Gear Re­view

We ven­ture out in the dark to put Bush­nell’s new night vi­sion bi-oc­u­lars to the test

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - RE­VIEWED BY MATT MER­RITT


NIGHT VI­SION MIGHT not be a pri­or­ity for many birders – af­ter all, how many noc­tur­nal species does the UK have – but for any­one into more gen­eral wildlife watch­ing it’s go­ing to be a must at some stage, and once you try it, you re­alise it has rather more birding use than you might think. These bi-oc­u­lars (one ob­jec­tive aper­ture pro­vides a sin­gle op­ti­cal path, while the other houses an in­fra-red il­lu­mi­na­tor) of­fer some in­trigu­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties to com­ple­ment your tra­di­tional binoc­u­lars. The in­fra-red il­lu­mi­na­tor helps il­lu­mi­nate your tar­get, and you can ad­just the il­lu­mi­na­tion bright­ness quickly and eas­ily, while the dig­i­tal sen­sor is im­mune to bright light dam­age and has an unlimited life­time. You can also ad­just the sen­sor bright­ness, too, de­pend­ing on how much am­bi­ent in­frared light you’re get­ting from the moon and stars. Once your eyes get used to things, and us­ing the fine fo­cus wheel between the bar­rels, you start to get a fair amount of de­tail even in pitch black – there’s a coarse dig­i­tal zoom, too. Us­ing an SD card, you can take in­di­vid­ual pho­tos and videos, and the re­sults can be pretty im­pres­sive, pro­vid­ing you’ve got a sta­ble base. Af­ter start­ing out testing it on Mun­t­jacs and rats (!), I sought out night birds. A lo­cal Star­ling roost, for ex­am­ple, re­vealed its true di­men­sions un­der the in­fra-red sen­sor, and I got some idea of just how ac­tive Pochards are by night. De­sign and build are gen­er­ally good. You can al­ter the dis­tance between the eye­pieces with a sim­ple con­trol wheel, and the body is well con­toured and rub­berised for ex­tra grip – it’s de­scribed as weather-re­sis­tant, but with elec­tron­ics in­volved, I wouldn’t want to test that too much. They’re sur­pris­ingly light, though you might want to tripod­mount them at times for ex­tra sta­bil­ity. All the con­trol but­tons are well placed on top of the bi-oc­u­lars, and I found them easy to use without tak­ing my eyes off my tar­get. Not cheap, but if you’d like to give your wildlife-watch­ing an­other di­men­sion, they’re worth a good look, es­pe­cially if you can use them from a hide or other sta­ble van­tage point.

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