Swarovski Optik has been delivering high-end optics to the market for decades and has won the hearts of many hunters, birders, sports enthusiasts, stargazers, and outdoor adventurers. Considering the origin of the company and its close relations with Swarovski’s crystal glass and jewelry business, Swarovski Optik has always targeted the premium segment. We all understand that premium optics represents a sizable spend, but it’s compensated with many years of faultless service, technologically-advanced design, and great post-sales support.
The range of Swarovski Optik binoculars consists of the EL series first introduced in 1999, the EL Range series of binos with built-in rangefinders, the flagship NL Pure series, the SLC series with exceptional twilight performance, and the CL series of EDC binos. In this article, we’re going to review the Swarovski EL, EL Range, and NL Pure series.
EL Range Series
Launched way back in 1999, the EL binoculars revolutionized the industry and raised the bar for high-end optics. In the late 90s, the company strongly targeted the hunting market. However, hunting binoculars couldn’t meet the specific needs of birders who wanted a compact and lightweight design with a swift and easier-going focusing mechanism. So Swarovski came up with a range of binoculars intended for birding, the EL series with EL standing for Ergonomic and Light. The design was so spot-on that it quickly caught on with hunters.
Since its launch at the turn of the millennium, the series has undergone several revisions. Today, the Swarovski most recognized binoculars keep their standards high and continue to be a choice for many outdoor enthusiasts. But what are they exactly?
Design and Build
The ergonomics is one of the strongest sides of the EL range. Thanks to its legendary wraparound grip, the binoculars are comfortable to handle with one hand while carrying a rifle or a field guide. The bridge gap allows you to lay a deep grip on the barrels, and thumb grooves found on the undersides provide a better holding position. Thanks to such a construction, your hands and wrists won’t experience fatigue during prolonged watching sessions. However, if you have big hands, the gap may be too small for you, so we recommend trying a pair before purchase.
The magnesium-alloy chassis has dark green, textured rubber armoring that stays warm in cold environments and prevents the binos from sliding from wet hands. With the last improvement, the armoring extended into the bridge area to make handling in cold weather even more comfortable.
Though the EL binos are not the most lightweight of all premium designs, they offer a nice balance to make up for it, again, thanks to the grip featuring two bridging hinges.
The focus wheel in the EL binoculars hits a sweet spot in terms of responsiveness, not being overly sensitive or too tight. The wheel is easy to manipulate due to its position under the forefinger and anti-slip construction with streaks. The focusing action is smooth.
It takes two and a half turns to travel from the shortest focusing distance, ranging from 2.8 to 3.3 m (3 to 3.6 yards) depending on the model, to infinity, which is considered fast for general uses. In fact, the focus wheel of the EL uses logarithmic speed, which means the binoculars can be quickly set to long distances while maintaining precision at short distances.
EL Optics and Optical Performance
The latest EL binoculars use the famous SwaroVision Technology that touches many aspects. The Swarovski optical coatings enhance the clarity and improve light transmission without losing color fidelity, whereas the field-flattening lenses deliver an edge-to-edge sharp, distortion-free image.
The light transmission in all the ELs is 90% due to the roof-prism design that incorporates mirrors, though coatings positively influence the overall delivery.
The weakness of the ELs is a relatively narrow field of view, with good 7.6 degrees in the Swarovski EL 8.5×42 and not-so-good 6.4 degrees in the Swarovski EL 10×42.
The EL 8.5×42 is the most versatile binoculars in the series, offering an exit pupil of 4.9 mm. That’s why it’s best for use in low-light conditions. A 20mm eye relief will be appreciated by glasses wearers. The EL 10×42 has the same eye relief but disappoints with a small exit pupil of 4.2 mm.
The NL Pure of Swarovski binoculars is one of the latest series representing the constant aspiration for perfection. The flagship series beats out Swarovski’s own EL binoculars practically in every aspect, providing even better performance and ergonomics.
NL Design and Build
At first glance, the elongated barrels of the Swarovski NL Pure binoculars can seem a bit overwhelming, but once you grip and raise them to your face, you’ll get the point of such a design. Everything in the NLs’ body construction is right and reasonable and intended to provide unparalleled comfort.
While the ELs have a bridge gap that limits the area by which you can hold the binoculars and makes them a bit uncomfortable to use for people with big hands, the NLs have no such problem and fit whatever-sized hands perfectly. Such a design ensures a relaxed viewing for extended periods without fatigue, even when handled with one hand. The NLs also come with a forehead rest that makes one-hand handling even more effortless.
The focus wheel sits just below the forefinger, giving a natural position for seamless manipulation. Unlike in the ELs, in NL Pure, the wheel is positioned on the bridge a bit further away from the face. The focusing is smooth, swift, and precise, with two turns enough to go from the shortest focusing distance of 2 m/2.1 yd (2.6 m/2.85 yd in the 12×42) to the infinity.
NL Optics and Optical Performance
The NL Pure range consists of two models, the NL Pure 32 in 8x and 10x magnification and the NL Pure 42 in 8x, 10x, and 12x. The first noteworthy thing is an incredible field of view that throws you right into the scene, making you feel like a part of it. And while 8.5 and 9.1 degrees in the 8x-s may not impress some savvy optics users, a 7.5- or 7.6-degree FOV of the NL 10x-s surely does.
Compared to the ELs, NL Pure binoculars boast 1-2% higher light transmission delivering a brighter image. Like all the latest Swarovski binoculars, the NLs incorporate the SwaroVision that ensures edge-to-edge clarity. The color fidelity is exceptional.