How big is the difference between ECHO and Gen3?

Before you continue … If you haven’t read our Monocular Night-vision Buying Guide, then please do so before continuing.

All of us night-vision-fans, have read multiple comments about Gen2 vs Gen3. There is a lot of opinions that are controversial. Let me share you a secret – Difference between low-end and high-end Gen2 unit is much larger than difference between high-end Gen2 and high-end Gen3. Let me prove it! 🙂

Before we compare high spec Gen2 (like ECHO) to exceptional Gen3 (FOM 2100+), lets compare two Gen2s.

Wide Quality Spectrum of Gen2

Gen2 Image Intensifier Tubes (IIT) may be different as day and night. Let’s compare FLIR MNVD to Photonis ECHO – both IIT are Gen2’s.

FLIR MNVD WP

ACT PVS-14LTE ECHO WP

As you can see, the difference between two devices that are based on Gen2 technology can be huge. This example here is the main reason why a lot of night-vision users say that Gen2 is not comparable with Gen3. They simply have tested the low-end Gen2s.

Photonis ECHO FOM 1500+ vs Harder Gen3 FOM 2100+

Testing conditions: Pretty low-light conditions. Without night-vision you could not see anything. Sky was almost fully clouded.

Testing method: a nice game with IR sticks.

Devices

Housing PVS-14LTE
Tube Photonis ECHO WP
Tube min/max FOM 1 500 – 1 800
Autogated Fast autogating
Price 3 390€
HousingPVS-14
TubeHarder Digital Gen3 WP
Tube min/max FOM2100+
AutogatedStandard autogating
Price5 500€+

Pros and cos for ECHO when compared to high-end devices (Gen3 FOM 2100+, 4G etc)

Cons

  • ECHO is commercial grade, when 4G & higher FOM devices are considered to be mil-grade. What does that mean? Mil-grade requirements does not allow black-spots to be in the first nor second sector. Therefore, all tubes that have black-spots in those sectors, are pushed to commercial grade. As a result, rarely you can find an ECHO without blackspots, because otherwise that tube would classified as mil-grade tube. 

    How much does it affect you? The less light there is, the less visible black spots are. You will be able to see those tiny dots, but when game is on, those spots have never borthered me.

Pros

  • Similar performance - The Gen3 we had in comparison costs about 60% more, but delivers only slightly better performance than ECHO.
  • Faster auto-gated - as you can see from video, the halo-size (size of bright light) is smaller with Photonis tube. Thats due to much more efficient autogating. So, in high light conditions ECHO/4G tube will outperform Gen3 tubes.

Conclusion

One might say that ECHO was filmed from closer range (guys moved around when I changed devices). Still, we can say that both devices have pretty similar performance – both devices had noise due to low-light, but the noise on ECHO wasn’t worse compared to high-end / mil-grade Gen3.

When buying commercial grade night-vision like ECHO, you shouldn’t expect clean tubes. There will be black-spots. Otherwise, it would not be so cheap compared to mil-grade tubes. 

If your life does not literally depend on it, buying ECHO will definitely save you some money while giving similar level of performance. 

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Krister Lukka
Nightvision fan, just like You