Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular Review

Hey there night vision fans, it’s Joel Mccartan back with an in-depth look at a device that’s been generating a lot of buzz in the world of outdoor optics – the Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular. As an avid hunter and night vision enthusiast, I’ve spent countless hours field testing all sorts of gear, from bargain-priced generics to high-end military hardware. So when Bushnell, one of the most respected names in the business, released the Equinox Z, I knew I had to get my hands on one and put it through its paces.

First, a little background for those who may be new to the night vision scene. Bushnell has been a pioneer in outdoor optics since its founding way back in 1948. From binoculars and spotting scopes to trail cameras and GPS units, they’ve built a reputation for delivering quality, innovative products that help people connect with the great outdoors. While they’re an American company based out of Kansas, their reach is truly global. Hunters, hikers, birders and stargazers around the world trust Bushnell to provide them with gear that’s built to perform in any conditions.

So, what exactly makes the Equinox Z such a standout in the crowded field of night vision optics? In a word – versatility. This isn’t a one-trick pony that you’ll only break out a few times a year. Whether you’re scouting game trails in the pre-dawn darkness, keeping an eye on your property after sunset, or trying to spot rare nocturnal wildlife, the Equinox Z has you covered.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the Equinox Z comes in three different configurations – 3x30mm, 4.5x40mm, and 6x50mm. These numbers refer to the magnification level and objective lens size, respectively. I opted for the middle-of-the-road 4.5x40mm version, which I feel offers the best balance of portability and performance. The 3x30mm is incredibly compact and lightweight, perfect for tossing in a backpack on a long backcountry trek. On the other end of the spectrum, the 6x50mm provides the highest magnification and light gathering capability, ideal for long-range observation and scouting. But for my needs, which involve a mix of hunting, camping, and general nighttime exploration, the 4.5x40mm hit the sweet spot.

Regardless of which model you choose, you’re getting a monocular that’s built to withstand the rigors of outdoor use. The housing is made of a rugged, rubberized material that provides a secure, non-slip grip even in wet conditions. Fully sealed and nitrogen purged, the Equinox Z is both waterproof and fogproof. I’ve used it in drizzling rain and heavy morning dew with no issues whatsoever. The optical surfaces are fully multi-coated, a feature typically found on higher-end optics. These coatings enhance light transmission, improve clarity and contrast, and protect the lenses from scratches and abrasions.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter – the Equinox Z’s night vision performance. As a digital night vision device, it uses a high-sensitivity CMOS sensor rather than an traditional image intensifier tube. What this means in practical terms is that you get a more flexible, user-friendly system that can be used both day and night. In full daylight, the Equinox Z provides full-color imaging, making it useful for general purpose spotting and nature observation. As darkness falls, you can switch over to the classic green-tinted night vision mode, or opt for a crisp black-and-white display. I found that the black-and-white mode provided better contrast and object definition in very low light, but the green view is easier on the eyes during extended viewing sessions.

The level of detail and clarity provided by the Equinox Z in night vision mode is impressive, especially considering its price point. Will it match the performance of a $5000+ PVS-14 military-grade system? No, but it’s not designed to. For most recreational and professional applications, it more than gets the job done. I was able to consistently detect and identify targets out to around 150 yards in typical nighttime conditions. Bushnell claims a maximum range of 500 yards for the 4.5x40mm model (and a whopping 1000 yards for the 6x50mm), but realistically, you’ll want to keep your expectations in check. Ambient light levels, atmospheric conditions, and the size and reflectivity of your target all play a role in how far you can effectively see.

To help maximize the Equinox Z’s nighttime reach, Bushnell has equipped it with a powerful built-in IR illuminator. This is essentially an invisible flashlight that floods the scene with infrared light, providing a huge boost to the monocular’s low-light performance. The illuminator has adjustable power levels, letting you dial in just the right amount of assistance for your needs. On a cloudy, moonless night, I was able to positively identify a possum at 75 yards using the medium IR setting – an impressive feat for such a compact unit. Keep in mind that while the IR illuminator is invisible to the naked eye, it will produce a faint red glow at the front of the unit that may be detectable by animals or other people using night vision. If complete stealth is a priority, you’ll want to use the lowest IR setting or turn it off completely.

Battery life is always a concern with digital night vision systems, as the sensors and displays require a constant power supply. The Equinox Z runs on four standard AA batteries, which are cheap and readily available. Bushnell claims a runtime of up to 5 hours on a fresh set of batteries, but in my experience, you can expect closer to 2-3 hours if you’re using the IR illuminator heavily. For extended outings, I recommend bringing along a spare set of batteries or investing in high-quality rechargeables. The upside to the AA power system is that you can easily swap in fresh batteries in the field – something that’s not possible with the proprietary lithium ion packs used in some other digital NV units.

So far I’ve focused mainly on the Equinox Z’s core function as a night vision spotting tool, but it also packs in a few handy extras that are worth mentioning. First up is the ability to capture still images and video footage directly to an on-board micro SD card (not included). The 4.5x40mm and 6x50mm models can record video at 720p resolution, while the 3x30mm maxes out at 640×480. Still image resolution is capped at 2 megapixels. Now, I’ll be honest – the quality of the captured media isn’t going to blow you away. The image is a bit grainy and the audio from the built-in mic is nothing to write home about. But for quick in-the-field documentation or sharing your nighttime exploits with friends, it’s a nifty feature to have. Just don’t expect National Geographic-quality results.

Perhaps more useful is the Equinox Z’s Wi-Fi streaming capability, which lets you pair the unit with your smartphone or tablet using a free app. This opens up some intriguing possibilities for remote viewing and surveillance. Mount the monocular on a tripod overlooking your campsite or property, connect it to your phone, and you’ve got yourself a makeshift security camera with night vision. The app also provides access to more advanced image adjustment settings than the on-board menu system, so it’s worth playing around with if you want to fine-tune your visual experience.

At an MSRP of $359.99 for the 4.5x40mm model I tested, the Equinox Z isn’t exactly an impulse purchase. But when you compare it to the cost of a high-end dedicated night vision optic – which can easily run into the thousands of dollars – it starts to look like a bargain. The build quality is excellent, the image performance is more than adequate for most users, and the suite of extras like still/video capture and Wi-Fi streaming set it apart from the no-name generic units flooding the market. If you’re serious about exploring the night and want a dependable tool that won’t break the bank, the Equinox Z is a very compelling option.

Of course, no product is perfect, and the Equinox Z does have a few limitations and drawbacks worth mentioning. The main one is the fixed focal length of the lens, which means that objects at different distances will appear out of focus unless you physically adjust the focusing ring. This isn’t a huge deal for stationary viewing, but it can be a bit of a pain if you’re trying to track a moving target. The short eye relief of around 10-15mm may also be an issue for glasses wearers, as you’ll need to press your eye right up to the viewport for a full field of view. And as I mentioned earlier, the 2-3 hour battery life can be limiting for extended nighttime use. But these are all relatively minor quibbles considering the Equinox Z’s overall performance and feature set.

In conclusion, if you’re in the market for a versatile, user-friendly night vision optic that won’t require a second mortgage, the Bushnell Equinox Z digital monocular should absolutely be on your radar. It’s a solid all-around performer that more than justifies its price tag. Whether you’re a hunter, stargazer, camper, or homestead defender, the Equinox Z has the chops to serve you well. It’s rare to find a product that so deftly balances price, features, and performance, but Bushnell has hit the bullseye with this one.

As always, I hope you’ve found this in-depth review helpful and informative. I’d love to hear about your own experiences with the Equinox Z or other night vision gear in the comments below. And if I’ve convinced you to take the plunge and pick one up for yourself, be sure to use one of the affiliate links scattered throughout this article. It won’t cost you a penny extra, but it will help keep this site up and running so I can continue bringing you the best in outdoor optics coverage.

Until next time, stay safe, shoot straight, and keep exploring everything the night has to offer.


Joel Mccartan

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