Review:
PNV-57E (ПНВ-57E) night vision

After the gen. 0 NSP-2 (НСП-2) and the gen. 1 Cyclop-1 (Циклоп-1) night visions, it is obviously time for a review of a gen 1+. night vision 🙂

Speaking of which, as you might have already guessed by the title it is the PNV-57E (ПНВ-57E) this time. As mentioned it is a second generation true stereo night vision device we are talking about. True stereo meaning it uses two separate imaging tubes, one for each eye.
It was developed during the mid 80s by the Novosibirsk instrument-making plant (Новосибирского приборостроительного завода) as a successor/update to the PNV-57.

Its performance is similar to that of the US made AN/PVS-5, however the PNV-57E outperforms most other gen. 1+ night visions. Produced in the Soviet Union and later on under license in Czechoslovakia, it was the most used night vision device among Soviet forces. Even today it still sees limited use within the Russian Army.
Since the Soviets fought against the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan at that time, it saw its first combat use pretty quick. Initially it was reserved for helicopter pilots only, but was issued to tank crews also to replace their old PNV-57 later on.
As it was mainly used by drivers and pilots the importance of the two separate tubes become clear. They allow for a stereoscopic vision, which is obviously a requirement for that sort of purpose.
By coincidence I just read a book about the development of the Mi-8 helicopters. Translated into English (it’s from former East Germany) it says:

…surveillance of large areas remained a major task for the MI-8 crews during the war. The helicopters circled airfields and bases nonstop to spot Mujaheddin attacks and provide intelligence. During night raids the reconnaissance provided by MI-8 crews equipped with PNV-57E for the first time proved to be a major benefit to the troops on the ground.

Like the NSP-2 it comes with its own transit and storage case, which includes the night vision itself, an infrared filter, some spare parts, a connector cabled and the manual of course. According to the manual the technical are as following:

  • field of view:           30 °
  • magnification:        1-1.2 x
  • refreshment rate:  35 Hz
  • diopter setting:      +/- 4 diopters
  • voltage input:        12V or 24V
  • voltage output:     14kV – 19.5kV

However the field of view is definitively more then 30°. I assume they referr to the field of view which is not obstructed by the fish-eye effect. Also it will work with voltages below 12V or any in between 12V and 24V – more about that later.

As I painted mine black I unfortunately don’t have any more photos of the device in its original appearance.

Also note that I stitched two holes into the lens covers. Reason for that is, that the holes work as a pinhole apertures. With them you are able too use it at daytime, but more important with IR illumination.
As any night vision needs at least some light (starlight, moonlight…) you can use them inside buildings and such without active IR illumination. Yet the even tiny IR LEDs (like on my helmet – see below) are way to bright will blind just by the reflected light.
Also the night vision has a fixed focus that kicks an at about 4 meters. So anything closer then that appears blurry which is not exactly a good thing inside buildings.
Using the ‘pinhole apertures” also negates that problem, which is the reason why I went for this solution rather then dimming the IR light.

On the right photo you can see the unique serial number ‘ЦШТ 7581’ next to the ‘ПНВ-57Е’ print. In this case it indicates that it was made in 1986

  Most Russian night vision devices disassemble pretty easy. The PNV-57E is no exception to that. In order to remove the lens you just have to unscrew the small metal rings (see the left photo) – this is pretty handy if you want to install a protective lens to if you plan to use it for Paintball or Airsoft.
Also you can simply pull out the imaging tubes by removing the four screws on each side. Getting replacement tubes might be a bit difficult as of today.

  With just a few modifications the night vision goggles will mount onto a standards nvg mount via a ‘rhino mount arm’. Also I turned the whole thing upside down in order to get it closer to the eyes.
You can see the IR illumination light I talked about on mounted to the right sight of the helmet.

  But lets get to some real footage. The building in the video is around 270-300m away. Keep in mind that my camera had a hard time picking up the image. In reality it has less of a fish eye effect and a greater fov.
However there definitely is still a fish eye effect like on gen 1 devices. It is way less of a problem though:

youtube.com/watch?v=UHVSSLwMcoc

  The squarish box worn on the back of the helmet contains a 12v or 24v transformer connected to the vehicle’s 12 or 24 volt system. As I already said the night vision even runs with 6V or anything up to 24V. I did not notice any difference in terms of image quality.
However the circuited generates a really loud beeeeep noise, as you probably hear in the video. I am not certain which part of the circuit is responsible for that.
But as you can see on the right photo they glued a circuit diagram into the box. Pretty handy. Fortunately soviet circuit diagrams are pretty similar to the ones here in Germany, so I hope to solve that beep issues in the future. I might post a how zo if you guys are interested.

  The power consumption is actually very low with a current of 300-350 mA. So it will even run on a 9V block battery without problems.

Some words if you are planning to get one yourself:
The prices are way to high now. Here in Germany you will pay 200-300€ for a non-working one. I paid 120€ for mine, which is admittedly a pretty good price. I would consider 150€ a reasonable price for a working one.

Also you will often find PNV-57A advertised as PNV-57E on eBay, so watch out. They use gen 0 tubes and pretty useless in my opionion.

23.07.2013 by netsplit for Gruppa L

51 thoughts on “Review:
PNV-57E (ПНВ-57E) night vision

    • Well, you do not need to modify the night-vision itself.
      However you will need to build yourself some sort of adapter, which can be pretty hard to do depending on the tools and materials you got.

  1. Landed here by accident, i must say very nice review.

    Good job, oh and the “part 2” might be usefull to some, perhaps if i get one myself one day your “how to part 2” would help

    Cheers und Mahlzeit ;D

  2. I’ve been looking for one since forever, I need a working one, I offer $200 for a working one, if the tube life has been used up, I’m not interest, need working one with little-to-no use

    • Thanks!
      You are talking about a tutorial how to eliminate the beep noise right?
      I will definitely post one ‘soon’.
      Problem is, I just had to move, that is why there haven’t been any updates In the past few months.

      • perfect, thanks! btw do you have any idea were I can get a pair of these nvd’s in Germany? I can’t seem to find them anywhere

        • You can get them on ebay, but they are currently rather expensive there.
          A cheaper way is to search for them on egun.de. However you should search for terms like “nachtsichtgerät russisch” or “restlichversträker russland” instead of the actual name PNV-57E, since most people don’t know what they are actually selling there.

      • Actually, the high pitch beep noise it’s generated by the transformer element (the bulky one) vibrations on metal plates while it works: you can’t avoid that. The only way that comes to my mind is to insulate the empty space inside the voltage coverter box by filling it with some kind of fire-proof foam. But I’m not sure of the result and, it makes me wonder why the original designers didn’t do so. Maybe it overheat the circuit too much… I don’t know. If you finally manage to solve that, let us know 🙂

        Nice review and I definitely agree with you about the prices. Glad to see some of my photos used in a nice post like this one 😉

        • Hi there!
          I already solved it with a preceding electronic circuit. Just haven’t had the time to post it.
          I’ll post guide in the next weeks and maybe put some on ebay.

  3. I’m very much interested in your tutorial as well as detailed photos of your adaptor. I am gerting a pair and will be modding it to fit my helmet

    • Hi!
      I basically just use Norotos RHINO ARM, you can find them on ebay for around 50$. Don’t buy the Fakes form China, they are not strong enough to carry the weight of the NV.
      Once you got the Nortos arm you will just need to build some sort of 90° adapter. No big deal, I bet you can figure it out yourself. If just call back 😉

  4. Hi, I just picked up a set of PNV-57Es and I have a few questions. First, are they actually Gen 2? I’ve been getting very mixed answers from my searches. Second, is there anyway I could get a bit more info on the 9v conversion? I’m planning on doing that ASAP, but I really don’t know the first thing about electronics and even less about NV. Thanks.

    • Hi,
      It appears that there are both versions with gen 1+ and 2 tubes around. I looked up the tubes in my one and they were rated as gen2. Maybe I can take a photo next time I open up the NV.
      As I wrote you don’t need to modify anything on the NV to run it with a 9V battery.

      • Hi!

        Nice article, I’d like to share some experiences of my own:

        – The generation numbers of western and Soviet tecnology do not match. It’s well possible that these would be considered gen2 by Soviet standards, but by western (US) standards these are only gen1 (the tubes do not have a micro-channel plate).

        – I did a comparison running the device with different voltages. The image is definitely less bright when running with less than 12V, so I’d recommend a 12V battery for the best experience.

  5. Hey netsplit,

    could you possible manage it to do some review about the modifications you have done – and maybe some video to get a better look into it?
    Some other question, cause I do not own one by myself, would be if it is possible to build an own transformer with the correct output settings, to avoid that problem by the ground?

    Greetings

    • Which ground problem are you talking about? It is possible to build you on HV transformer, but it is rather hard compared to the modifications needed to make the existing one (more) silent.
      I will upload schematics and a how two in the future.

    • Yeah, the E model is pretty rare compared to the A. But as I wrote, the As are rather useless by today’s standards.
      You will get the best deals if you check ebay and egun for pnv57e that have been put up with an incorrect or too general name like ‘russian night vision’ or such.
      This way you should be able to get some for around 80 euros.

  6. How did you connect the night vision to a power source?

    I see in some pictures that the goggles have a connector that looks like for a truck or helicopter power port.

    I understand how to power up an A model, but not sure how to power an E model.

    If you could post info on powering from a battery would be helpful.

    • Hi Kyle,
      Yes, the connector is indeed made for use with 12/24V systems in vehicles.
      However you can also use pretty much any battery to run these NVG. For the best use run them at 12V, other voltages between 9V and 24V will work too. So there are many different types of (rechargeable) batteries you could use. Lipo type batteries are generally speaking best suited, since they offer a long run-time with low weight. There is not much you can do wrong when connecting the battery. The circuit is protected against reverse voltage. So just try it out until the NVG turn on.

      • What did you use to connect a LiPo or 9v battery to the NVGs?
        Just a short wire an alligator clip on each end?

        I’m planning on testing the two I’m getting with 9v batteries and then work on a LiPo setup.

        I’m not expecting them to work as good as the PVS-14 I’ve used in the US Army, but it should still be useful and fun to play with.

        • Well I actually did something completely different for the power supply, but I might cover that in a separate article.
          You can use whatever you want to connect the battery. Alligator clips, or cut off the plug and solder on some newer quick connect plug.
          Someone suggested in a previous comment that 9V makes the NVG run a bit dark. I din’t check up on that issue yet, but using 11.1V Lipo is probably the better bet.

  7. Hello, very nice review! I am a collector of Soviet-Russian nightvision equipment and I did spot an important error: These PNV-57E goggles are Gen1 and definatelly NOT gen2. They use the same glass intensifier tubes as you will find in Russian scopes like the Cyclop-1. The PNV-57E performs better then these scopes because the tubes are made fin the Soviet era for the military, and not post-Soviet ones for commercial NV scopes, and because these goggles use excellent optics.

    PNV-57A is indeed gen0, so these use IR converter tubes.

    There is a very simple way to check if a scope is gen0 -1 of gen2 and higher: turn on the scope, wait a few seconds and turn it off. If the image will remain after shutting down the power and will slowly go dimmer to eventually disappear: it is gen0 or gen1. If the image goes away the moment you turn off the power: it’s gen2 or higher.

    Keep up the good work, always nice to see other NV enthousiasts!

    Cheers from The Netherlands!

    Johan

    • Thank you Johan, I will update the article accordingly.

      However if I remember correctly even the tubes in the Cyclop look quite different. Unfortunately I sold mine so I can’t check it out.

      In terms of performance: I used to own a pair of AN/PVS-5, which performed pretty much the same as the PNV-57E (admittedly they had less of a fish-eye effect). You got any idea why the PNV-57E performs distinctly better then other (military) gen 1?

      • I’ve heard that the PNV-57E tubes use better photocathode material than most other Gen1 devices. I haven’t been able to confirm this information, though.

  8. Hey guys,

    No problem, my pleasure. As I have said before, always nice to talk to other NV enthousiasts abroad.

    The tubes are the same in buildup. I have taken apart and repaired many PNV-57E and Cyclop-1 scopes in the past. So I know what tubes are in them. Sometimes the military tubes do have a red cover instead of green though.

    I can send you a picture of a PNV-57E tube and a Cyclop 1 tube if you want.

    The PNV-57E is definatelly a gen1, no doubt about it. The first gen2 scopes that came in action in the USSR before the collapse where scopes like the 1PN51 rifle scope and the 1PN50 observation scope (later brought to the commercial market as Baigish-6U).

    I am shure that the military tubes had a better photocathode, the bottom line is that the tubes in the PNV-57E where made for military use and where on strict quality control. This was in USSR time and the factories only delivered to the military.

    I can imagine that the quality control was strict back then. Only the best tubes where used in the military scopes, just like they are today.

    After the collapse these factories had to direct themself to the commercial market. So quality control soon faded to eventially dissapear almost entirely. Money had to be made. Nowadays every tube that lights up a bit is put into a plastic scope with a big IR LED build in to make it look as if it is a great scope, to then find its way to supermarkets. When you compair a Russian T3C-2 scope from the early 90’s with a today scope the old Ruskie will outperform it even without IR.

    I have had a AN/PVS-5 goggle myself and these where far better then the gen1 PNV-57E. Perhaps your scope had tubes that where becomming tired? I’ve seen gen2 tubes that where near their end and performed worse then gen1 tubes…

  9. Hello!

    Nice review! I have now bought myself a pair of PNV-57E. They work on power as low as 5V. From 9V and above they are fully bright. I have made a small circuit with an ATtiny85 microcontroller to turn on the power for half a second every five seconds, to save power. The circuit also check the battery and turns off the device if the battery voltage is below 10V. I have also attached a modded “zoomable” flashlight with a 2W 850nm IR LED for extra illumination if needed. All this is powered by three AA size Li-Ion batteries. Everything fits nicely in a small plastic box that can be attached to the transformer.

    Does anyone have any suggestions if and how I should clean the lens system? When I look at a white wall with the goggles I see small dust particles. I detached the lens systems but there was no dust on the outer lenses. The dust is probably between the first lenses, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to disassemble them.

  10. Thanks Jan,
    Funny, I did almost the same with a ATmega168. However a smaller µC is probably a better I guess. You got any filter in front of your flashlight? I use a similar one, but a slight glow is still noticeable if people look right into it.
    Regarding the lenses: I don’t think they are meant to be disassembled, I wonder how the dust got in there in the first place? On mine its sealed pretty tight.

    • No, I don’t use any filter, so you can see a small red glow from the flashlight. I use a modded switching voltage regulator to regulate the voltage to the LED. I have a potentiometer on the side of the box with which I can change the LED voltage between 1,2 and 2,0 volts, which means that the power can be changed from barely visible 0,002W to full power 2W.

      My lenses are also very tightly sealed, so I have no idea how the dust got there. I have seen pictures online of disassembled lenses but I’m afraid to mess up the alignment.
      http://urban3p.ru/blogs/26526/

      • Interesting link you posted Jan.

        I like the LED flashlight idea mounted in the center of the goggles.

        Anyone know why part of the transformer circuit board was removed? Google Translate sucks are translating Russian, let alone any idiomatic phrases.

        I’m also trying to adapt my lenses to allow for focus of close-up objects, ie less than 10ft.

        • I think the part removed is the voltage regulator circuit. If you plug it to a power supply of 16,5V or more the relay is switched on and the first part of the circuit is guiding the current through a resistor. The second part is there to regulate the voltage to whatever the high voltage converter needs. He replaces all this with his own circuit to save space.

          http://s24.postimg.org/qqqdpawc5/Untitled22.jpg

          The manual for the PNV-57e is really good. It explains the circuit in detail. With the help of google translate I managed to get some information out of it.

  11. My first pair finally arrived. Waiting on the second pair to come in. Amazed at how long shipping is from Europe.

    Was able to power it up in no time with an 8x-AA Battery Box. Works well and I can see clearly with it. Does have a fish eye effect, but I can see for a good distance.

    How did you mount it to the Rhino Arm Mount? Your pictures are not clear. A front on picture would help.

    • I 3d printed an adapter. But I guess you can do it a lot of different ways.
      If you can’t find any other solution I can print you an adapter aswell, but the material will cost around 25€.

      • 3D printed adapter would be great to see. I’d be willing to work with you on that.

        Is there a way to reach you via email to work that out?

        Also, what did you do to reduce the buzz of the transformer?

        Received my second pair Friday, with a tanker helmet, and I love it. Nice setup, not too heavy or bulky. Amazed at how easy it is to get these powered up.

        • Sure, just check the ‘Contact Us’ page for my e-mail. I won’t post it as text to the spam-bots don’t catch it.

          I did pretty much the same thing as Jan described in his comment above. I may post a how to in the future, however it will require some basic electronic skills/knowledge. I will probably build some more too and put them up fore sale here:

          http://shop.gruppa-l.com/en/stuff-n-fluff

  12. Cool. Went ahead and sent you an email last week with some pictures of my progress of my two PNV-57Es.

    Would I be able to purchase through that link? Figured it would be nice to go ahead to get a Norotos mount adapter and a circuit piece. Probably wouldn’t cost too much to ship to America.

    As a side note, found an iris aperture on ebay and mounted it to the Butler Creek lens cap on the goggles. The aperture allows me to control the light, but more importantly focus on near objects. I can actually read with the goggles now.

    Besides a proper mount to my helmet, all I need to do is fix up the power cable.

    • I will get back to you via mail. Just didn’t have much time lately.
      Shipping costs are 5,60€ worldwide for that weight.

      The aperture is pretty handy, yes. Thats why I punched the small holes into the rubber caps on mine. Works pretty much the same way. Also mentioned it in the review I think.

      • Wonderful. Thanks.

        Was able to get a fellow HAM Radio Operator to show me how to use Anderson Power Poles. I cut the power cable down to a shorter length and crimped on Anderson Power Poles to it. Did that to the LiPo battery as well. Much more secure and safer way to connect power.

        Just need to get a power switch to mount to the ARC rail to make it more convenient.

        • Hope you’re doing well. Havn’t heard from you in a while Netsplit.

          Been working on my two pairs of PNV-57E. Both have shorter power cables with Anderson Power Poles and switches. Makes using the goggles alot easier and safer.

          I used an East German grenade pouch to house the transformer, power cable, and LiPo battery on both goggles, including the one with a Tanker Helmet.

          Really all I need now is the circuit drivers for boht and a Norotos mount adapter for the pair attached to a tactical helmet.

          Hope to hear from you soon.

  13. Hello, I recently purchased a pair PNV57E, I have a problem transformer is not working properly, makes noise but not always, not much of electronic and not know where to start someone can help me, thanks!

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