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Rigel Optics Night Vision
Night Vision Binocular Test & Review
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One of the most interesting products I've tested is the Model D212M Night Vision Binocular, from Rigel Optics. Not only is it fun and interesting to "play" with night vision products, but just getting them operational was pretty eventful!

I'll condense the tale of acquisition as much as possible, to reduce boredom on the part of you, the reader. I was told a few months back that Rigel Optics was going to send me a Model D211 to test, review, and return. Upon receipt, I naturally wanted to try it out, but was at a loss -- no battery was included, and the included instructions (in both English and Russian) made no mention of battery type, other than voltage.

A quick Email to Rigel revealed that it was a simple oversight on their part, and a battery was promptly shipped to me. Upon receipt, I found that it was the wrong size!

A visit to the Rigel Optics website showed me the problem... instead of the D211, what I had was a D212M. Nowhere on the binocular is the model (or even the manufacturer) marked, so I used the pictures on their site to verify what I suspected. Yes, a simple mistake had been made, a lack of communication with the shipping folks.

Rigel promptly sent new batteries (the D212M takes two N-cell batteries). They've since informed me that in the future, they'll be shipping batteries with the product in all cases, to avoid future problems of this kind.

Now, the testing could begin! Despite having to jump back and forth between the picture in the Russian manual and the English instructions, it was really pretty easy to figure out how to use them.

The D212M features 2.7x magnification and a 20-degree field of view, according to the Rigel website. Focusing is accomplished with both eyepieces and both objectives, independently -- so you focus for first one eye, then the other, unlike most "regular" binoculars. Focusing is easily done, and though the world appears as if enveloped in a green haze, and a slight distortion around the the edges of the lenses give it a bit of a "fish-bowl" effect, features viewed through the binocular actually appear quite crisp.

D212M Night Vision Binocular

The Dipol Model D212M Night Vision Binocular
(photo courtesy of Rigel Optics)

The light-gathering capabilities of this binocular are really impressive, especially to someone who hadn't used night vision much before. If aimed anywhere in the neighborhood of a light source, the effects are even so bright as to be too bright. In darker areas, when ambient light isn't present in sufficient quantity to do the trick, simply turn on the active infrared (IR) illuminator. This, in effect, projects a "spotlight" beam of IR light, which serves to light up anything in its path.

Using the D212M in the woods for night-spotting game is probably the most practical use a hunter could put it to, and it should do pretty well for that purpose. On very dark nights, the IR illuminator can be put to use, which should help considerably -- though in brush of any kind it will light up the limbs & leaves in the foreground (blocking a good view of what's past), just as a "white" light would do. On a moonlit night, this product should make objects appear almost as if in daylight (albeit a green-tinted, slightly hazy daylight).

Advantages include the obvious -- you can see in the dark! Other good points are:

- Comfortable - the rubber-cushioned eyepieces are comfy to me.
- Nice strap - the strap isn't the most deluxe you'll find, but it is webbing about 3/8" wide, isn't uncomfortable, and is plenty long.
- Tethered lens caps - the lens caps feature tethers so you won't lose them, or have to find a pocket to cram them in.
- Nylon case - as with the strap, the padded black nylon case isn't the most exotic you'll ever see, but it's certainly adequate.
- Can be used in daylight - for testing purposes, the binocular may be used in the daylight... with the lens caps on. Small holes in the lens caps allow this, and the view appears pretty clear, especially considering you're viewing the world through pinholes!

Downsides include the following:

- Fairly heavy - specs say it weighs around 0.7 kilograms (which amounts to about a pound and a half).
- Fairly delicate - specs say it needs humidity below 80%, temperature range of 65-90 degrees F (although it did operate fine in freezing temperatures on one of my hunting trips), and it must not get wet.
- Not very adjustable - the distance between the eyepieces is fixed. This wasn't a problem for me, however -- it fit me just fine.

If the weight is a problem, I suggest using a Bino-Strap from Barnes (pictured below). These are the same folks who make the famous Barnes X-Bullet, and it appears that's not the only good idea they've had. I even use a Bino-Strap with my light binocs, as it transfers the weight from my neck to my shoulders. It's elastic, and adjustable.

Barnes Bino-Strap

This is a Barnes-provided image, illustrating the use of the Bino-Strap.
(image property of Barnes Bullets)

All in all, the D212M Night Vision Binocular from Rigel Optics is a pretty nice product, and if night vision is what you desire, I recommend checking out what Rigel Optics has to offer. Despite a rocky start, they have proven to be timely in their responses to my various quandaries, and they seem to be good people overall -- and really, what more could you ask for?

[Edit: The President of Rigel Optics was indicted in 2008 of import/export violations. Oops!]

- Russ Chastain

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