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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

8x32 EL

Binoculars, 8x32, Swarovski

Item details

Magnification : 8x
Focus system : Centre
Objective dia. : 32mm
Prism system : Roof
Field of view : 140m at 1000m
Close focus : 7ft
Exit pupil : 4mm
Eye relief : 15mm
Weight : 21.9oz

Latest reviews

  • Superb all-around binocular
  • Very poor accessories
I have owned this binocular for more than a year and have used it in the field on more than 150 occasions, often for ten or more hours continuously. I have owned Nikon SE 8x32 for eight years and Leica Ultravid 7x42 for four years, and have also used them heavily. I have used all three in temperatures ranging from 10 to 100 degrees fahrenheit. I have used the EL and Ultravid in heavy rain and snow, exposing them outside my clothing to those conditions.

Prior to purchasing the EL, I compared it for several hours each to the Ultravid 8x32 and Nikon HG/LX 8x32. In this review I compare some features/performance of the EL against all of the aforementioned binoculars.

I devote some time to hiking and birding almost every day, and I favor the wide field of view and greater depth of focus of a 7x or 8x binocular. When I purchased the EL I wanted a light, compact binocular that I could carry comfortably on long hikes and could use in any weather. I have used it in temperatures ranging from 8 degrees to 103 degrees fahrenheit, in pouring rain, and in driving snow, always without a problem.

The 8x32 EL is superbly made, with a high degree of finish. When the EL line was released, I handled the 8.5x42 several times. I was impressed by its performance but suspicious of its durability. The seemingly thin walls of the tubes and magic focusing mechanism gave me an impression of fragility. That is not the case. The EL is impeccably engineered. It is sturdy, and mine has functioned flawlessly.

Ergonomics are exceptional, and the balance is such that it feels lighter than it is. The focus mechanism is buttery smooth and precise. In warm weather, the Nikon SEs focusing mechanism has the same smoothness, but in cold weather it stiffens to such a degree that it is unusable. The Leica Ultravids focus mechanism (which in mine was rough when new, but has become smooth with use) is unaffected by changes in temperature. The ELs focus stiffens considerably in cold weather but remains functional.

The armor is comfortable to the touch, though the exposed metal on the inner surfaces of the tubes can be very cold in cold weather. An individual not wearing gloves might find the metal painfully cold. The armor has remained very tight on the EL, though that on my Ultravid loosened after only a few months of use.

The EL has a bright, color-neutral image, though it is not as bright as in the Nikon SE. The field of view, advertised as 420 feet at 1,000 yards, indeed seems generous in use, though not obviously greater than that in the SE, which is stated to be 390 feet. Contrary to what some have stated in these forums, the field of view in the EL is as sharp toward the edges as it is in the Nikon SE, though the EL requires greater refocusing to see this. The EL exhibits very low chromatic aberrationsomewhat less than the Ultravid, and only slightly more than the SE.

The EL is extremely sharp, and I tested it against my SE several times. For a test target I used a Canon Test Sheet-NA2, which is used by photocopier technicians, and I compared the binoculars by mounting each on a bean bag on top of a tripod. I was certain that the SE would prove to be sharper than the EL, but the difference between them is slight. I tested and retested, both tripod-mounted and handheld, and I found them to be very close. Nevertheless, the image in the SE is brighter and more contrasty, and when looking at real-life subjects it gives an impression of greater sharpness. I believe the greater length of the EL contributes to image movement, and that combined with the difference in contrast likely explains the apparent difference in sharpness.

When I purchased the EL I compared it for several hours each to Nikon 8x32 HG/LX and to Leica Ultravid 8x32. That was the third time I had tested the HG/LX, each time attempting to convince myself that I liked it, but I never did. I know it is popular, but I find the focus mechanism to be too fast and chromatic aberration to be excessive. Contrary to opinions stated by some contributors to these forums, the HG/LX is not sharper than the EL. In side-by-side, tripod-mounted comparison, I repeatedly found the EL to be sharper.

Tested on tripods, the ELs focus mechanism seems to operate at the same speed as the 8x32 SE. Nevertheless when using the EL in the field, its focus seems faster than in the SE. I am at a loss to explain this, except to say thatalthough it would be denied by the engineers among the forums contributorsthe SE seems to have greater depth of focus.

Despite having greater CA than the EL, the 8x32 Ultravid has a superb, and perhaps slightly more contrasty, image. It would have been my first choice for a compact 8x32 roof-prism, were it not for a bad decision on Leicas part, to which they stubbornly adhere. The rims of the eyecups on the Ultravid are latex rubber, rather than a silicone-based material as in the EL (and in Zeisss FL). I am allergic to latex, which I did not know until after I bought my 7x42 Ultravid. When I reacted badly to the eyecups on that binocular, Leica kindly sent me free replacement eyecups made with silicone-based material. They were from an experimental batch (so I was told), and they did solve the allergy problem. However they fit sloppily, and the soft rims are much thicker than on the originals, so the rainguard has never fit over them.

When I used the 8x32 Ultravid for only a few hours, testing it against the EL, I reacted to the rubber in the eyecups. I did not want to buy another expensive binocular, only to install sloppily made replacement eyecups, so I dropped the Ultravid from consideration. In my most recent exchange of e-mails with Leica I was told that the company is still not considering supplying silicone-based eyecups.

Though I have much to praise about the EL, its accessories have many weaknesses. The rainguard is good, and it fits and functions well, even if it requires too much fiddling every time the IPD is changed.

The objective lens covers are the most pathetic, worthless covers sold with any high-end binocular. The rubber is too thin and elastic for the purpose. The loops which fit around the tubes are stretchy and flimsy; they catch on clothing and get pulled off the binoculars constantly. I have had to retrace my steps innumerable times to locate a cover that has detached. The plug-in covers come unplugged from the objective lenses easily, catching on clothing and on brush. If it is raining, water gathers between the plugs and the tubes, so that when you pop off a cover, water splatters all over the lens. The little straps that connect the loops to the plug-in covers suffer from the poor formulation of the rubber. The rubber is so soft that contact with clothing for only a few months is enough to wear through the rubber completely.

After only a few months the original covers were hanging by a thread, and then I finally lost one of them for good. Swarovski immediately sent me a free replacement pair, but those too wore through completely after a few months. I now use the plugs only when storing the binocular. Im sure many would not find that objectionable, but when hiking in heavy brush and in dusty conditions, I prefer to keep objective lenses covered.

By comparison the objective covers for my Ultravid are made of heavy, durable rubber. They never come off or pop open. They may in fact be too effective, and are sometimes hard to open, but they provide protection and do not splatter water when opened in the rain. Leica earns points for improving their objective-lens-cover design. The covers supplied with the Ultravid when the line was first released were horrible. Both of mine came apart the first day I used them. I then carried the actual cover portion (less the loops) loose in my pocket, putting them on and taking them off as needed. Leica eventually redesigned them and supplied me a replacement pair for free. I have never had trouble with the redesigned covers.

The strap supplied with the EL is a joke. It is adjustable and has little plastic levers to lock the strap at the desired length. It never worked. With the levers in the locked position the strap stretched out every hour or so, and I had to use safety pins to to keep the strap in position. I threw the strap away and replaced it with a Swarovski harness.

Swarovskis harness is also poorly engineered. The instructions show that it is intended to be clipped directly to the strap lugs on the binocular, but the clips are shaped such that they gouge the armor. A friend just bought a new 8.5x42, and supplied with it were a pair of tiny nylon fabric straps with eyelets, which can be laced through the strap lugs and to which the harness can be clipped. This is a good solution, and I have made a similar strap for all of my binocular harnesses for years. Unfortunately, the clips on the Swarovski harness are very weak and detached from the d-rings on my contraption constantly, so I wrapped the clips with tape to prevent this. I have Eagle Optics harnesses on the SE and Ultravid. The clips on them have never detached, and I have not had to tape them shut.

The "case" is an utterly pathetic, illogical vanity cover. The Ultravid came with a very heavy, sturdy Cordura case that closes over the binocular when it has a strap or harness attached, and it can be removed in a second. The EL's case zips closed, and with the flimsy objective covers attached the binocular has to be angled carefully into the open case to get the case closed around it. The case provides no protection against impact, so whereas I can toss my cased Ultravid into the back of my car without giving it a second thought, I have to carefully position the cased EL on the car seat.

The 8x32 EL is one of the finest overall birding binoculars on the market, but I am baffled by the poor accessories supplied with it. It seems they were designed and manufactured without being tested in the field. I believe that lens covers especially should contribute to the ruggedness of a binocular under harsh conditions, and a binocular as expensive as the EL should be supplied with reliable, durable objective lens covers. I do hope Swarovski takes note and does something to remedy the situation.
One member found this helpful.
  • Like
Reactions: David N
  • crisp, clear, bright, smooth, comfortable
  • none really - carry them in my camera case
I wondered originally if I would be happy with the 8x magnification and with the smaller 32 mm objective. In practice they are just that bit more compact and can be held easily with limited shake. They are surprisingly bright and I am very glad I made this choice. An excellent bit of kit.
  • Like
Reactions: David N
  • Crisp, clear, bright optics. No CA that I could discern. Clear to edge. Great FOV & DOF, smooth focus
  • Not exactly compact - \'not quite pocketable\'; Daft useless soft carry case that all ELs have
I have the 10x42 EL, and love them. Find them a wee bit heavy for casual use (out walking with the kids, etc.) so I splashed out on the more conveniently sized 8x32 as well as \'knockabouts\'. Although for years I\'ve preferred 10x mag., these may become my bins of choice, 8 degree FOV is very easy on the eyes, and although not pocketable they are light and easy to carry. Compared them with Leica Ultravids, preferred the compactness of the Leicas but the view of the ELs. Ergonomics of ELs is a matter of choice, or of your hand and grip - my thumbs don\'t actually slot naturally into both thumb grooves, but no matter; very easy to hold with one hand. 10 out of 10 for the bins, zero for the silly case.
  • Like
Reactions: David N

Item information

Medium & Compact Binoculars
Added by
Andy Bright
Last update
5.00 star(s) 3 ratings

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