By: Cary Kieffer
I bought a set of SightMark Ghost Hunter 1×24 Gen 1 Night vision goggles on Ebay for $350 to my door. They were used once by the guy and like new in every way. I used Gen 3 in combat in Iraq and own 2 sets now of Gen 3. Never having used Gen 1’s I only thought I knew what to expect, let’s take a look at them.
Some of what I’m going to point out about the SightMark Ghost Hunter Gen 1’s might sound negative, it’s not meant to. Throughout the review of these Gen 1’s I’m comparing them to Gen 3’s…whole other universe and whole other universe in the price tags. So, this is not a Gen 1 versus Gen 3 thing, just trying to show best I can what you get out of the SightMark Ghost Hunters for the MUCH cheaper price tag.
Tech Specs: I thought we’d start with SightMarks claims on the unit. They are 1 power, so no magnification, at 100 meters they claim your field of view is 54 meters wide. On the same page they claim a maximum effective range of 80 meters so I am not sure how they came up with that number 54 above. The minimum range is .3 meters (1 foot) that you can still focus that close. They claim 20 hours of battery life on the 2AAA’s using the IR light and 70 hours not using it. Hard to say on that one…I’ve used them quite a bit on 2 Energizers and still going strong and I almost always use the IR light. So I think that claim is pretty safe. They weigh 13.8 oz and are supposed to operate from -20 degrees on up. I’ll have to wait for winter to check that one out. Oh, and there was a warning. Do not come in from the frozen outside and use them right away in a warm inside. They will have condensation inside the unit from the temp change and need time to dry out on their own.
Range: I think their claim of 80 meters is pretty close, if it’s inflated it’s not by much. I have had a couple of fluke nights when there must have been enough ambient light I could see halfway decent 300 yards away, that is NOT the norm. I also have extensively used my Pulsar IR flashlight with this unit, now with Gen 3’s it’s like using a giant truck towed spotlight, with these Gen 1 Ghost Hunters it is not the same. A separate more powerful IR light is definitely useful, while I have been able to much improve the clarity within the 80 meter range I have had little success with extending the 80 meter range like I can with Gen 3’s. In a nutshell…75-80 yards max. If you can live with that your good here.
Clarity: What can you see with Gen 1? Well…more than I thought. I thought all you got was roughly outlined green crap..I thought it was sort of a guessing game what you were looking at or watch move. Now that I have them I see that’s not the case. I could see the facial features of anybody I’ve looked at, it wasn’t just a roughly human shaped green blob. I can almost read the numbers on my scale in the bathroom. If the writing is big enough on a box you can focus well enough to read it. It’s much darker than Gen 3 and what did I expect? It’s also easily 20x’s cheaper. All in all I was very pleased. You do really need to use the onboard IR light or an external IR light. The picture is pretty dark without it, with it the SightMark Ghost Hunters work well enough to get by. It beats the hell out of being blind.
Overall I am very happy with Gen 1 clarity for my $350…but on the downside…When you look at something, anything, when you look directly at it, whatever it is can be focused on fine. Your peripheral view around it is warped though, like you were looking at something in a circus mirror or through the bottom of a bottle. It warps and distorts (like wavy) anything in your peripheral view. For like 15 minutes that might bug the hell out of you, it did me but I got over it fast. I really pay it no attention anymore. It’s not like you can’t tell what your looking at, just that the outsides of the picture you’re seeing is warped or wavy. I think most people would learn to deal with it.
Focus: Here is where the big deal is I think. I can focus my Gen 3’s once and leave them. Unless I’m trying to read small print right in front of my face the Gen 3’s don’t need any focus changes. These SightMark Ghost Hunters may require quite a few focus changes during use. Depending on range, ambient light, what your looking at and how bad you want to see it clearly you may find yourself reaching up and twisting the eye pieces quite often. When I focus at the max range of 80ish yards I need to reach up and twist the eye pieces when I turn my head to look at something 8 feet in front of me. Not the same with Gen 3…but again…$350 compared to 1000’s of bucks…so not a hit on the SightMark Ghost Hunters, just a fact of what you have there. Expect to make a lot of focus changes.
Accessories: I got the headset thingy in the box. It would allow most people to hook the unit to the headset and flip them up or down and use them hands free. That’s all fine and dandy for most people but my head is big and they do not fit. I had to have specially ordered body armor and helmet ordered for me when I was still in, nothing in supply was big enough. So unfortunately, I cannot tell you how that works, sorry. It’s nice that it comes with it though. Other than that you get a carry case and an owners manual, that’s it.
Summary: Are the SightMark Ghost Hunters worth it? It depends on you…We’re all different and have different needs and expectations. I think one needs to look mostly at how much will you use it and is it a life or death use?? For the occasional user, camping, hunting, nature watching I think these are pretty good. I take them on the boat all the time, that’s where I really like them. Coming in at night at full speed is no problem and I’m scared to freakin’ death every time my Gen 3’s get anywhere near the lake or anybody else touching them. So in that respect the SightMarks are better. If they fall in the water never to be seen again who cares…drop your Gen 3’s in there…you WILL care. I literally tie a piece of 550 cord to the Gen 3’s and tie them to the boat steering wheel.
Now if I were still involved in life/death stuff..I wouldn’t have traded my Gen 3’s for anything else. They simply ROCK! where my SightMarks are just “pretty cool”. Anyway, I think enough said, you decide what you want for you. I think for a lot of people in the world, while not the best by any stretch of the imagination, these SightMark Ghost Hunters would make most people pretty happy. Thanks for reading and train often.