PUBLISHED: 13:49 12 July 2012
Is it just me or does it seem to you that the whole world is becoming digital? It's the buzzword of the moment and adds a certain cachet to any new product, making us feel that it must be better than an old-fashioned analogue version. Night vision (NV) equipment has followed this trend and a few devices I've seen recently have certainly been impressive, so when JJ Vickers, the UK importer of Bushnell products offered to let me test the Equinox 6x50, I said 'yes please.' It's a hand-held monocular that uses a large (50mm) objective lens to gather as much light as possible which is then focused onto a CCD (charge-coupled device) that works in the 'near infra-red' part of the light spectrum. This converts the image into digital information which can then be displayed on the screen we view. In essence it's a very sensitive and clever digital camera. Like most NV gear, it utilises an infra red 'illuminator' which is a special lamp that emits the right light for the sensor to read, brightening and enhancing the image greatly. This sits in a tube under the main body of the unit and is integral. The light created cannot be seen by the human eye, but interestingly there's a warning in the manual that tells you that if you're using the device for surveillance, you need to be aware that anybody else using NV gear will see your transmitted light, very clearly indeed! I was told by a gamekeeper friend that he uses his NV kit passively, i.e. with the illuminator switched off, to catch poachers using NV kit with their illuminator switched on.
The unit is pretty light and small enough to fit into the cargo pocket of most shooting jackets. The main body is coated with a slightly rubberised finish to add grip and the control buttons are large enough to be operated with gloves on. As you power it up, a small green LED comes on close to a second one that shows red. This tells you the illuminator is on, which is important, as it uses extra battery power, reducing overall run time. The illuminator’s brightness can be adjusted by holding down a button to suit the occasion, although I found the maximum setting best suited my needs.
You also have the choice of a green display or white displays, and I found the green seemed to suit my eye better, as I felt it gave a more detailed image. Power is supplied by two CR123 lithium batteries which are becoming more widely available but are a bit expensive. I think it would be wise to invest in some rechargables to save money in the long term. I read the manual to see if it offered any information of how long we could expect a set of batteries to last, but I couldn’t find anything. Conventional NV image intensifiers are very energy hungry, but I’d expect a digital unit to last far longer.
The most unusual feature of the Equinox is the Weaver standard rail fitted to the top, which the manual suggests could be used for aiming. This set me thinking that if you fitted a laser, the viewer could place the dot on the kill zone of his quarry and his shooting partner could view it with his scope and take the shot. This would then bridge the old problem faced by users of NV viewing kit. This was that you might be able to find the rabbit with your NV monocular, but how do you shoot it? By making your optic act as a ‘laser designator’ it becomes half of the aiming solution. Providing you could hold it steady on a rat’s head, your partner could see the laser dot through any day scope and make the kill. I guess mounting it on a tripod would be the best option to make the aim stable. I haven’t tried shooting with it but it sounds like a challenge to me.
You can connect the Equinox to a video camera to record what you see and Bushnell has thoughtfully included the necessary cables with the unit. There’s another cable that connects to the cigar lighter socket in your vehicle, providing unlimited power and run time.
This is certainly a feature packet piece of kit and the option to use it for aiming is interesting. To find your nearest Bushnell dealer contact JJ Vickers.