It's often correctly said that buying expensive optics is the cheapest way to go. The reason, of course, is that entry-level merchandise will produce a noticeably inferior image and potentially severe cases of ODD (Optics Deficit Disorder) . Symptoms of ODD often include doubt, self-loathing, buyer's remorse, and could even progress to the borrowing of a friend's equipment. If you use optics frequently for any pursuit, ODD can be avoided with the purchase of a high quality product (money spent on entry-level glass will turn out to be more regrettable than a case of the crusted, Norwegian scabies).
The question, such as it were, always seems to lie in that "how good is good enough" area. Ultimately, I've never heard anyone say, "Man, I really overspent on these binoculars and wish I had decided to cheap out." Now, I have heard similar assertions emanating from the spouses of optics owners. Normally these comments take on a harsh, grating tone that brings to mind a lack of overall credibility. Since such remarks are never in the first-person (i.e. "The spotting scope John bought last month nearly caused us to default on our mortgage!") they must be considered hearsay and disqualified as serious opinions.
It's a given that brands like Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss produce World-class products for which they exact premium prices roughly equivalent to the cost of raising a child to the age of eighteen. Sportsmen refer to this sum as "well worth it" while their spousal units may employ the term "asinine" (see "well worth it").
I don't know about everyone else, but I've always tried to find a sweet spot in terms of value. As with everything, you have the law of diminishing returns in the world of optics. If I can find a product that delivers extremely high quality without an exorbitant price, it will grab my attention.
Enter Vortex Optics. Around the beginning of 2014 I acquired a pair of Razor HD 10x42 binoculars and was quite frankly astonished at the image quality they produced. I was familiar with Vortex in the rifle scope arena, but for some reason had not been paying close attention to their spotting scope and binocular offerings. As I used the Razors more and more, my feeling was they were either on par with the Big 3 or ceded precious little under the conditions I typically glass.
Now, these are not inexpensive optics with a current street price of $1,199 until you consider the competition:
- Swarovski EL 10x42: $2,319
- Swarovski SLC HD 10x42: $1,619
- Leica Ultravid 10x42: $2,299
- Zeiss Victory 10x42: $2,299
I've been using the Razors all Spring and Summer, and have been comparing them most commonly with the Zeiss Victory 10x42. It's difficult to tell if one pair is markedly better than the other. The Vortex binos offer a rubber-armored magnesium chassis, argon purged tubes, extra-low dispersion HD lens elements, O-ring seals, hydrophobic coatings to repel moisture, and an unconditional lifetime warranty. In other words, all the features of optics costing $1,000+ more. I've also appreciated the eye cup mechanism with locking diopter adjustment.
The Razor HDs are simply a top shelf offering where every feature feels solid and professional grade. The focus adjustment moves smoothly with great precision, the hinge feels strong and sure, and the image is crisp with outstanding color fidelity.
If you're in the market for an 8x42 or 10x42 binocular, you owe it to yourself to check out the Vortex Razor HD.