Swarovision EL 12x50 Binocular Review

There are not many decent 12X binoculars on the market. Most are bulky in the hand, have a dark image, and have a field of view akin to viewing birds through a pair of toilet paper tubes. But Swarovski's entry is a bit different. Here, we have the ergonomics and sturdy construction that Swarovski's EL line is already renowned for; a bright, sharp image almost right to the edge of the field; and a field of view that competes favourably (at ~100m @ 1 km) with a decent 10X glass. Close focus distance is also superb for a 12X (~3m), and the focus knob moves smoothly and quickly between objects very close and those much more distant. Could this be the first decent 12X for hawkwatching? I feel that it is. In fact, right now, I feel it may be the most viable 12X for general birdwatching, Period.

Even after hours in the field, I experienced no eye fatigue looking through this binocular. I saw no obvious chromatic aberration or “rolling ball” distortion; the view appeared as balanced and flat as you'd expect from a binocular in its class.  However, this glass does exhibit the same green-yellow colour bias common to most Swarovski products. Some people really like this; I don't. Swarovski EL binoculars are known as one of the most eyeglass-friendly binoculars available, and the new 12x50 is no exception. I have deep-set eyes and usually wear eyeglasses, while most of my colleagues have shallower-set eyes and do not wear corrective lenses; we all agreed that eye relief was ample, and that the eyecup design was still among the best of any of the binoculars we've tried. I also fully expected to find the magnification of my hand tremor at 12X to negate the benefit of a higher magnification, but this was not the case, and it was nearly par with a 10X glass. I feel there are only two significant faults to be found with this binocular: At ~1000g, this binocular did not feel all that much lighter than than my venerable Fujinon FMT-SX 10x50, and my biceps attested to this fact at the end of the day. And for a going price of 2400 EUR (2700 USD), this is one of the most expensive birding glasses you can presently buy. But this is unquestionably a solid product, and niggles aside, this is the binocular I'd choose if I joined a raptorwatching tour in some far-flung part of the world (e.g., Georgia) or conducted bird surveys without aid of a telescope. Swarovski's new glass has handily aced the 12X offerings of the other major manufacturers.

Arthur Green