Types of Sony Night Vision Models

Written by simon slayford
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Types of Sony Night Vision Models
The Sony Nightshot technology is what gave rise to Sony night vision models that initially caused controversy back in August 1998. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Any organism under a semblance of darkness changes behaviours, and this is why filmmakers are so interested in unravelling mysterious behaviour in the dark. Armed forces and law enforcement agencies also need to see at night in order to take fast and appropriate action as needed. Nowadays, ordinary consumers have access to the same powerful technology through various types of Sony night vision equipment.

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Understanding Sony Nightshot Technology

Sony has made a variety of consumer and presumer night vision equipment models over the years, thanks to their Nightshot technology. Nightshot technology gives Sony's night vision models the highest sensitivity to near infrared radiation or NIR. Nightshot is actually just like many other night vision technologies and performs two functions: image enhancement by collecting and amplifying what little perceivable light is available, and thermal imaging by collecting infrared radiation (IR) -- including near-IR, mid-IR and thermal IR -- and translating it into light in the visible spectrum.

To understand Sony Nightshot better requires differentiating the different types of IR. While thermal IR is emitted by an object (utilised in thermal scans), near-IR and mid-IR are reflected by an object. Nightshot technology improves on usual night vision systems through the use of LEDs that illuminate the subject with near-IR and mid-IR light. The near-IR and mid-IR light is then bounced back to the Nightshot camera to create very good night vision footage. Sony has made many modifications over the past years to Nightshot technology.

Old and Original Sony Nightshot Models

Older (first-generation) Sony Nightshot models were built and sold before August 12, 1998. These old models have a manual exposure button and a manual exposure adjustment dial that allowed users to fully modify exposure or filter settings. This allowed users to even use night vision under bright light settings that had a notorious "x-ray vision" effect. According to an article on CNN Money dated August 14, 1998, about 400,000 of these old units were shipped to the U.S. and sparked controversy.

August-to-December 1998 Sony Nightshot Models

The "x-ray vision" controversy caused Sony to rectify the problem by implementing modifications. The August-to-December 1998 Sony Nightshot models still had the manual exposure button and a manual exposure adjustment dial; however, control over exposure was limited so it was impossible to use Nightshot mode under bright light. However, it had the "Sports Lesson Mode" that allowed users to circumvent the limitations to a certain extent as it automatically adjusted the shutter speed but disabled the manual exposure controls.

Contemporary Sony Nightshot Models

Any Sony Nightshot models manufactured after December 1998 are fully modified to have no Nightshot manual exposure control, which made taking pictures or video virtually impossible under bright lighting. The contemporary Nightshot mode only has maximum exposure and a fully open aperture, which means complete removal of "x-ray vision" capabilities, unless users purchase third-party external filters.

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