Best marine night vision equipment for 2019

Like just about everything else electronic on boats, night vision equipment has come a long way in performance and user friendliness. Being able to see clearly after dark has widened the operating window and eased anxiety for a lot of boaters, especially when entering an unfamiliar harbor. Thermal imagers have become an essential tool for many.

Below are five night vision systems that score high marks in several categories, from image clarity and stabilization to automatic scanning of objects in the water. They are part of an exercise MEJ does every year in our Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.
The Best & Brightest list includes 16 categories of electronics, from autopilots and fishfinders to radar and satellite TV. Last week we told you about the pick of the litter in electronic charts. Next week we’ll tell you about VHFs.


The M500 is the ultimate expression of FLIR’s night and day imaging technology on the water.  Fitted with a cryogenically cooled mid-wave infrared neutrino core and a 14X optical zoom, the M500 delivers unsurpassed detection of long-range detection of targets large and small.  M500 also packs a synchronized color daylight and lowlight camera with 30x zoom.  An LED spot-beam target illuminator rounds out its three-pack of payloads.  The entire system is gyro stabilized for smooth viewing in rough seas, and to enable full use of its enhanced long-range optics. M500 is engineered for first responders, security vessels, commercial ships and superyachts desiring the very best technology available.  It can be controlled via joystick or linked up with leading MFDs from Raymarine, Furuno, Garmin and Simrad.  

The ComNav V7 Thermal Night Vision Camera with multi-axis gyro stabilization and high-sensitive quad payload is designed for situational awareness such as surveillance, navigation, security and search and rescue applications in extreme low-light environments. Furthermore, it is an effective tool for ice and iceberg detection. Thermal imaging technology allows the capture of faint image details in challenging light conditions, as well as being able to "see” through smoke and fog. Digital Pattern Enhancement (DPE) allows for sharper, crystal-clear, high-resolution images. A three-axis joystick control remote unit helps command the V7 with intuitive ease. A two-year warranty is standard, with an optional one-year extension if registered.
The GOST Watch HD H20 XVR next-generation all-in-one video surveillance system is designed to remotely stream and record thermal and IR-illuminated camera recordings in real time. Designed for law enforcement and fire boats, the GOST WATCH HD H20 XVR is enclosed in a fiberglass case that offers IP67 waterproof and impact-resistant protection and also makes installation simple. Within the case is a high-speed 4G LTE data communicator that can stream up to eight analog or IP 1080P cameras to the newly released GOST Watch HD XVR app. The built-in expanded 4 TB hard drive records and stores up to 90 days of footage per camera. The XVR is compatible with FLIR AX8, M232, M400 and M500 cameras.

Raymarine ClearCruise/FLIR M232

The combination of the FLIR M232 thermal camera and Raymarine Axiom series MFDs make for a powerful nighttime navigation system.  When integrated together the pair’s ClearCruise intelligent thermal analytics technology offer boaters an entirely new level of awareness and safety. Like an extra set of eyes, the M232 will automatically scan for objects in the water and Axiom will notify you about them with both visible and audible alerts. When combined with the AR200 Augmented Reality sensor, the M232 can also display live data overlays identifying navigation aids, AIS contacts and navigation points. The AR overlay is stabilized and synchronized with the M232’s pan, tilt and zoom capabilities.

Adventure doesn’t need to stop when the sun goes down. Bring night to life with the world’s first water-resistant day/night camera. Navigate waterways with full color night vision. Whether it’s a simple boating excursion or sailors manning the rails of one deck in a fleet, piloting waterways can be challenging. The water-resistant Aurora was constructed for coastal environmental conditions, providing true night vision to enhance navigation and fleet management capabilities at any hour. With mounting, GPS, and remote capabilities, Aurora allows sailors and captains alike to keep track of fleets and water traffic, even from below deck.

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Page 1 of 3 ( 13 comments)

Jp:(8/11/2018 5:28:29 PM) "I have a 2018 Yamaha f40 la and Humminbird helix 7 di , I would like to leverage the nema 2000 capability of the helix 7 to display engine info, what do I need , Humminbird does have a gateway and lowrance makes a Yamaha nema cable, but I'm reading connectors are proprietary . How can I get what is needed?

Since these products are not NMEA 2000 certified there is little assurance that they will share data with each other.

1. Here is the link to see all NMEA 2000 certified products:

2. The NMEA 2000 cables and connectors are from many manufacturers: Here is the link for approved cables and connector manufacturers:

AC/DC grounding distance:(8/2/2018 1:29:35 AM) "What about the grounding points of AC /DC systems? can they be grounded at the same point?
If one system has both AC and DC can they both be grounded to a common buss-bar that has only one conection to the hull?

Here's what Ed Sherman, electric tech guru at the American Boat & Yacht Council, said:

The ultimate goal should always be to tie ac and dc grounds together on board at a single point. In ABYC Standard E-11, it is described as “the engine negative terminal or its buss.” It is most commonly done at a buss."
Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
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