SG2
Swarovski EL Range, Low Quality Glass
Equipment
Contributors to this thread:
Zim 25-Jan-21
Bou'bound 25-Jan-21
Grey Ghost 25-Jan-21
sticksender 25-Jan-21
brettpsu 25-Jan-21
Kurt 25-Jan-21
Inshart 25-Jan-21
Bou'bound 25-Jan-21
Zim 26-Jan-21
Bou'bound 26-Jan-21
Lost Arra 26-Jan-21
Quinn @work 26-Jan-21
Surfbow 26-Jan-21
Kurt 26-Jan-21
Bou'bound 27-Jan-21
midwest 27-Jan-21
Kurt 27-Jan-21
Zim 27-Jan-21
Bou'bound 27-Jan-21
Zim 27-Jan-21
Kurt 27-Jan-21
Spiral Horn 27-Jan-21
trophyhill 27-Jan-21
Straight Shooter 27-Jan-21
Kurt 28-Jan-21
Kurt 28-Jan-21
goyt 28-Jan-21
AZ8 29-Jan-21
Zim 29-Jan-21
From: Zim
25-Jan-21
A strong word of caution to anyone considering purchasing the range finder combo from Swarovski - they have been outright deceitful in their prior marketing materials on the EL ranges. In the first generation EL Range’s they downgraded the glass to maintain a more palatable price point without making the customer aware of this lower quality. Time will tell on the new model, but I will never make that mistake again.

I purchased the EL Range 10x42 in September 2018 and after having used them on many hunts since then, the lack of clarity in the glass is very distinguishable. It is so apparent that I can’t notice a difference between my EL Range’s and other mid-tier binoculars I own. I initially chocked up the lack of performance to “perhaps it’s just my eyes”, or “I need to spend some more time with them to be sure”, etc. but now I am certain they are sub-par glass. On one of the Kifarucast podcasts the host and guest discussed how they knew the EL Range used lower quality glass when compared to the traditional EL series. That was the first instance I had heard of where a prominent figure in the industry confirmed what I suspected from the start – Swarovski downgraded the glass in the EL Range’s compared to the traditional EL’s. When looking at the technical specs on their website the EL Range's seems to be on par with the EL’s and the SLC’s. Additionally, a close hunting buddy of mine has the SLC’s and when I looked through those to compare, it certainly seemed the SLC's were higher quality optics.

This lack of quality in the glass is not made apparent to customers when making their purchasing decisions. At the time, the language and specs on the website do not distinguish a difference in optical quality between the EL Ranges and the EL’s. A customer was led to believe they are the same quality (or nearly the same quality), when they are not. If I were made aware of the difference in the quality of glass, I would have purchased the traditional EL’s as I place a premium on optical clarity, not the rangefinder function. I am extremely disappointed in Swarovski and will explore products with their competitors, Leica and Zeiss.

At a bare minimum the company should make it very clear in the marketing materials that the EL Range’s do not have the same optical quality as the EL’s. We all know their customers don’t come to them for the latest range finding technology, they come to Swarovski for the highest quality optics. The lack of disclosure on their part is lazy at best, and outright deceitful at worst. I believe Swarovski purposefully misled customers by not making this difference in glass apparent. Furthermore, when I wrote the Company about my complaint they said I was simply mistaken and there was nothing they could do for me.

I’m not writing this to hurt Swarovski, but to try and educate others in order to avoid the same mistake I made. If you are assessing the buying options of the latest range finding binoculars, ensure you do your research to be certain you are not taking a large step down in optical quality. Or, at the minimum, make your purchase with the knowledge you are giving up a large degree of optical quality, particularly in those dusk and dawn scenarios.

From: Bou'bound
25-Jan-21
Sneaky barsterds

From: Grey Ghost
25-Jan-21
I would never purchase high end optics without looking thru them, first, and comparing them with other models that I'm interested in.

Also, have you tried to confirm your claims with Swarovski themselves? A podcast doesn't seem like a very reliable source to make such accusations. I'm not saying they are wrong. I'm just saying I'd need to see a little more proof.

Yes, I'm a proud owner of traditional ELs, and I have yet to look thru another binocular that even comes close, so I'm going to reserve judgement until I see a bit more evidence.

Matt

From: sticksender
25-Jan-21
Out of curiosity, could you be more specific when you say "sub-par glass"? What do you find lacking? Light transmission, color fidelity, image contrast, image sharpness, field of view, eye relief, or something else?

From: brettpsu
25-Jan-21
Not saying you didn't get a defective pair but I always understood the range did not have the same swarovision glass that the El's did. Thought it's been widely known since inception.

From: Kurt
25-Jan-21
They also would only range down to 33 yards minimum, a non starter for me. As mentioned above it was widely known that the EL Ranges used the old pre-Swarovision lenses. Very good optically but not up with Swarovision.

From: Inshart
25-Jan-21
I thought Swarovski had a lifetime guarantee? Can't you return them for a full refund - or at a minimum -- exchange?

From: Bou'bound
25-Jan-21
That may only apply to faulty equipment not in a situation where somebody didn’t realize what they were buying

From: Zim
26-Jan-21
To answer a couple questions:

I did try to confirm my claims with Swarovski (please read my original post), they told me I was out of luck.

In terms of specifics, when I looked through them the quality degraded rapidly with any light degradation (i.e. not mid-day) and the clarity to the edges was very clearly lacking. My biggest gripe is the dusk/dawn light gathering which is mediocre at best. I am convinced of these facts given I compared them side by side with other optics in the field over the past couple of seasons.

In terms of the lack of quality being known since inception, that was not my findings at all when did my initial research. I looked through them (in a store setting) and spoke to many folks in the industry and no one called out this lack of quality. I chalk that fact up to ignorance at the time, meaning most people selling them were not aware of this fact. In the years since their release I suspect more people have caught on, but that was not known out of the gate. Frankly, how could it be when the product name starts with EL and the website listed the same light transmission and other stats? This drove me to my opinion that Swarovski deliberately mislead consumers.

From: Bou'bound
26-Jan-21
Great points

From: Lost Arra
26-Jan-21
Could adding the range finder capabilities to the EL have affected the binocular performance? Just asking. I'm an SLC guy.

From: Quinn @work
26-Jan-21
I’ll give you $800. Pm me for my address and I’ll Venmo you the money.

From: Surfbow
26-Jan-21
Seems like a great excuse for not killing elk..."It's my subpar glass, it's Swarovski's fault, not mine"

From: Kurt
26-Jan-21
Zim, I feel your pain. I've made optics buy mistakes in the past too, but not on Swaro products, mine was on a newly introduced Leica R1600B rangefinder that would only angle correct BEYOND 110 yards...worthless for a bowhunter. Of course that was never mentioned in Leica's literature or ads when the unit was brought to market.

As per the Swaro EL Range, you got hung up on the "EL" monicker thinking it was a definition of optical quality:

"EL" in Swarovski EL binoculars stands for "Ergonomic Light." In addition to making them lightweight for extended field excursions, Swarovski endeavored to make them as ergonomically comfortable to use as possible. With binoculars, you'll take note in the field if they're unbalanced and either front- or back-heavy. The placement of the hinge and focus wheel should take into consideration the overall balance of the heavy objective lenses and the ocular's multiple, smaller lenses."

What you were looking for in best optical performance was Swarovision lenses, which were not built into the EL Ranges:

"Swarovision is a Swarovski term which encompasses a combination of field flattener lenses made with fluoride which, combined with long eye relief of 20mm and what Swarovski terms "optimized coatings." "Field flattener" lenses flatten the field of view optically so that there is no perceived pincushion distortion which is often engineered into optics to eliminate rolling ball or globe distortion experienced when panning across a scene. The use of fluoride in the manufacture of the glass used for the objective lenses in Swarovision makes them High Density (or Extra-low Dispersion, if you prefer) lenses and provides the best color fidelity presently possible - largely through reduction of chromatic aberration. (Swarovski points out that the machining process for the HD objective lenses is both sophisticated and complex and simply using fluoride glass in a binocular won't produce exceptional results if the entire optical system isn't tweaked for corresponding high performance.)"

I pulled the items in quote above off a 2011 review from Optics Reviewer. Also a quick Google check shows many Rokslide threads about the optical quality of the EL Ranges vs the Swarovision ELs over the past decade. The general consensus is the EL Ranges are good but not top tier glass. This corresponds with my assessment with owning both the early Swaro EL 10x42 (pre-Swarovision) and the Swarovision EL 10x42s. I like both but the Swarovisions are significantly better glass that are clear to the edge.

As per the "best" range finding binoculars....I was bowhunting Dalls in the NWT (2017) with a guide that had a pair of Leica Geovid 10x42 with the "banana shaped" barrels (Perger prism design). They were optically excellent to my eyes when the guide and I traded binos for an hour long glassing session watching and glassing for more sheep. They had greater depth of field than my Swarovision 10x42ELs and I almost went home and bought a pair. The Leica's large frame (size) and a bit more comparative binocular weight held me back. I prefer a separate rangefinder for bowhunting easier to use when stalking, and find my Swarovision EL 10x42s excellent binoculars.

From: Bou'bound
27-Jan-21
What year did the els incorporate swarovision.

All a moot point nows the NL PURE model has left the ELs obsolete for the discerning hunter or birder

From: midwest
27-Jan-21
I've heard Aron mention this issue many times on Kifarucast.

From: Kurt
27-Jan-21
Swarovision EL binoculars were available in 2011. Not sure if any were produced in 2010.

From: Zim
27-Jan-21
Thanks for the thoughtful response, Kurt.

In terms of the EL moniker, I don’t think it was unrealistic for someone to do a side-by-side reconciliation of the EL to the EL range by comparing the key optic criteria Swarovski listed on the website, seeing the same stats (light transmission, etc.) and think they would be buying similar if not identical quality. In terms of your point on Swarovision, that could be a key difference however the response I received from Swarovski clearly stated they do have Swarovision (I could paste the verbatim response but I’ll refrain). They did tell me that the only difference is that the normal EL’s have additional field flattener lenses for edge sharpness. So that makes sense why the edge-to-edge clarity would be lacking.

Given all this I still hold the belief that it doesn’t justify the large step down in optical quality and this was not made clear to the customer. I never would have purchased these if I knew that were the case. I understand people are very defensive of the brands they use but I have seen similar optical performance in binoculars that are a fraction of the price and frankly the range finder is nothing spectacular. Ultimately, I feel I paid $3,000 for something in which I have no desire to keep. It was a huge financial mistake.

I will concede that perhaps it was on me to do some more thorough field testing before purchasing the EL Ranges. But I did look through them before purchasing, read reviews available at the time, and even sought out the opinion of some so-called experts. My intent behind making this post is so others that may be looking to make a similar purchase avoid the same costly mistake I made. That’s why I worded the subject line the way I did so it hopefully pops up in a typical google search for Bowsite threads. Time will tell how the optical quality on the new pair of EL Ranges are, but until I see some independent reviews on low-light gathering I am very doubtful that the glass is on par with the regular EL's. Buyer beware

From: Bou'bound
27-Jan-21
What year did the els incorporate swarovision.

All a moot point nows the NL PURE model has left the ELs obsolete for the discerning hunter or birder

From: Zim
27-Jan-21
Thanks, Bou'bound but I think my point still stands unless Swarovski offers a range finding option in the NL Pure model, which I didn't think was the case (currently at least). For the range finding combo folks need to be careful.

I'm not sure the first year they incorporated Swarovision. Perhaps Kurt knows.

From: Kurt
27-Jan-21
See my post above the preceding two. 2011 on Swarovision in the EL binocular line as best I know. As per the EL Range, no idea if and when?

From: Spiral Horn
27-Jan-21
Purchased Rangefinding Binos last year. After exhaustive analysis I ended up buying the Zeiss Victory RF 10x42 and love them, but it was a coinflip with the new Leica Geovid 3200s. Both are excellent. Looked through both the Swaros and SIG BDX and wasn’t very impressed.

27-Jan-21
This makes me feel great about my Leupold 1300’s. Love these things. I have ranged to 1100 yards with them so far. Love em. The best part is they only cost me a couple hundred bucks on sale from Sportsman’s Guide

27-Jan-21
Kurt,

I’m so happy that when I read your post for the second time, I noticed the 4th paragraph was in quotes. THANK GOD, I was beginning to think I knew nothing after that precise explanation you had in such detail. Lol

DJ

From: Kurt
28-Jan-21
DJ, the second paragraph is in quotes too! It was the clearest explanation of EL and Swarovision I'd read. Kurt

From: Kurt
28-Jan-21
Swarovision EL binoculars were available in 2011. Not sure if any were produced in 2010.

From: goyt
28-Jan-21
Thanks Zim. This is informative.

From: AZ8
29-Jan-21

AZ8's Link
Looks like the new version of the EL Range includes the Swarovision technology.

From: Zim
29-Jan-21
The response I received from Swarovski clearly stated my version has Swarovision as well, so that is not a differentiator/mitigant to my complaint. Another way of saying it, that does not mean the new version will have the same optical quality as the regular EL's.

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