand strap fits snugly and the buttons give just the right amount of feedback - you won't press any of them accidentally but you don't have to break a finger to tap them either.

Out of the box, the SuperVision and the VNMT
The NVMT is a really cool piece of tactical technology. Available on the civilian market - infrared illuminators are invisible to the human eye. When you shine your flashlight on the wall, you see the white light coming from the flashlight itself and it's reflection on the wall. With an IR light - you'll see the bulb glow red, but no light coming from the device itself. Kind of robotronic, but really cool.

It only has two modes, on and off - no adjustable brightness or strobes. The beam can be focused via the lens on the front and it came with some kind of mount - I'm not sure what it's supposed to mount to, but I could see it being used as an IR weapon light very easily. It fits nicely in the hand and weighs enough to really feel like you've got a good tool in your hand. There's enough room on the front to mount one of the two included filters to help hide the red circle from the trained eye.

The SuperVision fits very well in my hand - this was planned out very well. It's not too big to hold up with one hand and not so small that you'll lose it. The device has two tapped holes on the bottom - I would assume to help with mounting solutions. I haven't looked into what mounts are available, but since the company markets this device to both the civilian and military markets, I could see helmet and weapon mounts alike.

The only picture I could get of this device actually in use is a crappy one - it's the best I could do. This is an image from my cell phone camera of a target roughly 50 feet from my location with no help from the Yukon IR torch. The image in the SuperVision is even clearer than this - we're depending on my cellphone to actually focus on the internal screen.

For once, you get what you pay for. This is bar-none, the best night vision system I have ever been in contact with. For a personal tool, this device could be used for security, hunting, recreation and more. You really can't take my word for it. Really, seeing is believing.

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