Luna Optics LN-SX3 Night Vision Monoculars Review
If you are really wanting to save space as well as money, but still want to take a night vision device with you on safari (and why wouldn't you), then a night vision monocular as opposed to a full binocular may be just what you are looking for.
With the prices of night vision devices really coming down over the past few years, I highly recommend that you seriously consider taking one with you on safari - for exactly why see my article on Night Vision for Safaris and Wildlife Observation
That is not to say that all night vision equipment is cheap, but the entry level Luna Optics LN-SX monoculars are very keenly priced and makes night vision a real option even for the casual user.
So the price is good, but just how well does it work - well I was recently given the opportunity to review their 3x magnification version, the Luna Optics LN-SX3:
- Technology: Generation 1
- Built-in IR illuminator
- Camera adaptable
- Magnification: 3x
- Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
- Weight: 15.9ozs (451g)
- Length: 6.8in (17.3cm) Height: 2.9in (7.4cm) Width: 2.2in (5.6cm)
- Real field of view: 12°
- Apparent field of view: 36.0°
- Field of View: 213m at 1,000 meters
- Field of View: 638ft at 1,000 yards
- Close Focus Distance: 9.8ft
- Maximum Viewing Distance: 200m (650ft)
- Waterproof: No - weather protected
- Fogproof: No
- Multi-coated Lens Coatings
- Compact Water-resistant design
- Power: 1x3V Lithium (CR123)
Below are my personal views on the LN-SX3 after having used them for a few nights, which I hope you may find useful:
According to Luna Optics: The SX3 night vision monocular has a compact, lightweight and water-resistant design.
The Safari Guide opinion: Whilst this may not be the most compact monocular ever made, for a night vision device and when compared to a binocular it is both fairly light weight and compact.
Their actual weight is 450g (0.99lb) which means they are only a little heavier than most daytime compact binoculars and lighter than most mid-sized binoculars.
Their dimensions of 175mm x 58mm x 75mm (6.8" x 2.2" x 2.9") also means that they should be fairly easy to pack away into your hand luggage and take with you on holiday.
Their portability is for me is one of the biggest advantages of a monocular over a binocular - I tend to take quite a bit of equipment with me on safari (take a look at what I am actually taking on my next trip: What Equipment I Take on Safari) and it therefore makes sense to keep everything as small and lightweight as possible.
I find it interesting that Luna Optics don't mention the great little "handycam, video" hand strap on the monocular in any of their marketing. It makes it so easy to hold and use in one hand, with all the buttons easily accessible. I really like it and I think that all monoculars should use this system as many either just come with a wrist strap that is just there incase you were to drop them, or nothing at all.
Once you have set up the device for your particular eyesight by twisting the eyepiece, focusing the monocular is really simple. You just twist the end of the barrel, which takes about half a turn to go from it's near focus of 9.8ft to infinity.
The eye-cups on these Luna N-PB3's are made from a rubber that have a more plastic feel to them than most others that I have tried. Before trying them I was a little put off by this, but bringing them up to and pressing them firmly to my face, I was pleasantly surprised as they are pretty comfortable and I also really like the "wings" on the sides of them that ensures no external light enters from the side.
Whilst it is good that these are water-resistant, I suppose it is a little disappointing that they are not completely waterproof. It should be fine if you look after them in damp conditions, but may be something you should consider if you plan on doing all weather surveillance.
This monocular uses Generation 1 night vision technology, which is the most commonly used amongst consumer night vision equipment. (More on how night vision works & night vision generations)
I have often been asked why does most night vision equipment not have more powerful magnifications like what we see in day time monoculars and binoculars.
The answer is actually related to image brightness: To make higher magnifications, the objective lens elements need to be thicker, which means that they transmit less light than thinner lenses.
So because every little bit of light transmitted is so important on night vision equipment, the magnifications have to be lower to maintain the best possible balance between image magnification and the light.
50mm Objective Lenses
The larger the objective lens, the more light gathering capability of your optics, obviously on the down side is that larger lenses are not only heavier, but will make your device larger and are more expensive to make.
The 50mm objective lens on this Luna night vision monocular, I think strikes a pretty good balance between light gathering ability and it's size.
Maximum Viewing Distance
For an entry level device, these Luna night vision monoculars have a good viewing distance of 200 meters (650ft) which compares very well with other monoculars in this price range and should be enough for most people using them on safari.
Close Focusing Distance
The minimum close focusing distance on the LX3 is 3m (9.8ft), which is a little further than the very best optics out there and therefore makes them less suitable than some if you want to view objects up close at night.
During my tests, I was very impressed with the brightness and contrast of the image produced and I could clearly see the back of my garden which is 120ft away - and beyond. If I was on safari and there had been a lion back there, I would have easily been able to see it!
Comparing the view through them with the Luna Optics LN-PB3 night vision binoculars that I also had with me, the image produced was very similar in terms of brightness and indeed overall quality, with the binoculars just edging it. Considering the large price difference and the fact that the binocular has effectively double the light gathering ability this is impressive.
Built In IR Illuminator
This monocular comes with a built in Infrared illuminator, that transforms what must be said is an already fairly bright image to something that almost jumps back at you.
To do this it shines Infrared light onto the object that you are viewing, this is then reflected back to the monoculars and is amplified by the tube in the same way as ambient light.
This means that you can also use the LX3 in complete darkness, or when the ambient light is not quite enough or if you just want a better view of what ever it is you are looking at.
Night Vision Performance
For those who have never tried night vision before, the video below taken with the Luna Optics LN-LX5, which is the same as the LX3 apart from having a 5x magnification will give you a really good idea of what to expect. I think that it fairly accurately depicts the view that that I experienced with them during my test (without the IR illuminator switched on).
Luna Optics say that these Luna LN-LX3 night vision monoculars use high-quality all-glass optics with multicoated lenses:
Multicoated lenses mean that at least some air to glass surfaces - usually the first and the last, have multiple layers of antireflection coatings that help to transmit as much light as possible. Fully Multicoated would have been better as that would mean that ALL air to glass surfaces have antireflection coatings, but even so this is better than then not being coated at all.#
Although I was not able to set it during my review to evaluate the results, I really like the fact that you can easily convert your LN-SX3 to work as a night vision lens for your SLR camera. All you need is the Luna Optics LN-CAS camera adapter that can be purchased as an accessory and the appropriate 'T' mount adapter for your SLR camera.
Then you just remove the units eyepiece screw in the LN-CAS and you are ready to take stunning photographs in total darkness.
For those who are wondering why I did not test it, I don't use an SLR camera and so couldn't. I choose to use a superzoom bridge camera, which I feel for me and for many people out there is far more suitable as a safari camera - for reasons why look at SLR vs Compact SuperZoom Cameras on safari.
The video above is part of a full review that I did for the Best Binocular reviews website, you can read the full Luna Optics LN-SX3 Night Vision Binoculars Review here.
Over the past few years we have seen the price of night vision devices come down, this is largely down to increase competition. Whilst you can still pay a fortune for the very best equipment, I feel that 1st Generation devices like these SX3's are more than adequate for most casual users needs.
One thing to point out is that not all Gen 1 night vision tubes are created equal - and you can find quite a large difference in both price and performance.
The main reason for this is during the manufacturing process all tubes are evaluated and graded according to their quality and performance and are sold at significantly different prices depending on their light amplification and image clarity. This is obviously reflected in the final price of the Night Vision device.
Luna Optics are proud to point out that they only buy the top grades of the intensifier tubes, and so even though some of their models may be a little more expensive than other Gen1 devices on the market, you can be sure that you are getting the best quality possible.
|Luna Optics Night Vision on Amazon.co.uk||Luna Optics Night Vision on Amazon.com|
I really liked the Luna Optics LN-SX3 Night Vision Monoculars, the real highlights are their relatively low cost and compact size.
For an entry level Gen 1 night vision device they work really well, with a high contrasting and bright image. They are an ideal accessory for most people going on safari or any area where you have wildlife active at night. I can also see them as being very useful for home security.
I would like to thank Opticalia Ltd, the UK distributors of Luna Optics for providing me with the sample to review.
Take a look at a few of my other reviews on night vision devices:
The 3x magnification Luna LN-PB3 is one of the most compact and lightweight full size night vision binoculars available. Featuring an aluminum body, with high-quality optics, multicoated lenses and multi-lens elements to provide best possible image under any light conditions. The Generation 1 PB3 also features a built-in IR illuminator that allows for use in total darkness. You can accessorize your PB3 with an optional Extended Range IR Illuminator and makes in my opinion an ideal safari holiday companion.
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