When looking for the best hunting binoculars is it worth spending the extra money for the Swarovski SLC binoculars over the Meopta Meostar or Vortex Razor HD binos? To figure which performed the best between the Swarovski SLC vs Vortex Razor vs Meopta Meostar, I put these in a side by side field comparison. I picked up a pair of each of these in the 10×42 model and started testing. The below are my observations in my side by side comparisons of the SLCs vs. Meostars vs. Razors.
Swarovski SLC vs Vortex Razor vs Meopta Meostar: SLCs Worth The Extra Money?
There are many things to consider when making a choice on the best hunting binoculars for your needs, and I realize that each persons eyes, preferences, usage etc. will be different, but I hope this will help you make your own decision. I also realize there are many other pairs of fantastic binoculars that I wanted to included in this review but wasn’t able to. These three all have a great reputation for superior products, great optics, great customer service, and top tier optical performance. These are all fantastic pairs of binoculars with amazing glass.
This is an update to a previous article I wrote to include the Meopta Meostar B1 binoculars to this Swarovski SLC vls Vortex Razor review. I was hoping to include others like the Leica Trinovid, Leica Geovid, and the Zeiss Conquest, but didn’t get the chance to test them out. If I do, I’ll update this review.
Exterior Features: Swarovski SLC vs Vortex Razor vs Moepta Meostar
When looking for the best hunting binoculars, one of the factors you pay attention to is the exterior features. Some offer rubber armor while others offer a more metallic feel. While exterior features certainly aren’t the most important, selecting a pair of binoculars that fit you and your hunting needs well is important.
Swarovski SLC vs Vortex Razor vs Meopta Meostar Look
At first glance, I preferred the look of the Vortex Razors. To my eye, they appear more modern with two-tone armor coating and a slim design. With that being said, the Swarovski SLCs have a very distinct look, and are quickly recognized by most optic enthusiasts. The Meopta Meostars offer a bulkier look as the barrels are the thickest and shortest of the bunch. I’ll give the Vortex Razors the edge in the appearance department. Granted, that is very much a personal preference.
Swarovski SLC vs Razor vs Meostar Feel
Picking up each binocular, I noticed that the Vortex Razors felt lighter while the SLCs and Meostars felt a bit heavier and more bulky, with the Meostars definitely feeling the heaviest and most bulky of all. The Swarovski SLCs fit my hands a little better and the Meopta Meostars felt surprisingly comfortable and stable in my hands. I wear a size XL in gloves, so the bulkier aspect of SLCs and Meostars was more comfortable for me to hold. The SLCs and Meostars feature a softer rubber armor, while the Vortex Razor HDs featured a non-slip rubber armor that felt more firm to the touch.
Swarovski SLC vs Razor vs Meostar: Eye Cups
Eye cups are often times something is the first to fail on even some of the best hunting binoculars. All three of these felt solid with multiple click adjustments to handle different eye relief positions. The Swarovski SLCs and Meopta Meostars rotated with more resistance and seemed less likely to move while hiking. When I put them up to my eyes, I instantly noticed that the SLCs felt the most comfortable to me of the bunch. They feature eye cups with more rounded edges.
The Vortex Razor’s eye cups are built with a thinner edge, thus when held up to your eye sockets, the pressure was more noticeable. The Meostars also features a nice rounded edge, but the placement wasn’t quite as comfortable as the SLC. I found the Swarovski SLC binoculars just fit my face the most comfortably.
Swarovski SLC vs vortex Razor vs Meostar Diopters
The diopter on the Razors is located just below the eye cup on the right side. It is located on the focus wheel on the Swarvski SLCs (by pulling it towards you). On the Meopta Meostars, the diopter is located on the front end of the focus wheel. My first reaction to this location on Meopta Meostars was that it was going to be a problem and move unintentionally, however, this didn’t prove to be an issue at all. It takes a very intentional effort to adjust the diopter.
All of them were easy to set and worked flawlessly, but I preferred the setup on the Swarovski SLCs. I found myself making a conscious effort not to grab the diopter when pulling the Vortex Razors out of my Alaska Guide Creations bino harness. If I were using a different harness, this may not have been a concern.
I found the Meotpa Meostars the most difficult of the three to get set, but once set it didn’t move, even though it didn’t lock into place. The location of diopter adjustment on the Swarovski SLCs and Vortex Razors required a deliberate attempt to change as you first had to “unlock” them, respectively.
Swarovski SLC vs Razor vs Meostar Focus Wheels
When I reached for the focus wheel, all of them were very convenient and well positioned. As I began to adjust the image, they all had a very different feel to them. The Vortex Razors offered much more resistance and adjusted the image much more quickly. The Swarovski SLC’s wheel moved more freely but required more rotation to bring the image into focus. The Meopta Meostars were between the two. There were pros and cons to each. None of them had any noticeable play.
With the Razors, I found myself over-adjusting the focus, then coming back to focus much more than the SLCs. I also found it easier to fine focus with the Swarovski SLCs. This was most noticeable at longer distances. On the flip side, more rotation was required to initially bring the image into focus on the SLCs. While the focus wheel felt stiffer on the Vortex Razors, it turned more smoothly than the SLCs.
The Meopta Meostars offered a nice balance of speed of focus and easily came into focus. The focus wheel was silky smooth and on the firm side. The SLCs felt a little course, or grainy compared to the other two. I think this is an area the SLCs could be improved given the price point.
Vortex Razor Focus Wheel Problem
One negative I experienced with the Razors was that the rubber cover on the focus wheel came loose over the course of a season’s use. This surprised me coming from a pair of binoculars of this quality. The design flaw is that the rubber cover is glued on to start with. To me, this should be one solid piece. Not a big deal and easy to fix, but surprising for binoculars of this quality to fail in the field. Overall, I preferred the focus wheel of the SLCs and the Meoptas and can live with the grainy feel of the focus wheel on the SLCs.
It’s tough to put a pair of binoculars into the category of “best hunting binoculars” unless they feature the ability to be put on a tripod. All three were easily tripod mountable using many different styles of tripod adapters. I prefer a locking tripod adapter like the Swarvski SLC, Outdoorsman or Field Optics Research adapters (see my Tripod Adapter Review). While I know there are a number of tripod adapters out there that strap your binos onto a tripod, I’ve found that I prefer adapters that have a stud installed over those style.
Here’s a quick reference chart outlining the above comparison.
Field of View: Swarovski SLC vs Razor vs Meostar
Another feature that makes up some of the best hunting binoculars is a wide field of view. I noticed a slightly wider FOV with the Razors, giving them the edge over the Swarovski SLCs and Meopta Meostars in field of view, with a slight exception (see edge to edge clarity below)
Swarovski SLC and Meopta Meostar Stability
For whatever reason, I found it easier to hold the Swarovski SLCs and Meopta Meostars steady when not on a tripod. It just seemed like there was less image shake, due in part to the extra weight. No one likes to pack around extra weight, but in this case, it seemed to stabilize the image.
Swarovski SLC vs Razor vs Meostar Edge to Edge Clarity
Probably one of the most important features when talking about the best hunting binoculars is edge to edge clarity. Each of these offer fantastic edge to edge clarity. There were, however, a couple noticeable differences. First, the very outer edge of the image on the Vortex Razors had a gray haze that was noticeable. This only accounted for about 3-4% of the field of view, but was noticeable.
The Vortex Razors do have a slightly bigger field of view than the other two, but the gray haze actually reduced the field of view slightly to my eyes. This rendered the outside edge of the FOV on the Razors unusable. The SLCs and Meostars did not have this issue as the entire field of view was sharp and clear. All of them displayed a crystal clear image in the center, with slight loss of clarity as you approach the outer edges.
When trying to utilize the outer edges of the FOV, I found myself slightly re-positioning the Razors on my face, while that was not the case with the SLCs or Meostars. I found the SLCs and Meostars to be more forgiving to movement while retaining the entire FOV.
Best Hunting Binoculars | Overall Image Quality/Light Gathering
All three models had fantastic light gathering ability and produced an amazingly crisp, clear image. All are top notch in their price category, and the differences noted here at times were hard to distinguish, and at other times, very distinct.
Best Hunting Binoculars | Mid-Day Glassing
During the sunny midday testing, it was difficult to tell any difference between them. Without putting them on a tripod, you would be hard pressed to see a difference in the clarity. All were crisp, clear, and produced true colors. Each does have a slightly different color temperature, but this is less noticeable during midday glassing. The Vortex Razors offered an image with a color hue in the gray scale. The Swarovski SLCs offered an image more in the white scale, and the Meoptas offered an image with a slightly yellow tint. Each color hue gives you pros and cons, depending on the lighting condition.
Best Hunting Binoculars | Poor Visibility (fog/low clouds)
I could see slightly better color contrast in the SLCs on this dreary day. The dark colors were darker and light colors were lighter. With the Meoptas, the contrast was very good, but the yellow tint made it a bit tougher to distinguish color contrast. The edges of colors were a bit sharper and more defined on the SLCs, and the Meoptas also offered very crisp, clear edges.
The Vortex Razors were slightly less crisp than the other two, but still offered a very clear image. I began to notice some chromatic aberration with the Razors that the SLCs and Meoptas did not display. With an elk on the ridge, I could see that “halo” effect around the outline of the animal with the Razors. The SLCs and Meoptas didn’t have this problem.
Noticeable was the different color temperatures between the three models. The gray scale of the Vortex Razors seemed to produce a slightly duller image than the Meoptas or SLCs while the SLCs produced the most contrast and cleanest image.
Best Hunting Binoculars | Low Light (dawn/dusk)
Color contrast is definitely a factor when selecting the best hunting binoculars and the differences became much more evident in low light scenarios. This low light setting is where theSwarovski SLCs really out shined the Razors, with the Meoptas coming in at a close second behind the SLCs. Viewing images when light was fading, the image of the Razors became less defined, and increasingly lacked contrast.
The Razors quickly lost the ability to clearly focus on the detail of objects. The Meopta Meostars retained their ability to bring a nice clean image, but the yellow color temperature reduced the contrast and made it a little more difficult to see definition. In a hunting situation, this could mean the difference between spotting that leg or antler in prime hunting hours after sunset or before sunrise.
As light continued to fade, it became increasingly evident that the Swarovski SLCs were superior in low light conditions. They simply produced a more crisp, well contrasted, and detailed image. Detail began to run together with the Razors while the SLCs held on to the detailed image. The Meopta Meostars hung in with the SLCs longer, but ultimately lost contrast before the SLCs did.
Swarovski SLC vs Razor vs Meostar: Price Point
Meopta Meostar B1: $979
The Cabelas Instinct Euro HD binculars are a rebranded Meostar binocular. Same glass and coatings as the Meopta Meostars, but they offer a locking diopter. You may want to check those out as well if you have a Cabelas close by.
Vortex Razor HD: $998
Swarovski SLCs: $1,799.
Another factor in selecting the best hunting binoculars is the warranty. While certainly not the most important thing, a company that stands behind its product is a big deal. Accidents happen in the field and it’s nice to know you are backed by a good warranty when dropping a lot of money on otpcis.
The Vortex VIP Lifetime, no fault, fully transferable warranty is fast and efficient. It’s the real deal. Their customer service is top notch and they go out of their way to earn your business. Swarovski’s Lifetime Warranty is also excellent and is transferable to subsequent buyers by the seller calling to terminate their warranty registration (if purchased used). Meopta’s Lifetime Warranty is also transferable and requires that the product was purchased at a licensed retailer and registered with them.
It’s notable that the Swarovski and Meopta warranties are not “No Fault”, so if you happened to break them you could potentially be facing a repair bill (though Swarovski only charges for the cost of the part, not labor). Swarovski’s customer service is also very good, but their turnaround time for repairs tends to be longer than Vortex. I haven’t had any experience with the Meopta warranty program, so I cannot comment on their efficiency. The winner in the category is Vortex.
Summary SLC vs Razor vs Meostar
So, the question is, are the SLCs worth the extra money over the Razors or Meostars? I think so, but it’s a tough pill to swallow. That’s up to each person and their individual hunting style/needs. If you are someone who is on top of the mountain before first light glassing as it becomes legal to shoot, spend a lot of time behind your glass, and put your binoculars on a tripod picking apart a hillside looking for legs, horns, etc., I can absolutely say yes, they are worth the extra money.
If budget is a concern, the Meoptas would absolutely be my choice of the best hunting binoculars value. They offered the best overall value for the optical performance in my opinion.
All in all, they all performed amazingly well. I wouldn’t hesitate to take any of them in the field with me. In the average hunting situation, you might be hard pressed to see much of a difference between them without the use of a tripod. Notable differences were in low light performance, where the SLCs clearly out-performed the Razors and Meoptas. The real question is, between the SLCs vs. Meostars vs. Razors, is it worth it to you?
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