Digital Night Vision

Perhaps you're haunted by the thought of golf courses lying idle in the dark of night. Maybe you want a quick look-see for raccoon, skunks, lions and tigers and bears before you brave the evening's trip to the trash can. Or maybe it's just unconscionably cool to turn night into day.

Whatever your motivation to see in the dark, you should know that night vision, once the exclusive domain of the top militaries in the world, just reached the concierge level. The $1,500 Digital Night Vision System from Quark International Ltd. has vastly improved the image of past equipment and eliminated the threat of blindness from sudden exposure to light. Past night-vision systems have projected blurred, green images. This one's digitally powered, black-and-white image is as crisp as that on a television set.

The system sees in the dark via a powerful infrared illuminator, and doesn't require the gas-filled night-vision tubes used in most other models. You can fish at night or survey the terrain for bad guys. (And here's hoping that you're not one of the bad guys.)

The system includes a pair of lenses, two chargers (for American and European electrical outlets) and a carrying case. Quark senior vice president Gregg Graison is working on a waterproof version for boaters and also has a color model, which, unlike the black-and-white version, can't work in total darkness. Cheaper Russian-made night-vision systems that sell for a couple hundred dollars offer little eye protection. This American-made system protects your eyes in case someone catches you in the beam of a spotlight while you're searching around in the pitch black.

The unit is about the size of a small camcorder and has inputs for connection to a recorder. Or a transmitter will broadcast your shots in the dark back to, say, a monitor in your house so you can keep an eye on things.

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