Monthly Archives: August 2021

  • PARD NV007A Night Vision 16mm 4x Rear Add On - REVIEW

    By Chris Parkin

    I had always wondered if the concept of a rear add on night vision device might be step too far for someone strongly attuned to shooter ergonomics, so the PARD was a bit of a walk into the unknown for me. Opening the box shows the compact unit itself along with one of three possible scope mounting collars (42/45/48mm) that wrap the ocular body of the scope to seat the unit. A roll of black electrical tape is included to very gradually build up and protect the scope’s aluminium surface beneath the collar’s Allen screw clamp and although this may seem a little basic, works incredibly well, allowing you to achieve smooth, almost interference fit with true concentric axial alignment and little mechanical force applied. This is important for continuation of the circular field of view with reticle central in the rectangular screen of the PARD with minimal vignettes, the dark Halo that can restrict field of view.

    The 007 clips into these collars using a bayonet arrangement with a sprung left side latch for 100% rattle free security, it’s a second’s job to remove and re-fit. It can be mounted either way up so that the small external clamping screws can be placed left or right side to offer least interference form the bolt handle on what is an otherwise truly ambidextrous unit. Being rear mounted, there is no requirement for any zeroing as the PARD is itself looking at the scope’s exit pupil in exactly the same way your eye would have been. The other contents of the box are small Allen keys, replacement O-rings and a USB charge lead allowing the flat top 18650 Lithium-Ion battery to be charged on board with no need for additional kit. This is handy as the bayonet allows the unit to be taken off and put on charge without compromising putting your gun straight into the cabinet. There is also a soft case for storage off-gun. The battery fits under screw cap at the front and has insulating tape over contacts for shipping, just peel it off and you are live once fully charged. There are red/green LED indicators that offer charge state and in use, the internal display screens’ battery monitor has so far been very accurate with promised 8-hour performance when not using the 5W illuminator. I just turn it on and leave it on, but I suppose if you hunt daylight and darkness in ONE trip out, spare 18650’s are not expensive and swap in seconds, not minutes like multiple AA’s. Physical machining of the aluminium body shows no sharp corners, deep anodising and tactile serrations or knurling where grip is needed. The threads for the battery compartment are clean without swarf and the product has an air of `how is this done for this price`? Rubber elements are neatly moulded and offer protection where needed, especially buffering around the eye, sealing out external light sources and have remained glued in position without any likely fractures or degradation across a variety of weather conditions too.

    The supplied manual is reasonably comprehensive and simple to navigate without any particular `holes` in explanation. A short press of the upper rear button runs the unit on, first step is to use the rearmost aluminium collar to focus the screen for your eyes and this generally only needs doing once. After installation on the scope, the larger bi-laterally accessible collar underneath focusses the PARD to your scope’s exit pupil and reticle, just the same as your eye would. The unit works in daylight as well as darkness with full functionality either way. The 007’s are available in 1x or 4x base magnification. I had the 16mm/4x and this needs to suit your scope’s own mag level. Mounted to a Nightforce SHV set at its own minimum magnification, I preferred to keep the scope always at its lowest for max field of view and used the digital mag available on the PARD with 1-1.5-2-2.5-3-3.5x stages (4-14x overall) for more zoom. I’d like to try the 12mm/1x for comparison because I’m a low mag fan in general, but we all have our own preferences. I think on a 3-9x50 or 4-12 scope this would be ideal but regardless, on the 5x NF, I was still offered fully focussed images down to about 30 metres with only smaller field of view being the slight limitation when first finding and aligning quarry or tracking their movement at close range.

    The integral IR illuminator on the front of the unit runs from the internal battery so runtime will be affected after dark if in use. PARD assure 200 metre capability and yes, depending on atmospheric conditions and ambient light, you can pick up some detail that far after dark but for small game hunting, I’d be more realistic with 100 metres in the real world when considering accurate aiming solutions. I used an additional large illuminator as Is my general habit and had it been necessary, was able to retain stable sight picture easily at 300 metres on rabbits and Hares, with foxes comparatively far easier when chest shooting out to 200 metres. On-Board IR has a telescoping lens focus and for Air rifle ratting or 22 rimfire on Rabbits, absolutely perfect with included 850 nm IR, where too much illumination strength gives excessive return reflection, auto dimming night vision sensitivity on most units.

    The left side rubber cap conceals space for a micro-Sd card to record video and still footage in HD resolution with sockets for 3.5mm lead and USB connectivity. This can remain in place for weather protection and the unit also records sound. The menu structure on-screen is clearly laid out with language options and used fully descriptive names, not abbreviations. Key controls in order are default colour (i.e., will the unit turn on automatically in day or night mode), a similar function for IR too. Internal screen brightness, auto recording, loop recording (controlled in 3-5-10 minute videos), date stamp (very handy on footage to record exactly `when` something happened if necessary), Audio record on/off, Wi-Fi control, image exposure, date time, language and card format as well as firmware version. This last factor is interesting as I haven’t had to continually chase updates to make features work, the PARD arrived fully functional from its box and has remained so with no internal functionality half developed and needing updates as time goes by to actually work.  “PPSHOW” or “RoadCam” apps allow real time image display on Android or iOS devices with reliable Wi-Fi connectivity regardless of background network signal interference.

    Once learned, the button structure is easy to control, close by and accessible in the dark with good tactile perception of which button your fingertip is in contact with and if you actually pressed it. This is quiet when used although does sound louder on recorded footage during playback if scrolling through digital magnification for example. Long and short presses control deeper menu access of rapid feature on/off, like Wi-Fi for example. Flipping to night mode from day mode takes a three second hold on the left most rear button. Once in night mode, short presses of the same button control 4 stages (0-1-2-3) of IR intensity from the inbuilt illuminator. Short presses on the upper power button will turn the screen off to save battery and a longer three second hold shuts it down completely. It’s good to note if you do turn off completely, initial start-up is itself only three seconds for rushed opportunities. I personally love the fact you can enter and alter menus without visual confusion, on or off the rifle, or accidentally altering critical zero settings like you can so easily do on full night vision sights, rather than this add on unit.

    So, what’s it really like in use, well, ever the sceptic I am, I give the objective pointers. Firstly, I was concerned that the physical size of the unit that had to fit between head and scope would require too much ergonomic compromise but, in the end, although you do need to `wind your neck in` a little, it’s very usable and just requires literally that. Physical eye relief of about 25-30mm is ok for rifles up to about 243 in terms of recoil and for seated or standing shots, you will easily get used to it. It’s a bit too much of a squeeze for prone shots which naturally stretch your neck/head towards the optic but generally, I think this is less likely of a factor when night shooting from a vehicle, sticks or improvised rest anyway. Secondly, the required task of balancing focal lengths and optical performance is far easier than expected. Once set up, you can pretty much forget it and clip the solid bayonet catch on or off as often as required with no loss of focus or zero. Th unit can also be used off the rifle as a daylight spotter or in the dark as a secondary role which just requires re-focussing of what becomes a light 250gr handheld unit. The ocular collars are neat and compact with no effects for normal day scope usage, and you of course retain all mechanical turret/reticle adjustments for long range capability of said day scope if that’s required. Dare I also say, with the PARD on the back, you don’t lose any of that in darkness either if required, all your scope’s tactile mechanical adjustments are still that, you aren’t messing about twiddling menu trees every time you change ammo, need to tweak zero or for a longer-range shot.

    Footage on the internal OLED screen is 1024x768 resolution at 30 frames per second so you don’t really experience lag problems and get a smooth image flow like your eyes have got used to for decades watching films and tv until the latest era of HD and 4K. Visual identification is clear with great resolution and definition of couleurs on the animals, factors like rich browns and blacks being completely contrasting on a Hare’s ears in pitch darkness for example. Recorded footage is slightly higher resolution of 1920x1080 and looks great edited and made for video. Photo resolution is higher still at 2592x1944, but I generally capture screenshots from video footage because I can just leave the video running without attention diverted to pressing a shutter button in the heat of the moment. Having a scope with a large 50 or 56mm objective lens is also focussing significantly more light than smaller (sometimes sub 30mm) Night vision units on that key internal sensor, even if there is a compromise of more glass lens elements to pass through.

    The internal viewscreen demonstrates reasonably flat focus across its field of view and not too critical to eye positioning, this is probably helped by the fact your head is a little more firmly pressed onto the rubber eyecup maintaining stationary position. The PARD is also a great example of where digital night vision excels, the drift through dusk to darkness. You can detect normal daylight colour image starting to get a little grainier as the ISO sensitivity of the PARD increases as daylight diminishes, just like a regular Digital camera, but this gets you far beyond where daylight optics will function. That switch into night, black/white mode then continues through the dark helped by additional IR for as long as needed. In fairness, if you wear glasses you are quite restricted on physical space but in some cases (my own), I can compensate for dioptre using the PARD’s own screen focus and shoot without glasses or contacts but that is a very individual factor. My right eye is -1.75 dioptre to give you an idea of compensation level I’m adjusting for.

    The big factors remaining are the use of parallax adjustable scopes which is pretty much mandatory. Adjustable objectives will work but it’s a long reach so side parallax makes sense and is quicker in use than most focus critical standalone night vision scopes anyway. For the 100mm sacrifice in open space between the scope and your eye, the compromise is well worth is as I find image performance not only equal to, or superior to night vision scopes of similar generations, but far cheaper as well, almost half price in fact! Couple that to the fact you still have full daylight functionality for long range, zeroing and targets with your regular scope, accurate click values (not pixel related approximations), and secondary darkness functionality and/or daylight video capability from you the PARD on your Day scope, I find myself quite converted by this exceptionally appealing unit which can be used across a whole fleet of guns with no re-zeroing required, just add a few extra scope collars. I think I will be doing just that!

    Price
    PARD NV007A £332.99
    Additional collars £19.99

     

  • Thermal or Digital Night vision - The big question - is the additional spend worth it

    This is a question I’m often asked and like most things in life, very situationally and budget dependant. Looking at likely quarry species in range of size with the hope associated environments will help illustrate points. If you are ratting with an airgun, night vision can open a whole world of shooting possibilities when minimal levels of ambient light from the moon or general farmyard illuminators should give you satisfactory sight picture to take on these numerous rodents. But, beware using strong additional IR illumination from the gun/scope itself as reflections from intervening items or foliage can make the image auto-dim and leave you a little `blind`. Any Quarry in grass and other ground cover can be invisible to the naked eye or even night vision, but with a thermal scope, and not one needing to be particularly expensive, will stand out clearly to make an assured shot. Small quarry is also relatively easy to identify at close ranges and shooting through grass or straw is unlikely to be a problem when quarry is totally hidden, but their body heat always gives them away, under a steel container for example.

    Budget is key and when you take a step up beyond similar rabbiting needs to foxing, the protection of livestock and gamebirds is simpler to quantify and justify a larger spend. Given ranges up to perhaps 300 metres, precision shot making is key, but identification is the most important safety factor. After detection of the quarry, easily enabled at extreme ranges with a thermal spotter, the sight can itself be an EMERGENCY STOP tool, having given a different perspective on identification than thermal alone. Night vision, with good IR illumination will show strong details a Thermal will not and although that latter capability is catching rapidly, the ability to see quarry using a second image style can be a great benefit. Night vision is usually much less expensive than thermal, and I personally use a thermal spotter with night vision scope for this very reason, the dual perspectives in a dark environment. The caveat to this is the ground you shoot over, long grass can easily hide quarry which `pops` straight out with thermal and allows you to call it, track its movement and assess its patterns for identification without alerting it in any way.

    “Thermal shows you what you want to shoot, night vision shows you what you want to miss” has often been a helpful mantra to me. That IR reflection will often show you a wire fence that would have made your bullet ricochet or heavier cover you cannot simply shoot through. It’s easy to get carried away by a bright white thermal heat source and forget the surrounding details! Neither technology is an outright winner, I see them as complimentary tools rather than competitors. If money were unlimited, high-end thermal for both is an easy option because the latest units have great features and detail recognition but on realistic budget (just like the same rifle/scope budget we have so long worked on), I think maximum capability is available from a thermal spotter combined with night vision scope. The spotter is in use far more often and is the primary stage in identification before you ever even get close to pointing a rifle at your quarry.

    By Chris Parkin

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