IR Illuminators - what wattage?
I have a cheapish 3 watt IR led flashlight which is good for medium to close range - but need something to throw IR light out to around 150 to 200 feet.
I notice that some of the long range led illuminators are advertised as being 100mw to 120mw - but aren't these weaker than the three watt led I'm currently using? Is it just the optics on the front end which allow them to be more efficient?
Thanks in advance.
A 3 Watt (3000 milliwatt) IR illuminator should blast past 150 to 200 feet and well beyond. If yours is not performing to this distance, there are a few factors to consider. If your IR illuminator has a very wide flood pattern, it will not reach as far as a spot pattern, but a true 3 watt illuminator should still reach out to 200 feet. You mentioned that this light is a 3 watt LED; is it a white LED with an IR filter, or is it a true IR (or near IR) LED?
A true IR LED (very rare) will not produce any visible light at all unless you are looking through night vision. A near IR LED will produce a faint red glow to the naked eye if you look directly into it. A 3 watt white LED produces a very bright white light that you do not want to look into. White LED lights do not produce much light in the IR spectrum, however, and if you put an IR filter on a white LED you will only get very short range use from it. If the last is your setup, any of the IR illuminators that we sell will be a great improvement over what you have.
Is your light truly a 3 watt IR illuminator? While the LED itself may be rated at 3 watts, a cheap light may not fully power the LED leaving you with a much shorter range than the LED is capable of.
How many hours are on your night vision? Based on the fact that you are asking this question to begin with, I can assume you have a generation 1 night vision unit. If you have had it for several years and you use it frequently, your tube may be wearing our. This is pretty rare, but possible. If you have used the night vision device for longer periods of time in conditions that are too bright, you can greatly reduce the life of the tube. Even a quick flash of sunlight can cook a tube.
As I previously stated, the focus of the light also plays a big factor. A wide flood beam provides excellent lighting at close ranges, but does not penetrate far. A tight spot beam is excellent for a long throw but can be too concentrated and bright in a small area for close range use. A 3 watt flood from a true or near IR LED should still throw out to the distances that you are reaching for. Have you checked the power of the batteries?
The most powerful IR illuminator that we currently offer is made by Night Detective, and is available here. This is rated out to 250 yards.
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My light is a near infrared LED which was sold to me with the assurance that it is 3 watts, but given that it only cost about US$30 it may be of inferior quality. I am currently experimenting with optics on the front end to focus the light down to about 10 degrees or so to get some more range.
The night vision device I'm using is actually homemade - it's a hacked digital camera with the IR blocking filter removed. Quality is similar to a Sony device with nightshot enabled and at close to medium range (0-30ft) I find that that image clarity is actually better than a 1st GEN ATN Viper I used to own - mostly due to the lack of distortion of the image.
This may not be the case when viewing objects further away due to it having no light amplification abilities.
Anyway, I'll persevere with your advice and info in mind and may end up dropping the cash on the ND K3 Pro.