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Vortex Razor HD review

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/18/2011 at 23:36
Klamath View Drop Down
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Review:  Vortex Razor HD 8x42

 

I finally gathered up a bunch of optics I was no longer using and sold them.  Instead of doing something useful with the money, I used it on more binoculars.  I had about decided that I needed a bona fide alpha, if for no other reason that to serve as a reference standard against all of the binoculars I eventually wind up reviewing.

 

So this has been an effort of some scale for me and has involved a bunch of time, lots of binoculars, and a lot of head scratching.  There has been as much comparison with as many alpha glasses as I could arrange to get my hands on.  There are some pretty decent deals out there right now too.

 

So into the mix comes the introduction of the Vortex Razor HD, well not so much the introduction as the availability.  Doing as much research as I could do without actually having one made it seem like this new glass was at the least worth a close look.  As it happens, another glass I had been wondering about for some time also shows up ready for sale.  That is the Kruger Caldera, which I’ll do in a separate review.  So to start myself off, I now am the proud owner of one each of these binoculars in the 8x42 version.  I chose the 8x for no other reason than that (and 7x) is my personal favorite.  I was however able to get some fairly significant time with each in the 10x version before I bought.

 

The Vortex Razor HD

 

Vortex told me that they were confident this glass would compare very favorably to any of the alpha glass.  There has been some Internet skepticism about the new Razor HD’s price tag of almost $1,200.  I decided to see for myself.  Every indication I can see right now says that Vortex, amid all of the “HD” Market Hype, got the new Razor right.  It most definitely is not the old Razor.  There were few real flies on the original model as it was, but the new big brother has pretty well chased those off.   The housing on the new one is completely different.  I actually prefer the three finger gap of the original to the current two finger gap between the hinges.  Anybody who has had a ZEN ED or a Promaster ELX ED in hand has a pretty good idea of how the new Razor feels.  It is not quite the same, as the Razor is a little slimmer, and the ocular assembly is different too, and it is just a touch longer.  I am noting only apparent similarity here, nothing more.  I suppose another way to look at the housing is to say it resembles the new SLC-HD with a front hinge.  This apparently is a very well made binocular, but it does not have quite the “finishing school” finesse to the feel of some alphas.  But this will be largely a matter of personal preference.  Suffice it to say it looks and feels like a $1,200 binocular should.

 

The accessories are pretty typical Vortex.  There is a rather more substantial molded black nylon carrying case, standard Vortex neck strap, cleaning cloth, and carry strap for the case.

 

The focus is counterclockwise to infinity.  There is 1.5 total turns of the focus wheel.  The close focus distance is 7 feet.  One half (or 0 .75 turns) of the wheel goes from the close focus to 20 feet.  The second 0.75 turns goes from there to infinity. There is no focus past infinity.  The wheel movement is smooth and relatively easy and mine has no backlash.  The diopter adjustment is on the center focus knob, for the right eye, and works by pulling the knob back to adjust, forward to lock.  The focus wheel does not seem to get knocked out of focus and the diopter has not needed attention since I initially set the focus up.

 

With the eyecup fully extended there is 17.75 mm distance to the ocular lens.  Fully collapsed, the lens is 2.00 mm below the edge of the eye cup.  The eye cups have four click stop detents.  The detents seem perfectly able to stay where they are put too.

 

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/18/2011 at 23:55
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Nice review! Thanks for taking the time, and putting in the effort.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 08:03
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Thanks for sharing Klamath and good on Vortex for providing another great product.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 08:19
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Thanks for the review Klamath.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 09:10
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Very nice, and thanks for your hard work.  Were you able to do the comparison with the alphas side by side or are you going from memory?  (just curious).  I am one of those skeptics Klamath mentions, but I want to clarify.  I'm not the least bit surprised that Vortex can create such high class glass.  My skepticism comes into play at that price point of $1200 since it does bring mint/demo alphas into play. You know how people are, there are preconceived biases when considering brands whether they're right or wrong.  There are other issues nowadays too IMO.  Lots of us who have personally seen the newer class of $500 "near alpha" competitors and  know how good they are.  Some here have seen more of them than I have, but I've seen enough of them to know that another question comes into play at that $1200 price point. "If I can pay $500 for glass that's 95% of the alphas, why should I spend another $700 for a 2-3% increase in performance ?"  Thanks again Steve, much appreciated and great work. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 09:58
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Nice review, Steve!  We appreciate your efforts!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 10:05
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 Thanks Steve for the reveiw!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 10:06
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So how to you think it compares to the Meopta's?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 12:15
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Originally posted by supertool73 supertool73 wrote:

So how to you think it compares to the Meopta's?
Dangerous ground here, as this has to go from memory Big Smile.  I would place the RazorHD  maybe a tick above the Meopta.  Keep in mind my sharp scalpel comment.  The biggest difference is probably going to be ergonomics.  I rteally think that when we reach what we see in the $500 or less category, such as the ZEN ED, Theron, and Kruger Caldera that the sweet spot for quality vs cost has been hit.  Glass like the Meopta, original Razor, Leupold GR, and maybe a couple of others are good enough differences may not be there for most users to detect in practical usage, although alpha advocates will never let that opinion pass.  SO if you have and like the Meopta, t here is probably no reason for a Razor HD (if that ever stopped anybody from buying anything I guess).
 
JGR
 
Alpha comparisons came from several sources.  Most time was from binoculars I borrowed from people I know.  Some time was from dealers, hence the miles I put in looking.  Nothing was from a quick look.  I had eyes on everything for several days, EXCEPT the new Swarovski's, that was dealer time outside the store, and some recall from memory and notes from the Winter Wings Festival, where I first saw the new Swarovski's.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 13:51
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Thanks again Steve.  I hope Vortex sells a boat load of those Razor HD's.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 13:58
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Great job Steve.  I am going to have to absorb this one for a while. 

So, there is enough pincushion to alleviate rolling ball on the Razor HD?

I have also had some time with the SLC HD  (only at the store, unfortunately) next to my SLC NEU.  Did you see some CA towards and at the edge in the SLC HD?

Your thoughts on resolution at this level of binoculars is spot on with my observations.  It seems impossible to discern resolution abilities between these models with the naked eye.

Thanks for the great read.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 14:52
Klamath View Drop Down
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

Great job Steve.  I am going to have to absorb this one for a while. 

So, there is enough pincushion to alleviate rolling ball on the Razor HD?

I have also had some time with the SLC HD  (only at the store, unfortunately) next to my SLC NEU.  Did you see some CA towards and at the edge in the SLC HD?

Your thoughts on resolution at this level of binoculars is spot on with my observations.  It seems impossible to discern resolution abilities between these models with the naked eye.

Thanks for the great read.
Rolling ball is not a problem (with the for me anyway qualifier).  I can't find any CA anywhere with either the SLC-HD or the Razor HD.  However, I'm not particularly sensitive to seeing it either.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 22:06
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I noticed a small amount of CA in the outer 30% or so of the FOV on the SLC HDs (10X42) I looked at, but I was looking hard.  Still, I was expecting a bit more, after seeing the top-notch CA control in the Swarovisions.  Keep in mind, I am unfortunately quite sensitive to CA.

I will say that the SLC HDs showed me little optical improvement over the SLC NEU, which was kind of disappointing.  I looked at them side by side for about 15 minutes in failing light, and did not notice a difference in apparent brightness.  This was surprising, because brightness seems to be a big talking point with the SLC HD.  The SLC HD sure felt good in the hand, though!  Perhaps I would notice more differences with a long field test.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/19/2011 at 23:00
Klamath View Drop Down
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

I will say that the SLC HDs showed me little optical improvement over the SLC NEU, which was kind of disappointing.  I looked at them side by side for about 15 minutes in failing light, and did not notice a difference in apparent brightness.  This was surprising, because brightness seems to be a big talking point with the SLC HD.  The SLC HD sure felt good in the hand, though!  Perhaps I would notice more differences with a long field test.
At some juncture, which we may have reached, a point will come where we are talking in terms of "how many angels can dance on a pinhead?" in terms of A-B differences in optical discussions.  I think you are right, improvements are often pretty subtle, and may be either insignificant or not noticiable in typical, routine use.
 
I happen to think, especially if you know what you are looking for (or looking at for that matter) a lot can be noticed without exhaustive testing.  Especially with good quality stuff.
 
This sort of gets to the point of why I got a Razor.  I'd just about decided to get an SLC-HD.  Fact is the differences are so small the $800 difference is just not needed.  The RazorHD will do whatever I need from it.
 
Don't be dissapointed either.  Just think you can save the extra money from not needing to buy an SLC-HD on something like a new scopeSmile.


Edited by Klamath - April/19/2011 at 23:12
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/20/2011 at 14:09
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I was just at a local family owned sporting goods store I frequent.  They are a Vortex dealer and they have a Razor HD and their price will be $979.  While I think it is worth it at $1,179 less than $1k should be good news.  How prevalent this will be among dealers I have no idea, but he was happy enough with what he will make..
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/20/2011 at 15:39
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It sounds like I should check out the Razor HDs.

Nice review!

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/20/2011 at 17:35
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I have had the Razor 8x42 for a few weeks and think they are a great bino.  I do not have the expertise you guys do to get to technical into a review or lots of different bino to compare to.  I compared them to my Geovids and liked think the Razor HD's where a much more neutral color, where brighter, and sharper.  Thats about as technical as I can give you.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2011 at 12:48
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Well, I have had these for a while now, and events lead me to the need for posting an update I think.  I still think these are good binoculars, but I now think, especially after seeing the ZEN ED 3, and that these carry much a higher price tag, that the Razor has reached the end of the line with me.  I have showed both the Razor and the ED 3 to several people, and, sort of to my surprise I must admit, nobody thought the Razor was better.  I think it is, but only by the most narrow of margins.  Since the Razor costs $1,179 and the ED 3 will run $450, or the Vortex Talon HD for the same money, the Razor HD really has no use for me anymore.  I have even come to prefer the Kruger Caldera to the Razor.  So I sold mine and have used it to finance a new Zen Prime HD.
I have had some focus/diopter quality issues as well, so that argument is null and void for me.
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2011 at 15:58
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Very interesting. I'm anxious to check a pair of these out. I wasn't overly impressed by the original Razors. I'm definitely interested in comparing them with the Meostar HDs when they come out. Thanks for the update.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2011 at 09:06
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Appreciate the review.  It was good reading right up until your last post.   I guess the short update was more important than the whole review.  Is the Zen prime the same as the Zen HD 3 ?  I couldn't find the Zen prime at SWFA.
 
I have recently been flooded with astronomy questions from my 16 year old son since he's took a class in school.   Unfortunately I have no equipment for even leisure viewing of the night sky.  We grab my 8 X 30 Swaro's but they're just not made for that kind of thing.   I'm hoping to kill two birds with one stone and get something reasonable for stationary field viewing and the skies.  Something in the 10-15 X 50-60 range.  So reviews of the newer ( Less Expensive ) models is going to be a pleasure to read.   Although if anyone knows of a reasonably priced model for the night skies that can double duty and give resonable terrestrial views I would enjoy researching your choice. 
 
Thanks again for the review.
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Thanks for the update, Steve.
 
It sounds like you reached reasonable conclusions, as well.
 
I will update my earlier comments in this thread as well.  I have found some more time with three other sets of SLC HDs, and have yet to notice CA anywhere in the field of view.  I believe the SLC HD that I was seeing CA in was a fluke, at this point.
 
The Swaro SLC HD has the most pleasing overall image of any binocular I have used.  Still, they ofter little optical improvement over the Chinese ED bins you reference.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2011 at 10:48
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

Thanks for the update, Steve.
 
The Swaro SLC HD has the most pleasing overall image of any binocular I have used.  Still, they ofter little optical improvement over the Chinese ED bins you reference.
 
If I ever I feel the need to part with cash in the neighborhood of $2k, then I too think the Swaro SLC-HD is the best glass out there.  I include the Swarovision EL as well.  I am not referencing my objection to the SV rolling ball effect either, I just like the side by side, non panning image of the SLC-HD better.  That might change with more use, but with the rolling ball. there is no way I'll part with SV cash.
 
I might have kept the Razor HD if the Zen Prime HD was not just over the horizion.  This is the first time in my life I've ever pre ordered sometninmg I've never seen before.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2011 at 10:49
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

Thanks for the update, Steve.
 
The Swaro SLC HD has the most pleasing overall image of any binocular I have used.  Still, they ofter little optical improvement over the Chinese ED bins you reference.
 
If I ever I feel the need to part with cash in the neighborhood of $2k, then I too think the Swaro SLC-HD is the best glass out there.  I include the Swarovision EL as well.  I am not referencing my objection to the SV rolling ball effect either, I just like the side by side, non panning image of the SLC-HD better.  That might change with more use, but with the rolling ball. there is no way I'll part with SV cash.
 
I might have kept the Razor HD if the Zen Prime HD was not just over the horizon.  This is the first time in my life I've ever pre ordered something I've never seen before.
Whoops, I did an edit and hit quoteShocked

Edited by Klamath - October/09/2011 at 10:50
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2011 at 17:03
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With the field flattener that the prime HD is supposedly going to have, would this likely cause for the rolling ball effect?

I know my Vipers have a field flatterer due to the limited distortion, and there is a bit of a rolling ball effect. I don't mind it too much as I can tell it is simply due to the flat field (not to mention I think I am slowly adjusting), and pincushion distortion probably annoys me more as you can see it even when not panning.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2011 at 19:55
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I agree with you guys comments on the SLC HD.  I have a pair of 10x ( I didn't pay anywhere near retail) and I agree they are the finest binocular I've ever looked through, bar none.  That being said, they are nowhere near $1000+ better than the Zen or Leupold GR HD.  I'm betting this Zen Prime HD will knock our socks off.  I also love the solid hinge idea.
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