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When we first entered the world of night vision we never imagined we'd be spending the kind of money we have. This is the type of expensive hobby that sucks you in no two ways about it! With that said we don't regret it whatsoever. We tried to keep this short and sweet, meat and potatoes.
WHAT IT IS
NVD (Night Vision Devices) BNVD (Binocular Night Vision Device) SG (Single Gain). Night Vision Devices, NVD for short, is the name of the company itself, formerly known as Night Vision Depot. NVD is also commonly used to describe any night vision device hence NVD.
A binocular night vision device uses two image intensifiers each with optics for each of your eyes. It's collimated basically meaning the images from both tubes intersect evenly. This makes for a better image and eliminates eye strain or headaches that can happen with non-collimated systems.
Depending on the type of image intensifier chosen by the buyer, they may or may not have manual gain control capability. The same applies to the power supply, either auto-gating or non. Luckily for us we can select the type of image intensifiers to be installed when we purchase. We purchased our BNVD-SG with HP+ pinnacle tubes that have gain control and autogating. We highly recommend the HP+ tubes as they offer the same specs as more expensive tubes at a lower cost.
The SG (single gain) means that the BNVD has one gain control knob that adjusts the gain/brightness for both tubes simultaneously. NVD selects and sets the tubes during the assembly process to have corresponding levels so they both look and brighten/darken the same. Each tube has its own objective and eyepiece lenses which you manually focus by rotating left/right. The objective focuses for distance and the eyepiece to correct for vision if you wear prescription glasses (no, there is no auto-focusing image intensifier night vision device!). There is one power switch that controls both tubes and activates the internal infrared illuminator. It has two on positions, one for constant on and the second powers it off when flipped up in the stowed position on the helmet. It uses one AA battery. Newer versions of the BNVD available through NVD offer a remote power supply that attaches to the back of a helmet with a cable running to the BNVD. Using a remote power supply gives more battery life and reduces the weight of the BNVD.
The beauty of the BNVD is each tube can be rotated to adjust for the individual users eyes or moved up out of the way without flipping it up in the stowed position. The amount of friction is excellent and they stay where you put them unless moved. This ability is useful for unobstructed sight using your natural eyesight. A good example of this is to look through a magnified or thermal weapon sight or when ruffling through a backpack. Other commercially available binocular style night vision systems similar to the AVS-6/9 lack this capability.
WHY YOU'D WANT IT
Besides being super cool it saves considerable weight compared to a dual PVS-14 system. Most civilian night vision users are recreational hobbyists who start off with a single night vision device, most commonly a PVS-14. Once the bug has bitten the very next step is a dual binocular system. The easiest way to accomplish this is to add a 2nd PVS-14 along with an adapter to combine them into a binocular type system. This is exactly what we did at Nitewalker and it accomplishes the task well. The issues you run into however are 1. finding a 2nd device with similar specs and 2. handling the increased weight. If you purchase your 2nd 14 through a good dealer and provide the specs from your 1st 14 they can often find a comparable tube to match. If you look in the used market you'll have to search for one, which can be tough as many don't have spec sheets available. Regarding the weight, you'll need to add more lead or weight to your existing counterweight if you have one, or purchase one that works with it. At the end of the day it's f'n heavy. The other option is to send both 14's to a dealer to convert them into a binocular system. There are a few different makes available but they mostly mirror the AVS-6/9 aviators goggles which have two positions when wearing them - up and down. When you do the math, instead of going through all of this, for a little more money you can buy a true BNVD.
The number one advantage to buying a BNVD from Night Vision Devices is the 10 year warranty. Hands down, to us this is a major pro when you're spending many thousands of dollars on a night vision device! The weight savings compared to a dual PVS-14 system is considerable. The single gain control is truly awesome. Some systems work like dual PVS-14's where you have to adjust gain on both. Not a huge deal but one knob is easier than two. Some people on the internet downplay gain control but this makes us question their real-world use of night vision. Maybe their NVD doesn’t have gain control and want to feel better about their device, or they simply don't know what they're missing. Who knows. There are many situations where you'll really want or need it. Worried about eye splash? Instead of relying on amber filters that reduce performance, you can simply turn the gain down. The guy who uses his NVD once a year? Sure, he doesn't need it. The ability to rotate each tube out of the way versus stowing them in the up position is huge. We use this feature non-stop. It keeps the weight where it needs to be and out of the way from running into tree branches, door frames, etc. They are really, really bitch'n!
The number one con is the cost. They're expensive. No way around that. Sorry. The other major disadvantage to some is that you can't split them apart like dual PVS-14's. This was a stickler for us when we first started into night vision, however, once we were looking at doing four PVS-14's to have two sets of duals with the ability to split them we realized we never split them up! So WTF is the point, right? Nitewalkers (night vision enthusiasts) know how rare it is to have friends or family willing to stay out late at night in the outdoors with you even if you loan them a PVS-14. If you're a soon-to-be Nitewalker don't count on them following you out after a couple of times. That's the truth. True Nitewalkers are rare indeed! Hey, if they like it enough when you show it to them they can man up and buy their own! Also, if you bring people out, they'll enjoy the BNVD far more than a PVS-14 monocular.
WHAT WE THINK
The BNVD has been an excellent addition to our gear. It’s lightweight and packs well. The padded case that’s included works great and protects it very well with Velcro stash pockets inside and an outside pocket with loops to hold extra AA batteries. The included bikini lens covers work well for keeping the lenses safe. There is no pin hole in the objective cover so you’ll need to make one if you want to function test it in daylight. We ended up ditching the covers because we only take it out when it’s dark and remove the battery when not using it.
The second on position that turns the BNVD off when flipped into the stowed position is a great feature. It saves the battery in case you forget to turn it off when stowing it and eliminates anyone or anything from seeing the green light emitted from the eyepieces.
We really like the internal IR illuminator. It’s adjustable for flood or spot and lets you dial it in exactly how you need it. The illuminator is midline between both tubes and lights up exactly what you need directly in front of you. It’s not a replacement for more powerful helmet mounted light but works great for up close and has a low signature. You just have to keep in mind that it and both tubes are running off one AA so keep extras. We love that it uses AA’s unlike other systems that use 123’s since we also have PVS-14’s and stock the same batteries. We only use the energizer lithium AA’s since they’re lighter and don’t leak like alkalines.
The optics are PVS-14 which is perfect if you have accessories for 14 optics like amber covers, camera adapters, magnifiers, etc.
It adjusts well for your eyes and stays in position. The only way it comes out of position is if you bump it. It wears great on the helmet and doesn’t require much counterweight. Rotating the tubes in the up position is awesome. We use it non-stop. It keeps the weight low versus stowing it up on your head without the worry of smacking it on something since it’s inline with your helmet.
The image quality is amazing and the gain control lets you set the brightness for the best image and makes it easy on the eyes especially for extended wear. We really enjoy the lightweight while hiking and if terrain is sketchy we focus one close and leave the other at infinity. This works really well especially going over rocks or tree roots.
The BNVD is the bomb.
The BNVD isn't for the meek. It's for the serious night vision user or new users willing to spend the extra money on their first night vision device. It's worth it in our opinion if you want a dedicated binocular system. The 10 year warranty from NVD provides reassurance. If you manage to score a PVS-15 or other military bino system, you sure as hell ain't getting a 10 year warranty and you won't be able to send it in to the manufacturer for repair. You won't find a BNVD system with this warranty which covers everything including the tubes.
Yes, you can convert PVS-14's into, or buy, a AVS-6/9 style binocular for less but it's not a BNVD and typically won't have gain control. You'll also wish it was a BNVD the first time you smack your AVS type system on your truck door frame, snag it on a branch, vine, or worse barbed wire when flipped up on your helmet!
If you already have a PVS-14 and are debating on getting a second one, definitely take the time to do the math and see if you're willing to eat noodle soup for a couple of months. After buying two 14's, the mounts and other items, if you later decide to sell them to go with a dedicated BNVD, you won't recover enough of the funds to make it a clean changeover. If you're serious about night vision you may want to keep the 14 and take the hit buying a BNVD. You can use the 14 as a loaner, for pics/vids, or sell it to offset some of the BNVD cost.