Because even the best NVGs need an external IR illuminator to fully maximize the clarity of the image delivered by the device’s tube. While this isn’t always the case under certain circumstances – like a full moon over a snow-covered field – but for areas with decent amounts of canopy or dense overhead foliage, an illuminator is a must.
This is a known thing to anyone who has spent time behind a set of nods, and why most military and law enforcement units equipped with NVGs run one (though not always on, to prevent enemy NVGs from easily spotting them.). But night vision isn’t a new technology, and illuminators have been around in one form or another since night vision’s inception.
Despite this, the IR illuminator market is fairly small, with only a handful of companies producing them. This, combined with the niche nature of IR illuminators and NVG enthusiasts in general, means that the majority of these illuminators are very expensive. Night vision and ‘affordable’ aren’t synonymous at all. Despite this, the engineers at Olight have attempted to capture a more budget-friend corner of the market with their Odin IR. So, is the Odin IR up to snuff? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
First off, the Olight Odin IR ships with most of the same creature-comfort features found on the Odin Mini. This is to say, a quick detach tape switch and a QD rifle mount that allows shooters to orient the light in 90-degree increments relative to the handguard. But while the Olight Odin Mini utilizes an M-Lok interface, the more specialized Odin IR’s QD rifle mount attaches to a gun with a Picatinny mount.
This might seem like a somewhat antiquated choice, but it actually makes a ton of sense. By using an older, more common mounting method, the Odin IR can be run on a much wider variety of firearms. And worst-case scenario, if a shooter only has an M-Lok handguard, they can always buy a relatively inexpensive Picatinny rail segment, or even one of the Odin Mini’s M-Lok mounts – since the two utilize the same QD interface between them.
Lastly, the Odin IR features a rear cap button that allows shooters to turn it off or on without the tape switch, and that switch is covered by the magnetic locking tape switch when it is attached. In all these ways, the Odin IR functions just like its visible light brother, the Odin Mini. But it does differ in one important regard – the bezel features a small serrated ring that rotates between three settings.
Visible light, off and IR light. The off position might seem strange to people who don’t run NVGs, but because in the IR setting the light isn’t visible to the naked eye, it becomes impossible to tell if the unit is on or off – especially since it doesn’t emit any light at the rear to tell you its status. Though this makes sense if a shooter is practicing light discipline.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about actual performance.
IR and Visible Performance
That’s right, the Odin IR can indeed function as a standard handheld or weapon-mounted light. When in the visible light setting, the Odin IR’s emitter produces 1,000 lumens powered by a rechargeable 5000mAh 21700 battery. The unit charges in the same way most Olight products do – a magnetic USB cable. The cable shines green when the battery is fully charged, and red when it is still charging.
This is a pretty respectable amount of light, and perfect for use outdoors, though a bit overkill within the confines of a house.
When the Odin IR is set to the infrared setting, Olight states that it has a 150 mW IR illuminator that if we compare it to something like either the Steiner DBal the Russian PERST-3 (500 mW) sounds pretty unimpressive. Plus, the PERST’s illuminator can be focused, while the Odin IR’s cannot. And if a shooter is running a rifle outdoors, a long narrow beam is generally more useful than a shallow, wide one.
But here’s the thing, military units cost ten times what the Odin IR goes for online. Yes, they are better built and more powerful, but that makes sense.
From a much more subjective point, my experience hunting hogs with the Odin is that it strikes a fairly good balance of beam width and brightness without an overly bright hot spot – but only really out to about 150 yards. In many ways, the Odin IR light feels like a photographer’s fill-light. Where it casts diffused lighting like an overcast day.
This is great for illuminating multiple objects clearly and reducing the grain of the image produced by an NVG, but it can make distinguishing targets that are along the same X and Y, but not the Z-axis, challenging. In other words, the soft lighting reduces hard shadows that in turn mess with a shooter’s depth perception – especially for shooters running a single monocular.
Olight Odin IR Verdict
So, is the Olight Odin IR worth a buy? Certainly for shooters new to NVGs, or just those who want something relatively inexpensive to toss on their hog-hunting, or home defense NVG setup. There are absolutely more powerful and more durable units from American companies on the market but they are vastly more expensive. And if you’re on the fence about buying an IR illuminator to run with nods, the Odin IR’s $169 MSRP is a much easier pill to swallow, than a military unit with a $1,500+ MSRP.
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife, son, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.