Night vision is fast becoming a vital necessity for many people. As home security systems and surveillance cameras have become more popular and widely used, homeowners have begun to see the importance of clear night vision. The use of night vision devices such as binoculars and goggles have also increased for sports such as hunting, hiking, or walking at night or in very early mornings.
Many of these night vision (NV) devices have their own built-in infrared lights which aid in night-time clarity. However, they tend to be small and do not offer much long-range visibility. Images still appear vague and hard to decipher.
Infrared (IR) illuminators can produce a much clearer image when used along with NV devices. The more IR light hits an object, the more IR light will also bounce back and give you clearer, more detailed images.
What Is Infrared Light?
Infrared light is light with a wavelength invisible to the human eye which is emitted from objects with heat. When you see all the colors of the rainbow spectrum, infrared has a frequency just beyond that of the red end of the spectrum.
Every object generates some degree of heat which then reflects infrared wavelengths. The warmer the object, the more infrared (IR) wavelengths it produces. Night vision devices use infrared illumination to allow viewers to see objects, people, or animals without the viewer themselves being seen. Additional IR illuminators added to these devices enhance the IR illumination to see objects even more clearly in the dark.
There are many applications that use infrared light including scientific, military, and law enforcement. Civilians often use it for hunting, target acquisition, surveillance, and tracking.
What Should You Look For in an IR Illuminator?
We will be reviewing two types of IR illuminators: Handheld illuminators which can be mounted to a rifle or carried in your hand and fixed position illuminators which are mounted along with a surveillance security camera.
There are some factors to consider when shopping around for an IR illuminator. Many of these depend on what you are using the illuminator for and what environment you will be using it in. For example, if this unit will be mainly used outside, you will likely want one that is waterproof and can resist the elements. Other factors include:
Again, this depends on what you are using the unit for. If you don’t need to see any further than about 75 yards maximum, a smaller version of the illuminator should suffice.
For both short and long-distance illumination, you would likely require a more versatile IR illuminator with a low and high beam.
If you need to be able to see further distances, you need much more advanced infrared capabilities. Ideally, this should have a range of at least 165 yards (approximately 150 meters).
Wavelength of LED
LEDs are a component of IR illuminators which produce wavelengths measured in nanometers (nM). Available LEDs on the market typically emit 730nM, 840nM, 880nM, and 950nM wavelengths. With the increase in nM comes an increase in the production of IR light; however, the range of illumination is much shorter. IR light that is produced from larger nM wavelengths is practically invisible to the human eye, yet light-sensitive cameras can easily pick up objects that are otherwise difficult to see. Illuminators with higher wavelengths are ideal for military and law enforcement who often conduct covert operations since they can remain hidden from view.
Likewise, illuminators with shorter wavelengths have a much further range of illumination. One drawback to this is that a faint red glow is produced from the LED light which may make the observer visible to others. As a result, these illuminators are not a good idea for military or law enforcement use. They can be used for night hunting; you will simply need to determine which LED wavelength will best suit the environment you are hunting in.
DC current is required for all IR illuminators to power up. The typical sources of this power are AAA batteries, CR123A lithium batteries, and rechargeable batteries. Depending on the energy requirement of the illuminator and how long you plan to continuously operate it, you can usually get an average of 3 to 4 hours from AAA batteries. Smaller type illuminators also use CR123A batteries which can generate power for about 3.5 hours. These two battery types work best for use outdoors since they are widely available and easily replaceable while you are out in the field. However, for even longer continuous power, a rechargeable battery is the best. Although not as mobile, some of the best units with rechargeable batteries can give you up to 7 hours of consistent power.
Weather Rating and Water Resistance
If you are using IR illuminators for security cameras inside your home or office building, you generally don’t need to worry about weather ratings or if the unit is waterproof. Conversely, if you are installing surveillance cameras in an auto lot or other outdoor yard, you will need an illuminator with a high weather rating. This also applies to any handheld devices for use in outdoor activities.
Not only should your IR illuminator be weather and waterproof, but it should also be shockproof in case you drop it or hit it against another object. The weather rating for an illuminator is determined by the Ingress Protection (IP) rating system. A high IR rating means better weather resistance. The ideal rating for an IR illuminator is IP65 or above.
A Review of the Top Three Handheld IR Illuminators
We will be reviewing three of the best handheld IR illuminators on the market today according to price, quality, and value for money. Take a look at what each illuminator has to offer, as well as the pros and cons.
This IR illuminator torch is certainly among the best handheld units available today. You will see a lot of features on this illuminator that are typically not available on other IR illuminators of the same price range.
Constructed of Super TAC aluminum, the Streamlight 88704 is shock-proof and has a limited lifetime warranty. You can use this device by itself or mounted on a rifle. It works perfectly when mounted to a Streamlight 69100 rail mount and 75910 holster.
This illuminator features a high-powered infrared LED of 850 nM which is ideal for long-range visibility. If you are a hardcore hunter, this is the perfect IR illuminator for you, especially with its efficient focusing system. This is specifically constructed with tactical, long-range activities in mind and utilizes a parabolic dish-like reflector to produce long-range beams.
A CR-123A lithium battery is required to power the device. The IR torch comes with remote switches for efficient operation and is compatible with pressure switches to optimize use on rifles. It also features a flash ON and OFF mode.
For quick positive identification, this illuminator is serialized and also boasts an IPX7 rated design.
While the casing is super durable and shockproof, it is not waterproof. You will need to exercise caution when hunting in inclement weather. It may also be a little large for some mountings. Nevertheless, you get a great reasonably priced IR illuminator that does its job well. You won’t be disappointed.
Another high-quality long-range illuminator, this device is versatile for many different purposes and provides an infrared field of vision up to 300 yards. It has 4 operation modes at 5%, 30%, 70%, and 100%.
This is one heavy duty handheld IR illuminator manufactured by ATN engineers out of high-quality materials, yet it is also user-friendly. On top of that, it comes with an IR battery and mount battery charger.
It includes an adjustable mount which is versatile for many different uses and works especially well with Picatinny rails.
Unfortunately, this illuminator is not waterproof. There are also some possible challenges with getting it to fit most standard mounting rail sizes. That said, it consistently provides a great focus and comes with a 1-year limited warranty which can be obtained from the manufacturer.
This flashlight uses Osram Oslon black infrared LED technology which emits 850nM with more than 1 watt of optical power which is invisible to the naked eye save for a dim red glow on the Osram LED which signifies that the unit is on.
The Osram Oslon black infrared LED is today’s smallest and most advanced IR LED technology with high efficiency and low thermal resistance. This results in a focused beam with a range of approximately 218 yards (200m).
The 50mm lens rotary function allows you to zoom your focus in for a tight spotlight effect or back out for a flood effect. This makes the Evolva T50 Flashlight ideal for long-range illuminations. Furthermore, the focused beam illuminates much farther as compared with illuminators without a focusing feature.
In order to operate at the required 7.4 to 8.4 volts, the T50 needs two (2) 18650 Li-Lon rechargeable batteries. It is imperative that you make sure to get 18650 batteries with a genuine core since there are numerous 18650 battery knock-offs currently on the market. These imitations have fake cores that will produce an output voltage of less than 3.7V which will not be adequate for the Evolva T50 Flashlight.
Equipped with 3 modes of Low, Mid, and High, the T50 also has a mode memory which saves the last mode it was set at during previous use. When you turn the flashlight back on, it will automatically set to that mode.
This flashlight boasts a body constructed out of Aircraft Aluminum Alloy with a Housing Diameter of 1 inch (25.4mm) and fits any 1-inch ring and mount. Net weight of the body is 314g and the length is 210mm.
While it fits almost all 1-inch rings and mounts, the T50 does add quite a bit of bulk to your weapon. Therefore, it may not appeal to some people who do a lot of hunting and carrying of their weapon. Many also argue that the longer run times between battery changes is the only feature that sets it apart from smaller T20 and T38 models while giving much of the same performance as these models. If you are concerned about the extra size and weight, you may not find this particular model an ideal fit for your activities.
Despite its bulky size, you do get the latest chip technology, integrated lens, and a lifetime warranty of up to 50,000 hours to boot. This is an impressive torchlight with great features and an affordable price.
A Reviews of the Top 3 IR Floodlight Illuminators
We have reviewed the features, pros, and cons of the top-selling 3 handheld IR illuminators so that you can make the best-informed decision. Next, we are reviewing 3 best-selling IR illuminators for floodlights. Read the features carefully and decide which illuminator works best for your needs.
With a wavelength of 850nM, this illuminator is invisible to human eyes yet it does give a faint red glow. Its built-in photocell sensor allows the IR illuminator to automatically switch on at nightfall and switch off at sunrise, thus saving energy.
If you have a wide-angle security camera, this would be the perfect illuminator for you. It features a 90-degree wide angle IR flood with no light spot for your camera’s viewing range, offering optimal night vision.
You can use this unit indoors or outdoors as it sports an aluminum housing, thick heat sink, reinforced glass window, and stainless steel screws. In addition, its waterproof rating is IP67.
A 12V/1A adapter, installing screws, and user manual are all included with this illuminator. Before buying this unit, you want to first make sure that your security camera will work well with 850nM IR light. For best results, make sure that the IR light points in the same direction as your camera.
While this illuminator provides a very crisp and clear night picture, there have been reports that it does not reach the 85 feet distance that the manufacturer claims. Additionally, some consumers have reported that the unit only works for a few months. However, many more people are very satisfied with this product and it comes with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. If you have any problems with the illuminator, you can contact the manufacturer for a full replacement or refund.
Again, you get the automatic on and off switch sensor which allows this unit to automatically turn on in the evenings and off in the mornings which saves you energy. Its heavy-duty aluminum casing and reinforced glass window makes it suitable for outdoor and indoor use with a rating of IP67.
This IR illuminator has 6 high power LED lights, a view angle of 90 degrees, and IR light distance of approximately 65 feet. It is recommended for use with wide angle IP cameras and CCTV cameras in which it produces the best night vision image.
A wavelength of 850nM infrared light is produced that while invisible to the naked eye, you may see a dim red glow. This illuminator has a DC 12V/1A power supply with a 5.5 x 2.1mm plug.
This IR illuminator model greatly improves your camera’s night vision performance. Nevertheless, some drawbacks exist. The power adapter for the unit’s power supply is not included and if you use the illuminator indoors, some people hear a slight hum or high pitched noise. However, the manufacturer offers great customer service and they monitor customer reviews and respond accordingly to ensure customer satisfaction.
This illuminator has four (4) 1-watt high power 850nM LEDs and a 90-degree flood light spread. It is designed for pairing with a CCTV camera of 2.8, 3.6, or 4mm lens. To reduce hotspots and overexposure of foreground objects, an IR band pass filter is added for more even illumination.
With a built-in cds photocell for automatic off and on switching for day and night, this illuminator also has an IP65 weatherproof rating. The casing is its first ever in a black coating.
The unit comes with a plug and play 12V DC 0.5A power adapter, installation screws, and a user manual. You also get a 2-year limited warranty and lifetime support.
While it boasts an IP65 weatherproof rating, there have been reports of moisture accumulating inside the casing and behind the lens. Also, the lens appears to be constructed of breakable glass which reflects IR light and therefore reduces illumination since the light bounces back into the unit. Even so, this IR illuminator packs a great punch for its small size and economical price. Many people love its value for money.
So What Are The Best IR Illuminators?
We have reviewed a total of 6 best-selling IR illuminators on the market. Each illuminator has its own special features which may not be available on other models. However, depending on each individual’s needs, certain features will be favored over others. According to value for money as well as quality, durability, and capabilities, below are the best IR illuminators in our reviews.
Best Handheld IR Illuminator
While ATN is a great company and their products are proven to be extremely durable, they tend to be quite pricey for the performance they put out. Therefore, in our review, the Evolva Future Technology T50 IR 50mm Lens Infrared Torchlightcomes out on top. Although it is a little heavy when mounted on a weapon, its cutting-edge technology and zoom function are outstanding features for an illuminator of such a reasonable price.
Best Floodlight IR Illuminator
Each floodlight IR illuminator had numerous great features, especially the automatic sensors for on and off switches. However, the illuminator that stood out in our review is the Univivi Infrared Illuminator 850nM 6 LEDs 90-Degree Wide Angle IR Illuminator. While the adapter does not come with this unit and it produces a faint noise, this appears to be the most reliable product which consistently produces high-quality IR illumination. Add to that the excellent and attentive customer service and you have a great quality illuminator at a very affordable price.
Conclusion of Reviews
You have a vast choice of IR illuminators available on the market for both hunting and surveillance. Be sure to review each product according to the factors described earlier, weigh the advantages and drawbacks, and carefully choose the best IR illuminator for your individual needs. IR illumination will immensely improve your night vision and you will definitely appreciate the added clarity it produces.