The Battle For the Best
For those of us who are muley crazy, there seems to be a never-ending desire to gain an edge over the mythical giants we chase. Our standards are high, and we seek the best. It seems to be a constant search for the lightest, clearest, and most durable. This quest has led to a healthy debate about a couple of the best binoculars on the market. The question is… Is the brightness and clarity of the Swarovski EL 12x50’s enough to compensate for the extra magnification of the Swarovski SLC 15x56?
To make a fair comparison we need to understand the differences between the EL’s and SLC’s. The EL’s are furnished with Swarovski’s highest quality glass. It is Swarovski’s fluoride-containing glass. The EL’s are coated with four coatings. The first coating is Swarobright, which is a Dielectric Prism Coating designed to enhance color presentation. Then there is a layer of Swarotop, which is an anti-reflection coating that significantly enhances light transmission.
After this Swarodur, which is another antireflection coating, is added to enhance clarity. Then they are topped off with Swaroclean, a coating intended to reduce the amount of moisture and oil that sticks to the lenses. All of the coatings listed above are certainly noticeable when looking through a pair of EL’s, but what truly makes them superior to other binos is the additional Swarovision field-flattening lens. This lens supplies unprecedented edge-to-edge clarity, providing a large field of view. While some have argued the clarity in the peripheral creates a rolling ball effect while panning, it is hard to argue that the EL’s are the top of the food chain when it comes to ultra clear, and ultra bright glass.
The SLC’s are considered Swarovski’s “down line”, although they are a far cry from lesser glass. Also set up with fluoride-containing HD glass, SLC’s are a great optic. The difference between them and the EL’s is in the coating process. SLC’s are only coated with Swaroclean.
The SLC’s do offer 1% more light transmission than the EL’s at 92%. Which honestly doesn’t make a lot of difference overall, but it does keep them in the same ballpark. The ergonomics of the SLC’s are hard to beat, they are designed to reduce fatigue that can set in over long hours of glassing. They are also conveniently tapped and threaded for a tripod adapter, which, of course, is mandatory for anybody who is serious about long-range glassing.
Just to add my two-cents worth to the mix; I spent some time looking through both pairs of binoculars. I’ll admit that I may have been a little bias, since I got a pair of new SLC 15’s this year and have absolutely loved using them from day one. To start, more than anything else, the price point swayed my decision to go with a pair of 15’s since they are $500 cheaper than the EL’s. Since I also run a pair of range finding 10x42’s I thought 15’s for glassing would be a logical fit in my Swarovski line up.
To test clarity and brightness, I arranged the 12’s and 15’s on tripods next to each other at first light, mid-day, and dusk. As expected, the EL’s outperformed the SLC’s in low light, although not by as much as I anticipated. The SLC’s hold their own in low light, but I definitely could see a few minutes longer with the EL’s. We all know that those precious few minutes could be the difference between seeing a dirty giant or seeing empty shadows, so that did leave a lasting impression on me.
Ergonomically I prefer the SLC, since the texture and finish fit nice in my hand. The EL’s are nice, they come with a bridging design, so you can wrap your hand all the way around the lenses, but overall the design of the SLC’s is just a little more appealing to me personally.
The real test for me and most hunters is performance at distance. This brings us back around to the million-dollar question; Does the added clarity atone for the lack of magnification? To compare, I started by setting them both up on tripods and glassing cliffs a mile away, looking back and forth between each of them trying to decipher noticeable differences. It goes without saying, I could obviously tell the 15’s were more magnified, but oddly enough, I really didn’t feel like I was missing anything with the 12’s. Side by side both binoculars were very comparable! I then moved out to a few miles away, the added magnification was more defined at this distance, but remarkably, the 12’s held their own. After looking in this capacity (at nothing in particular) I decided with the rut in full swing, the ultimate test to see which binoculars are better for glassing muleys would be in the field glassing actual big bucks!
I took off to a couple of my favorite glassing points and got set up. As I watched thick-necked bucks lip curling and chasing does. I found myself consistently wanting to look through the 15’s. I felt like the added magnification gave me the ability to see more definition at distance, meaning I could count points, and see cheaters better.
Although I felt the 15’s were a little more suited for my liking, I was pleasantly surprised by how well rounded the 12’s are. Because I also use a spotting scope the 10’s and the 15’s are a perfect fit for me. I did realize during my field-testing, if I was looking to find a perfect binocular that could replace both my 10’s and 15’s the 12’s would be as close as you could come. Plus, if you are trying to down size to a pair of binoculars you can wear on your chest, as well as strap to a tripod for good glassing the 12’s are perfect.
After taking the time to seriously compare both binoculars, I’m not sure there really is a debate so much as there is just personal preference. Both sets of binoculars are incredible in their own respect, but also very different. I now view them as different tools on a tool belt. The 15’s fit nicely into the niche of long-range clear glass, that offer more magnification, but are noticeably heavier than the 10x42’s. While they are less magnified and lighter than a spotting scope, they do offer a larger field of view. The Swarovski EL 12x50’s on the other hand, are as close as you can come to an all-around binocular. They are light enough to carry around your neck, while they are also magnified and optically sound enough to glass at some distance. Ultimately when you start talking about glass this high-end, it mostly boils down to personal preference, and what fits in your collection the best. Rest assured, either set of these binoculars will be sure to help you gain a slight edge over the monsters you’re looking for.