Swarovski EL Swarovision Pro 42-mm Binoculars
- Simply incredible
- 4.9-foot minimum
close focus degraded to 10.8 feet
- Huge field of view
- Amazingly flat edge-to-edge
- • Smart phone adapters for
Since this review was published, Swarovski has made two major revisions to the EL Swarovision binoculars, the first of which was applied to all binoculars in the line. The second
change happened in two steps, but only to the 42mm models.
The first revision was the move to the Swarovision Field Pro bodies, which encompassed changes in how straps and objective covers were attached. The objective covers now clip
onto a small pin on the bottom lip of the objective’s rubber armoring. This change has resulted in fewer lost objective covers. Straps and harnesses no longer loop through D-shaped
loops on the side of the body. Rather, they use plastic washers at the ends of the straps and harnesses that are fastened to the binocular with a locking pin system.
The second revision occurred with the introduction of the Swarovski NL Pure binoculars. Swarovski decided the ELs and NLs were too close in price, so the close focus on the EL Pro
42mm models has been degraded to 10.83' by removing the close focusing lenses in the eyepieces. If you need a shorter close focus,
please order the NL Pure binoculars or call for other options
Swarovski launched their second version of the classic 42-mm EL binocular in January of 2010. Swarovski wanted to know what we thought of them, so they sent us a couple of pairs. We
feel a bit privileged to have gotten to play with these! When the old ELs originally came out, they redefined what a full-sized, high-end binocular was supposed to be, from the look
and feel to the optical performance. The old ELs were brilliant, innovative and downright addictive to use. Dubbed “Swarovision” by Swarovski, these new ELs are even better. These
binoculars represent a major leap forward in optics technology. The new Swarovski 42-mm EL is the kind of binocular that raises the bar for everybody and in one step, changes the top
end of the optics market. It’s also the kind of binocular that makes this job really fun to do!
The view through the new 42-mm ELs is very bright. When talking about the very best binoculars or the very best scopes on the planet, usually the differences in optical quality among
the top contenders are fairly small, and often choosing between them comes down to a matter of personal preference. We waited until dusk and then took them out to see what they could do.
If the Swarovski 42-mm ELs aren’t the absolute brightest binocular available, they are so close it doesn’t matter. For image sharpness, the Swarovisions rank right at the top. But the
real revelation is in image richness. The view through the ELs is so vibrant and detail-rich, the colors so vivid, that it almost takes your breath away. There’s no way to explain how
they do this, but we’ll try anyway.
The new 42-mm ELs are made with fluoride-containing HD lens that feature a unique design that Swarovski refers to as “field flattener lenses”. There are two field flattener lenses
between the prisms and the ocular lenses whose function is to remove curvature of the field. This isn’t actually new technology: these are essentially the same kind of lenses used
in print shop cameras to produce flat images of documents. The innovative part is to actually put them in binoculars. And it works beautifully: the field is incredibly flat and
virtually free of edge effects. Straight lines stay straight even in the field margins, and there is almost no color-fringing even on brightly-lit, high-contrast objects. In short,
the edge performance is amazing! This flat field edge has an interesting consequence: when you pan across a landscape, particularly with relatively close objects, the view seems to
ripple before your eyes, as though things in the center of the view are jumping closer to you and then receding again as they slide by. This “rolling ball” effect is a bit disconcerting
at first, but we found that you soon stop noticing it. Two other things jumped out at us when we first took the new ELs into the field: contrast and depth of field. The image through
the new ELs has amazing pop – it is startlingly detail-rich. The depth of field is simply huge. We looked at a tree full of White-crowned Sparrows. The sparrows in the background seemed
as sharp as sparrows in the foreground, as though we had the entire tree on the same focal plane!
The new ELs have a 336-foot field of view at 1000 yards for the 10x model $1,999.00 and a 399-foot field on the
8.5x model $1,999.00. Those numbers are well above average for the respective magnifications, with the 8.5x actually
being somewhat extraordinary. We compared them to binoculars that are listed as having the same or slightly larger fields of view and we found that the Swarovskis often seemed to
have the bigger field because of that flat-field performance. Any way you look at it, the EL Swarovision binoculars have a tremendous field of view. Eye relief on both models of
42-mm EL is 20 mm, way above average for this trait, ensuring that these binoculars will be very comfortable for all users.
Like all top-of-the-line binoculars today, the ELs are phase-coated and fully multi-coated. As with most high-end optics manufacturers these days, Swarovski has their own proprietary
coatings, each with its own function. There are the Swarodur and Swarotop coatings, which work to optimize image brightness and contrast. The Swarobright coating maximizes color fidelity
across the entire light spectrum. Swaroclean is a water-shedding coating that reduces the amount of dirt and foreign matter that sticks to the lenses, making them much easier to clean.
You don’t have to know how these coatings work but you can take our word for it that they do the job very well.
EL Swarovisions are roof-prism binoculars with Swarovski’s classic double-bridge design, but it’s been refined a bit since you last saw it. The new ones are about 6.5 inches tall
with eyecups fully extended, and about 5.25 inches wide with the hinges at their widest setting, but the barrels are more than a quarter inch less in diameter, resulting in a sleeker,
more rakish look. Our postal scale measured the latest 10x42 ELs $1,999.00 at 30.2 oz with the objective lens covers on and
strap removed while the 8.5x42 $1,999.00 version comes in at 30.1 oz in the same state. We usually weigh binoculars with the
objective covers removed, but the design of these objective covers make them difficult to remove. This is a bit heavy for modern 42-mm binoculars, but you really don’t notice it in the
hands. You pick them up, and your thumbs fall naturally into the perfectly-placed, angled divots on the barrels and they feel good. The dark green rubber armoring has a seductively tacky
feel that provides a secure grip with or without gloves on. The balance of the optic is excellent. In short, everything just feels right! A few other minor details for your perusal: the
interpupillary distance range on the new Swarovision binoculars is 56-74 mm. That’s fairly average for this trait, meaning you can comfortably use these binoculars unless you have an
unusually wide or narrow face. And of course, these binoculars are fully sealed and nitrogen-purged to be dust-proof, internally fog-proof and watertight to a depth of 13 feet (4 meters).
Both EL 42mm models were listed as having a minimum focal distance of 4.9 feet, but now are listed at 10.83 feet. In our hands we found this new close focus distance to be pretty accurate.
If you’re a birder or naturalist who likes to study small insects or wildflowers, the 42mm EL Pro binoculars are no longer sufficient. The latest ELs go from close focus to infinity in 2.3
turns of the focus knob compared to 2.5 turns on the discontinued versions.
Rollover image with mouse
The diopter adjustment is concealed under the focus knob. To adjust the EL Swarovision binoculars, focus the left ocular on something, and then without moving that focus, pull the knob
up towards yourself until it clicks open, displaying the scale of +/- 5 diopters relative to equal. Looking through the right ocular, adjust focus with the knob until it comes in sharply,
and then, snap it shut by pushing it down again. There are four click-stops within each diopter, and these hold the position steady as you close the mechanism down, a nice refinement. The
usual problem with diopter adjustment mechanisms on the focus knob is that it’s almost impossible to push the knob down without twisting it some, meaning you lost the adjustment you just made.
This mechanism doesn’t have that problem, which is really nice. The eyecups adjust with a helical twist mechanism: counter-clockwise moves the eyecups outward, clockwise adjusts them inward.
There is one stable position between fully-in and fully-out though it has kind of a “mushy” feel to it. While it feels a bit funny, the intermediate eyecup position is stable. The eyecups go
into a sort of pseudo-lock if you keep twisting them when they are all the way out. This position is very stable.
Covers and Case
Among other features of note are the lens caps and covers. The objective lens covers are soft rubber caps tethered to hinge pins at the bottom of the barrel ends. The caps are heavy
enough and the tethers pliable enough that they always dangle down out of the way. When closing, they fit easily and precisely into the barrel ends and stay in place. These are pretty
good objective lens covers. The rainguard is a hinged, hard plastic unit that fits snugly on the eyecups and doesn’t dislodge easily. The hinge has multiple click-stops that allow you
to set the angle of the rainguard to match the interpupillary distance you set for the binocular. The rainguard can be attached to the strap on either or both sides by sliding the strap
through closed loops. One marked improvement over the old EL rainguard is that this one is made of slightly more flexible rubber, with the result that it does not make as much noise when
it bumps against the binocular. The neck strap is made of neoprene-like material welded to soft leather and a foam rubber type material, and it’s comfortable enough. It is molded to curve
naturally around the user’s neck. Additionally, the length adjusts through a gear mechanism unlike any we’ve ever seen. Pull a lever on the gear upward to release the tension and allow the
strap to be adjusted, and then snap the lever back down to lock in the new position. This is the easiest strap length adjustment we’ve ever seen. The latest upgrade to the strap system is
a locking pin assembly that reduces strap wear by allowing the strap connections to pivot as the binocular moves. What a great design! Swarovski also markets their own harness called
“Bino Suspenders”, which attaches with the new pin system as well.
View this video to see how the pin system works.
How to attach
the neck strap.
Swarovski no longer delivers a case with the EL Pros. Instead they come with a silk draw-string bag. If you want an actual case, you will need to purchase the Swarovski FSB Functional
Sidebag (NL PURE)
Swarovski has one further refinement to their binocular lines: "digi-binning". Digi-binning is the art of using your binocular as a telephoto lens for a digital camera. With the original
EL Swarovision binoculars, Swarovski included an S3 Snap Shot Adapter, which fit over the eyecup of the ELs and allowed one to fit a digital camera (provided it has an extendable lens of
suitably small diameter) to the binocular. Recently, the use of pocket-sized digital cameras has been replaced with cameras built into cell phones. Changing with the times, Swarovski now
offers a universal digital phone adapter, the VPA, and a series of adapter rings that screw into the VPA and slip over the eyecup of a binocular or scope. The AR-B is the Adapter Ring for
Binoculars that will fit all EL and NL Pure binoculars.
The pictures shown here were taken with a point-and-shoot digital camera with and without the Snap Shot Adapter and ELs,
just to illustrate the process. There are binoculars out there that have a digital camera intrinsic to them. The problem with most of those is that the binoculars aren’t great in quality,
and the digital cameras lack the resolution and other capabilities of standard digital cameras today. The VPA allows you to combine modern smart phone technology with a high-end binocular,
yielding image quality that is way better than any intrinsic camera-binocular. Plus it’s just plain cool!
The EL Swarovision binoculars offer optical performance and image quality that is breath-taking for its richness, sharpness and depth of field. The view is so good
it's practically intoxicating. The new 42-mm ELs look and feel great. There really isn't a single feature of these binoculars that we could find significant fault
with. The new Swarovski ELs cost $1,999.00 for the 8.5x42 model and $1,999.00 for the 10x42 model. If you are in the market for the best binocular money can buy, you owe it to yourself to try the EL Swarovision binoculars.
Then, hopefully, you'll owe it to us when you buy them.
Buy Swarovski EL Swarovision