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Night Vision on a Budget - Is the $269 ATN DNVM-4 Useful or Not?

Feb 6

Written by: Stephen Owen
2/6/2013 7:05 AM  RssIcon

If you’ve been paying any attention to SHWAT™ you know we get to use some amazing gear.  It hasn’t always been that way for me though.  Prior to founding SHWAT™, I’ve worked some low paying jobs, been through the fun of being laid off, and experienced some of the things that go along with a questionable economy.  

ATN DNVM-4I know what it’s like to be in search of that one gun that will do everything, because it’s the only way I can even come close to justifying spending money on one.  Then there’s all the other gear that goes along with hog hunting like night vision (NV).  So, coming from that perspective, I’m writing this review on the ATN DNVM-4.

With a MSRP of $269.00, you already know it will not be what a Navy SEAL takes with him on a trip into harms way.  But it’s affordable for almost everyone.  The big question: Is it really useful or just a cheap, gimmicky device that you shouldn’t waste hard earned money on?

My first impression upon getting the unit is that it is very lightweight despite it being noticeably bigger than a PVS-14. The controls look simple.  Part of the bulk is an IR illuminator.  The only mount is for a tripod or similar, so it is a spotting scope only.  It has a manual gain adjustment for brightness.

Here are the specs according to the ATN web site:

Technology

Ultra Bright Technology

Full Color Screen

Yes

Magnification

4x

Lens diameter

42 mm

Field of view

12°

Focus range

2 yard/m to inf.

Diopter adjustment

±5

Power supply

1 x 3V(CR123A)

Environmental Rating

Water and fog resistant

Operating temperature

-22°F to +140°F/

-30°C to +60°C

Dimensions

7.2”x3”x2.5”/

183 x 76 x64 mm

Weight

1.1 lb/ 500 g

Warranty

2 years

DNVM-4Taking it to the field proves to be very, illuminating.  Pun intended.  My test location for this unit is just outside the nighttime glow of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  You can see the glow of the city on the horizon, but it still gets quite dark, especially under the thick canopy of the trees around the fields.  The moon is close to full, but a layer of clouds blocks out any sign of it, making for a great testing environment.

It takes me just a few minutes to get a feel for operating the DMVN-4, even though I hadn’t looked at the instructions beforehand.  There are two buttons, one for power and the other to switch the IR illuminator on and off.  There is a knob for adjusting the gain at the rear of the unit. A focus ring and a diopter adjustment ring are the last of the controls.  Satisfied with the simple operation of the unit, I start my evaluation. 

In the very low ambient light, I have to turn on the built in illuminator to see much of anything.  That said, it proves useful up to about 50 yards.  With a steady wind in my face, I begin my search for hogs.  I run into one problem though.  The field I am using is a minefield of skunks.  At least my side of the field is.  So far, I find this ATN unit to be very valuable!  Without it, I would have walked right into a skunk first thing.  That would have ruined my night for sure. 

After spending some time trying to get a good picture through the monocular of a skunk, I decide to extract myself from the that high risk situation. I drive around to the other side of the field where I’m more likely to find hogs or deer who will pose for pictures. 

As I approach the far end of the field, I spot a bunch of eyes just inside the tree line with my headlights.  Deer.  I shut down the headlights, and pick up the DNVM-4. The clouds are now getting patchy allowing the moonlight to break through, so the effective range of the night vision unit dramatically increases.  That’s a good sign. 

The tree line is still a solid 200 yards away, and I can see it clearly now with the illuminator turned off and the gain turned up.  Unfortunately, I still can’t see into the trees.  ATN claims that the IR illuminator is “powerful”.  It does seem powerful when you use it in your back yard.  Out here?  Not so much. 

Turning it on in an attempt to get the reflection of the deer’s eyes is not working.  As I move closer, two of them move out of the trees and into the open.  This should make for good pictures.  As I carefully approach these deer, the battery dies. Conveniently, I am able to change it out largely by feel in the dark without having checked out how to do it beforehand. Unfortunately, it seems I’m already using the spare…

Night Vision SkunkSo how does it perform overall?  Surprisingly well!  On a moonless or cloud covered night, away from the city, its effective range is limited to about 50 yards using the built in illuminator.  With a full moon or some ambient light from a city, it works well beyond that distance.  In my test field, the farthest I can see due to the terrain is about 500 yards.  With the full moon, and the 4x magnification, I could have identified hogs anywhere in my field of view.  I was able to stay out of the way of the multitude of skunks using it.  Those two things alone prove that this unit has value.

If you need night vision and are on a tight budget, this ATN unit may be your ticket.  It is a low priced device that won’t perform like a top or the line PVS-14 or similar but at thousands of dollars less, you can’t reasonably expect it to.  Would I spend my hard earned money to buy one if it was all I could afford?  You bet I would.  It has significant limitations, but it’s a lot better than nothing.  Under the right conditions, it can be used effectively for spotting and stalking.  Then when you are in position, use the moonlight or a white light to take aim and shoot.  For $269.00 the ATN DNVM-4 is a great value. If you get one, just make sure you spend a few extra dollars a get more batteries and remember to take them with you!

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