Night vision cameras are extremely cool – no two ways about it. And in my experience, the coolest are thermal imaging cameras. Instead of gathering and magnifying existing light, they use infra-red. Everything has a heat signature, and the resulting on-screen images are far more detailed then those old fuzzy green things provided by less advanced night vision.
There’s just one thing: infra-red cameras cost as much as a new outboard. But manufacturers realize this, and have been making progress in bringing down cost while bringing up performance. Take note of FLIR’s new handheld camera, which about as much as a 40-hp outboard, instead of a 250. Sure that’s still a chunk of change, but prices are dropping to within reach.
What if you want a hard-mounted camera that shoots images directly to a screen on the helm? Then check out FLIR’s new M series. The old M’s offered only multi-camera units with low- and high-lux cameras enclosed in one housing - and they cost almost as much as one of those big 350-hp V-8’s. By eliminating the low-lux camera you still get M series advantages like ethernet connectivity (and IP addressability; you can interface with onboard electronics,) and you get 50-percent more nightvision range then less expensive “single payload” cameras, without shelling out the big bucks needed for a multi-camera unit. Net result? Look to spend about as much as a 90 or 100-hp outboard, instead.