IR Illuminator - Do you actually need one? 

There is almost no way around it - Whether it is a CCD/CMOS night vision security system or an in the field night vision scope an Ir illuminator will be needed.  If you are not using an infra red thermal imager then IR illumination will always be needed often. When it is too dark for your night vision device you simply turn on your own invisible light source

IR Illuminators work much like a flashlight, but Invisible to the human eye.  The IR light is amplified by night vision devices, making what you or your camera sees much brighter and contrasted.

Using a Gen 1 night vision intensifier or the newest digital night device, IR illumination may be the only option you have under anything less than a clear starlight sky with a full moon, 

In General:.

If you are using Gen 1 night vision or digital night vision you will need IR Illumination often. With Gen 2 night vision you may need it a little less, depending on the quality of the Gen 2.

With Gen 3 night vision you will probably need it once in a while depending on what you’re up to and the rare conditions that require it. Say in dark rooms and caves.

Having said all of this, if you are under a dark tree canopy with dense light sucking under growth or monitoring an unlit alley, the only thing other than a good IR Illuminator that will help you is a thermal NVD.

Near infrared (IR) 

IR illuminators used with night vision devices operate in the near infrared range of the light spectrum from the high side of  700 nanometers to 940 nanometers. This area of the light spectrum is invisible to the human eye and most animals. Other than the dull red glow of the illuminator element, the IR light will only be visible to another NVD and a few IR sensitive animals. 

Night Detective K3 Pro IR IlluminatorAlthough powerful laser illuminators are available, they can be difficult for some to obtain (Export Restrictions). They will cost a little more. They can pose a danger to eye sight and they can fry an image intensifier tube in a heart beat, so they must be used with care. They are available though.

A much safer alternative to the laser is the narrow spectrum light emitting diode (LED) illuminators. The export restrictions are not as big a problem and they are reasonably priced. They offer all the illumination you may need and there are plenty of them on the market.  

Most image intensifiers and digitals will have IR LED illuminators built in. Additional IR Illumination can be added with rail mountings, wall mountings or a hand carried like a Flashlight.

Yukon Ir Flashlight With Weaver Mount The Yukon IR Flashlight can be used with the supplied weaver rail mounts or used hand held with out them.  This is an 805nm narrow beam LED illuminator and can be used with any NVD  to increase viewing range, image brightness and contrast.


Hand held as a flashlight or attached to the NVD, an IR Illuminator will increase the brightness and contrast of anATN 450mW Ir Illuminator image and can be used to increase the NVDS range in low light. You can light up a cave and see it all like daylight or light up the dark corners of the woods under a partial moon and expose the things that hide under there. 

Most of the  Illuminators that come built in to the night vision device are optimized to work with that device in form and function. 

Some common operating ranges for IR Illuminators are: 805nm,
860nm and 940nm. Power and therefore illumination range generally varies between 90mw all the way up to 450mw. The  ATN long range IR Illuminator pictured to right is a 450mw unit. It is designed to be easily attached to many of their products as an add on. 

Some IR illuminators include zooming features that allow adjustment of the IR beam from wide to narrow and can be used to illuminate subjects close up or as far as 200 yards away.


nightvision guide home

night vision generation
   gen 1 night vision
   gen 2 night vision
   gen 3 night vision

digital night vision

ir illuminator

ATN Night Vision
Yukon Optics
Bushnell Night Vision
Night Owl Night Vision