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Swarovision 8.5x42

Latest Swarovski HD roof-prism binoculars

Item details

Top-of-the-range open-hinge binoculars with wrap-around grip with new "Swarovision" technology, field flattener lenses and enhanced coating.

Latest reviews

  • Most everything
  • Hard rain cap, price
Previous comments agreed; adding that low-light performance is remarkable, bright and well-balanced. Birders pushing the edges of their day at morning and evening will get extra minutes from these.
Racket-tailed Durango
With my SLC 10x42, when I pan to the left or right I get a kidney bean shaped dark spot on the leading edge. Does that happen with the 8.5x42 EL?
  • Superb flat field with sharp edges
  • Slight off axis CA, irritating strap lugs, price
Many reviews of this product have appeared online, so I will try and make this review brief, and concentrate on the key issues. Quantities such as weight can be found on the manufacturers web site.

Not surprisingly the finish is high quality, as expected, and the build looks excellent, although it is impossible to know without taking it apart. That said, Swarovski have an excellent reputation, and a class leading warranty going by user reports.

The design is very similar to the previous version, with a slight change in the shape of the barrels. Otherwise it retains the twin bridge, with a combined focus wheel and diopter adjustment close to the eyepieces.

As others have noted, the focus wheel is stiffer in one direction than the other. It did not bother me. One feature that did annoy me is the strap lugs, which are placed inline with the focus wheel, and one of them interfered with my right hand making the grip slightly uncomfortable when not wearing gloves. It is not a serious fault, just a niggle.

From an optical standpoint the new binocular is a significant improvement on the previous version. The original EL had noticeable CA, both on axis, and off axis, which bothered me, although most people seemed not to notice it. It also had slightly reduced contrast in dull light, when compared to competing instruments. The view through the new model is excellent, with very impressive sharpness over the entire field. From a subjective viewpoint the image is sharp right to the edges, although critical testing shows a slight reduction in resolution at the edges, which in practice is irrelevant. The field is also flat i.e. when viewing a distant scene both the edges and the centre can be brought to a focus. The field of view is wide, 133m @ 1000m, giving an apparent field of view of almost 65 degrees.

A feature that has received considerable comment is the distortion. As is well known, all binoculars have image distortion. The designer can choose to minimise rectilinear distortion, or magnification distortion, but not both. Swarovski have chosen the former approach, such that horizontal and vertical lines appear straight. The cost is that the magnification varies across the field, an effect that is most noticeable at the field edges. It does look slightly strange to me, but I got used to it after I short time. However, online reports indicate that some people find it extremely annoying, especially when panning.

Chromatic aberration is something that troubles some people, including myself, and not others. Suffice to say that CA is low, but noticeable. On axis CA is almost if not completely absent. Off axis CA is present, and noticeable towards the edges of the field, from about 70-80% from the centre on a sunny day. It is minor, but does detract slightly from the otherwise superb edge sharpness. On a dull day, with snow on the ground, off axis CA was quite noticeable, and somewhat disconcerting to my eyes. It was seen as purple fringing away from the centre of the field. It did not interfere with identifying birds, but it did mar the subjective quality of the view. I should add that in these conditions most if not all binoculars will show off-axis CA, and many if not most will show more than the new EL. CA is present, but it is well controlled, and may well not be noticed by most users.

I tried the binoculars on the night sky, and I was impressed with the image quality, especially the edge sharpness, where stars appeared as points. The magnification distortion was less noticeable than during daytime.

Eye relief is very good, and more than enough for eyeglass wearers.

The binocular has a slight smell of rubber, but only when the nose is placed in close proximity to the rubber armour. This is perhaps not a complete surprise.

The binocular does feel fairly heavy, no doubt the objective covers, eyepiece cover, and strap do not help.

The binocular is supplied with a soft case, strap, and covers for the oculars and objectives. The case is in my view rather over-elaborate, and I prefer the simpler designs supplied by some other manufacturers.

In summary, the new EL has good design, excellent build, and improved optics, with remarkable edge sharpness, but unusual distortion, and controlled but noticeable CA. it is without doubt a high quality binocular, albeit at a high price.

I compared the binocular to my Nikon 8x32 SE, which some regard as one of the finest binoculars made. Note that mine was made over a decade ago, and hence it does not have the latest coatings, which may impact contrast. My subjective opinion is that the Swarovski provides an image with slightly higher contrast, but quite a bit more off axis CA. They both have similar edge sharpness. The Nikon image has slight pin cushion distortion which I prefer to the correction of rectilinear distortion chosen by Swarovski. In very low light, the Swarovski provides a noticeably brighter image, which is not surprising given the larger objectives. As far as ease of use is concerned, the Swarovski wins: I find the Nikon slightly cumbersome to hold, and the small focus wheel is rather stiff and awkward.

Incidentally, I recommend that you take my review as no more than an opinion, and that you test them for yourself, preferably alongside other binoculars of a similar quality. In practice the view through a binocular depends strongly on each persons personal psychology, and something that annoys me, such as chromatic aberration, may be missed by someone else, and conversely, something that does not bother me, such as edge distortion, may irritate them.
2 members found this helpful.
Racket-tailed Durango
How recessed are the lenses? With my CL Companion 8x30 I can watch birds in the rain better than with my SLC 10x42, because the CL has more recessed lenses that don't get wet, usually. How are the EL 8.5x42?
  • Very sharp , Bright , easy to hold , lightweight , waterproof
  • none
Bought these a few years back and have not once been dissapointed with them they are one of the best brinoculars around and i will never need another pair.

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Large Binoculars
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