Swarovski 8.5x42 Swarovisions
Over the past month, including leading a birdwatching trip in Sicily for Limosa Holidays, I have been intermittently testing the new 8.5x42 Swarovision binoculars from Swarovski. From the outside, cosmetically, few would see any major changes from the older EL models; they look pretty much the same and still have that Swarovski high-quality feel.
Boxed they come with a tough-looking case, lens cleaner/s, and neatly adjustable neck strap – I like the Swarovski adjustable neck-strap, but they give you so much ‘extra’ strap that the ‘unused’ part seems to hang unless you cut it and seal with a match (of course I didn’t on the review models). Or you could have it hang like a sporran...Made with a magnesium body and ‘HD’ fluoride glass, the new Swarovisions are said to have a field flattener, that gives edge to edge resolution and contrast, but they still have to perform in the field.
So leaving all this technical stuff aside, it was the optics that I was most interested in, and in particular the quality of the view through them and any major changes and improvements. As you would expect from binoculars at the highest and most expensive end of the market, the image was excellent; bright, crisp and rich in colour. The acutance (sharpness of image) was excellent, virtually edge-to-edge (perhaps apart from a slight softening at the very edge of the image). In comparison with other 8x or 8.5 models, I would say that any real improvement in resolution was minimal, but it was in the colour accuracy, brightness of image and contrast that the binoculars excel. It was noticeable that there was indeed a nice contrast across the whole image; the colour balance was very close to being perfectly neutral; straight lines suffered very slight curvature near the edge, possibly as a result of the new ‘image flattening’ and the push for wide-angle.
However, for me, the most interesting element to the view was the sense of depth to the image, a three-dimensionality, that is hard to describe but made these binoculars stand out. Whilst watching Tree Pipits singing in the New Forest, the bird and the pine was wonderfully sharp, but the background seemed to add a depth to the image that many binoculars do not have – even the most expensive. Quite how Swarovski have produced this I am not sure, but almost certainly it has to do with the quality of coatings on the lens, the quality of the lens and the glass it is made out of. These new upgrades must cut out internal reflection and allow so much light transmission that details from darker, shadow areas of the image possess contrast but detail also. In all light conditions this is obvious: from overcast to bright, and even on bright sunny days (days when all optics seem to struggle with bright tonal contrasts and heat-haze) I was most impressed.
Whilst in Sicily, I was using the close focus on butterflies and insects and it was apparent that Swarovski appear to have made the close-focus even closer. I found that I had to wind the focus wheel a fair amount to get from ‘infinity’ down to less than 1.8m and back – and that on the new review model the wheel was a touch stiff, so with some fine adjustments it was a little juddery – perhaps with use this might ease.
What I suspect most birders would ask is whether it is worth upgrading to these new Swarovisions? Such a question is hard to answer: Swarovski binoculars have always had remarkable quality, with excellently sharp resolution and colour transmission/reproduction, and such quality is hard to improve upon. In my opinion, there is a real improvement in the richness of colour and a great depth to the image on these new binoculars, though the sharpness improvements are more subtle. The price tag is high, but if you must have the best then these are at the top.
For more details and technical data visit http://www.swarovskioptik.com/en/pro...42-swarovision .
Brian Small – 29/05/2010