Lengthy review/comparison of G3PVS-7 and G2+MS D-300

Customer Reviews of Night Vision Equipment

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Lengthy review/comparison of G3PVS-7 and G2+MS D-300

Postby Karl_just_Karl » Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:54 am

Comparisons and reviews from a noob:

I apologize if there are things I am covering for the millionth time or if some of the things I am describing here are considered to be known or not exceptional. I realize that there isn’t much of a comparison to be made for G2 vs. G3, but I want to at least try to describe some of the things that I wanted to know prior to making my first purchase. Thanks for entertaining my ramblings.

First of all, here is what I have:

Unit 1: Grade "A" Gen 3 PVS-7 with headgear, demist shields, sacrificial window, soft carrying case, and I splurged on the IR spot/flood. I did not receive a spec-sheet for the unit, but I wasn’t expecting one.

Unit 2: Mil-Spec Gen2+ D-300 with commercial “flip-up” headgear which included a small soft case and a hard pelican case. The commercial headgear came with a spacious soft bag that everything can fit into. I also ordered a daylight scope adapter that came with an ELR illuminator.

About a month ago, I ordered my first night vision device, being a Gen 3 PVS-7. I didn’t know what to expect, but I have continually been amazed at the clarity and brightness of the tube ever since the first time I turned the switch to “On”. I have been working on a rig to use a daylight scope in conjunction with the goggles for observation purposes, but more on that later. My PVS-7 only has one small black dot and a fuzzy blemish in the center of the tube that is only perceptible when using the built-in illuminator and viewing a uniform scene (like a blank, white wall).

Outside, the view has been tremendous. Seeing stars reflecting on a pond during a clear night has been one of my most impressionable, notable and significant experiences. On a moonless night, I can honestly say that seeing a person at 250+ yards is no exaggeration or difficult feat. I’ve even used my goggles for observing cranes (bird type, not construction) at 20 yards. It was dark enough out that I don’t think it saw me next to the pond as it came in for a landing. On a very dark night, ducks were visible on the water, but at 50 yards it was not possible to see anything but their shapes. I’m certain to be showing my age, but that moon shadow that was following me appeared to have been made by a spotlight. I have even been able to see my shadow cast by a neighbors’ incandescent porch-light 80 yards away.

I must take some issue with the statement that goggles offer no advantages over monoculars and have no benefits. They are very comfortable for long term viewing and there is no requirement for your brain to reconcile the night vision vs. no night vision images your eyes are seeing. I do admit that the lack of peripheral vision could allow someone to seek up on you, it is like viewing the world through a toilet paper tube, but the dual-eye comfort and ease of use makes it worthwhile in my opinion. Then again, I’m not driving or trying to secure the freedom of the world with my NV.

I purchased the IR spot/flood lens for the PVS-7 as the built-in IR illuminator was virtually worthless outside. It seemed like a darn shame that for a $2800 unit I had to spend an extra 25 bucks for a tiny lens, but it really does make a big difference in the dark shadows around out-buildings at night, at least for 30 yards or so. I’d still buy/recommend it, even though I think it ought to be included since it is so useful.

The comparisons begin:

When I unpacked the D-300 I continued to be impressed by the equipment. I noticed at first that the eye cups of the D-300 are much thicker and more robust than on the PVS-7. I have found the PVS-7 eyecups to be very comfortable, but I am concerned about their longevity. On the flip-side, the D-300 eye cup pushes rather firmly against your face, almost to the point of being irritating during extended use, but at least I’m not worried it could tear if it was to catch on the lanyard string.

The PVS-7 was listed as grade “A”, but I can’t say that I as yet know what that means because it seems to be an arbitrary rating. As I said before, it only has one black dot outside the center of the field. The D-300 MS unit has no significant black dots at all! There are only a few very, very small dots that are viewable only if you are using illumination.

With use inside the house, I could instantly tell the color difference between the two generations. Both tubes are green, but the G3 looks like a yellower shade, the G2 looks like a more blue shade of green.

As expected, under low light the G3 wins hands down for light amplification, but it is still easy to see around a dark room with G2. The built-in illuminator comes in useful for both units here. The peripheral vision offered by the D-300 doesn’t come too much into play inside. Usually I’m concentrating on what I can see through the tube, not the darkness in the other eye.

Outside, it is a little different story as the vision afforded by the naked eye can be helpful in navigation. Although, with a glaring green image on one side, it can be difficult to force yourself to ignore the light and view the world with your un-aided eye. Quite surprising to me is the detrimental effect that a NV device has on your natural night vision. I played around with this quite a bit while experimenting with the PVS-7. That is when I decided to get a monocular. I can see the benefits of the monocular in many aspects with regards to night time eyesight, navigation, and awareness of one’s immediate surroundings. The goggles are superior for viewing where you want to go or what you want to see, but the monocular helps you to see where you are. When using the PVS-7, it does help to roll the eyecups forward and leave the unit out a little farther from your face if you want to regain some limited amount of peripheral vision.

The G2 is of course “grainier” than the G3 but that by no means implies that the G2 image is not useful. Is it really important to be able to read the label on a bottle of powder in a dark room from 10ft away? If it is, buy Gen3. It is not until you are outside and attempting to view objects at a distance when the resolution differences are most pronounced.

On a moonless night, with partial cloud cover, the limitations of Gen2 became really apparent. The practical usefulness of my D-300 was limited to 100 yards or less, without using the ELR illuminator. Objects at this distance or greater are essentially just dark blobs. The Extra illumination gives you the ability to create more contrast and light up the shadows, but the grainy image just doesn’t allow for discernment of details much greater than 200 yards out. It is possible to see out farther, but the lack of resolution really hurts overall image quality. This is where the lines-per-millimeter really start to pay off.

Without using the IR illuminator under extremely dark conditions there is still a surprising amount (at least for a noob that didn’t know what to expect) of noise in the form of random sparkles dancing in the image in the G3 tube. Yes, Gen 2 is worse and extra illumination becomes really important.

The Gen 2 tube has a lot more of the “fish-eye” effect that is a little disorienting when performing close-up tasks. The G3 is a lot better as far as the flatness of the image, but this has been widely reported and wasn’t much of a surprise. Outside, the Gen 2 fish-eye is much less perceptible or disturbing.

The headgear:

Upon first impression, the headgear for the PVS-7 (aka skullcrusher ?) seemed kind of flimsy. I’ve never been much of a fan of plastic. It certainly does not appear to be something you want to leave lay around that may accidentally get stepped or sat upon. The first time I attempted to don the gear, I had the straps so out of whack, I kept pulling on straps, and I had it so tight that it felt like some kind of medieval torture device. I had to go look at myself in the mirror as I knew that it had to be funny looking. After a while, I got the hang of it. I have found that it doesn’t have to be a “skull crusher” if it is adjusted appropriately. There is a temptation to keep tightening the straps if my NV is sagging, but proper adjustment (a balance of all the straps) is necessary for comfortable wearing.

I anxiously awaited the arrival of my commercial headgear for my D-300 as I had read somewhere that it was more comfortable. It certainly is more robust looking as well as bulkier. I can’t say yet that it is more comfortable. The chin straps emanate from behind the ear and possibly due to my grossly misshapen head :? they have a tendency to dig in if proper adjustment is not attained. I’ve also had a difficult time aligning the D-300 so I get the fullest FOV possible. I’m sure it is just something I need more time with. There does seem to be a lot more flexibility in the adjustment of the head diameter vs. the swapping of the brow pads in the mil-gear.

For now, I prefer the mil-gear for its simpler, lighter construction even if all the adjustment straps hang down like streamers from a Mardi-Gras float and it seems a little on the delicate side . I give the commercial flip-up gear points for the metal construction of the attachment point for the NV and the flip-up feature. I’ll give it big points as well for the nice soft carrying case the gear came in.

Other experiments, things, and notes:

If anyone has felt that the 40degree FOV of a NV device was limiting, try looking through a daylight scope set to 10x. Unfortunately, you run out of adequate illumination long before the field opens very wide. That is why I started looking at an ELR illuminator. The standard ELR has a fixed 9 degree angle, but I am currently waiting on an ELRV with 2-8 degree adjustable bezel.

As I alluded to earlier, I have been working on building a rig so that I could use my PVS-7 to look through an old rifle scope I had laying around. It has been pretty successful so far. I’m using a 3.5-10x scope. Any magnification over 5x requires extra illumination unless in an urban environment with plenty of extra lighting. I have used my set-up to observe a gas station about a half-mile off. Under the brightly lit canopy, people are easily seen coming and going. Nearby, there is also a school with a constantly lit parking lot where the ability to pick up images at 10x have been nothing short of incredible.

I attached the D-300 unit to another 3-9x variable scope I had. There was no difficulty in seeing the reticule sharply. As before, I experienced the FOV vs. light gathering capability of the scope problem. The ELR did help, but mostly by allowing there to be more contrast between my target and the background. The ELR really lights up vegetation and causes it to become pale; my target was still just a dark blob. I had read elsewhere advice about using a daylight scope coupled with NV gear, and most of it has been accurate. On a moonless night, the D-300 was only able to offer a grainy image at 100 yards, even using the ELR. The image was perfectly adequate for sighting some cross-hairs, but no detail of the target subject was visible. You definitely need to clearly identify your target prior to shooting at it. I don’t believe that this set-up is very practical for anything over 150 yards. I also don’t believe that magnification much over 6x is very worthwhile even with the ELR. The overall image is just too dark to find an object quickly.

I would like to get an ELR variable focus illuminator. The fixed focus light has proven to me that a good long range illuminator is an excellent accessory. It was a little sad that the sticker that was affixed to the rubberized body of the ELR illuminator that indicated battery polarity and direction remained adhered for about ten minutes after I took it out of the box. It seems counter intuitive to traditional configuration, but the spring from the end cap being against the positive battery terminal (with the bump) is a little different. I spent a few minutes with a bottle of paint and a toothpick making sure it will be well marked for a long time to come.

By my calculations, a 2 degree angle opens up to a little over 6 feet, 50 yards out. I’ve started to wonder about the suitability to mount an ELRV on the receiver of my shotgun to use as a targeting device.

My summary and conclusions:

Now that I have experienced night vision, I don’t think I would ever want to be without it. My advice to anyone seeking to purchase gear would be to save your money for Gen 3. The SHP is said to be close to Gen3, but I haven’t purchased one of those…yet. I’ve found night vision to be very addicting; unfortunately I can’t afford all the toys I would like to be able to play with.

If all one can afford is Gen 2, then don’t be afraid, it is still pretty good. Especially when you take into account the price differential ($1200 vs. $2800), the quality of the Mil-Spec D-300 has exceeded my expectations. I will enjoy using it as an on-hand kind of device. I am certain it will fulfill my mission requirements perfectly, even if it’s just eliminating woodchucks from the garden at night. For uses at less than 50 yards the D-300 is well worth the savings.

Overall, it comes down to resolution. Resolution gives you distance and recognition. The brightness of the Gen 3 image adds to the refinements, but for me it is the clarity that sells me. I’m glad I purchased the PVS-7.

The guys at OpticsHQ have been really helpful and friendly, that is one of the reasons I will continue to do business with them. I spent a lot of time shopping the web, looking in catalogs and looking for anything that was available locally, and I have found no other source with better prices for the same gear. Kudos to the guys at OpticsHQ for their excellent customer service. Thanks :D

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Postby dkoong » Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:16 am

excellent review!!

how about some pictures with a camera held up to the eyepieces of the same scene at the same time to see the real differences between the gens to give an idea of how different it is?

again... excellent review and thanks for the time you have put into it.
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Joined: Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:14 pm

Postby Karl_just_Karl » Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:39 am

Given some time, I would like to attempt to get some photos. I know that was something I was certainly most interested in when I was trying to decide what I wanted to purchase. Unfortunately for me, as work goes right now, I'm only able to stay up after dark on the weekends. Thanks to daylight savings time, it doesn't get dark enough for NV until 2215. :roll:

I was kind of waiting to post pics until I completed my PVS-7 daylight scope rig. I thought there might be someone else interested in such craziness.

I would also like to do a comparison with the ELR vs. the ELRV using a daylight scope.

Keep watching this space,

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Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:32 am

Re: Lengthy review/comparison of G3PVS-7 and G2+MS D-300

Postby Tracer » Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:37 pm

[quote="Karl_just_Karl"]Seeing stars reflecting on a pond during a clear night has been one of my most impressionable, notable and significant experiences.[/quote]

What can I say..?? Wow! :shock:
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Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2007 11:51 pm
Location: Canada

Postby Radimulak » Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:02 am

excellent review, thx a lot!!
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Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:33 am

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