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A Field Review of NL 8x32 (2 Viewers)

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Following my comparison of Swarovski’s NL 8x32 with Zeiss’s SF 8x32 (Swarovski NL vs Zeiss SF: a personal comparison of two 8x32s. ) I undertook to take the NL to the Isle of Islay and give it a good workout in genuine field conditions, so that it could demonstrate its full capabilities. As much as I found the comparison a fascinating project, many members will know that I much prefer to assess binoculars by observing nature. As a result I will not be referring to any other models during this review apart from reminding us all about the relative retail prices of the SF (the NL’s most obvious competitor) and NL that I found on the internet:

SF 8x32 £1979 $2,250 €2,162

NL 8x32 £1980 $2,550 €2,390

I will begin with a look at NL’s handling. The body shape with it’s pronounced ‘waist’ has proved a little controversial, with Birdforum members split on whether they like it or not. Unsurprisingly I remained similarly undecided having days when the slinky body shape seemed designed to fit my hands, and other days when I missed the reassurance of more substantial optical tubes to grip. Suffice to say I certainly did not actively dislike the body shape and remain open-minded about it. The eyecups, with their 6 available positions were perfect in that I could easily find exactly the right position whether wearing spectacles or not.

I mentioned in my comparison test that the speed of focus of the NL is the slowest I have ever tested, but in the west of Scotland, where the density of species is lower than in England or (especially) in continental Europe, this was never an issue and the feel of the focus action was superb if slightly uneven. It’s slow speed would be a problem for me in habitats such as lowland wetlands like Vendres in the Languedoc, or Grote Peele in the Netherlands, or the Federsee in Germany, where birds, dragonflies and butterflies appear in rapid succession at different distances. Observers who like the image to ‘snap’ into focus might also be disappointed by the slow speed at which sharp focus arrives.

To get down to the nitty-gritty, NL is capable of delivering images as good as the very best I have ever seen, with especially clean whites, natural colours, excellent contrast and perceived sharpness.

Around our rental cottage on Islay, there is a substantial population of Brown Hares that graze very close to the cottage and provide superb viewing opportunities of these beautiful animals. On one occasion, after a period of rain, one them settled down to groom nearby and through the NL’s it was abundantly clear that to call them ‘brown’ is to entirely misrepresent the variety of colour in their pelage. On its back, which was still a little wet, the fur was a sandy colour flecked with black, down its flanks, the black flecks disappeared and on the lower flanks there glowed the most intensely red-ginger fur, while underneath, its belly was a dazzling creamy-white. I could say more about its eyes, the black tips to its ears, or that they glowed pink when the sun shone through them, but I hope this brief description conveys the richness of the NL’s imaging.

Birds that are primarily black and white don’t sound as though they offer much opportunity for binoculars to demonstrate their colour fidelity, but actually they do. Take the Oystercatchers that roamed our local shores. Their black plumage was actually a kaleidoscope of different tones of black. Depending on the angle of the light falling on it, some of it seeming to suck the light into itself and appear the most intense black, while other parts glinted glossily and still other surfaces appeared just as intensely black but had a soft matt or even silky appearance. The NLs really teased out the subtleties of these details and never more so than when viewing Wheatear males. Is that tone on the mantle grey, or does it have a hint of blue? It is blue/grey to my eyes, and so elegant, contrasted gorgeously by the black of its eye-patch (which looks like nothing so much as a bandit’s mask) and the warm buff on its throat.

All of these tonalities and details were abundantly clear through the NLs but with one proviso. The day had to be cloudy or you were pointing your NLs away from the habitat under the sun. For example, after enjoying views of a Wheatear only a few metres away to the north of us, turning around to view another on the ground to the south, with the bright sun in the sky above, the view was marred somewhat by two pale ghosts of glare, and a shift of my eye positions to try to eliminate these distractions only caused the glare to flare up to cover half the field of view, sucking the contrast, colour and detail out of it. What a shame. And this was repeated every time I pointed the NL’s at anything that was under the sun. Pointing them anywhere a bit north of east or west or towards north itself and there was the full richness of its imaging, pointing them south and here was the glare again, sometimes just the small ghosts, sometime covering large areas of the field of view. Amazingly we had almost 2 weeks of unbroken sunshine and clear blue skies (see photo of the NL below), and this really brought home the NL’s susceptibility to glare.

It may be that with practice an observer to learn to minimise the glare to just the two small ghosts by careful positioning of the NLs in relation to the eyes but it would need considerable patience and dedication. I repeat that this was only encountered on sunny days and when pointing the binos at subjects under that half of the sky dominated by the sun. On cloudy days I never encountered this and even on bright days if the sun was covered by a cloud this meant glare did not appear. Overall then, glare didn’t occur too frequently and was sometimes of a minor nature. I have to say though that I did find it distracted my attention from the subject I was trying to observe.

Wet days were another source of frustration due to the ocular guard (rainguard) being such a tight fit over the eyecups. They were difficult to fit on, and difficult to take off, causing delays in getting views of subjects seen in the rain and allowing rain onto the eyepieces. Not only this, when pulling the ocular guard off the eyecups, it would sometimes pull one of the eyecups up out of position, requiring it to be repositioned during which more rain fell on the eyepieces. In desperation I tried letting the ocular guard simply rest over the top of the eyecups but no matter how careful I was, the guard always ended up slipping off them enough to expose half of the eyepieces (see the photo below). Adding together the delays in being able to look through the NLs and the amount of raindrops that landed on the eyepieces, the NLs were simply unusable in rainy conditions.

To correct this one would need a different after-market ocular guard but this would need bigger than normal slots for the strap just like the standard one has because of the need to allow the studs that secure the Field Pro strap to pass through them. To fit a different ocular guard one might need to discard the Field Pro strap (nearly £60 of strap) unless it can be used with standard strap lugs, use the adapters to allow the use of standard straps and maybe buy a new strap as well. Phew!

I know from my own experience in the rubber industry that moulded rubber products can shrink slightly when they are released from the mould and cool down. I suspect that this is what has happened with ocular guard due to a small miscalculation when designing the moulds, but to rectify this would require re-machining the moulds or producing new ones and so this solution would need an investment. I hope that Swarovski solves this issue and of course this might already have happened.

While we are talking about the Field Pro strap I should mention that the NL arrived with the strap already fitted and what is more, fitted by one of the most competent and experienced dealers in the business. It was a shock therefore when, as I sat down on a seat on the stern of the ferry to Islay to set off to the island, the strap came undone from the binoculars on one side and the binos fell towards the steel deck, fortunately just landing on my knees just as my backside arrived on the seat and I was able to stop the instrument from falling further. That could have been much worse! I re-attached the strap and didn’t have any further issues like this but it took a few minutes for my heart-rate to return to normal and frankly, it did knock my confidence in the Field Pro strap.

I can barely decide how to sum this up but here goes: NL8x32 is capable of delivering views of the very highest quality and while I found its susceptibility to glare distracting, for the majority of the time this wasn’t an issue. It was disappointing that the ocular guard was not effective at keeping rain off the eyepieces and this made the NL impractical to use on rainy days. Hopefully one could replace the ocular guard with an aftermarket one that is effective and since the accidental detaching of one end of the strap from the binos did not happen again this should mean that this incident was a one-off.

Using and enjoying this model in the field has really hammered home two questions about Swarovski. The first is, how can it be that Swaro has invested so much time and money on the Field Pro Strap Mk1 (with screw-down strap locks) and the Mk2 version (with lever-action strap locks), not to mention Gloves for use with binoculars, and yet is selling NL 8x32 with a stylish-looking ocular guard that simply doesn’t work, and actually pulls eyecups out of position? Similarly, the second is, having developed such a fine optical train, how did it happen that development was stopped before the tendency to glare was dealt with? The only explanation I can think of is that higher management moved the technical teams onto other projects, which were deemed to have a higher priority, before they could deal with these issues.

My thanks go to Netherland’s optics dealer, Jan van Daalen, for the loan of this review unit for such a long period of time: veel dank, broer.

Lee

IMG_5353.JPG NL Islay.JPG
 
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Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,

I extend my thanks for a thoughtful and thought provoking field review of the NL 8x32. Some issues, glare control and haptics, affect users differently but potential buyers should be aware of them.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Hello Lee,

I extend my thanks for a thoughtful and thought provoking field review of the NL 8x32. Some issues, glare control and haptics, affect users differently but potential buyers should be aware of them.

Stay safe,
Arthur
Thank you Arthur, this bino was really puzzling.

Lee
 

Rg548

Retired Somewhere
United Kingdom
I don't get that strap set up, so over complicated, and this isn't the first time i've heard of it coming off. Not a major issue on a cheap bargain bin, but a 2k option.... well that needs to be held secure. I would be PISSED if I bought some and dropped them, damaged or not!!!
Disappointing with the glare issues on a top tier optic, and lets face it, plastic rainguards are hardly rocket science to get right.
I would take the SF, or indeed the Ultravid over the Pure.
I just don't think they have achieved that much with the Pures, the EL's were epic, and especially before the daft strap.
I like simplicity, solid engineering, and a tool, any tool, to do it's job.
NL's are not for me, I was not blown away when I looked through them.

But thanks for the great write up, really interesting.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I don't get that strap set up, so over complicated, and this isn't the first time i've heard of it coming off. Not a major issue on a cheap bargain bin, but a 2k option.... well that needs to be held secure. I would be PISSED if I bought some and dropped them, damaged or not!!!
Disappointing with the glare issues on a top tier optic, and lets face it, plastic rainguards are hardly rocket science to get right.
I would take the SF, or indeed the Ultravid over the Pure.
I just don't think they have achieved that much with the Pures, the EL's were epic, and especially before the daft strap.
I like simplicity, solid engineering, and a tool, any tool, to do it's job.
NL's are not for me, I was not blown away when I looked through them.

But thanks for the great write up, really interesting.
Thanks RG. Just one small correction: the ocular guard is rubber, not plastic, and you're correct, they shouldn't need rocket science to get right.

Lee
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Great real world review, Lee. It's always interesting to read firs-hand experiences about what sometimes is not-so-nice. At home we have two pairs of EL SV 8x32, one Field Pro and one pre-Field Pro. I do like the texture of the rubber armour better on the Field Pro. But, other than that, I find the entire system such a waste of resources and a solution to a no-problem. Besides, as you say, the rubber rain guard on the Field Pro system is ridiculously tight also on the EL SV (on the other hand, the rain guard on the pre Field Pro was overly complicated, with the unnecessary hinge). My pre-Field Pro strap-loop system works as well or better for less price, less fuss... and less chances of disaster happening. Let alone a cheaper, easier to find a wider range of replacement.

To correct this one would need a different after-market ocular guard but this would need bigger than normal slots for the strap just like the standard one has because of the need to allow the studs that secure the Field Pro strap to pass through them. To fit a different ocular guard one might need to discard the Field Pro strap (nearly £60 of strap) unless it can be used with standard strap lugs, use the adapters to allow the use of standard straps and maybe buy a new strap as well. Phew!

Regarding the about remark and worry, I suggest an approach that is way simpler, cheaper and easier, and what I use in all my binoculars for the rain guard. Simply use the loop connector that comes with some Zeiss (I'm sure you can find something similar in shops selling badges for congress IDs, smartphones or the like). It's really simple. One part is attached to the strap, be it a "classic" strap or a thin "Field Pro" style cord. The other part is attached to the rain guard, any rain guard. So, not only is operation dead simple, I find the rain guard is less in the way and, this is the best part; if I ever want to completely remove the rainguard for a while (say, I'm inside an observatory, or doing a backyard astronomy session, or anywhere I don't feel the need for them), with a simple click I take it off an put it in my pocket.

In the following image, the system in use: a Vortex Viper rainguard on a pair of EL SV 8x32 Field Pro.

Captura de pantalla 2022-05-12 a las 15.07.40.png

I hope that helps.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Great real world review, Lee. It's always interesting to read firs-hand experiences about what sometimes is not-so-nice. At home we have two pairs of EL SV 8x32, one Field Pro and one pre-Field Pro. I do like the texture of the rubber armour better on the Field Pro. But, other than that, I find the entire system such a waste of resources and a solution to a no-problem. Besides, as you say, the rubber rain guard on the Field Pro system is ridiculously tight also on the EL SV (on the other hand, the rain guard on the pre Field Pro was overly complicated, with the unnecessary hinge). My pre-Field Pro strap-loop system works as well or better for less price, less fuss... and less chances of disaster happening. Let alone a cheaper, easier to find a wider range of replacement.



Regarding the about remark and worry, I suggest an approach that is way simpler, cheaper and easier, and what I use in all my binoculars for the rain guard. Simply use the loop connector that comes with some Zeiss (I'm sure you can find something similar in shops selling badges for congress IDs, smartphones or the like). It's really simple. One part is attached to the strap, be it a "classic" strap or a thin "Field Pro" style cord. The other part is attached to the rain guard, any rain guard. So, not only is operation dead simple, I find the rain guard is less in the way and, this is the best part; if I ever want to completely remove the rainguard for a while (say, I'm inside an observatory, or doing a backyard astronomy session, or anywhere I don't feel the need for them), with a simple click I take it off an put it in my pocket.

In the following image, the system in use: a Vortex Viper rainguard on a pair of EL SV 8x32 Field Pro.

View attachment 1445338

I hope that helps.
Sounds a neat solution.

Lee
 

Thotmosis

Well-known member
Netherlands
Thanks for this interesting field review of the NL Pure. After reading it i think i will stick with my trusted Habicht 10x40 GA ;)
 

Richard D

what was that...
Supporter
United Kingdom
Interesting review.

I'm not sure we'll ever get to the bottom of why some people have problems with glare on the small objective ELs and NLs, and others don't - I'm one of the lucky ones who can't induce glare in the EL 32s even with effort. I suspect it would be the same with NLs.

I don't understand the need for the fieldpro attachment - I suppose it could be useful if you wanted to swap between harness and neckstrap in the field, but I've never had a problm with standard straps twisting. I can't see how it can work loose if properly installed though - it needs the button to be depressed. I do like the ladder-lock system on both their fp and non-fp straps, although it's good you can get free lugs if you don't like their straps.

I've only tried the 10x42 and 12x42 NLs, but the FoV on those was extremely impressive, especially when combined with the complete lack of edge drop off - I imagine the 8's are even more impressive. What were your thoughts?
 

Brummie

Well-known member
I'm also not a fan of the standard Swaro rain covers. They're slow to get on and off, but also the thick rubber is unnecessarily heavy (why pay for Mg housing to shave off a couple of ounces, and then add it back on with a big chunk of rubber?). I use the winged eyecup set on my NL (12x42) and SLC (15x56). I like those much better, but they're expensive for what they are.

I did compare the NL 10x32 to my SF 10x32. The NL didn't have the annoying blackouts that you get with the SF, if you're not very careful with eye placement. They did have more glare, but only under extreme conditions, so that didn't bother me. The reason I stuck with the SF was that the NL was lacking just a tiny bit of resolution compared to the SF. Probably not enough to ever be noticeable in normal use, but enough for my eyes to see it under testing (trying to read tiny text on a poster at the end of a corridor).
 
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Canip

Well-known member
Thank you, Lee, for taking the time to do the field test and then post the detailed write-up.

Optically, I continue to consider the NL the overall best 8x30 / 8x32 available (I can provoke glare but can also very easily avoid it entirely). But I do wonder like some other posters about certain aspects of the newer Swaro binos, including the NL. The “field pro“ system is a nightmare, and so are the caps / rainguard. I removed the objective covers immediately, and changed the eyepiece caps against a third party product during the first week of using the NL (unfortunately not so easy to replace the field pro strap). But I have to acknowledge that while I complain about these accessories loudly, like many do, it seems that these nuisances have not hindered the success of the NL in the market.
 

b_reynolds_ak

Well-known member
The cover that comes with the winged eyecup set is much more usable and comes on and off fine.
While I do get flare at times as well, I would also get annoying reflections on the oculur lenses when the sun was behind or off to the side of me. The winged eyecups eliminated this issue atleast. I feel they give you a more relaxed view as well by not having distracting light off to the sides.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
I hope I don’t get dinged for “defiling” a thread …… but I’m glad that I bought the 8X32 SF in Nov/Dec 2020.

It helps to ignore the voices in my head shouting that the NL would somehow be “better”.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I hope I don’t get dinged for “defiling” a thread …… but I’m glad that I bought the 8X32 SF in Nov/Dec 2020.

It helps to ignore the voices in my head shouting that the NL would somehow be “better”.
I have checked Birdforum rules and can find nothing about 'defiling' so you are OK :)

Lee
 

Rg548

Retired Somewhere
United Kingdom
I hope I don’t get dinged for “defiling” a thread …… but I’m glad that I bought the 8X32 SF in Nov/Dec 2020.

It helps to ignore the voices in my head shouting that the NL would somehow be “better”.
Maybe different.... but not better.
Leica, Swaro, and Zeiss all smash it out the ball park.
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
England
Lee, I also noticed the 8x32NL seemed to have a slowish focusser, though it was beautifully smooth.
Optically excellent and nicely balanced like the rest of the NL instruments...we (my sister and I) were fortunate to be able to compare the 8x32, 10x42 and 12x42 side by side briefly (in bright but cloudy conditions).
The 10 and 12 were similar of course, but the 10 had a slightly grainy focusser.
We both liked the 8x32, though as my sister immediately pointed out, it is much larger than my 10x32UV+ which she calls a 'poacher's pocket binocular'. Nevertheless she liked their balanced weight and large FOV. And I could see they immediately sat comfortably in her hands and, without adjustment, worked for her wearing glasses. She is contemplating buying a pair.

I feel I'm spoilt rotten by my 12x42, which, once the tight objective covers were sorted by cutting off the six little rubber bits to loosen their grip somewhat, I've found pretty much ideal; no glare in normal use and NL images which you summed up perfectly as being clean, natural, contrasty and sharp.

Regarding the Fieldpro neck strap, it serves my needs well, adjusting from carrying as long-bandolier while walking to short over-the-neck in a couple of seconds. I think the ugly protusions with swivel connections allow for more play and do seem to keep the straps more even, more so than the traditional lugs.

It's horses for courses.
 
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GrampaTom

Well-known member
United States
Regarding the Fieldpro neck strap, it serves my needs well, adjusting from carrying as long-bandolier while walking to short over-the-neck in a couple of seconds. I think the ugly protusions with swivel connections allow for more play and do seem to keep the straps more even, more so than the traditional lugs.

It's horses for courses.
Also re this thread, How do you carry your binoculars?, with this outcome:

Screen Shot 2022-05-12 at 11.18.00 AM.jpeg
May I suggest a different convo re the ugly Field pro bulge and its being a solution in search of a problem? I thought the outcome above with almost 65% favoring original neck strap around neck was informative and wrote a couple times in that thread, "How many have bought 32MM binos in search of lighter weight and less bulk, because they carry their binos around their neck?" In my humble experience this is the most uncomfortable option possible. No one wanted to discuss this idea. It still seems a fair question. Regards ugly field pro carry strap mounts, really? What about "form follows function" or "beauty is as beauty does"? Not only do I favor Bandolier style carry, having used it almost exclusively for 40 years, (I note I'm in the minority here...), as well, recently, I have adopted a bino chest pack harness. I now go back and forth, depending on weather, anticipated terrain, which bino, planned time afield. Going between Swaro's issued standard neck strap and my chest pack takes seconds with field pro attaching hardware. Seems beautiful enough to me.
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
A screen shot of the results is posted below. The numbers don't add up. For example, the total number of votes is 170, not 113; and the total of percentages is 150.3 not 100. However, the totals of the first four rows do sum to 113 and 100% as they should.
Whatever does this all mean? :unsure:

Ed
NOTE: I've posted corrected percentage numbers in 3rd attachment.
 

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mwhogue

Well Known Member
Supporter
Also re this thread, How do you carry your binoculars?, with this outcome:

View attachment 1445383
May I suggest a different convo re the ugly Field pro bulge and its being a solution in search of a problem? I thought the outcome above with almost 65% favoring original neck strap around neck was informative and wrote a couple times in that thread, "How many have bought 32MM binos in search of lighter weight and less bulk, because they carry their binos around their neck?" In my humble experience this is the most uncomfortable option possible. No one wanted to discuss this idea. It still seems a fair question. Regards ugly field pro carry strap mounts, really? What about "form follows function" or "beauty is as beauty does"? Not only do I favor Bandolier style carry, having used it almost exclusively for 40 years, (I note I'm in the minority here...), as well, recently, I have adopted a bino chest pack harness. I now go back and forth, depending on weather, anticipated terrain, which bino, planned time afield. Going between Swaro's issued standard neck strap and my chest pack takes seconds with field pro attaching hardware. Seems beautiful enough to me.

GT,

Yes, the one thing I like about the FP system is I prefer to use most bins most often with a harness and as you say the FP is really handy for that.

Otherwise IMO, Swarovski has gone in the wrong direction with accessories since they abandoned the pre FP semi hard clamshell case and plastic ratchet style rainguard suite of accessories. I am in a distinct minority in this regard it seems.

Mike
 

GrampaTom

Well-known member
United States
GT,

Yes, the one thing I like about the FP system is I prefer to use most bins most often with a harness and as you say the FP is really handy for that.

Otherwise IMO, Swarovski has gone in the wrong direction with accessories since they abandoned the pre FP semi hard clamshell case and plastic ratchet style rainguard suite of accessories. I am in a distinct minority in this regard it seems.

Mike
Hi Mike, Yea, notice Im not talking to any of that. As well I agree with everyone complaining about the blasted too hard rainguard to eye piece connection. Ironically as I've reported elsewhere, the NL rainguard is a lovely solution to the same problem with the EL and its included Swaro rainguard that came with those.
 

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