Review - Avangard Optics NVGM1Pro 1x26 Night Vision Monocular
Posted: 27 April 2019
Updated: 29 April 2019
NVGM1Pro 1x26 Night Vision Monocular with Headband
Recently our cat Cato got outside at night. I thought about using my Night Owl Optics night scope (purchased in 2003) to assist in locating him on our 3 acres of land. I have used this old night scope to view local wildlife from the observatory at night and to even view the night sky. However, it has a narrow apparent field-of-view (FOV, about 12°) with its 2X magnification and so makes locating critters difficult. Due to this limited FOV I decided to not use it to try to find Cato. (I was able to find him using a flashlight, so his Big Adventure ended well.)
To make finding Cato easier should he again get out of the house at night I began wondering if there were inexpensive 1X magnification night scopes available. The choices were limited; most night scopes (except for rifle scopes) have magnifications ranging from 2X to 10X and more, with limited FOVs. I found that B&H sells an Avangard Optics NVGM1Pro 1x26 Night Vision Monocular with an adjustable headband. This night scope has a FOV of 40° at 1X magnification. An optional 3.6x zoom lens is available which reduces the FOV to 12° (I did not get this lens). At the time I placed my order the night scope was on sale for $399 ($150 less than normally priced).
The basic specifications for this night scope are:
Generation 1 intensifying tube
26mm objective lens diameter
40° angular field-of-view (12° with optional 3.6x lens)
Diopter adjustment: ±4
Minimum focal distance of 0.8'
Focusable IR illuminator
Bright light cutoff function saves tube from burnout
Adjustable left or right eye viewing
Adjustable viewing direction
The Night Vision Monocular came with a nice softsided case with a shoulder strap that holds both the scope and the headband, and a usable but rather poorly photocopied 8 page manual. The manual states that batteries are included. It also states in one place that only one battery is used; in the next paragraph it says that two batteries are used. There were no batteries (1 or 2) included with the product. I needed to purchase a battery (1 CR123) before I could continue to try out my new purchase. There were no instructions for use of the headband, although after a few minutes of playing I determined how to mount the monocular, change the eye position, and adjust the headband straps for a secure yet comfortable fit.
WARNING: The monocular comes with an aperture lens cover that is used to protect the sensor in bright light conditions (like daytime). After I unboxed the night scope during the day I placed it aside (still in its transparent plastic bag) to read the manual (yes, I always read manuals first). About 15 minutes later I picked up the night scope and noticed that the protective lens cover was off. As it is a rubber slip-in cover (not snap on or screw on cap) it had probably come loose during shipment. It remains to be seen if any long term damage has been done to the sensor. This is something that new owners should immediately check when unboxing any night scope.
Here are the items that are included:
And this is the "Borg" look while wearing the night scope:
The rubber eyecup can be rotated for either eye without changing the eyepiece focus. There are two focus knobs: one at the eyepiece for focusing on the screen and the other on the aperture lens for focusing for distance. The Infrared (IR) beam can also be focused for distance. There are two buttons on the side of the monocular: one to turn the night scope ON and OFF, the other for turning the IR illuminator ON/OFF. There is a small dim green LED that illuminates when the night scope is ON; the LED turns red when the IR illuminator is ON. The LED is near the battery cap and the cap retaining strap can block the LED, so if you can not see the LED to indicate the power ON/OFF status move the strap.
My initial tests of the night scope were inside a walk-in closet in the house. I closed the closet door and turned the scope ON. This provided a good way to safely check the functionality of the scope and its operation.
My first night time tests with the Night Vision Monocular and Headband were on a night with a nearly Full Moon. I attached the night scope to the headband and turned the scope ON. The bright Moon provided a lot of illumination for the night scope. My first discovery was that no matter how I adjusted the scope position on the headband I could not get the eyepiece close enough to my eye to see the entire field-of-view (FOV). I could easily walk around and see the terrain and objects around me. Keeping both eyes open and not needing to hold the night scope in my hand as it was attached to the headband made for a potentially nice experience. What was definitely NOT nice was that the image was very fuzzy with the restricted FOV. I could not get the image to clear up by using the two focus knobs. I looked at a bench about 25' away and could not identify it as a bench due to the poor image. I turned the IR illuminator ON; it made the scene slightly brighter but did not help with the fuzzy image. I viewed the constellation of Orion but the stars were too fuzzy for a good view.
I then removed the Night Vision Monocular from the headband. I could now hold the night scope eyepiece close to my eye and so could see the entire FOV. AND the image was NOT fuzzy. In fact, it showed a nice wide field view of the terrain and plants around my observatory illuminated by the bright Moon. The bench was now easily identifiable. I began to suspect that the problem when using the headband was that with eyepiece so far from my eye that lens distortions significantly reduced the image quality. I later found this to be true.
The issue with the restricted field-of-view and fuzzy image when using the headband is due to what I consider a design flaw. The monocular can be moved sideways and up/down to allow positioning of the eyepiece directly in front of an eye (left or right) and it can be moved forward and backward about 7/8" on the headband attach point. However it can not be moved close enough to your eye because the battery compartment cap comes in contact with the headband:
I also tried out views using the IR illuminator on a moonlit night. I could not see much improvement when using the IR illuminator, even when changing its focus. It was probably being overwhelmed by the light from the Moon. I did further tests on a night without the Moon in the sky and the illuminator was effective.
One thing to be aware when using any night scope is that the bright screen will affect your eye's dark adaptation. Once you finish using the night scope you will have to allow 15-20 minutes to regain your full dark adaptation.
The Night Vision Monocular can be used with a smartphone camera. For the Terrestrial Photography and Astrophotography tests in the next sections I removed the rubber eyecup from the night scope eyepiece and attached my iPhone 8 Plus to the monocular. The battery compartment cap interfered with the Phone Skope 1-1/4" eyepiece adapter:
The cap prevented the eyepiece from being fully inserted into the Phone Skope adapter, which reduced the security of the attachment and significantly reduced the FOV and blurred the edge of the image as the camera lens was too far from the eyepiece.
Since there is no tripod mounting hole on the monocular it was necessary to handhold the night scope with one hand and hold the phone with the other hand. This worked OK when using the Phone Skope adapter, but it would be nice if Avangard Optics provided a tripod adapter for the headband attachment mount on the night scope.
I also tried out the Levenhuk Smartphone Adapter. As its large eyepiece clamp could wrap around the night scope body, it worked pretty well and put the phone camera lens close to the eyepiece. The Levenhuk adapter has a tripod mounting hole so you can put the phone + night scope on a tripod, as seen here on a tabletop tripod I keep in the observatory.
I used the iOS app NightCap Camera for afocal photography through the Night Vision Monocular. The only issue I had was that when the image looked properly exposed on the Live View it was actually overexposed. It was necessary to reduce the exposure so that the Live View image looked underexposed in order to get a good exposure for the image. This was probably due to the bright green color of the night scope image.
This image shows the reduced FOV and edge blurring when using the Phone Skope adapter or any adapter that positions the camera lens away from the eyepiece. The scene is well illuminated from a bright Moon:
Using the Levenhuk adapter worked well. The camera lens was positioned close to the lens for this full FOV image of some distant trees, stars, and clouds:
Without IR illuminator
With IR illuminator
The Night Vision Monocular can also be used to image the night sky. This is the constellation of Orion on a night with a bright Moon taken with the phone attached to the night scope using the Phone Skope adapter:
Using the Levenhuk adapter for astrophotography provided a nice wide field view of the constellation of Orion:
The Avangard Optics NVGM1Pro 1x26 Night Vision Monocular itself is a well made and functional night scope. The 1X magnification and 40° apparent angular field-of-view provide nice usable views for both terrestrial scenes and the night sky. For a generation 1 sensor, the image quality is acceptable.
It is unfortunate that the supplied headband has the serious design flaw that does not allow the night scope to be close enough to your eye to take advantage of the wide FOV. The extra distance also creates a significant deterioration in the image quality. This effectively eliminates being able to use the headband.
For handheld use the Night Vision Monocular is effective. As the headband is useless, it would be better if there was a hand strap on the night scope body or a tripod mounting hole so that a camera strap could be attached for security.
The low quality and errors in the provided documentation left somewhat of a bad initial impression of Avangard. And the lack of any documentation for the headband could impact its use for some buyers.
The rubber slip-in lens cap, while it can protect the sensor, can come off too easily. I hope that Avangard will redesign the lens cap and provide a tripod mounting capability in a future version of the Night Vision Monocular. A redesign of either the Monocular or the headband will be required to make the headband usable.
Since originally posting this review I discovered that the support and warranty email addresses shown in the documentation are not valid. Perhaps the company has gone defunct. Based on the price for the product, the uselessness of the headband, and the apparent lack of company support, I returned it to B&H for a full refund. I will leave this updated version of my product review available online so that others do not have the same experience as I did.
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