Swarovski NL Pure binoculars, 12x42 - test & review

PUBLISHED: 15:15 29 October 2020

The new ergonomic design is a nice touch but really it's all about the FOV and amazing optical performance

The new ergonomic design is a nice touch but really it's all about the FOV and amazing optical performance

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Paul Austin takes a closer look at the creme de la creme of the optics world - Swarovski’s new NL Pure Binoculars! Here, he reviews the 12x42 NL Pure Binos after taking them out for a test drive

The NL Pure's are a thing of beauty but their financial proximity to the EL Range line may tip the balance for the dedicated hunterThe NL Pure's are a thing of beauty but their financial proximity to the EL Range line may tip the balance for the dedicated hunter

There are a handful of brands in the shooting game that can pull off one very unique trick and Swarovski are the absolute masters. Even with the toe-curling price tag of Swaro products, they somehow manage to appeal right across the board. Posh boys, tight-fisted farmers, hard-pressed keepers or just ‘Joe Shmoe’ shooting enthusiasts are all happy to cough up for that iconic goshawk emblem, whether it’s on a scope, binoculars or spotter.

Admittedly, the marketing department have done their bit and there’s definitely an element of kudos associated with the brand, but no matter how you’re dressed or where you are, this iconic brand says you’re either well heeled or very serious about your shooting.

How do they pull it off? Well, the fact is all the marketing in the world won’t open the wallets of the stereotypes listed above, well perhaps the posh boys, but certainly none of the others. To gain the kind of reputation and appeal Swarovski has amassed, you have to deliver. Yes, Swarovski products are very expensive, but they’re also very, very good and leaving kudos aside, that’s the bottom line, ‘buy once, cry once’ being the underlying ethos for many.

Their latest binocular release is the all new NL Pure range, available in 8x 10x and 12x42. I was lucky enough to receive the 12x42s for testing and was keen to see if they live up to the hype.

One of several USPs for the NL range is the incredible field of view (FOV) and as you can see from the small chart comparing them to their predecessors, it’s obvious that particular box is well and truly ticked. The FOV really is huge, even on the 12x model. It’s so wide you have to strain your eyes to inspect the edge of the image; they really are very impressive.

A new addition is the FRP forehead rest which clips in on either side of the single bridge and provides a third point of contact on the forehead to further steady the binos. It’s a clever bit of kit that increases image stability quite considerably and I’d definitely recommend it for both the 10x and 12x models. Alas, the FRP rest is an optional extra, adding yet another £108 to the bill, but it’s definitely worth the investment.

So, if you add just these two elements together the optical equation spits out a surprising result. The added FOV combined with the extra stability of the new rest means you can go up a step in terms of magnification while still maintaining the same FOV and level of stability.

Normally, I would never opt for 12x in a hunting binocular (10x being the max), but the combination of enhanced FOV and increased stability means I would have absolutely no qualms opting for the 12s in the field.

For me a harness and traditional bino pouch would be a better option the oddly horizontal carring case offers great protection but it's not ideal in the fieldFor me a harness and traditional bino pouch would be a better option the oddly horizontal carring case offers great protection but it's not ideal in the field

Build quality and features

As you’d expect, build quality is exceptional across the board with the new organic/ergonomic design making them effortless to use for extended periods, which is quite an achievement, as the NLs aren’t particularly light weight.

Focusing is silky smooth and razor sharp but not too fussy in terms of adjustment. You can easily slide them into perfect focus, as there’s just the right amount of travel in the focus wheel, which is enhanced by the massive depth of field. A rabbit at 200m requires just a touch of effortless adjustment to become pin-sharp once more on a crow at 100m.

The fixtures and fittings, such as the straps, lens covers and mounting points, have been wisely cloned from the EL range, so there’s no unpleasant surprises in that area. You also get a lovely little brush and a bar of soap thrown in for good measure. Swarovski do know how to package a product; it all helps to take the sting out of that asking price.

Dioptre adjustment is on the central bridge, both easy to adjust and firm when in position, but not lockable, which was a slight surprise.

The various lens covers and straps have been wisely cloned from the EL range, If it ain't broke don't fix it!The various lens covers and straps have been wisely cloned from the EL range, If it ain't broke don't fix it!

Image quality

Optically, the NLs are superb and will without doubt become the benchmark for all other binos in the future. Bright, crisp, clear edge to edge, with fantastic clarity, colour rendition and contrast.

They’re a tour de force and the added FOV and stability simply builds on that foundation. I tried my best to trip them up in an attempt to spot a hint of chromatic aberration on tree branches and leaves but there wasn’t a hint of it.

The forehead support looks a bit gimmicky but in fact it's a really excellent additionThe forehead support looks a bit gimmicky but in fact it's a really excellent addition

Weaknesses?

The only slight disappointment was the lack of a harness. To be fair, the NLs are something of an all-rounder, targeting both hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike, but the supplied carrying case holds the binos horizontally and I’d much prefer a ‘harness and pouch approach’.

The only real Achilles’ heel for the NLs will be their price, which pushes them perilously close to Swaro’s EL Range series. The appeal of a built-in rangefinder for a relatively small additional investment might just tip the balance in favour of the EL Range series for the dedicated hunter.

Rangefinding aside, the NL Pures sets a new benchmark in terms of performance for binoculars. Hopefully, Zeiss and Leica will rise to the challenge and attempt to push the newly crowned king of the binocular world off its pedestal.

Swarovski NL Pure

Supplier: Swarovski Opik

Price: from £2,370.00

NL & EL comparison chart - Field of view (ft/m @ 1000m)

NL

Swarovski NL Pure 8x42: 477ft/159m

Swarovski NL Pure 10x42: 399ft/133m

Swarovski NL Pure 12x42: 339ft/113m

EL

Swarovski EL 8.5x42: 399ft/133m

Swarovski EL 10x42: 336ft/112m

TECH SPECS - SWAROVSKI NL PURE 12X42

Magnification: 12x

Lens diameter: 42mm

Eye relief: 18mm

Field of view: 6.5 degrees

Shortest focusing distance: ft 8.5/2.6m

Dioptric compensation: ± 4

Light transmission: 91%

Twilight factor acc. to ISO 14132-1: 22.4

Weight approx: 29.5oz/840g

Temperature range: -13 °F to +131 °F (-25 °C / +55 °C)

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