Testing Gen 1+ night vision: Apresys 28-0550
- Credit: Archant
Phill Price asks if Gen1+ night vision is still relevant in a thermal world
The world of night vision seems to be one of the fastest developing areas of hunting, with new models and technology coming to the market every few months. Traditional night vision worked by gathering available light and then enhancing it to make a usable image. The development of such technology was known as Gen 1, Gen 1+, Gen 2, Gen 3 and so on, but as digital versions came along, we saw fewer ‘Gen’ models offered because the digital options were brighter, clearer and a lot less expensive. Currently, the night vision hot favourite (literally) is thermal-imaging that relies on the heat given off by our quarry to find it.
I offer this potted history to explain my surprise when a Gen 1+ hand-held spotter, made in China, by Apresys, landed on my desk. I thought this was old technology and that the world had moved on. The unit is their 28-0550 model, weighing 530 grammes and measuring 20mm long, with a fit and finish that would not look out of place on much more expensive units.
I like to try new kit without reading the manual, for two reasons; one, I think that’s what most men do, and two, to see for myself how intuitive the controls are. Fitting the two AA batteries was obvious. The compartments are clearly marked for polarity, and Optical Solutions supplied their Kentli rechargeables, which was handy. I like units that work on common-sized batteries because it eliminates the hassle of buying odd cells.
The ‘power-on’ button was also obvious and I was happy to see a tiny green LED light up showing that the unit was running. The 50mm objective lens rotated to focus, as did the eyepiece. Like all the NV scopes I’ve tried, the depth of field was pretty shallow and lots of refocusing was needed as I scanned around. Although the scope is neither big nor heavy, I found myself using both hands to control it, just as I would a pair of binoculars.
I was immediately impressed with the optical clarity at short range, and I must say, relieved. The last Gen 1 unit I was sent to review was so bad that I sent it back. The image was so poor that I couldn’t see my Labradors on a football pitch at 50 yards! With this one, I was able to study leaves and plants easily at 20 yards, so this scope is clearly in a different league. Next, I pressed the button marked IR, meaning ‘infrared illuminator’. Built in to the housing is an IR projector than adds light to our search that the scope’s sensor laps up, but our quarry cannot see.
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This does three things; one, it boosts the detail of the image we see; two, it adds to the range at which we can see, and three, it makes ‘eye-shine’, that tell-tale reflection from the eyes of rats and rabbits. As the IR unit comes on, a red LED lights up showing us that it is running as well. IR units usually add to the battery drain so people use them only when needed. Apresys claims 48 hours of battery life, which is impressive. On the side of the body, there is a section of moulded-in Weaver rail that allows you to fit an additional IR illuminator if you want more reach, and this unit definitely needs one. The smart little unit sold by Deben costs around £80 and would make a huge difference.
The magnification is 5x which I think is a good choice for airgun hunters. It’s easily enough to spot rabbits at the maximum reach of the sensor, but allows a nice wide field of view in situations like close-range ratting. Too narrow a view and you could miss potential shots.
I have to say again just how impressed I was with the image quality at short range, but at longer range the technology showed its age. At the centre of the view, objects were clear enough, whilst there was a distinct ‘fish eye’ effect at the edges. The less than perfect perimeter didn’t worry me too much, though, because I found that I naturally centred the object of interest anyway.
Under the body, there are threaded holes to allow the scope to be mounted on a tripod and that will offer maximum steadiness and reduce fatigue if watching an area for long periods.
Although I had only a couple of weeks with this scope, I developed a sense that it was well made and would be durable. All the controls worked reliably and I soon found it quite natural to use. Of course, there are better monoculars to be had, but often they cost much more and they, too, need an add-on illuminator to get the best from them. If you’re on a budget and don’t need the ultimate clarity, then this is a solid option and well worth a look.
See more tips for hunting at night...