The Sionyx Opsin: Military Grade Night Vision is Finally Affordable

#image_title

Almost two decades ago I decided I needed a PVS14 monocular. I had used PVS7’s on the U.S./Mexico border, then been issued a PVS14 in Afghanistan, and after I came home, I went down a rabbit hole. Eventually, I ended up with multiple PVS14s, multiple dual-tube goggles and more equipment for mounting them to your head, your gun, your spotting scope, your camera and anything else than you can imagine. Needless to say, I learned a lot along the way.

In the words of Thomas Edison, “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Let me explain a lot of the misconceptions I had, and you can jump into the world of night vision light years ahead of where I did.

Night vision is cool. If you doubt me, you haven’t tried it yet. It is like giving a four-year-old his first milk shake.

What You Need to Know About Night Vision

First, all night vision is cool. If you doubt me, you haven’t tried it yet. It is like giving a four-year-old his first milk shake; he can’t stop smiling. Next, night vision may or may not do what you think it will. Here are some hard lessons I want you to know:

  • When it is mounted on your head, you can’t look through it and see the sights on your pistol/rifle AND see your target.
  • If you mount it in front of your red-dot sight, it will screw up point of aim/point of impact. It goes in behind the scope (closest to your eye) and your red-dot needs to be NVG compatible.
  • If you mount it on your rifle and try to walk around looking for animals, your arms will be exhausted in 60 seconds. You need to mount it on your head unless you are laying in ambush.
  • If you mount night vision on your head, you need to have some kind of IR laser on your gun to be able to aim it. People think they will be able to look through their red-dot sight or use their iron sights; it doesn’t work.
  • If you have night vision and play hide and seek at night, you instantly become a God among ants. (Ask my kids.)
Sionyx Opsin Digital Night Vision

The Opsin

OK, enough life lessons, let’s talk about Sionyx’s new Opsin monocular and why it is changing the game. First, Opsin is digital. That means it is basically a camera that lets you see in the dark. You aren’t looking through it like a riflescope, you are looking at a little TV screen. Because it is a screen, it can be made larger. It can take photos. It can take videos. It can be Bluetoothed over to a phone or tablet or a really big TV screen. Starting to see why this is cool?

Traditional night vision uses expensive, fragile tubes that gather and amplify light. First, they made everything green.  There were 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation versions. Each generation got more clear and more expensive. Then white phosphor came along and it was black and white, and super clear and even more expensive. So how would you feel about night vision that is in color instead of green or black and white, is built to military standards of robustness, has a ton of features like built-in recording, uses the same mounts for your gun or putting it on your head and costs half the price? Yeah, the future is now old man.

Sionyx introduced their digital night vision a few years ago. Back in 2019, I had the chance to T&E their Aurora Sport, a monocular night vision with color display. Back then, my only complaint was it needed to be built more rugged and have a way to be head mounted. I also noted in extreme low light, it did not see as brightly or as far as a 3rd generation PVS14. I paired it with an IR illuminator, and its performance jumped dramatically and now was on par with the PVS14. It retailed for less than $500 while the PVS14 was over $3,000, which was a game changer all by itself.

The Sionyx Opsin has come a long way from the Aurora Sport. It uses the Sionyx proprietary XQE-1350 Black Silicon CMOS sensor. A single dial turns it on and adjusts the brightness. It mounts to traditional dovetail flip arms that attach to the helmet and the kit includes the arm. A bayonet-style mount can also be purchased if you have a helmet set up with the older style of mount. The Opsin cannot power on without being hooked to the external, rechargeable, battery pack, which provides about 10 to 16 hours of operation per charge, depending on the settings being used.

The unit itself is about the same size as a PVS14. It weighs 10.6 ounces, which is a couple ounces lighter than a PVS14. Anyone who has ever gotten a sore neck from wearing night vision knows cutting a couple ounces is a big deal. The body is glass reinforced polycarbonate and it is IP67 rated, which means it is water resistant to a depth of about three feet for up to 30 minutes. In a nutshell, you would never dive with it, but it will be fine in a rainstorm.

It also passes the MIL-STD-810G drop test, which means five test units withstood being dropped 26 times on all faces, sides and corners from a height of four feet. It takes a micro-SD card up to 256GB for storing pics and videos with sound. A 32GB micro-SD card is included. The eye relief is 25mm and the screen you are looking at is 1920×1080 HD. The dovetail or bayonet mount attaches by sliding onto a mini rail and is held in place by a small toggle located on the mount. The mount then attaches to the Swing Arm via the dovetail or bayonet in the traditional way. If you already have a Norotos or Wilcox swing arm, you can use it.  If not, a Cadex Defense low-profile flip-up NVG mount made from 6061-T6 aluminum is included.

Operating the Opsin

The unit has three buttons down the side. The front button takes a still photo when tapped or starts a video recording with a long press. The center button toggles through 1, 2 or 3 power magnification. A long press will get you into the General Settings Menu. Finally, the rear button adjusts your exposure value and your refresh rate between 30, 60 or 90HZ. That means the display refreshes itself 30, 60 or 90 times per second. You need a fast refresh rate when trying to shoot a running animal or you will constantly be behind it. So why wouldn’t you always have it set on 90HZ? It uses more battery. The screen can be manually focused by twisting the objective lens and it focuses from about 8 inches in front of the unit out to infinity.

The Opsin does not have a battery compartment and must be hooked to included external battery pack. The battery pack comes with a charger and battery level LED lights on top. It is curved to match the curvature of the back of a helmet. A pouch for the battery is included in the kit. The pouch can be hook and loop fastened to the front of a MOLLE storage pouch or removed and fastened to the back of your helmet. It acts as a counterweight to the Opsin. I prefer a little more counterweight so I also added a small-weighted bag when I was using it.

The screen has two, customizable, on-screen menu areas at the top. On the left it shows the refresh rate, the magnification level, the Exposure Value (brightness) and it can show your GPS coordinates. In the center of the screen, it shows a magnetic compass so you can tell what direction you currently are looking. The menu at the upper right-hand corner shows the battery level, whether you are recording video and audio, the time, if wi-fi is on and the number of photos on the micro-SD card.

The built in GPS geotags all stored photos and videos. A free Sionyx app on your phone allows you to see the same image as the Opsin, as well as record it or take screenshots. It also shows the brightness setting and the battery level. Many of the settings on the Opsin can be controlled via the app.

Sionyx likes to point out as advanced as a PVS14 is, it is still using decades old, analog technology. Analog optics begin degrading the day you buy them. Sionyx night vision is digital and actually improves with each firmware update. The Opsin 2.0.0 update recently dropped, and the image actually improved with elevated image processing. Plus, the Opsin offers a full color display, takes photos and videos and simply does a lot more than just let you see in the dark. Yet with all these features, it is easy to learn and use.

The Opsin kit comes with everything you need except the helmet. Now if you will excuse me, the sun is almost down, and I have a hide and seek game scheduled with my kids where I am going to once again, teach them Dad will always be able to find them, even in the dark.

For more information see sionyx.com or call 866-827-8237.

FEATURES:

  • <1 millilux moonless starlight night vision
  • Extra-large 1920×1080 HD micro-OLED display with a custom eyepiece for 25mm eye relief
  • 44 degree field of view for maximum situational awareness
  • Photo, video, and audio recording
  • Manual focus of objective lens and diopter
  • Onboard digital magnetic compass and GPS to document and geo-tag location
  • Up to 256GB on-board storage
  • Battery provides up to fourteen hours of operation with a full charge
  • Flexible helmet mounting options with a standard dovetail interface
  • Adjustable and reversible swing arm with quick-release button
  • Exceeds MIL-STD-810G drop test
  • IP67 rated: water-resistant at 1m/30min submersion, vibration/shock, salt/sand
  • MSRP: $2,595

Source link