What's the matter? Can't see in the dark? Flashlight won't work? NSA/FBI/ATF not noticing you? Pesky rodents and other pests invading your premises and getting the best of you? Never fear. I've found a great way to build affordable real night vision that works great. Actually, this thing is kickass, so if you're ready for a fun project that won't kill your bank account, then have a seat, get your snacks, and get ready to take some notes.

Basically, I've been interested in night vision for awhile. I also play airsoft (Like our page! https://www.facebook.com/Point3Airsoft), so having night vision is a highly coveted advantage at night games and is probably the dream of every Battlefield/Call of Duty playing airsofter to have working night vision. I've heard of the toys that use infrared light and cameras to see in the dark, I've seen the expensive Gen 1 units that require infrared illumination to see anything, and I've gawked and cursed at how expensive the Gen 2 and Gen 3 units are. However after doing some research about how night vision works, some sourcing for parts, making a bit of an investment, and waiting for items in the mail, I've managed to build probably the best performing DIY night vision device you can get for the money. In the end, I spent around $200 building this and probably could've saved even more money if I had cut a few corners here and there. You can only imagine how happy my inner child is every time I power mine up.

Inspiration for this project originated from the cascade night vision thread on the AR15 forum and the Australian night vision forum. Both threads are run by David Kitson (cj7hawk), so big thank you for him for answering some of my questions and providing open source information about the project. I'll provide links to the threads at the end of the instructable. :)

Before I start, pleasebe responsible. Depending on where in the world you live, possession of night vision may actually be illegal. This can also potentially be weapons mounted, so don't be an idiot.

People who play with fire get burned; people who play with guns get shot.

Let's get started! :)

Step 1: The Science and History Behind the Tube

In order for you to build night vision, you need to know how night vision works. I'll try to summarize it for you.

So basically night vision uses what is called an Image Intensifier Tube. This electro-optical vacuum tube essentially gathers incoming photons through the objective opening into a photocathode, and converts those photons into electrons. The electrons are amplified across a microchannel plate and then are reconverted back into photons when they hit a phosphor screen.

I'm not going to get into details about the different 'generations' of night vision, but Gen 1 is the most affordable commercially and usually the weakest and lowest performing on the market. The tube I used in this project is also Gen 1 and is called a cascade tube. Essentially, it contains three gen 1 tubes as three 'stages' for a single tube.

History time. Sometimes called 'starlight scopes', these cascade tubes were developed in the 50's and 60's and were used in the AN/PVS-2 rifle scopes during the Vietnam War. In fact, an AN-PVS-2 eyepiece will physically fit like a glove to the end of the same tube we'll be using. Cascade night vision was also the first true passive night vision system, not requiring any IR illumination.

Cascade tubes were very large however, and were outmoded by Gen 2 tubes and systems because they were smaller with less geometric distortion (fisheye). Gen 1, 2, and 3 night vision devices are still manufactured and used today, however cascade night vision is not. In fact, there are lots of new old stock cascade tubes unused and unissued in surplus (you can still buy these tubes today if you know where to look).

Let's get what we need. :)

<p>Worked out great! I can see in pitch black when in normal light there is not even an outline. I will be using it for airsoft which is why it is mounted to a rail riser. I already brought it to a Vietnam mil-sim (got lucky on the fact that it is time period accurate) and was great for night patrols and defending our base (48hrs straight event). I was able to compare it to a real PVS-2 scope and this one is brighter (4xAA, ~5.5V) and very clear.</p><p>Things to work on: the focus is currently just a tight fit onto some PVC which sucks. I want to replace it with something else but I don't know what yet. I also want to tidy up the wires in front since I opted to not use any outer shell to keep it slim.<br>Note: it sparks sometimes from hot to the hose clamps for some reason... I suspect the housing is a common ground.</p><p>Overall I would definitely recommend this build to someone with a need for cheap NV and has some basic tools. I put about 20hrs into the project (mostly because I am anal) and about $40ish besides the specific parts (tube, eyepiece, lens and adapter). The fittings are various PVC pieces and I wish I had a lathe to better work them. I had a bench grinder and some sand paper :(</p><p>The rail I used is this: <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M9IL5YQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1" rel="nofollow">https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M9IL5YQ/ref=o..</a> I got it to fit across the gap on my converted CYMA M14 EBR to M14. Standard 4xAA battery box with the switch turned around. Cut some thin steel to tidy up the box. 3&quot; hose clamps to hold it together.<br></p><p>I still need to shim it but I believe it is fairly accurate as is though it is hard to sight at night :P</p><p>Thanks @eyebot117 for the instructable! Let me know if you have any questions about how I built mine.<br>P.S. if you are in the NJ/NY area for a mil-sim/night OP hmu on twitter.</p>
<p>Well done! I typically used a cheapo red laser with windage/elevation adjustment and a pressure switch for aiming the scope. Way easier than creating an adjustable mount. Great looking build! </p>
<p>Also, I've noticed that it builds up a strong static charge. The ~6VDC going in is being amplified to about 40,000V through the power supply for the image intensifier tubes. This could explain the spark you're seeing on those clamps. </p>
<p>thank you so much for these instructions. Will I be able to record the skies at night just like this guy here in his videos?</p><p>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBcVlZgioFc</p>
<p>You will need a recording device with a camera that can focus the eyepiece, but try your phone first. The batteries are simple to wire. The negative or ground connects to the silver ring on the front of the tube, the positive connects to a small brass threaded hole on the side. Use a screw for this instead of pouring solder into the threaded hole. 6V DC makes it happy, so 4 AA or AAA batteries should work. </p>
<p>sorry also, do you have instruction to wire the tube to batteries? I have no knowledge at all how to connect the terminals and such...</p>
What happens if you use a high f stop? F4? Wouldn't that allow less light and protect your tube better?
<p>I think so. Of course if the lens has an adjustable aperture, you don't have to worry about allowing too much light since you can manually throttle how much light is hitting the photocathode on the tube.</p>
<p>Thank you for this guide. This is the best guide involving the Image Intensifier Tube on the internet. A big help was figuring out which Lens to use, its a tough call but the one you used certainly seems to be the best for the money. Just got most of the parts so now I have to get it all working.</p>
How long do those 2 AA's last?
<p>I'm not really sure, but they've lasted at least 4 hours (maybe longer) and were still going strong after. </p>
I looked up the tube and there are 2 different kinds. Whats the difference between the two?
<p>You are probably referring to Type A and Type B. All it seems to mean according to Anchor Supplies is Type A is a &quot;like new&quot; condition and Type B may have exterior scratches but they say they test them all and lenses should be fine. I personally went ahead and purchased a Type B and I'm currently working on this project to get it working. It came in and it seems fine, I was expecting worse but I don't see anything particular that is damaged so far on it but haven't tested it.<br><br></p>
<p>super cool! i'm sick of the difficulty of gen 1 tubes. cant wait to build my own!</p>
<p>Good <a href="http://www.opticsplanet.com/nightvision.html" rel="nofollow">night vision</a> you can buy in this <a href="http://www.atncorp.com/night-vision-goggles" rel="nofollow">http://www.atncorp.com/night-vision-goggles</a></p><p>Hope you can choose something !</p>
<p>if i had found this page prior i would of let you all know about Anchor Supplies. in UK.</p><p>they had Gen 1 tubes from british tanks the </p><p>EEV P8070HP legandary cascade as good as gen 3 with correct lens 100.000 times gain...and class leader..they was &pound;40 but have now sold out.The UK military would rather smash them than allow us to have them now. So they are hard to come by.</p><p>Starlight Night vision sell the tubes alone for &pound;80 but they are guaranteed..</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205315642402044&set=a.1596828772100.79894.1577415356&type=1" rel="nofollow">https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1020531564...</a> </p><p>https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205169285223206&amp;set=a.1596828772100.79894.1577415356&amp;type=1&amp;theater</p>
<p>Great build, overall i spent 160$ on it. Works better than any GEN1 i have. </p>
<p>Very cool project! I'm wondering how this would perform in an experiment to replace the eyepiece of a reflecting telescope. How much more light would it gather from the stars, I'm wondering? :D Or would it overwhelm, being on such a telescope that already is gobbling up and focusing billions of photons?</p>
<p>Great job with this instructable. In theory could one use a fisheye camera lens (still c mount) or would the distortion be way too much? Thanks!</p>
<p>Yep! Not sure what it would do to the distortion, actually. But because it's C-mount, you can just plug and play lenses as much as you want to see what happens. The faster the lens (f2 or less), the better.</p>
<p>Do you know of anywhere else to buy the cascade tubes?</p>
<p>Look on ebay. I'm not sure about cascade tubes, but I know that you can get Gen 2 intensifiers for between 300-600 dollars quite often on there. It's probably a bit more than you want to pay for night vision, but Gen 2 is the next best thing and will still make a high quality DIY night vision optic.</p>
<p>Hi! Thanks again for this great build idea. I finished my a few months ago and it is very successful. One thing I want to warn people about. I poked a tiny pin hole in the lens cap so the device could be tested in daylight. This works fine. But after sitting on the shelf for a few months, the photons leaking through the pinhole have damage the intensifier leaving a small black dot in the center of the tube. So, FYI: put some electrical tape over the pinhole when in storage.</p>
<p>Ouch, hope you can still use the tube! One thing, photons can't damage an image intensifier tube without the device being powered, so really, just be mindful of leaky batteries or accidentally turning it on during storage. The tube was probably overexposed because it was used during the day-<em>regardless of the pinhole cover</em>-so it burned a spot on the phosphor screen. </p><p>Pinhole covers are only intended for <em>low light</em> applications (e.g., indoors, late dusk after sunset, early dawn before sunrise) to help further protect the tube. You're better off using a standard lens cap and using the lens aperture to control the light exposure. Bottom line, if you can see just fine without night vision, then don't power it on. :) </p><p>Thanks for trying it out and be sure to post some photos! We want to see it! :)</p>
<p>Sure! Here you go. I cannibalized the eyepiece from an old studio style camcorder. It has a handy flip open feature.</p>
about how much $ total do you have invested into this project and what currency? <br>I'd love to do this project and would like a reference cost.
Around $200 USD after the spinning rims. The tube was $130ish, the objective was $35, and the eyepiece was around $6-8 bucks. Add 6VDC power from a battery pack in a box with a switch and you're ready to go.
awesome, thank you.
I just bought a cascade tube from Anchor for about 108$. The value of the Euro isn't doing so well. Better for us!
Hey mate this is great very detailed . I am also an avid airsofter i was actually playing just this sunday. Nice HK SL8 btw
Thanks mate! Hopefully I'll get the chance soon to test it out at a night op some of the guys in our group are hosting at our field we play at! :)
Darn YOU! I HAVE to build this now! Thanks for taking the time to document the effort. The hardest part is dealing with the optics and you certainly made that easy.
Hahaha, once you've seen the green, you gotta have it! :) Make sure to check out the other threads if you have any questions about optics. Those guys on there have all the measurements and numbers figured out, while I just moved it a little bit until it looked sharp!

About This Instructable




Bio: I work in architecture visualization and love art, design, 3D printing, airsoft, and electro-optics...like night vision.
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