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March 10, 2002
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Selecting night vision technology

There are three important attributes for judging performance: sensitivity, signal, and resolution. As the customer, you need to know about these three characteristics to determine the performance level of a night vision system.

Sensitivity, or photoresponse, is the image tube''s ability to detect available light. It is usually measured in "uA/lm," or microamperes per lumen. Be aware of IR illuminators, which increase performance in low light conditions. In some cases, IR illuminators can signal that the technology and processing may be substandard.

Signal plays a key role in night vision performance. Make sure that the technology can transfer a strong signal from input to output. Just as high-end stereo equipment gives you quality sound, you should make sure you have a quality output image without "noise."

Resolution is the third major consideration when purchasing night vision. This is the ability to resolve detail in your image. Make sure that you know the difference between resolution and magnification. Magnified optics can create the impression of a high resolving system. However, the trade-off is that the field of view is sacrificed. Magnification can be a good option and provides increased performance, but make sure that the system does not need it to function effectively.

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