Swarovski 10x32 EL Binoculars
There are times when the job of reviewing optics is pure pleasure, and reviewing
Swarovski binoculars is definitely one of those times. The newest 32mm EL models
have been billed by some as "possibly the best 32mm binoculars ever". There are
other contenders for the title, but having seen them, we can understand why some
folks have them in the race. The 32mm ELs come in 8x and 10x persuasions, of which
we received only the 10x version for review, so we will focus on that one here.
The 32mm EL looks like a miniature version of the classic 42mm EL, and while that
generalization holds in terms of the optics, there are a lot of distinct features
as well. But at least in binoculars, size does matter, so we'll start with that.
The 32mm ELs are 5.4 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide with barrels of 2 inches diameter.
They have a sturdy but lightweight magnesium housing that weighs just 21.3 ounces.
Like the larger ELs, the 32mm versions feature the two-hinge design with the open
space in between that Swarovski calls the "wrap-around grip". It's a bit odd looking,
but particularly on this smaller model, it really does work. Your fingers slide
in between the barrels naturally, which is especially nice when you're holding it
down at your side.
To start with, these ELs are very nicely balanced - the distribution of weight is
so even that they are nearly effortless to hold. The 32mm ELs also have the classic
Swarovski thumb groove. Somehow, these nice deep angled grooves make this binocular
feel less like an object you're holding and more like an extension of your hand.
We have a trivial objection here: on this small a binocular, they ought to consider
placing the grooves asymmetrically on the barrels because people with bigger hands
will have trouble using both grooves simultaneously without banging their thumbs
together. Other than this, it's excellent. The nice textured surface to the green
rubber armoring completes the feel. They might have mounted the strap attachment
brackets a little higher up the tubes to get them out from under your fingers, again
primarily a problem for those with larger hands. But overall, the ergonomics on
these binoculars are very accommodating.
Make no mistake, these are expensive binoculars. Swarovski ELs have an MSRP of $1754.44,
and while they can be found for as low as $1579, that's still a lot to pay for a
binocular. Our first thought is, they'd better be good! Well, they are. Like all
high-end roof prism optics, these are fully sealed and nitrogen purged, so they
are dust-proof, internally fog-proof and waterproof, even when submerged to a depth
of 13 feet. They have the same proprietary Swarobright® coating for the mirrors,
state-of-the-art phase coating and other refinements designed to optimize light
transmission, minimize distortion, provide improved color fidelity, and a bright,
high-contrast image. But does it all work? Pretty darned well, actually. These are
super bright and sharp little binoculars.
Field of view
360 ft/1000 yds
4.5" x 5.4"
The 10x32 ELs have a 360-foot field of view at 1000 yards, which is excellent for
this magnification. To put this in perspective, there are 8x binoculars out there
with less field of view. Swarovski lists the minimum close focus distance at 7 feet;
we had little trouble getting them down to 5 feet, and they were full field there.
Many binoculars have very short minimum close focus statistics, but they do so through
only one ocular at a time. This close focus performance is really good! While we're
talking about focusing, the 32mm ELs go from minimum close focus to infinity with
just a bit over 1.5 full turns of the focusing knob. This is a little slow relative
to other binoculars. Fortunately, you seldom have to go that entire distance while
birding. The focus knob is large, rubber armored and deeply grooved for a sure grip,
and it turns smoothly even when brand new. We noticed also that these binoculars
have pretty good depth of field, so focusing is fairly easy despite the longer turn
distance sometimes required.
One area in which the 32mm EL comes up short is eye relief, where the 10x model
provides only 12 mm. That's relatively short by most standards and could be a problem
for eyeglass wearers. (The 8x model is slightly better at 15 mm.) The eyecups can
only be positioned fully in or fully out. The adjustment is with a counter-clockwise
twist to pull them out, clockwise to move them in. The eyecups easily come off to
facilitate cleansing of the ocular lenses. The diopter adjustment is actually concealed
under the focus knob - you must pull the knob towards you to access it. It is fully-graduated
between ±3 diopters and each diopter position has three positions between it for
truly fine micro-adjustment. Just push the focus knob back in to lock your setting
in place. We have seen this mechanism before, usually less well-designed. On binoculars
with big barrels, accessing the knob to pull it out can be a struggle by itself.
Not so, on these little ELs. We give this one full marks.
The objective lens caps are rubber, designed to fit firmly inside the lens itself,
and attached by a short tether to a ring around the objective lens. They might get
a bit irritating under breezy conditions, but they are easily removed temporarily
if that's an issue. The supplied rainguard is a hinged, hard plastic unit that fits
snugly on the eyecups and doesn't dislodge easily. The hinge has several click-stops
that allow you to set the angle of the rainguard to match the interpupillary distance
you set for the binocular. This unit can be attached to the strap on either or both
sides by sliding the strap through closed loops. When both loops are used, the rainguard
will fall onto the eyepieces every time the binocular hangs down. This can be convenient
in some cases, such as very wet or dusty/windy conditions, and when storing the
binoculars in the case, but it usually slows down removing the rainguard and impedes
viewing. To solve this problem, most manufacturers have a solid loop on one side
of the rainguard and a split loop on the other. There are those, however who might
prefer the rainguard to hang to the other side. By supplying a rainguard with both
loops closed, Swarovski is allowing the buyer to cut a split in the loop on either
side to suit their preference. Swarovski also offers a second rainguard. This optional
accessory is made of softer rubber cups connected by a flexible bridge. Called the
"Silent Rainguard" for its lack of click-stops, it attaches to the neck strap with
a rubber tether on the left side. The neck strap is a fairly standard design of
neoprene like material welded to soft leather and a foam rubber type material, and
it's comfortable enough. On a binocular this light, simple twine would probably
be comfortable enough! The soft case is a synthetic nylon zipping pouch that provides
no cushioning, but easily holds the optic and its strap.
So are they the best 32 mm binocular ever? Pick up a pair and decide for yourself.
Swarovski 10x32 EL Binoculars - current price