Vortex & Minox Bino Review/Comparison
Gents, I posted this over at SH, but thought it might help some folks here as well.
I recently went through the process of purchasing a good set of binos to upgrade from my older Nikon Tundras, which tend to give me a headache and crazy vision after a long glassing session. I didn't want to go high end (i.e. Swaro, Leica, Zeiss) simply due to the cost. I wanted to stay in the $600-$800 range, but still get a good bino that compares well to the high end stuff. I focused on the 10x42 sizes, since I wanted something a little more compact than the Nikon's I have. I looked at several different binos and researched them on various hunting and birding forums. Based on my research and requirements, the 2 I chose to focus on were the Minox HG 10x43 and the Vortex Razor 10x42. I'm definitely not an optics expert, but below are my thoughts on each coming from an average user perspective.
One more note: I bought these binos from Doug at Camera Land NY. He posts here on LRH as gr8fuldoug. He was very knowledgeable and helped me a great deal on my decision. He also gives a very nice discount to members here. I recommend him highly if you're in the market for anything that he sells.
Both the Minox and Vortex were extremely close in this category. I thought the brightness, sharpness and overall picture quality was excellent in both. After going back and forth between the two for a couple of days, I did start to notice a very slight color differences between the two. The Vortex seemed to amplify colors just a tad more and give them more vibrancy. I liked this, so I chose the Vortex in this category. However, it was so close that I was really splitting hairs and looking for a discriminator.
For this category, I liked the Vortex better. The eyecups on both binos were comfortable to use. Also, the eyecups on both were adjustable with solid detents for each setting. If I recall correctly, the Minox had 3 or 4 positions to choose from. The Vortex has 15 positions which are much more granular than the Minox allowing it to be ďfine tunedĒ to your eyes. The Vortex also has graduation markings on the eyecups so you know exactly the setting they are adjusted to so you can return to that if they get changed.
Another plus for the Vortex is that they provide a second set of eye cups which are flared and used to block light from entering at the sides of your eyes. These additional cups install easily, but are not adjustable like the standard ones.
The Minox focus mechanism was noticeably better than the Vortex. The Vortex wasnít bad, but the Minox was simply smooth as butter. The Minox also had a quick focus, meaning that it only took one full turn of the knob to get from one extreme to the other. This was nice, but made it difficult sometimes to focus quickly since I kept over shooting the focus point. In this case, I liked the Vortex because I could fine tune a little easier since the wheel movements didnít equate to drastic shifts in focus.
Although the Vortex could have done better, they do have a good system that I like better than the Minox. Itís just that there is some play in it which makes you question quality. To set it, you simply pull out the focus knob and turn. The adjustment has detents similar to adjusting a turret on a scope. I like it, but it is a little difficult to adjust while looking through the binos at the same time. Once you set it though, youíre done.
The Minox adjustment was good as well, but a slightly different approach. They chose to have the adjustment under the right eye cup. It does lock in place, but does not have detents like the Vortex. It simply turns smoothly like the parallax adjustment on most scopes. Not bad, but I preferred the Vortex design.
Minox wins hands down here. They are just much more compact and lighter than the Vortex. Not much more to say.
Iíve got big hands, so the Vortex fit me a little better. Both felt great though. They are both rubber armored and feel solid. The Vortex felt a little more solid, but I think this is due to the extra weight. I also like the hinged aspect of the Vortex. This feature allowed my fingers to wrap around the barrels better for a more comfortable grip.
One thing I didnít like on the Minox was the rubber armor material. It seemed to attract all kinds of lint and dust and was very difficult keep clean. I didnít see this problem with the Vortex.
Vortex wins hands down on this one. This was one of the major reasons why I kept the Vortex and sent back the Minox. Vortex has an unconditional lifetime warranty that is transferable. If you drop them down a hill on a hunt, they will fix/replace them for free. Leave them on your car and drive off Ė they will fix/replace them for free. Aside from theft, loss or intentional damaged, the Vortex covers everything .
Minox covers the first 5 years on parts and labor for manufacturer defects. After that, they only cover parts and the warranty expires after 30 years (still a long time though). They do not cover accidental damage though. If you drop them, not their problem.
I was a bit disappointed with Minox on this one. They really only give the bare minimum. The leather case they provide is compact and quite nice. Not sure I liked the magnetic latch to hold it shut, but I didnít play with it enough to form a solid opinion. One thing I couldnít understand is that Minox only provided covers for the eye cup lens. They donít provide anything to cover the objective lenses. I believe this is because they feel their scratch resistant lenses donít need covers. However, how do you keep debris and dust out of them? Iím not sure if they sell aftermarket covers that you can use, but Minox really needs to offer these in the package. Of note too is that the covers they did provide for the eye cups fell off very easily. I didnít like that, especially if you carry them in a backpack without the case.
Vortex did beautifully in this area. They provided good fitting covers for all the lenses which easily stayed out of the way when tying to look through the binos. This was another big selling point for me. I donít want to haul the case around everywhere I go, but I want to ensure the binos are protected even when outside of the case. The Vortex does this. The case isnít as nice as the Minox, but I feel itís more functional and durable for someone who is going to use the binos hard. They are well padded with a clip latch and internal straps to hold the extra flared eyecups.
Both binos and cases came with decent neck straps.
I thought both binos were very good and would recommend either to someone wanting a very good mid-priced set. I compared them to a set of Zeiss Victory binos in the store that cost $1600 and I thought both the Minox and Vortex had better pictures. This was only a quick look, so take my comment for what itís worth. It would have been interesting to check them against a pair of Swaro ELís, but I didnít have the opportunity to do so. In the end, I chose the Vortex Razors. I think in general they provided a better, more complete package. The warranty was a big influence in my decision as well.