Published by Bastian Green & Damon Loats - on 9th Aug 2022

Night Vision or Thermal Imaging?

What is better, digital night vision or thermal imaging? Let’s talk about the differences in order to determine which one is better. Better doesn’t always mean better for everyone, it comes down to your specific circumstances, which type of device is better for you..!

Digital night vision is very good at identifying animals or objects from greater distances. These days, digital night vision chips produce a HD or 4K output which gives you a lot of pixels, and therefore a lot of detection range because as you zoom in on a digital image, the pixels halve everytime you double your magnification. So if I start out with a HD or 4K image, I can magnify the image more often than if I were to start with something like a 640 or a 384 pixel sensor from a thermal imaging device.

Digital night vision gives you greater range, greater identification for night hunting. In addition, it gives you a little bit more detail on the object itself, whereas in thermal imaging, the image is generally a shape and you don’t get a lot of detail on the animal itself. You get the shape of the animal and have to determine what it is based on that. Digital night vision gives you the colour contrast in two colours and the spectrum in-between. Because it gives you those shades, you could potentially see that something is a spotted fallow deer for example.

Some contract shooters who have to ensure that they identify the right animal, be it a wallaby or a kangaroo - a male or a female, they will be using a digital night vision in order to ensure that they are shooting the right species of animal and obviously the right gender.

Other than that, thermal imaging is superior especially when using a thermal handheld device in combination with a thermal riflescope.

So here is what happens when you use a thermal imaging handheld device. You scan an area. You find a heat source. You then bring up your scope which is also thermal, and you see the same thing and you can pick up that heat source very quickly.

If you were to switch from a thermal handheld image, you find the animal, then with a digital night vision device, you would struggle to see or find the animal, just because the heat isn’t there. You see, basically, what we see with our eyes, but in two colours, so camouflaged animals will be really hard to identify within grass or bushes, whereas with thermal they can’t hide and therefore you can find them a lot quicker and take the shot.

Is it better? Well, if you can afford a thermal scope, and thermal scope prices have come down to the same level now as digital night vision devices. For the vast majority of hunters it is a better choice over digital night vision. In some contractual obligations, digital night vision is the way to go.