There are three types of night vision:
- Light amplifier allows to see in the dark by amplifying low-light sources (moon, stars). Photons detected (from ambient light) are amplified on the principle of the photomultiplier. Advantages: is not detectable by the enemy for military use.Disadvantage: the photomultiplier is a fragile, bulky, and very complex system, requiring high voltage, magnetic lenses, vacuum tubes… Requires a minimum of a photon boost but this is not a problem in a natural night.
- NIR: the system has a diode emitting in the near infrared (0.9 to 2 microns) and can illuminate the scene with rays not visible to the eye. This system allows you to see in total darkness. Note that on some models the infrared LED is visible when running. The diode may be separated from the vision equipment, and be used as a flashlight. Advantages: uses a CMOS or CCD camera, camcorder or camera sensor. Simply remove the filter that blocks the great natural sensitivity to near infrared of these sensors (optional on some camcorders). Disadvantage: the need to use an infrared projector easily detectable by the enemy soldiers. No animal sees infrared.
- Thermal vision system is sensitive to thermal radiation (infrared wavelengths 2-5 microns and 8-13 microns) and objects in the scene. Grayscale rendered on the screen reflect the temperature of each object (monochromatic image). Advantages: is not detectable by the enemy soldiers. It allows to see in the fog. This is the type of device that is developed mainly for the military use. Disadvantage: requires very special objective (no lens) and photodetectors very often specific to mercury-cadmium telluride and sometimes cooling. A color-grading system is often used on screens of thermal analysis for visual analysis of the observed scene. The vision is the same in the day light or in total darkness.
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