DIY Cascade (3-stage) Night Vision. Reposted. Sub $500 Night Vision.

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  • DIY Cascade (3-stage) Night Vision. Reposted. Sub $500 Night Vision.

    Hi All,

    A few were working on the 3-Stage DIY cascade scope project. I'll repost the threads here for anyone making their own, whether from scratch or using the 3D printed models I supplied. Those models were, BTW, put into the public domain, so can be used commercially by anyone who wants to use them.

    Some background information - Making your own Night Vision equipment is a fun project. Generally, most of what is available in Australia is both very expensive and usually underperforms expectations. Gen1 equipment has it's uses, but is unsuited to use on very dark nights.

    Prior to Gen2 being fully developed, the british developed a type of night vision known as a "Cascade Tube" which fixed three Gen1 tubes together, each amplifying the last, to achieve gain levels and performance similar to early Gen3 devices. These Cascade tubes allowed passive use in starlight and required no additional illumination. They will usually provide visibility through to the horizon, and will allow spotting of foxes, rabbits and other pests under starlight to over 100m, or with an IR torch, eyeshine can often be picked up out to a kilometer.

    The UK stopped using cascade tubes around the time of the Falklands war, and surplus tubes are available relatively cheaply - costing around $120 or so to buy from military surplus providers in the UK. Other parts can be sourced locally and through Ebay.

    To make one, you need;
    • A cascade Image Intensifier
    • A front-lens ( Objective lens ) to focus light on it, like a camera.
    • A rear-lens ( Ocular lens ) to magnify the small screen.
    • A battery pack ( 6v DC ) to supply power and on/off switch.
    • A housing of some kind, to hold it all together.


    With this in mind, it is possible to assemble a complete unit for around $300 to $400, that performs as well and often better than commercial units costing many thousands of dollars.

    Like many items, though, this has it's downside. They are;
    • You have to make it yourself ( or find someone else to make it ).
    • It is large. About the size of a pringles can, or a small telescope.
    • It is heavy. A couple of kilograms.
    • There is some image distortion ( fish-eye effect )


    So, if you want to make it, or have any questions, please post them here. To restart this thread, I'll repost the pre-built plastic parts that I designed for the original project. These can be made with 3D printers so any local service that 3D prints parts can make them. They can also be ordered from online 3D printing services, and I made a special offer to those who got into the original thread on shooting.com.au to print a set for $80 including postage within Australia - and yes, I still have a copy of that thread and will still honour that.

    Details to follow as I dig out the old files and material-lists for those keen to continue their own project. I'll also make up a new version with a commercial battery box from somewhere like Jaycar so that anyone not wanting to deal with fiddly parts like making a battery box can just obtain the parts and then the only real challenge is assembly. Some tools still required though ( screwdrivers, soldering iron, hammers, etc ).

    Photo's of 3D printed project -
    How the parts fit together - tube, objective, ocular and power leads ( external cover and battery box removed )


    With the external cover in place.




    Pictures taken through the lens.




    Some Q&A -
    Q - Is there a limited number of tubes? Should I do this project now?
    A - There are thousands of tubes available, so they don't appear to be likely to go anytime in the near future.

    Q - You say this performs like "Gen3" Night Vision? How did you determine this?
    A - I put it on a Gen3 field tester, as the military use to determine if a NV device is working, and it passed the same Gen3 tests that would be expected of a set of Gen3 aviation goggles.

    Q - How much will it cost to make?
    A - $300 to $400 is typical. I've heard of people making them for as little as $150 using parts around the workshop.

    Q - Do I need 3D printed parts?
    A - Not at all. I made my first ones with PVC pipe from bunnings, using pipe adapters for focal adjustment. It worked perfectly. It just needs some skill to cut plastic. Several people have made them with just lenses and batteries and duct tape, and some continued to use them that way.

    Q - Can I put it on my rifle. Will it handle recoil.
    A - These are "weapon use rated" military tubes. How strong you make it, is up to you. I would not recommend trying to make a riflescope out of it, however. That said, I've seen it done, I've done it and it is possible. But they are heavy and I think there are better commercial options for attachment to firearms.

    Q - How much effort is involved?
    A - Most people will figure it out in a day or so. Usually over several nights. If you know what you're doing, you can do it in an hour or so. It's a good project to tackle with kids.

    Q - Can I mount it on a tripod?
    A - Yes, that's the best way to do it. You can carry it around your neck, but it's a bit heavy. The 3D printed parts make allowance for a tripod mount.

    Q - Can I head-mount it?
    A - Not unless your neck is thicker than your torso. It's far too heavy.

    Q - Can I hold it and walk around with it at night, while looking through it?
    A - Too heavy and large, but not impossible. I would not recommend it. It's more for scanning around, or sitting in a hide and observing.

    Q - How dark a night can I use this?
    A - Without illumination - All conditions. Overcast Starlight included, but best results starlight and brighter.

    Q - How would this compare to a "Starlight" scope?
    A - It *is* a Starlight scope. Actually, the tube is a little more advanced ( and performs better ) than what was used in Vietnam during the war last century.

    Q - Can I buy the tubes in Australia?
    A - No. I don't know anyone here importing and supplying them. You're welcome to be the first.

    Q - Can I make and sell them?
    A - Yes. I've put the designs into the public domain. I will even assist you with advice if you want to make them and sell them to other forum members, or anyone at all. But they are fiddly to make and usually people just make them for friends.

    Q - Where do I get the parts from?
    A - I'll identify places to get parts from later in this thread.

    And finally, here's how it compares to some other night vision equipment.


    Left to right -
    Cascade tube, Gen2+, High Performance Gen2 and Gen3.

    Regards
    David

  • #2
    Half moon.







    Comment


    • #3
      Nice work. When used by the British were these then in front of a day-use rifle optic? Or did they incorporate the aiming reticle in this unit? Or were these only for observation?

      Comment


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        Originally posted by NewsteadVic" post=9606
        Nice work. When used by the British were these then in front of a day-use rifle optic? Or did they incorporate the aiming reticle in this unit? Or were these only for observation?
        Primarily self-contained riflesights. The anecdotal version I heard is that the British were still using these in the Falklands conflict and were quite surprised to find that the opposing forces were using Gen2+ already. Generally, Gen2+ has a greater military value than cascade, due to size and weight issues, as well as some performance parameters, but the UK kept developing cascade scopes until they had gain levels around 100,000x - quite amazing for what is, technically, a first generation device.

        They also used them in observation devices ( eg, the Twiggy ) but otherwise did not put them in front of day-optics. There are some issues with any tubes that have electron-lens induced distortion when attempting to create a front-mounted clip on - in addition, they probably never though it doing it back then.

        Regards
        David

        p.s. Thanks for the extra photo's Skippy -

    • #4
      Nice project. My son and I might just have a go at this.

      But my first question is, 'the lenses' what do you use and where do you get them

      cheers

      Comment


      • El-Skippo
        Skip commented
        Editing a comment
        Originally posted by AF2AF3" post=10027
        Nice project. My son and I might just have a go at this.

        But my first question is, 'the lenses' what do you use and where do you get them

        cheers
        eBay ( the front and rear lense will set you back 20-25 for the front and 30-50 for the front.

        The tube will cost around 230-250 shipping inc.

        The plastics can cost around 100.

        Is you say around $400 to build its a pretty close figure.

        For what it cost and how it performs, I can't see anything comming even close to the project build. You get more then what you pay for

    • #5
      this link

      http://aunv.blackice.com.au/cgi-bin/nightvision/forum?index=projects&story=cascade

      has info on buying tubes, and other stuff

      Comment


      • BlueBikesBlackGuns
        BlueBikesBlackGuns commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks mate awesome information.

        Iv been looking into NV for a while and looking at far more expensive kit. But this looks perfect for my needs and much much cheaper. Iv already ordered the tube.

        Your a champ.

    • #6
      I am, also going to try and get an "old camera" lens. It is, after all, what gives you the image.
      I just don't believe cheap Chinese lenses would be of better quality.

      And my tube from starlightnv is on its way

      Comment


      • #7
        "tube" arrived today in the post
        gave it a quick test in a dark room using a 28-85 f3.5 lens, using three hands and some tape, very crisp image
        a faster lens will make a world of difference

        Comment


        • #8
          "tube" arrived today in the post
          gave it a quick test in a dark room using a 28-85 f3.5 lens, using three hands and some tape, very crisp image
          a faster lens will make a world of difference

          Comment


          • #9
            The cheap chinese lenses are not of particularly high quality, but they are quite reasonable and provide a good image, and cost very little.

            Being C-mount, there are many lenses to choose from. But if you're going to spend $$$ on a lens, look out for one of the Computar F1.3 models IMO.

            Regards
            David

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            • #10
              Hi cj7hawk, this looks very interesting and I would like to build one of the scopes, are you still making the printed parts kits for $80.00?
              Thanks Peter

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              • Guest's Avatar
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                Originally posted by ptg4932" post=22177
                Hi cj7hawk, this looks very interesting and I would like to build one of the scopes, are you still making the printed parts kits for $80.00?
                Thanks Peter
                Yes, I'll still do that - but plans and 3D printer files are free if you know someone with a printer or have access to one.

                If you'd like to order a set of housing components, PM me - They come raw and need cleaning ( removal of the scaffolding ) but that's not usually too much effort, and I'll clean off one of the bearing surfaces so you can see how much they need to be cleaned.

                Regards
                David

            • #11
              do you know if the "High resolution Generation 1 cascade tubes" from starlight advertised on their online store are the correct tube? I haven't been able to get an email reply.

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                That would probably be them, yes. Resolution is around 45 lp/mm from memory - quite reasonable.

                But you can always telephone them in the early evening - The telephone is the best way to catch them.

                Regards
                David

            • #12
              Well I order my tube so hopefully it will be on its way soon.

              now i just have to learn about lenses. i know it needs to be fast f1.2, f1.4 and that >50mm would probably be preferable?

              But all the other lens jargon is confusing, horizontal angle of view, manual iris etc. so is there any basic specs to look out for in lenses that would make them better than other lenses other than the speed?

              as for the Ocular ( eyepiece ) this is primarily just to magnify the image correct? I see from a bit of googleing that there was a while ago a bunch of oculars that were actually design for this tube floating around, is it worth trying to track one of them down or, buying one like the one that was suggested and just whipping up a mount for it?

              I really want to try and build a quality unit.

              also if people have more pictures of these things in action, in particular comparison pictures to other generations please share them, i know the camera probably doesn't do them justice, but i really want to see what these things are capable of.

              Comment


              • Guest's Avatar
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                Originally posted by the_doctor" post=25683
                Well I order my tube so hopefully it will be on its way soon.

                now i just have to learn about lenses. i know it needs to be fast f1.2, f1.4 and that >50mm would probably be preferable?

                But all the other lens jargon is confusing, horizontal angle of view, manual iris etc. so is there any basic specs to look out for in lenses that would make them better than other lenses other than the speed?

                as for the Ocular ( eyepiece ) this is primarily just to magnify the image correct? I see from a bit of googleing that there was a while ago a bunch of oculars that were actually design for this tube floating around, is it worth trying to track one of them down or, buying one like the one that was suggested and just whipping up a mount for it?

                I really want to try and build a quality unit.

                also if people have more pictures of these things in action, in particular comparison pictures to other generations please share them, i know the camera probably doesn't do them justice, but i really want to see what these things are capable of.

                Yes, the PVS-2 oculars are worth getting, though you'll need to modify the design if you go for the printed housing. It's possible though and I can probably make an alternate eyepiece section to take the Israelli surplus lenses if you can find one.

                As for Objective lenses? You pretty much have it there. If I added one thing, it would be format. 1" or 2/3" format are really needed. 1/2" or 1/3" will work, but will have severe vignetting around the edge. If in doubt, buy cheap.

                Comparison to other generations? Here's one.



                There's some interesting images in that photo ( cascade is left-most ) and it was actually darker when I took the cascade image, but it's genuine and the cascade image appears brighter because it's ABC ( auto brightness control ) isn't as advanced as the Gen2 or Gen3 models.

                Regards
                David

            • #13
              I just got a pvs2 eyepiece and it flips the image you see through it. I haven't tested it on the tube yet as it's still the middle of the day. But do they normally invert the image?

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              • #14
                Ok got to test it on the tube wow it works good. Got to find a eyecup for it now.

                Unfortunately all the ones about now are NOS in the US and they won't ship internationally.

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                  Do they normally invert the image? Well, it depends on use, but once you get it close enough to the tube, it won't invert the image - not if it's a PVS-2 eyepiece , though we are talking very very close up.

                  Regards
                  David

              • #15
                i was reading thorugh the topic and was thinking as i have a couple old video camera screw on extensions would they be ok to use as the front lens with the cascade tube first len's is a optron 2.0x video telephoto lens ovl 212 which is a 49mm threaded len's and the other len's super wide semi fish eye 0.42x with marco. 49 mm

                as i was thinking that the more light you get into the tube the better the image would be compare to a c mount thats only 25 mm in dia and would restrict the amount of light into the tube and would be more grain the image would be


                ian

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