In 1999, Swarovski presented the EL series of binoculars to the public. They kept adding minor upgrades in the following years. It was in 2009 when they truly hit it big – they introduced field flattener lenses with fluoride in the EL, eliminating the globe distortion effect (rolling ball effect). They called this innovation Swarovision. For years to come, EL binoculars were considered the best on the market by many, and it was not until a few years later that Swarovski’s competitors, Leica and Zeiss, came up with competitive products (Noctivid and Victory SF).
Since Noctivid’s release in 2016, none of the three premium optics manufacturers presented anything new in this category (42mm objective lens binoculars). Now, in 2020, Swarovski has taken a step forward. They launched the NL Pure series, their new flagship 42mm objective lens binoculars, and shook the world of optics up once again.
The NL Pure binoculars are currently available in three models:
Testing the NL Pure binoculars in the mountains
Swarovski sent us a 10×42 model to test it out. I am a passionate hiker, so I took the binoculars with me on a trip to the Kamnik-Savinja Alps in Slovenia. Some might argue that compact binoculars are superior to the standard 42mm objective lens when it comes to hiking because of their size and weight, which is a good argument, but I personally didn’t find the extra weight (around 200 grams) and length to be a burden. Furthermore, I prefer using bigger binoculars as I found them more comfortable to use.
I have always liked Swarovski’s unique strap attachment system – instead of eyelets, Swarovski uses bayonet catches. An elegant, innovative solution; the strap is simple to install and remove. It would be great if Swarovski offered a strap that would hold the binoculars firmly in place when they are carried around the neck – a great solution for observations where the user is constantly in movement.
NL Pure binoculars are of an interesting shape. Both tubes are tapered towards the centre, resulting in a better grip and increased ergonomics. The bridge is not positioned in the middle but in the rear, allowing the user to comfortably hold it in a single hand during observation. The focusing knob can be easily reached, regardless of the size of your fingers. It runs smoothly and precisely, without friction – a feature that is particularly cherished by birdwatchers. One of the best features of NL pure is an adjustable forehead rest, an accessory that you can purchase extra for around 130 EUR. Swarovski is the first manufacturer to come up with such an accessory – it is quite interesting that no other optics manufacturer has thought of making something similar before. The rest significantly improves stability. Once the eye relief is set accordingly (eyecups can be set in many positions), adjust the forehead rest (10 positions) for an optimal viewing experience. I noticed that this is especially handy when you are tired – I often use binoculars when I stop for breath during hiking. It is much easier to obtain a steady image with an appropriately-set forehead rest than without it. The chassis of NL Pure is made of magnesium and covered with rubber in Swarovski’s signature green.
It was a perfect day for hiking – the weather was sunny, with only a few clouds every here and there. The binoculars produced a clear image, high in contrast and extremely rich in colours. I was amazed at the field of view – the 10×42 model provides 133 m of it at 1000 m, the same as EL 8.5×44 (the NL Pure 8×42 version offers an amazing field of view of 159 m at 1000 m while the 12×42 boasts a field of view of 113 m at 1000 m). The edges of the image are incredibly sharp and the distortion reduced to a minimum thanks to the Swarovision technology.
You can comfortably use the binoculars even if you are a glasses wearer as the eyecups can be set in many positions.
Other notable features of NL Pure series
- The closest focusing distance is 2 m, except for the 12×42 model with the closest focusing distance of 2.6 m.
- The diopter with a range from –4 to +4 is located behind the focusing knob. A pity that it is not lockable.
- Several high-quality coatings are applied to the lens surfaces, ensuring a 91% light transmission rate.
- The binoculars work even in extreme temperatures such as –25 °C and 70 °C.
- The NL Pure series is equipped with roof prisms of the Schmidt-Pechan type.
- It is filled with Nitrogen which prevents internal fogging at low temperatures.
- The interpupillary distance can be set from 56 mm to 74 mm.
- They are covered with a 10-year warranty.
- NL Pure is made in Austria.
- Delivery starts on the 1st of September, 2020.
These binoculars are sold in 100% recycled polyester boxes. Along with the NL pure, you get a functional sidebag, ocular and objective covers, a microfiber cloth, a strap loop connector, soap & brush kit and a cover for steel rings.
These premium binoculars come at a premium price:
- 8×42 – 2850 €
- 10×42 – 2900 €
- 12×42 – 2950 €
The NL Pure 10×42 proved to be an excellent hiking companion. I can picture it being used for many other purposes such as hunting and birdwatching as it excels both in ergonomics and optical quality. The forehead rest is an amazing accessory – if you plan on using the binoculars often and for longer periods, I highly recommend it. As far as premium 42mm objective lens binoculars are concerned, Swarovski has cemented their position at the very top of the pyramid – can Zeiss and Leica keep up?