It’s always hard to get the job done when the sun goes down. Powerful lights have been helping us in many of these situations, but unfortunately we can’t always use such devices: in some situations we need to be able to see while not being seen. This is why, in the outdoors, we want use our eyes to adapt to the darkens and navigate through the environment using the surrounding natural light. However we don’t always have the possibility to utilize the light from moon or the glare of a nearby city reflecting off the humidity in the clouds to get the job done. Sometimes ambient light is just not enough. This is why, sometimes, is nice to have a device that is able to help us boost-up our night vision. To do this we had a chance to field test for about 6 months a night vision device: the Bushnell Equinox Z. Bushnell is well known for its quality product at an affordable price. Its well placed mid range product line was just the perfect fit for our needs. Yes, Gen2+Night Vision Devices are cool but they are so damn expensive! It is close to impossible for a non professional user to buy a decent quality gen2+ device. Since only a few years ago, if you didn’t want to buy one of those really expensive ones, you had to move on to an old Soviet built analog device. Luckily there are companies like Bushnell that in the last few yeas have been producing good quality DIGITAL night vision system that are affordable and well-made. Unlike first generation NVG units, the Equinox is totally digital, mounting a CMOS digital sensor this device is capable of delivering a good crisp image to the user. While doing so the device is also able to record both still and moving pictures. The behavior of this sensor is similar to the one of a digital camera, but in this case it is optimized for infrared light. While it’s night vision, these units can’t see in total darkness without help up to 200-300 yards. In this video the device’s IR illuminator is switched off so the only light source is the moon (1/4).
The Equinox Z monocle comes in three different variants: 3 x 30 mm, 4.5 x 40mm and 6 x 50 mm. Of these we had the chance to try out the mid version, the 4.5 x 40mm. The main difference between the three variants, apart from the dimensions, is the quality of the image: a bigger diameter of the lens will provide a more detailed image, especially at distance. Only measuring 164mm x 98mm x 62mm this device seems very compact and discreet and when not in use it can be easily stored in a cargo pocket. The weight is around 600 grams and considering it carries 4 AA batteries and it is IPX4 it isn’t bad at all!
The 4.5 x 40 mm version has quite some features and buttons, in fact it took us a while to get familiar with the device, especially at night time. The top side of the Equinox has 6 buttons well protected by a rubber armor: ON-OFF, Zoom In – Zoom Out, IR settings, illuminator settings and Record. On the lower side of the device is the tripod attachment point, with the traditional screw system. Next to it, under a protective cover, are three ports (TV Out, Mini USB, Micro-SD slot) and a switch (for still or moving pictures). t also features a Picatinny rail is on the side for mounting a more powerful infrared illuminator.
The unit we have reviewed has a lot of magnification for night vision. The more magnification you get, the narrower the field of view and this cuts into situational awareness. If you are scanning a large area, it is harder to spot something. On the other hand, if you do spot it, the higher magnification makes it easier to figure out what it is. To show you what the magnification on this system can do we have recorded with a tripod an S&S Precision Manta Strobe (IR beacon) moving out to 1300 yards from one hill to another. The light conditions were not even the best, there was about 1/4 moon and it was cloudy. To raise the bar for the Equinox we also recorded the same video in the same light conditions at the same distance with two green S&S Precision V-light blinking. What we really liked about this night vision device is the crispness of the details in very low light conditions at a not so-close distance with the IR illuminator ON, to show you here is a video of a car moving from 50 yards to about 130 yards. (This video was recorded on a tripod) This is a still image shot at about 40 yards to show you how, even with the 3 x magnification, you can shoot a crisp image while standing and with no light other than the IR illuminator. As you can see this device is capable of great results for a very affordable price, by the end of Q2 2015 it should be around $ 300. The many features of this device make it really adaptable and versatile for many conditions, whether you are a tactical shooter, hunter or just outdoors enthusiast the Bushnell Equinox Z is perfect for you. Because we didn’t treat it well at all we can actually saw that this device is pretty of tough, so maybe it wouldn’t be bad also for some semi-professional uses (nothing too risky, we wouldn’t rely on this in a life or death situation but it still gets the job done).
We have used the Equinox Z mainly in rural environments and we feel that this is its playground, it could be used also in a urban area provided that the IR illuminator is switched OFF (even with naked eye you can see a little red glare coming from it) or you can mount a third party IR flashlight on the Picatinny rail on the side. Other than that, we loved playing with it and we feel that from now on we aren’t going anywhere without it.
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