5 Best Night Vision Infrared Illuminator (IR) and How to Use Them

Best Infrared Illuminator

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When it comes to hunting, outdoorsmen are always looking for ways to optimize their viewing capability once the sun goes down. Infrared (IR) illuminators are devices made to accompany your night vision device to provide further illumination on those darker nights when night vision devices can’t produce as clear images.

Topping our list of infrared illuminators is the ATN SuperNova. The SuperNova operates off a four-stage output that provides control over the amount of power and light being emitted by the illuminator. As well as equipped to increase your night vision device’s range to 4-5x further than your standard IR manufacturers. 

The Top Night Vision Infrared Illuminator Reviewed

 Product's nameWeather Resistance RatingWeightBest forMore Info
ATN IR850 Supernova Infrared Illuminator for hunting, law...Best option overall
ATN IR850 Supernova Infrared Illuminator for hunting, law...
IPX815ozBest option overallSee on Amazon
T67 IR 850nm IR Light Illuminator Infrared Led Flashlight...Best Infrared Laser Illuminator
T67 IR 850nm IR Light Illuminator Infrared Led Flashlight 67mm Lens IR...
Only splashproof12ozBest Infrared Laser IlluminatorSee on Amazon
ATN IR850 Pro Long Range 850 mW Infrared Illuminator for...Best 850nm option
ATN IR850 Pro Long Range 850 mW Infrared Illuminator for Hunting, Law...
IPX83.2ozBest 850nm optionSee on Amazon
Pulsar 940 IR Flashlight Night Vision AccessoryBest 940nm option
Pulsar 940 IR Flashlight Night Vision Accessory
IPX66.7ozBest 940nm optionSee on Amazon

What’s an illuminator flood lights?

Flood lights are a type of lighting with wide-angle coverage, generally used as roadway and work area illumination. The light emitted from an illuminator flood light with high lumen value is sufficient to illuminate large areas like intersections, building etc.. Flood lights are normally used in outdoor applications where the wider beam angles cannot be achieved by conventional point.

Find the right Night Vision Infrared Illuminator for You

#1 Best Overall – ATM SuperNova

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The ATN SuperNova is designed with quality aircraft grade aluminum and water resistance of IPX8. Making it the perfect accessory to amplify your night vision device that is not afraid of getting dropped in the water. Weighing in at just 12oz and easy rail mounting system, the SuperNova is equipped to ensure you’re ready for your next hunt

ATN equipped the SuperNova with four stages of operation giving the user flexibility to alter the amount of infrared light being put off to suit whatever situation arises- 5%, 30%, 50%, and 100%.  The SuperNova is powered by a single lithium 18650 battery and can operate for up to 3.5 hours running at 100%.

Pros

  • Aircraft-grade aluminum
  • 4-stage output
  • 400-450 yard illumination rage
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Rail mount only

#2 Best Infrared Laser Illuminator – Evolva Future Technology T67

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The Evolva Future Technology T67 is a great night vision accessory to consider if you are looking for a quality device that features as a floodlight as well as a precise spotlight. The Evolva T67’s floodlight gives users 200 meters of spacious viewing but can be focused down to a spot to illuminate specific areas up to 100 meters.

With an aspherical lens, the T67 allows you to adjust the IR light for close flooding range to a powerful precise beam. Simply giving you a 3-mode system – low, medium, and high and charged by two 18650 Li-Ion batteries. Evolva constructed the T67’s tube to be 30mm, meaning you can use 30mm adapters to mount this infrared illuminator on your rifle. 

Pros

  • Spotlight and floodlight
  • Aircraft quality aluminum housing
  • 3-mode system

Cons

  • Only splashproof

#3 Best long-range option – ATN SuperNova

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Along with its other defining attributes that made the ATN SuperNova the top on our list of IR illuminators, it is capable of boosting your night vision device’s range to 4-5x further than your standard IR manufacturers. With an infrared illumination range of 400-450 yards to accompany your night vision device to produce an optimal viewing capacity.

Pros

  • Aircraft-grade aluminum
  • 4-stage output
  • 400-450 yard illumination rage
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Rail mount only

#4 Best 850nm option – ATN Pro Long Range

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The ATN Pro Long-Range is an amazing IR illuminator option to consider if you don’t want to worry about your batteries dying in the middle of the night. Only charged by one AA battery does not stop this night vision device from enduring through long night treks in the woods. Designed with a 3-stage output (low, medium, high); at 5%-20 hours, at 30%-8 hours, 100%-6 hours.

ATN constructed this infrared illuminator to only weigh 3.2 oz to ensure you or your rifle is never tied down to make the perfect shot every time. Not to mention it’s generous 300-meter illumination range and a waterproof rating of IPX8, so you never miss a beat no matter the circumstance. The ATN Pro Long-Range comes with an adjustable mount and can be adapted to fit onto any weaver rail.

Pros

  • 300-meter illumination range
  • 3-stage system
  • 3.2oz
  • IPX8 water resistance
  • Made from aircraft-grade aluminum

Cons

  • Powered by non-rechargeable batteries

#5 Best 940nm option – Pulsar 940 IR Flashlight

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If you’re looking for a night vision device that’s completely covert then this 940nm IR illuminator may be the right choice for you. The Pulsar 940nm IR Flashlight is perfect for specific circumstances where you want to be undetected and eliminate any glow that comes with other IR illuminators.

Pulsar designed this night vision device to resist high-pressure and heavy sprays of water, with a rating of IPX6. So, you can feel comfortable hiking in the woods no matter the weather condition. It has an adjustable IR spot position and can be adjusted horizontally or vertically by turning it’s locking ring. Powered by three AA batteries, the Pulsar 940nm is equipped with an adaptable weaver mount and 1/4” socket that’s available for most modern rifle scopes and optical units.

Pros

  • 6.7 oz
  • Adjustable IR spot position
  • IPX6 water resistance
  • Undetectable IR light

Cons

  • 940nm devices can’t see as far

IR Illuminator for Night Hunting

Do I need an IR illuminator for night hunting?

When you hunt, most of the time you’ll be in open air with plenty of light from stars and moon. What happens if the clouds come over and cover up all that light? Your scope can see just as well as your naked eye at night but it needs some help to get more light on the animals. IR illuminators do just that for you!

Do I need an IR illuminator for night hunting? Will a scope see in the dark without one?

Well, yes and no. A scope is great at gathering light and projecting it into your eye (provided it isn’t fogging up on you). The problem is that there’s less ambient light at night, which means your scope is gathering less light. Case in point, if you’ve never used an IR on a rifle you’ll first go “wow” and then later figure out that it’s not as bright as you first thought (when you turn it off).

ir illuminator example

HOW TO USE an IR Illuminator?

Well, to use an infrared illuminator you’d have to know what it is first! An IR Illuminator is a device that emits near-infrared light to illuminate objects at night. It can be connected with another object (another camera, or a thermal scope) so the latter’s autofocus and/or auto iris could work better/easier in a dark surrounding.

For example, you could connect one with a camcorder to use it as a “night vision” camera, or even with a covert hidden camera in order to let its covertness increase at night time.

Night Vision Infrared Illuminator Buying Guide

What to Look for When Buying an IR Illuminator

The process of looking for the right infrared illuminator for your night vision device can be just as tricky as it was finding a night vision device itself. With the factors contributing to how far you’re trying to further your device’s night vision range capability. Although top-quality night vision equipment doesn’t always benefit from the assistance of an IR illuminator, in many situations it can double the capacity of your device and allow you to see more clear, brighter images

Illumination Range

IR Range
Infrared Range

Asking how far you’ll be able to see with your night vision device is like asking who’s going to win this year’s Super Bowl. With so many different variables that contribute to the viewing capacity of your device’s night vision range such as how big the object is that you are looking for. Is it a house? Big-game animals or birds? How big the objective is can affect how well you can recognize specific details at certain distances. 

Another big factor affecting your device’s night vision range is the amount of light that is available. Having some sort of ambient light source can have a major impact on how clear and bright your viewing image will be, thus allowing you to see further than without. A clear night with visible starlight or moonlight is the most ideal weather condition for your device’s optimal viewing capacity rather than a cloudy night with overcast weather.

Weather Resistance Rating

Always check for the water or weather resistance rating on night vision equipment to ensure you get the right device for the job. And in this case, make sure the IR illuminator you chose suits your intended use. An Ingress Protection (IP) rating is used to measure the resistance of your outdoor equipment against water and other debris. The higher the IP rating, the better resistance it offers.

Power Source

All IR illuminators need DC current in order to function. Some use AA batteries while other brands operate on CR123A lithium batteries. While the rest typically have rechargeable Li-Ion batteries.

If used continuously, IT illuminators powered by AA batteries can provide about 3 to 4 hours of power, depending on the energy requirement of your illuminator. CR batteries are for smaller type illuminators but can provide consistent power for an average of 3.5 hours. Both types of batteries can be easily replaceable.

The best IR illuminator with a 18650 Li-Ion rechargeable battery can last around 7 hours depending on the quality of the battery and what mode of operation it’s set on.

Infrared Wavelength

Infrared wavelength
Infrared wavelength

There are a couple of varying IR wavelengths, but the most common are 850nm and 940nm. Infrared wavelengths are measured in nanometers or ‘nm’, which is used to determine the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. Visible light can run between a 390nm to 700nm wavelength. The IR light wavelengths used in infrared illuminators for night vision device usually range between 805nm and 940nm

Although the 850nm and 940nm IR wavelengths are similar in performance, there are some distinct differences worthy of considering. With an 850nm wavelength, although infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the IR LEDs will put off a faint red glow when looking into your device’s light source.

While on the other hand, when using a 940nm wavelength, the IR light does not produce any visible glow. Making this wavelength completely invisible, ideally for circumstances where stealth is a key objective. The main downside of the 940nm is that it’s about 30-40% less effective than the 850nm wavelength and will illuminate less distance.

FAQs for Night Vision Illuminators

Do you need an IR Illuminator?

There are many circumstances where even the best Gen 3 devices would benefit from the help of an IR illuminator. In cases where you’re in a dark building or anytime moon or starlight isn’t at your convenience, like dense, wooded environments where shadows can affect your viewing quality.

Is IR light visible?

Infrared light is virtually invisible to the human eye, although night vision applications with an IR wavelength of 850nm produce a red glow when looking directly into the light source of your device.

Can animals see IR light?

Warm-blooded animals, such as mammals, or birds aren’t capable of seeing infrared light like humans. On the other hand, snakes have receptors allowing them to see infrared in the dark because of their protein channels that are activated by body heat put off by the prey they eat. Some other cold-blooded animals like some species of frog and fish can see IR light as well.

Conclusion

The top pick on our list came out to be the ATN SuperNova thanks to its 4 stage output allowing the user maximum control over how much power and light is being emitted. Along with its long illumination range of 400-450 yards that should catch the eye of any hunter.

Not all of these products may be the same as they each have their own unique set of qualities, features. Each is slightly different and is especially suited for varying circumstances that could come up while out on an evening hunt. 

About Kim Goodwin

Kim Goodwin holds a Master's in thermal engineering from the University of Rhode Island. At Thermo Gears, she reviews most equipment that uses thermal imaging technologies.