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Finally compared 15X56 and 12X50 Side-By-Side

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Old Thursday 4th January 2018, 03:51   #1
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Finally compared 15X56 and 12X50 Side-By-Side

A month ago I began my search for a higher powered compliment to my Noctivid 8X42's for our place in Wasilla, Alaska.

Today I finally found a Cabella's, pictured below, that had both the Swarovski 15x56 SLC ($2,299) and 12X50 EL50 ($2,859) in their display case. Perfect!

I was certain the 15X56 would be my choice as I already have an Alpha 8X and the SLC's would almost double my magnification. After using both pair along with the Nocitivids for close to forty minutes it was a surprising but easy decision. The 12X50 EL50 were my choice in every way, industrial design, exterior finish, focus smoothness (among the best I've experienced period), but the biggest difference of all was the image. Wow. Even though I wanted the extra 3X of the 15X56 to move well past my 8x42's, the EL's's were so crystal clear in a way that was right with my Noctivids, and the SLC was just slightly out of it's league compared to either in doors and out, supported and free hand. Throw in design, build, mechanics, and the slightly awkward center of gravity of the SLC's, and the disparity becomes greater, enough to convincingly justify the extra $560 for the EL's.

Would I have been happy with the SLC's had I never tried the EL's? Clearly so. But man.

So I got the Cabela's Visa in order to score a 10% discount (which was promptly mostly eaten up by tax), and I am exceedingly pleased; really beyond anything I thought I could experience at this magnification.

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I am going to Wasilla, Alaska this month and again in January. Very long range viewing is frequent there. I would like the reach of the Swarovski 15x56 SLC, and may purchase it this week to compliment my Leica 8x42 Noctivids.
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Old Thursday 4th January 2018, 04:15   #2
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Many people think the bigger 56mm SLC would outperform the smaller 50mm EL but I have heard the opposite from many people. The EL is Swarovski's best binocular and there is a reason it cost more.
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Old Tuesday 9th January 2018, 20:31   #3
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Hi Dewever,

Glad to hear that you found a pair of Binos you really like.

It's funny, I actually had the exact opposite opinion when I tried them both in Bourg d'Oisans (fantastic shop up there).

At the end, it's the usual story, the image is looking better to our own eyes and Brain.

So the wisdom advice still remains:
When you want to buy Binos, try them before buying.
Because from what we can see...
There's a LOT of people happy with totally different Binos, even cheap ones !

And if you want a truly non-biased opinion, ask your kid about it ! :oD
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Old Thursday 11th January 2018, 04:38   #4
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Dwever, what about just detail in the image, when hand-held by you--the making out of detail, even at the cost of a little discomfort, ergonomic difficulty with regard to holding or optically in regard to ease of viewing? Hope you were able to compare this. Thanks!
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Old Thursday 1st February 2018, 01:52   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwever View Post
...but the biggest difference of all was the image. Wow. Even though I wanted the extra 3X of the 15X56 to move well past my 8x42's, the EL's's were so crystal clear in a way that was right with my Noctivids, and the SLC was just slightly out of it's league compared to either in doors and out, supported and free hand.
I'd like to second adhoc's question, in light of recent experience with my own 15x60. Do you think this relative "crystal clarity" in the 12x50s may have been partly (largely?) due to your ability to handhold 12x better than 15x? (I take it "supported" means leaning on something, rather than a proper mount.)
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Old Thursday 1st February 2018, 21:47   #6
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I'd like to second adhoc's question, in light of recent experience with my own 15x60. Do you think this relative "crystal clarity" in the 12x50s may have been partly (largely?) due to your ability to handhold 12x better than 15x? (I take it "supported" means leaning on something, rather than a proper mount.)
I concur. No-one is able to perform a thorough evaluation of the optical qualities of a 15x binocular hand held.
The 15x56 Swarovski SLC HD interested me too and my dealer obtained one for me to test. Mounted on a tripod at 45x magnification with a Zeiss 3x12 tripler the sharpness was what one could expect of a good scope of this size.
Unfortunately, the eye relief at 16 mm was too short for me as a glasses wearer and at an asking price of €2000 I was unwilling to accept the compromise.
Incidentally a 15x56 Zeiss Conquest HD tested under the same circumstaces had about the worst CA I have observed in any binocular.

John
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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 23:33   #7
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Wow. Even though I wanted the extra 3X of the 15X56 to move well past my 8x42's, the EL's's were so crystal clear in a way that was right with my Noctivids, and the SLC was just slightly out of it's league compared to either in doors and out, supported and free hand. Throw in design, build, mechanics, and the slightly awkward center of gravity of the SLC's, and the disparity becomes greater, enough to convincingly justify the extra $560 for the EL's.
You helped inspire me to visit my (not so) local Cabela's and see these Swaros myself for the first time. (We used to have a fine family-owned shop that carried all the top brands, but they retired.)

My experience was the mirror image of yours. Even though I was curious about stepping down 3X to get something easier to hold than my 15x60, my experience of the 12x50 EL wasn't super exciting considering the price tag. I did prefer it to the 10x50, but basically it's another familiar roof prism, very well done of course, nice size, 12x works for me, eyecups a bit odd (stepping up then down again so smoothly they don't really lock). Focus didn't quite snap as I'd like; does it have more DOF than expected, or too much travel? Couldn't really evaluate subtleties in a store, but no obvious faults, which is really quite an achievement.

The 15x56 SLC HD absolutely blew me away. Just wow. A different quality of view that I'd have needed more time to study and describe... even looking at a stuffed elk near a store window. It handled and balanced very well, feeling light for its size rather than dense like the EL. Tack sharp, very fine detail, though a challenge to enjoy with more jitter due to the higher power. These would be stunning on a tripod. Going back to the EL seemed rather... boring. If they made a 12x56 SLC that would be ideal for me.

Why is there such a dramatic difference here? It can't be just a modest advantage in brightness, can it? Damn. Now I really want an SLC, though I should choose 10x instead of 15. It's hard for me to justify either way.

"First world problems", as a friend likes to say...

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Old Monday 5th February 2018, 23:50   #8
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Next time your at Cabelas, see if they have the Euro 15x56 HD to compare with those Swaro 15's. I was stunned at how close they are optically.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 04:43   #9
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Thanks... I'd never been to Cabela's before, and don't expect to return anytime soon. If that Euro is the Meostar, you're probably right about comparable quality -- but a narrower FOV is a serious drawback to me. Something has to be sacrificed for the lower cost.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 06:30   #10
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Thanks... I'd never been to Cabela's before, and don't expect to return anytime soon. If that Euro is the Meostar, you're probably right about comparable quality -- but a narrower FOV is a serious drawback to me. Something has to be sacrificed for the lower cost.
Meopta has a huge optical components factory that dwarfs the Zeiss and Leica establishments in Wetzlar and its stuffed full of modern equipment and they make components and products for other brands. I am guessing they have got economies of scale that L & Z can only dream about. And wages in Czech Republic are significantly less than Germany. Finally Meopta can't round the price up because of the brand name. Quality-wise Meopta is up there with the best, specification-wise they have some work to do for nature observers, but hey, its the company's 85th Anniversary this year, so I wouldn't be surprised if they launch something new.

Coming down from 15x to 12x to 10x you will definitely notice a reducing amount of focus snap as the depth of field increases with decreasing magnification. On the other hand your focusing fingers will experience a sigh of relief as they have less work to do re-focusing as the depth of field increases.

Lee

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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 10:05   #11
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Why is there such a dramatic difference here? It can't be just a modest advantage in brightness, can it?.
Maybe the Abbe Konig prisms, besides having more transmission, provide a different viewing experience compared to SP roofs? More plasticity perhaps?

George
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 11:39   #12
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Meopta has a huge optical components factory that dwarfs the Zeiss and Leica establishments in Wetzlar and its stuffed full of modern equipment and they make components and products for other brands. I am guessing they have got economies of scale that L & Z can only dream about. And wages in Czech Republic are significantly less than Germany. Finally Meopta can't round the price up because of the brand name. Quality-wise Meopta is up there with the best, specification-wise they have some work to do for nature observers, but hey, its the company's 85th Anniversary this year, so I wouldn't be surprised if they launch something new.

Lee
That would surprise me.
The Meostar B1 binocular series first emerged around 2004 and still look the same. I know Meopta have added "HD" and better coatings with higher transmission recently, but still.

2004 Zeiss released the FL series and since then HT and SF. Swaro also have done at least 2-3 updates on EL series. Leica have done UVHD, UVHD+ and NV:s.

Meopta appear to be quite slow in innovation. But I wouldn't mind a Meopta open bridge design dedicated for nature and birding that could compete with SF, EL and NV.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 12:28   #13
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That would surprise me.
The Meostar B1 binocular series first emerged around 2004 and still look the same. I know Meopta have added "HD" and better coatings with higher transmission recently, but still.

2004 Zeiss released the FL series and since then HT and SF. Swaro also have done at least 2-3 updates on EL series. Leica have done UVHD, UVHD+ and NV:s.

Meopta appear to be quite slow in innovation. But I wouldn't mind a Meopta open bridge design dedicated for nature and birding that could compete with SF, EL and NV.

Exactly.
So isn't the 85th Anniversary of the company and the 14 years since the B1 family appeared good enough reasons for the appearance of B2? We could take bets on which will come first: Retro Trinovid or a B2 model

Lee
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2018, 19:52   #14
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We could take bets on which will come first: Retro Trinovid or a B2 model

Lee
Frankly, maybe M ought to manufacture the classic Trinovids for L - it isn't as though L hasnt sub-contracted work to M before!

tenex, my brother recently acquired the SLC 10x56 WB for the specific purpose of picking out tiny targets at very long distance, and for following birds over cluttered backgrounds (for which jobs, after more than a month's use, probably four to six times a week for stints averaging four to five hours, he considers it performs noticeably better than even the superb 8.5x42 he was using and still uses when the big SLCs are too affected by wind buffet). We were able to compare these with the 10x54 HT which was also excellent, as well as lighter and more handy - but he selected the SLCs as they felt more reassuring in terms of build. I have only used them a few times myself - they still don't match the 8x56 SLC for the pure quality of the view, but are (in my opinion anyway) close enough to the 10x54 HT for there to be very little between them. Very impressive instrument.

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Old Wednesday 7th February 2018, 06:43   #15
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Frankly, maybe M ought to manufacture the classic Trinovids for L - it isn't as though L hasnt sub-contracted work to M before!

An excellent suggestion.

Lee
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Old Thursday 8th February 2018, 21:45   #16
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Minox ? Leica has had close ties in the past.

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Old Sunday 11th February 2018, 00:37   #17
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Minox?
Meopta.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Troubador View Post
Quality-wise Meopta is up there with the best, specification-wise they have some work to do for nature observers...
Coming down from 15x to 12x to 10x you will definitely notice a reducing amount of focus snap as the depth of field increases with decreasing magnification.
I've always wanted to like Meopta but they consistently fall behind in FOV and weight compared to the A-brands.
There was something odd going on with that EL 12x50, not sure what. I kept fiddling with the diopter, and it didn't seem to help. Then again the light in the store wasn't great, and I didn't want to try to persuade them to let me go outside.

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Originally Posted by 14Goudvink View Post
Maybe the Abbe Konig prisms, besides having more transmission, provide a different viewing experience compared to SP roofs? More plasticity perhaps?
I do wonder about this: words like clarity or transparency come to mind. Perhaps the nasty mirrored surface on S-P prisms has some aesthetic effect that coatings can't quite compensate for, so you get a processed "image" (however sharp or contrasty) as opposed to a "view" with Porros or A-K. That's starting to sound a bit mystical though, and I haven't examined enough binos to know it holds true. What I will say is that the SLC 56 looks not merely a bit brighter but different to me, in a good way. What else could it be: coatings...?
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Old Sunday 11th February 2018, 02:42   #18
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What I will say is that the SLC 56 looks not merely a bit brighter but different to me, in a good way. What else could it be: coatings...?
In my experience that kind of unusually fine image requires very low spherical and longitudinal chromatic aberrations and an absence of the common assembly defects. Only good specimens of a very few binocular designs manage to do all of that.

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Old Saturday 3rd March 2018, 22:15   #19
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Dwever, what about just detail in the image, when hand-held by you--the making out of detail, even at the cost of a little discomfort, ergonomic difficulty with regard to holding or optically in regard to ease of viewing? Hope you were able to compare this. Thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by tenex View Post
I'd like to second adhoc's question, in light of recent experience with my own 15x60. Do you think this relative "crystal clarity" in the 12x50s may have been partly (largely?) due to your ability to handhold 12x better than 15x? (I take it "supported" means leaning on something, rather than a proper mount.)
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Originally Posted by Tringa45 View Post
I concur. No-one is able to perform a thorough evaluation of the optical qualities of a 15x binocular hand held.
The 15x56 Swarovski SLC HD interested me too and my dealer obtained one for me to test. Mounted on a tripod at 45x magnification with a Zeiss 3x12 tripler the sharpness was what one could expect of a good scope of this size.
Unfortunately, the eye relief at 16 mm was too short for me as a glasses wearer and at an asking price of €2000 I was unwilling to accept the compromise.
Incidentally a 15x56 Zeiss Conquest HD tested under the same circumstaces had about the worst CA I have observed in any binocular.

John
It sure would be nice to have the OP weigh in on these questions. OP?

I'm lusting after the 15x56 HDs and that prospect is stretching my budget. EL 12x50s probably won't happen.

Oh, and in my opinion, any comparison not using a sturdy tripod or similar stable support is mostly invalid.
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Old Sunday 4th March 2018, 17:23   #20
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I'm lusting after the 15x56 HDs and that prospect is stretching my budget.
I understand that lust. I think the latest 15x56 SLC is the most amazing handholdable(?) binocular available today. I only chose 10x myself because I already had a 15x (Zeiss c.1988) and one is enough.

...I'd like to hear more from dwever myself. Sorry for partially hijacking the thread.
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Old Monday 5th March 2018, 01:42   #21
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Actually, the point of my question was the opposite of those of the others who have taken it up!

It was in regard to the level of detail when hand-held and not when further steadied.

Wishing to get an idea of how each of these instruments will do (in conveying detail) when hand-held by me I sought to know about his own experience. I do know that this varies among users, different users finding different weights being optimum for steadiness (at different xs), but more reports will always give a better idea.
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Old Thursday 8th March 2018, 20:49   #22
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Actually, the point of my question was the opposite of those of the others who have taken it up!

It was in regard to the level of detail when hand-held and not when further steadied.

Wishing to get an idea of how each of these instruments will do (in conveying detail) when hand-held by me I sought to know about his own experience. I do know that this varies among users, different users finding different weights being optimum for steadiness (at different xs), but more reports will always give a better idea.
It is easy to answer your question, it is easier to hand hold a 12x vs.
a 15x binocular. It's about physics: the extra weight, and the higher power
leads to much more difficulty, for more than a quick glance.

Big binoculars, 15x and higher are very nice and useful, but plan on tripod
mounting. I would think about these similar to a spotting scope.

Jerry
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Old Sunday 11th March 2018, 05:23   #23
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This is not as simple as it seems. Among all the 12x and all the 15x binoculars made, different users, depending on their physiology, find different models easier or harder to hold steady, depending on their ergonomics, i.e. weight*, balance and grip. Thus some user may find some 15x model steadier to hold than some 12x model of comparable optical quality to the extent that the 15x shows him/her more detail despite an image at 15x being more vulnerable to be spoilt by shake than an image at 12x.

*(PS) To some user, within some range or ranges of weight a greater weight may be easier to hold steady.

Personally, to find out which 12x or 15x (among all 12xs and 15xs) will convey most detail to me when hand held, I have been on a lengthy quest involving several/many of them, and have finally narrowed it to these: Alpen Teton 15x50, 795 g and 6.9 in., and Meopta HD 12x50, 1060 g and 6.8 in. One of the former (the model may have just been discontinued) should reach me in a month from now. If it does not do what I hope then it will be the latter. I will also be using this (whichever) with a monopod.

Adhoc

Last edited by adhoc : Monday 12th March 2018 at 01:03. Reason: PS.
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Old Wednesday 14th March 2018, 01:14   #24
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Adhoc:

My wife employs an excellent 15x56 SLC on tripod for night skes. I used it for distance wildlife, handheld. What stood out to me was the level of detail that bino provided with short looks. No question that a tripod brings out its best, but for a quick handheld look they cetainly gave considerably more creature detail than the 8.5x42 that I also carried. It was surprising.

A Canon 15x50 IS replaced it for me.

Personally, the heavier binos are generally steadier for me than the lighter ones. fwiw...
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Old Monday 19th March 2018, 14:25   #25
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Thanks Huronbay for that info. But I prefer smaller and lighter in binoculars! For me the two models I have named will I think work the best. If I do need to go to 15x56 then at that weight and size there is the Meopta HD which is said to be close to the Swaro. optically but much less expensive. IS is a fine solution, I agree, but at a still bigger weight and size!
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