We venture out in the dark to put Bushnell’s new night vision bi-oculars to the test
BUSHNELL EQUINOX Z 4X50 £439
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.