Best night vision binoculars under $500

Mark Porter

Table of Contents

Finding the best night vision binoculars under $500 can be challenging. First, you need to familiarize yourself with the technical terms to understand what a particular pair of night vision binoculars are capable of—image viewing-wise. Then you have to factor in your budget, make comparisons, and consider what to prioritize.

Our optical experts have an informative night vision binoculars buying guide and a review of the top products in the market. Keep reading to learn more. 

Here is a summary of the top night vision goggles and binoculars in 2021

Best night vision binoculars under $500 infographic

Night Vision Binoculars Buyer’s Guide – Important Things to Consider

To avoid making costly mistakes in your search for the best night vision binoculars, here are a few crucial factors to consider:

The Purpose of the Binoculars

Nocturnal binoculars for surveillance differ from the ones for hunting, watching wildlife, or observing the night sky. Their specifications are totally different.

You must also consider the environment since some models work well in low light while others do a good job in total darkness.


The binoculars’ magnification determines how close you’ll be able to see the object through the lens. It’s represented by the first number on your night vision binoculars. For instance, 10X33mm NV binoculars will magnify your view 10 times more than the naked eye view.

A high magnification power doesn’t translate to better night vision. In fact, the higher the number, the dimmer, unclear and unstable your view will be, partly because of light loss.

Objective Lens

The second number on your night vision binoculars is the objective lens diameter (in millimeters). In the example above, that would be 33. This determines how much light enters the binoculars.  

 In addition to providing a large field of view, a larger diameter will allow in more light and result in bright images. But, it’ll also lead to large-sized binoculars.


Look for binoculars that enable you to focus on a view or image manually. Some come with a central focusing wheel for adjusting both tubes simultaneously, while others have diopter rings that adjust the barrels individually. It’ll be even better if the night vision binoculars have both.

Weather Resistance

Seeing as you’ll be using the night vision binoculars outdoors, you must consider their level of resistance to different weather elements. A sturdy and weather-proof product will not only perform well but last longer too.

IR Illuminators

Infra-red illuminators come in handy when using binoculars in ambient or low light. They produce infra-red light that shines on the surrounding objects and reflects back into the lens, brightening the view. You should confirm this feature’s availability—or the option to mount it before buying night vision binoculars.

Black binoculars placed on a black surface


Another factor used to differentiate night vision binoculars is their generation. This ties directly to their image quality, performance, lifespan, and cost. Here is a breakdown of the generations:

Generation 1:

These are the most common night vision goggles because of their affordability. They’re known to increase residual or existing light 1000X. The difference in their prices results from the quality of the glass and housing used.

Other significant characteristics of this generation of night vision binoculars include:

  • They perform better at close ranges.
  • They’re budget-friendly.
  • They have a small field of view.
  • Short battery life and lifespan (1500 hours).
  • Requires an infrared illuminator.
  • They cover a maximum visual range of about 75 yards.
  • Produces low-resolution images.

Generation 2

These are an upgrade from gen 1. Their development is more complex as it includes a micro-channel plate (MCP) with millions of short parallel glass tubes as the photocathode. They help to boost electron emissions passing through the binoculars’ lens.

The target market for these night vision binoculars is professionals like the military and other security forces. Their price is way higher than that of gen 1.

Additional traits include:

  • Brighter and clearer images than gen 1 gadgets.
  • They don’t need infrared illumination.
  • Their visual range coverage is about 200 yards.
  • They have long battery life and a lifespan of around 5000 hours
  • They cover a full field of view.

Generation 3

This generation uses gallium arsenide found in the photocathode to generate the photoelectric effect responsible for sharper and brighter images. They’re the most expensive night vision binoculars of the three generations, and very hard to acquire.

Their characteristics include:

  • Three hundred yards of visual range.
  • No need for an infrared illuminator.
  • Cover a wide field of view.
  • They have a lifespan of around 10,000 hours.
  • Mainly used by the U.S military.

Legal Restrictions

Some state laws prohibit the acquisition and use of military-grade night vision monoculars and binoculars. So, be sure to check your state restrictions before buying any of the 3rd generation—and above night vision binoculars.

The 6 Best Night Vision Binoculars for $500 or Less

Here is our detailed review of the 6 best night vision goggles, monoculars and binoculars under $500 in 2021.

1. Best Overall

At number one are night vision binoculars that let you see clearly in 100% darkness. They feature an 850 NM infrared illuminator (IR) that can stay on for hours, a smooth focus that makes it possible to capture clear photos and videos, and a 2X digital zoom (3.5-7X optical zoom) that covers as far as 1300 feet.

To switch between the 3.5X optical zoom and 7X, you simply press the zoom button. Add the 31mm objective lens, and you will hardly miss anything in your field of view. 

You can even capture and save the photos and videos on a memory card to view on the binoculars’ 4-inch TFT screen (instantly) or on your computer when you get home.

The ergonomic design makes them easy to hold, and the rugged body enables them to survive harsh elements outdoors. They built these binoculars to last.

To power up these night vision binoculars, you’ll need 8 AA batteries, which are not supplied. The manufacturer recommends you get rechargeable batteries. The accessories that come with the binoculars are an SD card reader, protective case, 32GB SD card, neck strap and USB cable.

Also, there is a simple user manual to help you figure things out.

The drawbacks include the optical zoom is stuck at 3.5X, it’s a digital zoom that takes it to 7X and the metal clips on the neck strap are noisy when moving, making stealthy movement difficult. Fortunately, you can easily replace the strap, albeit at an additional cost.


  • It has a built-in IR illuminator.
  • Comes with a lot of valuable accessories.
  • Ergonomic design.
  • Bright and crisp images.
  • Wide field of view.


  • Optical zoom function sticks at 3.5X, zoom to 7X is digital.
  • Noisy metal clips on the neck strap.

2. Best Performance

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With these digital night vision binoculars, darkness shouldn’t be a bother whatever your activity.  That’s because of their high-performance optics— starting with the infrared-sensitive CMOS sensor that results in high-quality image resolutions.

Provided your viewing range is within 1300 ft, you can take HD images and videos even when it’s 100% dark. The 4X digital zoom and 7X optical zoom really help to bring the images much closer. You also have seven levels of IR illumination to adjust to depending on the ambient light. Then there’s the 24mm objective lens providing a broader field of view.

The lenses are fully multi-coated to boost the light transmission and reduce glare. 

You can use the 2.31 inch TFT viewing screen to check images taken, or just wait till you get home to transfer them from the 32GB SD card. Each image has a date, time and GPS stamp.

The binoculars use six AA non-rechargeable batteries to run continuously for eight hours when the built-in infrared illuminator is on. They can go up to 17 hours if the IR is off. The package comes with a neck strap, data cable, SD card, storage bag, and user manual.

The shortcomings of these night vision binoculars are the non-rechargeable batteries, and the time it takes to figure out every setting in the user manual.


  • High-quality images and videos.
  • You get additional accessories.
  • Covers a viewing range of up to 1300 feet.
  • Seven levels of adjustable IR.
  • Fully multi-coated lens.


  • Buying non-rechargeable batteries can be costly.
  • Learning all the settings can be challenging.

3. Best Value

The first thing you’ll notice about these night vision goggles is the rubber casing that makes them comfortable to hold and strong enough to withstand harsh weather and treatment. They have a water and dust resistance rating of IP56.

Next, when you delve into the qualities that make it one of the best night vision binoculars choices, you’ll find an 850 NM built-in infrared illuminator with seven distinct IR modes. You can adjust between the different modes by pressing “IR UP” and “IR Down.” The higher you go, the brighter the image becomes.

With an optical magnification of 3X, digital zoom of 4X, and objective aperture of 25mm, these binoculars can help you see images as far as 986 feet away. 

They’re perfect for viewing wildlife from a distance. The objective lenses are fully multi-coated to prevent glare and loss of light.

There is a 3-inch TFT screen at the front of the binoculars for checking the pictures and videos taken immediately. You can then store them in the 32GB SD storage that comes with the binoculars.

To power-up, the binoculars need 6 AA alkaline batteries (not included). The package comes with a neck strap, data cable, cleaning cloth, 32GB SD card, a case, and a user manual.


  • 32GB SD card storage for your nocturnal pictures and videos.
  • A built-in infrared illuminator 
  • It’s comfortable to hold.
  • Solid and durable body.


  • A little bulky.
  • Low Optical magnification power.

4. Best Budget Monocular

The first night vision monocular on the list features 3X optical magnification, 1-3X digital zoom, and a 30mm objective aperture. The lenses are multi-coated to ensure the little light from the inbuilt infrared illuminator doesn’t go to waste. As a result, you get clear and bright images that are as far as 500 feet away.

Unlike the other night vision devices that use photocathode tubes, the Bushnell night vision monocular utilizes a CCD chip to process the incoming infrared light. To power it up, you’ll need 4 AA batteries (not included).

It has a rugged, water-resistant housing to withstand harsh weather. Use with a tripod or monopod will give better stability.

One major shortcoming with this night vision device is having the on/off switch close to other buttons. So, it’s easy to turn it off by mistake. Also, the eyepiece adjusting feature only caters to people with nearsighted or perfect vision. If you’re farsighted, you’ll have to wear glasses or contacts.


  • Water-resistant body.
  • Tripod mountable.
  • Has an inbuilt infrared illuminator.
  • A broad field of view.


  • On/Off switch is too close to other buttons.
  • Eyepiece adjustment only benefits the nearsighted and people with 20/20 vision.

5. Best Magnification

With 5X magnification, a field of view of 200 feet at 53 feet is more than enough to land these in the top 6 best rated night vision binoculars. They also feature a superior built-in columnated IR illuminator for crisp and bright images in the dark.

Their minimum focus range is about 6.6 feet. Thanks to the two electronic intensifier tubes inside stringer system, you’re able to get some of the best precision and control from a night vision gadget. 

The high-quality objective (50mm) and ocular lenses add to their excellent performance.

Very few gen 1 night vision binoculars can measure up to the optics of the Night Owl. The 40 to 80 hours of battery life alone can take you through a whole day of adventure. They’re definitely one of the best night vision devices for hunting, wildlife observation, and surveillance.

The only challenge with these Night Owl Pro are that they’re a little heavy. You’ll have to get a tripod if you’re going to use them for long periods.


  • 5X magnification power.
  • Image intensifier tubes.
  • High-quality objective and ocular lenses.
  • Wide field of view.
  • Built-in columnated IR illuminator.
  • Long battery life.


  • Heavy.

6. Best For Mobility

Wrapping up the list of the best night vision binoculars below $500 are these head-mountable night vision goggles. With a weight of 13 ounces, you can move around with them on your head without feeling any strain. Plus, they free up your hands.

They feature 1X magnification and 2X digital zoom, allowing you a 75-yard clear viewing range while moving at night. You have the option of adjusting screen brightness on the viewing monitor by pressing a single button.

There’s also a built-in infrared illuminator that you can adjust to the desired level. For instance, if you want to use an external IR flashlight, you should go for IR level zero because there’ll be a maximum increase in sensitivity when the IR LEDs are off.

Batteries are the primary source of power for these night vision goggles, and you can get up to 3 hours of use while using the integrated USB rechargeable lithium batteries.

Unfortunately, the inbuilt IR lights are 850 nanometers and not 940 nanometers. This means you can see them with the naked eye. To solve this, you could buy a separate 940nm IR light to use. 


  • It’s easy to use.
  • Adjustable IR illuminator.
  • Lightweight.
  • Head mountable.


  • IR light is easy to spot with the naked eye.

Frequently Asked Questions

What brand of night vision binoculars does the military use?

Gen 3 is the true standard of professional-grade night vision binoculars, and Gen 4 is in development. 

These are manufactured for the military by a variety of brands, including BAE Systems and Leonardo DRS. Unfortunately, these products are way out of the 500 dollar price bracket.

How far can night vision binoculars see?

In brief, the night vision binoculars you’re using, the amount of light available and the object’s size all factor into how far the device can see.

Does Walmart sell night vision binoculars?

Yes, they do, in addition to other night vision devices like the night vision goggles and night vision monoculars.

Silhouettes of a man and woman using binoculars


Darkness shouldn’t limit your outdoor adventure with our selection of the best night vision binoculars under $500. 

We have the CREATIVE XP Digital Night Vision Binoculars as our overall best night vision binoculars within a $500 budget. 

They’re an excellent pick that you can use for monitoring intruders, hunting, watching wildlife and nocturnal birds, such as owls. You can even capture images and videos from as far as 1300 ft away and store them on the SD card to show your friends later.

Be sure to use our buyer’s guide to make the right choice.

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