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8x42 Vortex Razor - OT Fieldtest Program Review

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 16:21
lucznik View Drop Down
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So, as part of the OpticsTalk.com field-testing program I was able to spend about a week with the 8x42 Vortex Razor binocular and I will start by thanking Chris for the opportunity.  For the cost of only the postage to send the binocular on its way to the next tester when I was done, I was able to spend more than a week examining an optic for which I would otherwise have had to purchase and then possibly gone through a return process – an activity that would surely raise the ire of my wife. I tried to keep this as short and concise as possible but, well… you guys know me.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 16:21
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Introduction:

 

If you only casually read the company line on the Vortex Optics website, you might be tempted to think that Vortex has been around since 1986.  This however, would not be entirely accurate.  The people who own and operate Vortex (Sheltered Wings) have been in the optics retail business since 1986 with a competitor website to SWFA and even have some experience in marketing their own private brands of binoculars and spotting scopes but, Vortex itself, along with its “VIP” warranty program, is a very new business venture. If I remember correctly, their products started hitting store shelves sometime in 2005. I don’t mention this to slam Vortex but rather, because I think that, as much as possible, all things should be viewed in their proper place and relationship – sans marketing/advertising copy.

 

The subject of this review is the Vortex 8x42 Razor binocular which retails for $750.  This binocular represents one model of Vortex’s top-of-the-line offerings and incorporates extra-low dispersion (ED) glass in its manufacture. (Vortex calls this “XD” glass.)  The Razor is also offered in 10x42, 8.5x50, 10x50, and 12x50 configurations.

 

Since I find that reviews of binoculars generally are meaningless unless there is a point of comparison, I will present some information about two other binoculars as well. On hand to compare with the Razor I had my 8x42 Leupold Golden Ring and my 8x42 Bushnell Discoverer. My Golden Ring is the earlier, non-ED (Leupold calls it “HD”) version, an issue which will discussed further later on.  Current issue Golden Ring binoculars now include ED glass and also retail for $750, making it one of the Razor’s direct competitors. (My non-HD model cost me $500.) The Discoverer is a recently discontinued model from Bushnell and it never used ED glass.  It originally retailed for just over $400 (I paid $200 for mine.)

 

Vortex Razor, Leupold Golden Ring, & Bushnell Discoverer

 

Basic specs for each are as follows:

 

 

Vortex Razor

Leupold Golden Ring

Bushnell Discoverer

Model

8x42

8x42

8x42

FoV (@ 1000 yds.)


What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 16:21
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Accessories:

 

The Razor comes packaged with a very nice black cordura bag, a set of replacement eyecups with wings for blocking out stray light, a comfortable neoprene neck strap, a flexible rubber eyecup “rainguard,” a pair of soft rubber stay-on objective lens caps, a lens cleaning cloth, a Vortex lapel pin, and an instruction manual.  All of these items are of good quality.  I wear eyeglasses all the time so; the optional winged eyecups were of no value to me as I can’t use them.  Someone with good eyesight or who wears contact lenses might find them to be a fabulous option.

 

The Golden Ring came with an equally nice brown cordura bag, a comfortable neoprene neck strap, a flexible rubber eyecup “rainguard,” a single, connected, hard rubber objective lens cap unit, and an instruction manual.  The “rainguard” for this binocular has cups that are much deeper than that of any other binocular I have ever seen.  This has the benefit of ensuring that they stay in place when covering the eyecups but, also makes it more difficult to remove.  The hard rubber objective lens cap is a poorly designed unit that easily and frequently falls off – making it of dubious value.

 

The Discoverer came with a cheap, useless, faux-leather bag, a comfortable neoprene neck strap, a hard rubber eyecup “rainguard,” individual hard rubber objective lens caps, a lens cleaning cloth, and a generic Bushnell instruction manual.  Except for the bag, these items are of reasonable quality.  The objective lens caps come off fairly easily and would be prone to getting lost if left on the binocular while in the field at all. They are however, better than the one supplied by Leupold.

 



Edited by lucznik - May/12/2008 at 16:57
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 16:22
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Ergonomics:

 

All three of these binoculars are close enough in weight that, unless one is conscientiously trying to compare the one against the other, they pretty much feel the same in the hand as well as on the neck.  They are all a bit on the heavy side when compared with many other 8x42 offerings on the market today but, I personally find the extra weight to be preferable.  It really helps to keep image shake down, especially when I am winded after a long hike or a quick, mad dash to get into position.   Personally, I find that binocular weight is far more important to keeping down image shake than is magnification.  Some who have been around OpticsTalk for awhile will know that I love 10x magnification and I truly have never really noticed all that much difference in image-shake between 8x and 10x binoculars - at least not enough to justify the big issue that is routinely made about it. To me this has always seemed like "much ado about nothing." Binocular weight, and binocular quality however, do seem to contribute to image shake (or the lack thereof) in much more significant ways.  (How it is I have ended up with all 8x binoculars is another story for another time.)

 

The Golden Ring and the Discoverer are both made with the traditional (for roof prisms), single, long “piano” hinge which has always been touted by binocular enthusiasts as being the most rugged.   In fact, modern porro prism binoculars are now often using this single-hinge design to combat one of their perceived weaknesses. The Razor is of the currently “en vogue” open-bridge design which is very much like what is traditional with porro prism binoculars and which for decades has been declared as being less rugged and more prone to needing periodic recollimation.  Now we are told that this “new” Swarovski EL-“esque” design is supposed to be the ultimate in ultra-rugged. Whatever…

 

In the hand, the open bridge design does allow for the Razor to be thinner than either the Leupold or the Bushnell, despite its much thicker rubber armoring.  I found it very comfortable, except for two small issues.  First, along the inside edge of the optical barrels, just below the focus knob and top hinge, Vortex as seen fit to cut finger grooves into the rubber armoring.  I’m sure this is great for some people but, as has always been the case for me, the cuts are made such that my small hands are just wrong for them.  My fingers therefore lie on the top edge of these cuts, which is not comfortable.  Second, on the outside edges of the optical barrels the Razor also incorporates a couple of rubber ridges running most of the length of the binocular.  I suppose they are there to help add purchase when the binocular is wet but again, I found these only served to chafe my hands. Neither was painful by any means but, I would rather Vortex had offered the binocular with a simple, smooth finish like is found on both the Golden Ring and the Discoverer.   In fact, I owned an open-bridge Bushnell Elite for a while and it did not have any such finger grooves or ridges.  It was much more comfortable in the hand.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 16:22
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Optical Performance

 

This is where really the meat of the issue is, isn’t it? 

 

The Razor is a fantastic binocular. Period.

 

I would leave it at that but, it would nag at me forever so; I guess I’ll spend a little more time at this.

 

Diopter adjustments for the Razor involve lifting up the entire focus wheel to unlock and engage the diopter wheel and then turning it to make the appropriate adjustments, pushing the focus wheel down to lock the setting in place once you’re done.  The Golden Ring incorporates a very traditional adjustment wheel on the right optical barrel.  It is stiff so it will not likely move but, it does not lock.  The Discoverer uses an under-the-focus-wheel diopter adjustment similar to the Razor except that there is nothing to lock it in place and it has a little lever that sticks out and thus is very easily moved.  This is easy to reset but, just like with the Razor’s eyecups, it can be very annoying, especially after you’ve reset the diopter for the third or fourth time on a given outing.

 

I recently read in a “review” (actually it was blatant advertising copy) for a new brand of binoculars called Zen-Ray a statement about the lens coatings on their binoculars that stated that they, “have very nice deep green fully multi-coating[s]…” and then went on to express that, “We cannot emphasize enough how important this is.”   Put simply, this is hogwash.   Yes, fully-multicoated lenses are important and will generally exhibit some kind of color reflection on the outside of the objective lenses.  However, the specific color is not indicative of the quality of the coatings.  The Vortex Razor’s objective lenses for example, have the nice, deep green color that the Zen Ray “reviewer” would like you to believe is so important.  My uncle has a somewhat older Leupold WindRiver binocular that also has green objective lenses.  Many others do also.  The Leupold Golden Ring however, has objective lenses that show a very nice, deep, maroon color.  The Bushnell Discoverer’s coatings show as a slightly lighter shade of maroon, almost a purple. I have owned fully-multicoated binoculars where the objective lens color was amber. I’m sure these color differences do have some effect on the overall image (to be discussed further below) but, the specific color does not in-and-of-itself indicate a higher or lower quality level of those coatings. In other words, if your binocular’s lenses are not green, don’t feel like you need to rush out and get yourself a Zen Ray.

 

Razor

 

Golden Ring

 

Discoverer

 

All three of the binoculars in question have the same 8x42 configuration which is good as it allows for a fairly easy “apples-to-apples” comparison.  I tried looking through them all at different times of day, under overcast skies, etc. but could not identify one as being visibly brighter than the other.  No surprise there. My wife (a total optics novice) looked through them all and felt like the Leupold was brightest but, I’m pretty sure she was not being careful to look at the exact same thing in order to make a legitimate comparison.

 

The Razor exhibited a slightly warm color bias whereas both of the others showed a slightly cool color bias.  I suspect (but have not done enough research to prove) that the color of the objective lenses, rather than being an absolute sign of a particular quality level, might have some bearing on this color bias.  As the opportunity presents itself, I will be testing this theory with other binoculars. Regardless, as long as it isn’t too extreme, I don’t find any particular color bias to be better or worse than another.  If I had my choice, I would probably opt for something that was strictly neutral. If you feel strongly one way or the other about how you like to see things through your optics, you might find this to be a more important issue.

 

Field of View (FoV) for these binoculars are pretty comparable.  They were all wide and pleasant to experience.  Edge distortion on the Raz

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 16:36
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Excellent, very indept review without bias, good job.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 17:21
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Going back to the issue of lens coatings for a moment, I remember often in the past (and even in a recent T.V. commercial) seeing advertisements for "el cheapo" binoculars that made mention of the binocular's "special ruby (red) coatings" to "enhance contrast."  The binocular I remember them from the most was a crappy 10x42 roof prism binocular marketed under the name "Rugged Exposure" and sold at Big 5 Sporting Goods. 
 
These of course, were (are) cheap, useless, colored coatings applied in order to decieve the ignorant and prove the adage that "a fool and his money are soon parted." 
 
This is the one case where I would concede that the color of the coatings is a definite indicator of a total lack of quality and all of us should know better than to waste our money (whether hard-earned or not) on such garbage optics.


Edited by lucznik - May/12/2008 at 17:21
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 17:30
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Outstanding review, Sir!! Couldn't have been better!!

Many thanks!
 
Yippee
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 20:15
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lucznik, very nice review. Also, I have an possible answer for this as well..........
 
"How they manage to still sell anything is beyond me  I for one, could not possibly find enough difference to justify paying more than the Razor’s (or the Golden Ring HD’s) very reasonable $750 price tag.  I know this will go against the grain of all who have spent small fortunes for a Zeiss, Swarovski, Leica, and/or high end Nikon but, that’s the way I see it."
 
They are called trust fund babies.
 
Roy
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2008 at 22:26
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Well done Thunbs%20Up.. covered all the bases ---

Edited by martin3175 - May/12/2008 at 22:26
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/13/2008 at 18:42
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Excellent review, Lucznik!Excellent
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/14/2008 at 13:32
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Very nice review Lucznik (and right along the lines of my impressions of the Razor that I had when I reviewed it a while back).  The Razors that I had stayed in any of the intermediary positions quite securely, but since I wear contacts, I usually have the eyecups extended all the way out.

As for the Razors being just as good as the ultra-expensive binos, well they aren't, but they are darn close.  Unless you are looking for the difference you will probably not see it.

Still, if you have the funds and want the best, a $2000 binocular is better than a $1000 binocular, but not by much at all.

In practice, I can't imagine a reasonable person buying a binocular more expensive than Vortex Razor or Meopta Meostar.

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 12:33
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Your post was very timely for me.  Thanks.  I came across it in searching for reviews of a bin I am considering purchasing, the Leupold Golden Ring 8x42 HD (the new version).  The Vortex Razor 8x42 is now in the mix.  (Both of these bins sell for $750.)
 
You commented on how sharp the Razor's image is and sort of said, I think, that the Golden Ring's image is as good.  Do I have that right?
 
Also, you said you have the older version (pre 2007) of the Golden Ring.  Do you happen to know what improvements have been made in the newer version?
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 13:03
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I'd appreciate hearing any thoughts anyone has about the three bins I'm now considering purchasing (for birding):
 
1. Leupold Golden Ring 8x42 HD (new version, 2007) ($750 - competitor, competitor )
2. Vortex Razor 8x42 ($750 - competitor)
3. Meopta Meostar 8x42 ($880 - competitor )
 
I've been using the Swift Audubon 8.5x44 for fifteen years.
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 15:01
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why not buy them here?? they are the same price
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 15:45
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Thanks.  I didn't know about that source.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 15:46
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they are the company that sponsors this site
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 15:50
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Okay.  Cool.  I didn't know that.  I'm a first-day member of the forum.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/06/2008 at 15:54
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welcome to the club!! no biggie
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/07/2008 at 16:18
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Originally posted by aabirder aabirder wrote:

Okay.  Cool.  I didn't know that.  I'm a first-day member of the forum.
 
Welcome aboard, Sir!!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/04/2008 at 12:28
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

Excellent review, Lucznik!Excellent


I agree, we can always depend on you to be extra involved with binoculars around here. That is a big bonus for O.T.

Thanks,
Doug
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/03/2008 at 08:05
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Originally posted by lucznik lucznik wrote:

Edge distortion on the Razor and the Leupold were also comparable. Edge distortion was a little more for the Discoverer but, not excessively so. I was unable to do any exact measurements but, I would say that the inner 3/4 of the FoV was clear in the Leupold and the Vortex while edge distortion affected the outer 1/3 of the Discoverer.

As regards your use of "edge distortion," you told me you were describing a visible degradation in focus. Distortion describes the inability of a lens to create a rectilinear image of the object. Distortion describes the shape of an object, not its color or its sharpness.

Your lack of understanding of fundamental optics matters does not encourage me to believe anything you say, or for that matter, to trust the findings of these OT Reviews.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/03/2008 at 08:41
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Originally posted by Gunshow75 Gunshow75 wrote:

Originally posted by lucznik lucznik wrote:

Edge distortion on the Razor and the Leupold were also comparable. Edge distortion was a little more for the Discoverer but, not excessively so. I was unable to do any exact measurements but, I would say that the inner 3/4 of the FoV was clear in the Leupold and the Vortex while edge distortion affected the outer 1/3 of the Discoverer.

As regards your use of "edge distortion," you told me you were describing a visible degradation in focus. Distortion describes the inability of a lens to create a rectilinear image of the object. Distortion describes the shape of an object, not its color or its sharpness.

Your lack of understanding of fundamental optics matters does not encourage me to believe anything you say, or for that matter, to trust the findings of these OT Reviews.


Whatever  And here we go again.  Mr. all knowledgeable setting his peons in order.

Its funny, just because you and Lucznik have been having a debate on another thread you decide to come over on this one and bash him.  Real classy of you, real classy indeed.
You once again trash peoples reviews and opinions on optics here because we don't have your "expert knowledge".  You need to accept the fact that most of us are just shooters and hunters who enjoy this hobby and our techno jargon may not be up to your standards, but it is what it is.  If you don't 'trust" our opinions thats fine, as they are just our opinions, I tried to put that accross to you before.  But you wanted somekind of optics lab tests for everything we say about optics, it isn't going to happen.  I can tell you most of us quite enjoy Lucznik's bino input.  He is quite knowledgeable and has lead alot of people in the right direction.  Just because his jargon is not up to "your" standards does not mean his input in not appreciated and used by most all of us here. 

Lighten up.
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+1    Thunbs%20Up
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/03/2008 at 14:02
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