Got your attention? Good.
This post is for all you poor bastards in the USA reading web forums trying to decide what image intensified device to buy and you keep seeing all this Echo, Comm-spec, 4G, and related stuff concerning Photonis image tubes. Going along with those posts are several replies, usually by the same people, vouching for how awesome these are and not to waste your money on Gen 3. I say in the USA because most international users can only get Gen 2 with Gen 3 being hard to find without being scammed. I've been keeping my opinion to myself about this but since I have a website I said fuck it.
To be fair and in full disclosure I've never looked through any Photonis image tubes. Why? I don't want to waste my money (my opinion). I'm too cheap to buy one and sell it for less then I paid if I don't like it and I have a feeling I wouldn't like it. If someone from or affiliated with Photonis feels confident enough in their product to change my mind, well by all means send me one to try out. I'll give my honest to God answer. I truly am the type of person who will be the first to admit if I don't know something or when I'm wrong. I've given that offer before which I'm pretty certain resulted in my email being deleted and tagged as spam.
I've spoken to some industry people I've been lucky enough to communicate with about these tubes and have been told by them that they still can't compete with Gen 3 in really dark environments. I've also seen some reputable sellers say the same thing online, but isn't that the point of using night vision, seeing in the dark? You don't always get to choose how dark your environment will be in the real world.
The common answer to this is to use additional IR light from an illuminator. To me that's a half-assed answer to placate you. I generally use my Gen 3 devices in places where it is really dark, only using my illuminator when I really need to, and that's not very often. I actually prefer and practice using as little extra IR as possible. I consider newbies or people afraid of the dark as those who overuse IR when not necessary. Experienced users know what I'm talking about. Like being out with someone else under NVD's and having them turn on their IR blasting you in the face with it when there was no need to turn it on in the first place. Rookie move. Of course, yes, even Gen 3 sometimes needs extra IR.
Also, when it's really dark I hate how an illuminator gives you tunnel vision blacking out your peripheral. Illuminators use up batteries and I hate burning through batteries if I don't need to. Use these kinds of devices long enough and you'll feel the same. Maintaining your battery stash gets to be a PITA. Especially if you're doing AA's, AAA's, 123's, 9V's, coins, rechargeables, etc. etc. I try to keep everything AA, 123, and 2032 if possible and it's still a pain. Ask anyone who's been out in the dark in a pressing situation requiring white light discipline (extra points if with gloved hands close to or below freezing) fucking around trying to take batteries out, open zippers, find new ones, drop them, try to find them, not mix them up, put hopefully new ones in, and you get the idea. Sure, stick new batteries in each outing you say, but that gets expensive as an enthusiast when you use your stuff a lot. Most of us aren't professionals funded by public tax dollars and even then you end up having to buy your own shit.
Will one of these "the new Gen 3" Gen 2's work great for the typical 3x-6x per year user who'll be looking around his suburban neighborhood? It probably will be more than enough. The hardcore user will want more performance.
Just keep in mind there's a reason the USA Military is using Gen 3 and not Gen 2. If you decide to buy a Gen 2 device and the NVD bug bites you, don't be surprised if one day you find yourself trying to sell it at a loss in order to buy Gen 3. I'm one to save myself the headache when in the long run any cost savings up front will be lost in the end.
If you live somewhere where Gen 2 is all you can get, well then Gen 2 is pretty freaking awesome compared to Gen 1.