Swarovski Optik’s continuous support for our raptor counts have been there from the earliest editions, and they have been providing us their most recent products. Of course, we were delighted to hear they wanted us to send in our current optics, to be replaced by the new, updated models, in order to test them in the field. Read the views of Jasper Wehrmann, Folkert de Boer and Johannes Jansen on the new line of Swarvoski EL binoculars. Folkert and Johannes got a new EL 8x32 and Jasper the new EL 8,5x42 in the new FieldPro package. In this review, you will find out what changed, and how this affects our opinion.
Optically, this line of EL binoculars is top ranked. In fact, they are unchanged. Click through, if you are interested in our review of the ATX scope or the optical performance of the EL 12x50. They come in a new design however, which we evaluate here. If you want to learn about the technical data we recommend to visit the product website of Swarovski where you can compare different products and look into technical details.
First, the overall feel of the bins is different. Thanks to the new ergonomics, it’s easier to hold the bins steady, and it’s merely due to the strap connector. We hope the rubber itself sticks better to the bin’s body, as in the old model the coating sometimes turned into bubbles when used a lot (in all sorts of weather), but that’s something to review in a few years time.
The strap and it’s attachment is different as well. The strap itself is now a chord, which reduces problems with twisted straps, as a movable chord tends to be more forgiving and untwist itself. The chord system also works very well on the eyecover. Where the strap adjustments previously were a bit of an annoying clip that often interfered with the strap of a backpack or strap of a camera, there is now a practical quick wheel with which you can rapidly adjust the carrying strap to the preferred length. This makes much sense, as one likes to carry the binoculars in normal chest use (intensive birding, on bicycles, etc.) and switch rapidly to a longer strap to use diagonally when walking long distances or for just wearing it more comfortably on the neck. Folkert uses the Swarovski harness, which is also great with the free moving attachment of the cord to the body. On the downside, it happened twice that the attachment opened and came off spontaneously, luckily still hanging on the other side of the harness. It is critical that the bayonet quick release is clicked in to place as if it is just turned partly and not clicked in, it might well work loose over time.
Adding the objective caps fixed is a good idea, however considered to be a downside by some. If you don’t like them, you can easily remove them and replace them with plastic caps to fill the space where they are attached.
Although these caps sometimes bother you when there is wind, we prefer to have them in place to protect the objective lenses whenever the binocular is not in use. Its great to have them on when you put your bins somewhere in the car, on a rock when, or when you are hiking and there is a chance you push them in dust, mud or against rocks.
However, in birding a split second matters. When the cups are on and you see a raptor shooting by, you need every nanosecond to get your bins on it and finish the ID. Unfortunately, in these situations the current cups fail, as they’re too firmly attached to the objectives, and the ordinary man's’ pink is too weak to easily flip them off. Additionally the attachment is poor and some of us already lost both of them, because the glue or plastic didn’t hold. It is best leaving them open when you are carrying the binoculars and closing them tight when transporting and wanting to protect them.
The focusing wheel is also improved. In the older line of EL’s the focusing wheel wore off quite quickly, losing its ribs, especially if you use it a lot, as we do focusing back and forth between migrating raptors. Now, the focusing wheel has a more rigid and more slip-resistant design. Another great improvement is the adding of a lock for the dioptry adjustment., preventing the accidental turning of the dioptry instead of the focus wheel, blurring one eye out.
All in all, the new EL’s are simply great and provide fantastic views.