Originally Posted by jurek
Looking for advice on night vision equipment which is practical to use in the field and still within a price range of a normal birder.
I guess you would need to specify what you mean to use it for :-)
It's also worth noting that many normal birders have invested considerable sums into alpha scopes, so you might want to be more specific about price tag.
With regard to technology, I believe the options are:
- Light amplification
- Near IR monochrome vision
- Thermal imaging
Light amplification relies on the presence of faint light sources. The advantage is that it might even give you a colour picture, if the faint light is white.
Near IR as currently implemented provides monochrome vision. It also relies on illumination, but it can be provided by pure IR emitters so that wildlife won't be able to detect it. I have a trailcam to monitor my bird feeder that has an IR mode too (not very useful for birding), but I tried it out and in combination with the LED IR flash, it provides clear monochrome photographs in a dark environment.
Thermal imaging does not need any illumination and is capable of detecting wildlife based on body temperature alone. The output usually uses a monchrome or synthetic colour picture that enables you to pick out heat sources visually. To actually identify these, you'll probably need a secondary vision system. Some devices apparently combine a conventional camera picture with the thermal image to make interpretation easier, but that might be a feature of higher-priced systems.
I have no experience with thermal imaging, but I looked at the available sets just before christmas before deciding I didn't actually need another expensive toy at the moment :-)
The device I was looking at was the Seek Thermal Reveal XR, which is the higher resolution, long focal-length variant of that brand. (It was offered for around 400 EUR at a pre-christmas sale.) I figured that maybe their next model might be good enough for birding.
Forum member Vollmeise bought a much more professional (and 10 times more expensive) thermal imager in 2017 and posted a short report here on this board. Maybe we should ask him for a long-term experience follow-up on this ... :-)
It seems the Pulsar Helion XP has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, which is equivalent to 0.3 Megapixels black-and-white.
The Seek Thermal Reveal XR offers a resolution of just 206 x 156 pixels, which is just 10% of that.
(So it seems thermal imager price scales linearly with number of pixels ;-)