In the decade since their introduction, Swarovski’s 8.5×42 EL binoculars have routinely been viewed as the best. Swarovski, however, has continually sought to improve the binoculars.
It’s amazing just how many regular users of binoculars can tell you exactly when it was they first looked through a pair of Swarovski field glasses. This phenomenon has become even more prevalent ever since 1999 when the company first introduced its EL series of binoculars. Regardless of the particular magnification and objective lens size, each version of the EL binoculars was praised as being superior in its class.
For another manufacturer, having this sort of acclaim might have been sufficient. The binocular line might have continued in production for years. Swarovski, however, did not achieve its superiority by resting on its laurels. Accordingly, the EL series has been continually upgraded over the past 20 years. This review will take a look at the Swarovski 8.5X42 binoculars, with the FieldPro Package. We’ll check out what makes the EL line superior as well as reviewing 8.5X42 specs, field testing it, and hearing what reviewers have to say.
Austria’s Swarovski Optics boasts six different versions of its legendary EL binoculars. The “EL” in the name of these binoculars stands for “Ergonomic Light.” Each of these binoculars is known for the superior quality of workmanship and the innovative Swarovski technology. To a great extent, the coatings used on the exterior lenses and the interior prisms, along with the fluoride glass utilized in the manufacturing process, are responsible for the fabled light gathering and crystal clear resolution of Swarovski’s binoculars.
The perfectly angled arrangement of the lenses combines with the emulsions to create the patented system called Swarovision. The result is a large field of view from one side of the image to the other with true color imaging. The ocular and objective lenses are coated with Swarodur, a scratch-resistant coating, and also Swaroclean, an emulsion that repels dust and smudges. All these coatings, which bond with the molecules of the glass in the lenses, are microscopically thin, but together result in the amazing optical qualities of the EL Swarovision.
Swarovski leaves nothing to chance in the design of its EL binoculars. The housing is not the standard polycarbonate plastic or even aluminum used in so many binoculars. Instead, it’s a lightweight, extremely rugged magnesium alloy. Not only is it substantially lighter than any other metal housing, but the alloy is also resistant to corrosion. Atop the metal housing is rubberized armor. The shape of the EL binoculars, including their ground-breaking “open bridge” design, is ergonomic. It is intentionally designed to be comfortable and relaxing in a user’s hand throughout a day-long period of use. The open bridge appearance belies the reality that EL binoculars are engineered with the Schmidt-Pechan roof prism design. This allows enhanced light gathering without the burden of overly long housing.
Inside the housing, EL binoculars contain an inert gas that prevents the lenses from fogging regardless of exterior weather conditions. EL binoculars are waterproof to the point of being submersible to a depth of 13’. There is a 15-millimeter set-back at the end of each objective lens that serves as a built-in sunshade as well as warding off dust and water.
The other end of EL binoculars is equally well-engineered. The eyecups, which can be completely removed for cleaning or replacement, have four adjustable positions meant to accommodate viewing from those with glasses as well as the unaided eye. The eyepieces, though rubberized for comfort, are constructed of metal to make them more durable and steadier. All EL binoculars are known for their ample eye relief. Like the ergonomic design of the frames, the gracious eye relief makes it easier for users to spend hours looking through EL binoculars—a common practice for hunters and birders.
Getting Specific About the Swarovski 8.5X42
The 8.5X magnification of the Swarovski 8.5X42 EL Binoculars is a step above the typical seven or 8X magnification used by many birders or hunters in the field. This choice is intended to give an extra edge in magnification while also retaining Swarovski’s fabled edge-to-edge flatness, clarity, and wide field of vision. The 42-millimeter objective lens, made of fluoride glass and coated with those proprietary layers that combine for Swarovision, means that users can count on outstanding light transmission in the earliest and latest viewing hours.
As with other EL products, the 8.5X42 binoculars are especially popular with those who desire to view great detail and those who are interested in especially long-range use. Birders are drawn to the 8.5X42 because, though it can quickly focus on aviaries several hundred yards away, it has a close focus range of fewer than 5 feet. Long-distance hunters, on the other hand, are especially appreciative of the ability the 8.5X42 has for “glassing”: systematically making slow, overlapping sweeps of the hunting terrain. The exceptionally wide field of view allows the user to glass very slowly while watching for slight movements. While the 8.5X42 does not have a built-in tripod platform, Swarovski offers a universal tripod adapter as an accessory.
Here are the specifications for the 8.5X42:
|Objective Lens Diameter||42 mm|
|Angle of View||7.6° (Actual)|
|Field of View||399′ @ 1000 yd / 133 m @ 1000 m|
|Minimum Focus Distance||4.9′ / 1.5 m|
|Exit Pupil Diameter||4.9 mm|
|Eye Relief||20 mm|
|Interpupillary Adjustment||56 to 74 mm / 2.2 to 2.9″|
|Diopter Adjustment||-5 to +5|
|Fogproof||Yes, Nitrogen Filled|
|Dimensions||6.3 x 5.2 x 2.4″ / 16 x 13.2 x 6.1 cm|
|Weight||28 oz / 793.8 g|
Swarovski makes clear that the 8.5X42 is part of a package, specifically the FieldPro Package. Included with the purchase of the 8.5X42 are a highly-regarded field bag, a lens cloth, a manual with written instruction in many languages, a carrying strap, adjustable eyepiece covers, and an attached objective lens covers. The lens covers can be removed if desired and reattached by using a clever gap at the end of each barrel. Should the lens caps be removed, a gap cover is also included. Also standard with the 8.5X42 is the highly-regarded Swarovski warranty that covers the lens for life and other binocular parts for 10 years.
Several accessories for the 8.5X42 are also available through Swarovski. These include the Bino Pro hard-shell carrying case, a flotational carrying strap, winged eyepiece covers, and a carrying strap with extra padding. Available through the Swarovski website are several downloads for the purchaser, including the instruction manual in nine different languages.
The Swarovski 8.5X42 EL Binoculars in the Field
The typical Swarovski 8.5X42 user has an immediate response of surprise and delight when first gazing through these binoculars. For those familiar with the use of binoculars, there seems to be an automatic desire to compare these glasses with those previously used—virtually always to the detriment of binoculars that are not EL Swarovski’s. In this regard, some users only begin to grasp the deficiencies in their previous binoculars when they begin to use the Swarovski 8.5X42. It has often been noted that even powerful, high-quality binoculars tend to have blurring or rounding of the edges of the image when too wide a field of vision is attempted. The edge-to-edge sharpness of the image at all distances is revealing of the unique capabilities of the 8.5X42.
The first observation customarily shared is the brightness of the image, the trueness of its color, and the fact that it is sharp from one edge to the other. Many have commented on the ergonomic feel and the intuitive features of the Swarovski 8.5X42. When adjusting the barrel width for the individual user and the diopter to give equal clarity to both eyes, there is frequently a moment of real pleasure when a sharp resolution is achieved. The distance focusing wheel, while smooth and consistent, has a complete range of 2 turns. This allows for extremely fine focus, granting the ability at all distances to see great detail in the image.
Swarovski’s superior ability to provide contrast with vivid color allows users to recognize those objects that previously were part of the background. Birders frequently report focusing the 8.5X42 on trees expecting to see a single bird, only to see many more—often of different species—that had been concealed in the shadows. Hunters report that game animals for the first time can be seen to stand out clearly through the 8.5X42. Users who wish to glass the terrain have said that these binoculars are light enough and comfortable on the hands and eyes that they can be held in one position for extended periods; when held perfectly still, the binoculars do a fine job of revealing the smallest motions in distant vistas.
Those who used the 8.5X42 in the field often praised the various Swarovski accessories they purchased for use with the binoculars. The strap connectors have demonstrated their worth to more than one purchaser by enabling the effortless day-long transporting of the binoculars while allowing both of the user’s hands to remain free.
Reviews of the Swarovski 8.5X42 EL Binoculars
As with all high-end products, there are fewer available reviewers. Still, the Swarovski 8.5X42 received a purchasers’ rating of 4 out of 5 stars, and 72% rated the binoculars at 5 Stars.
Among those purchasers who reviewed the 8.5X42, many compared it favorably to their prior binoculars, even to those more highly-priced. Often a feeling of satisfaction was expressed, along with the sentiment that the quality and ability the purchaser had sought in high-end binoculars had been achieved with the 8.5X42.
Though usually considered the binoculars of choice for birders and hunters, purchasers reported many other uses for the 8.5X42. These included watching traffic, cityscapes, stargazing, and focusing on insects. Archers have detailed their successful use of the device to track the impact strikes of their arrow groups. Such reviewers demonstrate the great versatility of these binoculars. Several reviewers remarked that the amazing clarity and range of the binoculars had encouraged them to try some new endeavors, for instance, trying new types of game and longer hunting ranges. Perhaps the highest praise came from a 60-year veteran of hunting and glassing who said that the Swarovski binoculars were the best he had ever used.
All this praise is not to say that the Swarovski 8.5X42 binoculars are not without their critics. Most of the negative comments tended to be about relatively minor issues, such as the thumb notches in the housing not being suited to the size of the user’s hands. It was also noted that perfect sharpness at the outer rim of the image at the farthest range of focus required very fine back-and-forth adjustment of the focus wheel. It was also noted that focusing on an angle too close to bright sunlight could create glare in the viewer’s eyes.
The superb quality established by the Swarovski EL series in 1999 is perpetuated today by binoculars such as the Swarovski 8.5X42 EL Binocular with FieldPro Package. Ergonomic in appearance and pleasant to use, the 8.5X42 has become the default choice of many birders and hunters and has made inroads into many other groups devoted to using quality binoculars. The 8.5X42 is noted particularly for its wide field of view and unsurpassed clarity around the edges of an image and across the diameter as well.
The binoculars are lightweight, extremely rugged, and intended by the manufacturer to last a lifetime. Purchasers of the Swarovski 8.5X42 binoculars FieldPro package will receive several additional items that will enhance the versatility of the binoculars and simplify its use. With the 8.5X42, Swarovski continues to stake its claim to being the world’s superior provider of binoculars.