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Swarovski Pocket 8x20 B Review

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/26/2012 at 21:41
BigJimFish View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
Optics GrassHopper

Joined: March/30/2009
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Swarovski Pocket 8x20 B Review


March 18, 2012

by Les (Jim) Fischer (BigJimFish)


            While at Shot Show this year to look at scopes, I brought with me a set of binoculars so that I might also be able to make comparisons of binoculars. In particular, I was interested in pocket-sized binoculars because it seemed to me that little attention is paid to this class by other reviewers. Most reviewers of binoculars are birdwatchers and since they typically day trip and have only optical gear to carry, the size and weight of binoculars is not crucial. In fact, the binoculars are often the most important item being carried and therefore not subject to critique on aspects unrelated to function.


            My background is somewhat different from the typical birdwatcher. Most of the first applications I had for binoculars surrounded Boy Scouts. Backpacking and canoeing treks were the most important excursions. Weight and size are quite the concern when any item you take you must carry for 50 miles on foot. My first binoculars were therefore compacts. It seems fitting that my first review should follow suit.


            Amongst the compact binoculars to catch my eye at Shot were the Swarovski 8x20mm Pockets. This should not come as a surprise. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Swarovski is the most flattered of all binocular manufacturers. I can't tell you how many open hinge green binoculars I saw at Shot, but I can tell you that they are all styled after Swarovski El's.


            Swarovski makes their pocket binoculars in 8x20mm and 10x25mm. The 8x comes in black/tan rubberized, black/green rubberized, and black/leather. The 10x does not have the leather option. I have chosen the green 8x model for my review because Swarovskis really ought to be green and my exceptional eyes but unsteady hands are a recipe for 8x magnification.


Swarovski Pocket 8x20 B binoculars with packaging, manuals, case, and cleaning cloth.


            In order to get an accurate idea of what was valued in Swarovski's design, I compared them to a range of binoculars old and new at a variety of price points. Of most relevance was a set of new Nikon 8x20mm Premier binoculars.  It was very interesting to see the different decisions made by each manufacturer with regards to contrast, color, weight, field of view, and resolution. It is often not appreciated by the casual observer that not all aspects of a design can be maximized. Cost is not the only limiting factor in optical design and money cannot buy you all of everything. If you want good depth of field, for instance, you may have to sacrifice some resolution or contrast in the design to get it. Swarovski has executed a fine balancing act in the design of the 8x20mm pockets and I think they have largely done very well.


            The first thing I noticed about the Swarovskis, aside from the very nice box and carrying bag, is that they are very small and light. Before you jump all over me for a gross statement of the obvious, allow me to be more specific. I do not mean that the pockets are light in some expansive, relative to the weight of all binoculars sense. They are pocket size, of course they accomplish this. What I mean is that they are light in a very narrow, as compared to other top tier compact binoculars sense. They are lighter and smaller than Zeiss, Leica, and Nikon's competing optics. In the Nikons' case, they are more than 20% lighter and, having carried them both for a few days, I can tell you the difference is noticeable. While you might think it is easy to shrug off 55 grams of weigh difference as irrelevant, remember that we are dealing with compact binoculars. 'Compact' is the operable term. If size and weight were not important, I don't think anyone would ever carry an optic from the compact class. It stands to reason, therefore, that one of the most important aspects to consider in a compact binocular is size and Swarovski leads the class in this aspect.


            Despite their small size, the Swarovski Pockets do not feel flimsy or in any way lacking substantial-ness. They feel very rugged, in fact, and the quality of manufacture is exceptional. All of the joints, adjustments, and eye cups are smooth and have the desired resistance. None of this is really a surprise. At this price point you would expect for the quality of construction to be high, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless - you don't always get what you pay for.


            The evaluation of optics in binoculars is very nuanced.  Coming from rifle scopes, I am used to much more obvious differences between products than top tier binoculars exhibit. It is not unusual for a rifle scope to be downright fuzzy around the edges, exhibit a pronounced fisheye distortion, or have dramatic problems handling stray light. None of the top tier binoculars I have observed exhibited obvious aberrations. Even the low-priced Hawke's I recently looked at did not have major problems. This is something never true of low priced rifle scopes. The differences in optical performance between binoculars are much more subtle, balanced, and even polished. If I were to have to guess how many times more money is spent perfecting binocular design than rifle scope design, I would put that number quite high.


            I thought for a long time about what would be the best, most relevant way to evaluate the image produced by each set of binoculars. I considered using optical charts, magnification doublers, and tightly controlled indoor testing to tease apart minute differences in resolution, chromatic aberration, and various distortions. In the end, I decided that more time spent behind the optic in actual viewing situations would provide better insights. To that end, I rounded up some family and friends on a couple occasions and hiked off into the woods. My observations are therefore subjective, but I think that they are also full-bodied and I hope they will give you an accur

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/26/2012 at 08:34
Hitthespot View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
Optics GrassHopper

Joined: May/21/2010
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Thank you for the review.  I enjoy reading opinions on Pocket binoculars.   I have been interested in pocket binoculars for over two years now.   Since no one near me carries pocket binoculars, especially alpha's, I have been relying on reviews to help me sort out my decision.   Since I have owned both Leica and Swarovski's in larger models, I figured choosing an pocket binocular was going to be extremely difficult.  Two reasons for this.  One is I didn't want to spend alpha kind of money on a pair of pockets, and the second is because I knew I would use my Swaro 8 x 30 to compare anything I looked through to them.   I love Swaro binoculars.  I've looked through or owned Zeiss and Leica's and frankly think Swaro's are the best.   Finally last week I decided if I didn't start buying and looking through something I would never get anywhere.  So I purchased a pair of Minox BD 8 x 24 binoculars for $145.00.   Let me say I wasn't expecting a whole lot at that price and figured if they were as bad as I thought they would be, I would just throw them in the center of the car and use them occasionally.  Well I'm shocked.  These are exactly what I was looking for.  They are sharp and the images actually pop.   I don't have swaro's, Leica's or Zeiss to campare them to, but they are everything I need in a hiking pocket binocular.  The best part is I paid what I thought was a steal for bino's of this quality.   Minox now has my attention, and any future purchases will definitely be giving them serious consideration.
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