Review Of The Vortex Razor HD 10x42 Binoculars And The Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope
By Len Backus
Lightweight Optics For the Backcountry Hunter
Just before this year's hunting season I decided to buy a new set of 10x42 binoculars and a lighter weight spotting scope as well as a tripod and head combo. In recent years I have been moving down in the weight of most of my gear --clothing, rifles, packs as well as optics. I also find myself going out in the field quite often with only binoculars and no spotter. With the use of a tripod -- or often just with shooting sticks -- it is quite possible to successfully spot and evaluate your quarry at quite a distance with just binos or occasionally even a small spotter.
Mule Creek Outfitters' Jacob Berger with Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50mm on shooting sticks
In the selection process I didn't have much time left so I used the search principle that I have shared with many others in recent years. When someone asks my opinion of a specific segment of optics equipment that I don't have intimate knowledge of, my response is something like: "Decide on the price range you are comfortable with and then simply choose the Vortex brand's price level version of whatever item you are looking for." Then I explain that this advice is based on the many great comments I read every month in the LRH forums about Vortex.
As a brand Vortex has made amazing progress in the ultra-competitive world of sport optics. They are headquartered just over an hour from my home in Wisconsin. Andy and I had a several hour meeting with them there recently and came away even more impressed.
Their optics warranty may be about the best out there. Fix or replace for any reason, even for the stupidity of the owner. Here is a photo of a few binos that I took out of a display case when we visited them and which they had replaced at no cost.
"My dog ate my binos!" comes to mind.
So for this fall I chose the Vortex Razor HD 10x42mm binocular. I have used their Vortex Kaibab 15x56mm binoculars for several years. In fact I wrote a review (CLICK HERE) on it back then. I even did my own image resolution chart test and concluded it was just about as good as the expensive European binos.
The Razor HD 10x42 weighs a couple ounces less than the European competition and costs a thousand dollars less. The quality is so close as to be equivalent from a practical glassing standpoint.
I own one of the expensive European 10x42's and my guide was using one on my mountain hunt last month. I switched back and forth from his to my Vortex repeatedly and just could not see any significant difference. Sure there was just slightly less edge-to-edge sharpness but I have noticed that it is rare for me to use the outside edge of the field of view for glassing anyway. In fact, for this test it was actually difficult to even physically use the edge surface at all. Both contrast and resistance to flare when looking into or near a bright sky was also very good.
We are pleased to carry the entire line of Vortex Opics in the LRH Store. We also carry Huskemaw, Swarovski, Nightforce, Sig Sauer, Schmidt & Bender, Zeiss, Kahles.The focus and diopter adjustments worked very smoothly. The eyecups were quite well built. The whole unit just felt good and solid in my hands. I spent many, many hours glassing on that trip and more on my antelope trip last week. The Vortex binos made me be a "happy glasser".
Vortex offers a unique tripod adaptor that I now leave on my Razor HD binos all the time. This means the tripod adaptor is always there when I want to use it. While using a tripod, I can decide to immediately lift my binos right off the tripod and rotate my body for a quick look to one side or another. The adaptor weighs about an ounce. I love this feature and it's barely noticeable.
The Vortex Binocular Doubler worked amazingly well for what a simple item it is to utilize. I have used the Swarovski doubler before but with that one you must unscrew one entire eye cup and then screw on the doubler. At that point you're kind of committed to use it for a while to justify the effort. The Vortex unit just slips over the top of the eye cup. On or off in about 3 seconds. Really brilliant! I carry it with me in a shirt pocket.
Review Of The Vortex Razor HD 10x42 Binoculars And The Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope - 2For a lighter weight spotter I went with their new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50mm unit. I have used a Leupold 12-40x60mm spotter for quite a few years and have always been satisfied with its quality and compact size and weight. But I felt I now wanted something even lighter and smaller in size.
The Vortex Razor HD spotter is slightly better in sharpness and light gathering in my opinion than the more expensive Leupold unit and it weighs 13 ounces less with a smaller profile. The spotter has both a coarse and a fine focus wheel and they are very smooth. The protective carry case can be left attached while the scope is in use, something like with the Leupold case (but not as good) which I have always felt was the best in the industry.
Shooting sticks, Summit SS, Razor HD, Leupold, Outdoorsmans
I love my Outdoorsmans tripod and Jim White head but again, I wanted something sized more consistently with my new Vortex spotter. So I opted for the Vortex Summit SS tripod and head. It has a unique twisting lock mechanism that is very quick and easy to use. The new tripod works with the quick release adaptors attached to either my spotter or the base unit for the bino version.
The lower portion of the center post has a hook for hanging a weight to stabilize the tripod in windy conditions. That works well and yet sometimes I found I did ok by simply pulling my hand downward momentarily on the hook. On last month's mountain hunt I had LOTS of windy test opportunities. Used with my new lightweight optics this tripod was plenty stable for MY use.
Mule Creek Outfitters’ Jacob Berger with Vortex Razor spotter
I can also remove the lower portion of the center post and then get the optics down with me into a prone position. I do that often when hunting and also when shooting prone at a rifle range. Sometimes I will use a "tripod dual mount" with both optics and rangefinder attached to the tripod in this prone position. Leaning to the left side away from your rifle scope and over to the spotter or rangefinder is easy in this way. Again, when you have no spotter-partner on a solo hunt, you are looking for any advantage that you can get.
My new spotter and tripod together weigh in at about 3.3 pounds -- a half-pound lighter than just an 85mm spotter alone. And I can fit them both into a single shirt pocket. Well, maybe not quite but they are pretty compact.
If you hunt mostly within a mile or so of your truck it doesn't matter how much your gear weighs. But if you like to hike up to 5 or more miles in a hunt day as do I it makes a big difference. Especially in my beloved western mountains at high altitude.
If you need to count the whiskers on a trophy animal at 3.9 miles this article isn't for you. Instead, keep lugging along your 20-60x85mm spotting scope and 4 to 5 pound tripod to go with it.
This has been my third in a series of three articles on the subject of lightweight optics for backcountry hunting. Here are the first two articles:
Vortex Kaibab Binoculars And Outdoorsmans Tripod Review
Len's 2,150 yard spot and stalk Montana mule deer kill
Len Backus is the owner of www.LongRangeHunting.com. He has been a long range hunter since the 90's and is as likely to bag his game with a camera as with a rifle or a specialty handgun. His outdoor photography can be seen at LenBackus.com