Well, this was a surprise. I just finished comparing a Bushnell Generation 1 night vision scope ($199.00) with a toy Spy Gear night vision scope ($34.00) and, in my opinion, the Spy Gear is much better. They use different technologies with the Bushnell using an image intensifier tube and the Spy Gear using a CMOS sensor (think cheap digital camera with the infrared filter removed).
Given the same amount of IR illumination the 'toy' blew away the Bushnell and showed much more sensitivity to IR light. The Spy Gear had a brighter and clearer image although pixelated due to the low resolution (probably 640 x 480). The only pluses for the Bushnell are the rugged body and the 2.5x magnification (which you may or may not want). Also, in very low light with no IR illumination, the Bushnell gives a better image. With any IR illumination at all, even very low levels, the Spy Gear shines. They both use AA batteries with the Bushnell using 2 and the Spy Gear using 4. I did find that the Bushnell would not power up with NiMH batteries, only with Alkalines.
I am shocked in a good way. Nice to know that I can pay $30 to get better performance than a $200 scope which is specifically made for night vision. Spy Gear has another similar scope that is not as fancy looking but is only $11.00 on Amazon. I am going to get one to see if it has the same electronics as their $35.00 model. The only way to get better performance than both the Spy Gear or Bushnell Gen 1 scopes would be to go to a Generation 2 ($1000) or Generation 3 ($3000) night vision scope. I have seen online where people have taken the toy scope and have removed the sensor and electronics which are tiny and have put them in real small enclosures. The toy enclosure is only for show to look cool. I am going to try this next and will even try to attach a sensor to a rifle scope to see how that works. Easy to play with the cost being so low.
Spy Gear on the left, Bushnell on the right.
This is from the Bushnell
This is from the Spy Gear