Do They Really Make a Difference?
Everybody’s done it. You get to your spot on top of the ridge, sit down, and begin your glassing. Elbows on your knees, scanning every pocket, crevice, and patch of timber you can see attempting to locate your trophy. A number of years back, I heard someone make the case for sticking your binoculars on a tripod for added stability. My first reaction was, “Eh… It won’t make that big of a difference,” but I was open to trying it.
Over the last several years, I began taking that extra minute to set up the tripod when glassing with binoculars. I found the difference absolutely worth the time it takes to get set up. Of course, not every situation may call for it. But, if you are picking apart a large area, looking for bedded animals, or simply trying to size up that buck or bull, it’s worth it. If you are an ounce counter, simply carrying a tripod adapter for your binos may save you the need to pack that spotting scope. For me, if I am chasing elk, I found myself leaving the spotter home, taking the tripod and using it with an adapter for long glassing sessions.
What are your options?
I had the opportunity to try out three different adapters over the last several years, and I hope my experiences help you decide what fits your needs the best. The non-negotiable features for me were:
- easy detach from the tripod
I wanted a tripod adapter that I could take with me into the backcountry without excessive bulk or weight, while not having a large chunk of metal attached to my binos at all times. Those requirements eliminated a majority of the options out there, so here are the adapters I field-tested.
The Vortex Uni-Dapter was the first model I ventured into the field with. I wanted to try this one due to its quick release feature as well is its low weight and minimal bulk. The post simply screws into the adapter receiver on your binoculars, and you then attach the base to the tripod plate. Setup was quick and easy. The post did stick out just a bit, which was slightly annoying, but it wasn’t bulky and I didn’t find that it got in the way. The post did tend to make it more difficult to pull the binos out of the bino harness though. If you use something like the Alaska Guide Creations, FHA or similar, the post may be a problem. To use, simply set the male end of the adapter into the tubular piece that you attached to the tripod plate, and you are set.
This adapter was fairly stable, but did have noticeable play when glassing. One feature of this adapter that has both a negative and a positive trade-off is that it does not lock into place. This allows for quicker use, and easier take down, but it does allow the binoculars to fall off the tripod as they are not attached. While this is unlikely to happen, it did make me nervous at times.
Another way to use the Vortex Uni-Dapter is to bypass the quick-release tube and attach the post directly to your tripod quick-release plate. This gives you a rock solid setup, but adds bulk as the plate is attached to the binoculars. With a retail price of just $34.00, it is a nice option with some versatility.
Field Optics Research Rapid-Release adapter
The second adapter I field-tested was Field Optics Research Rapid Release adapter. This one caught my eye due to its ability to lock into place, taking care of the concern I had with the Vortex model. I preferred the setup of this model in that the post that attaches to the binoculars does not leave a piece protruding from the binoculars. Also very lightweight, the binoculars lock into place nicely and are there until you detach them. Releasing the binos is accomplished by pushing a small metal release, which allows for the quick release. I found this to work well, but depressing the small piece of metal was a little cumbersome at first, particularly when your hands lose dexterity from cold temperatures. With a little use, the release function became second nature though.
While using this model, I did notice some play, which was a bit annoying at times. The movement was minimal, but noticeable, particularly when glassing at longer distances or in very windy conditions. The amount of play was much better than the Vortex model though.
I contacted Field Optics Research regarding the play I noticed and they stated that a second generation model of this adapter is currently in production. This 2nd Gen model has an adjustable base plate to fit additional tripod head models which will eliminate the need to purchase a second plate. Additional changes are being made in the design to reduce/eliminate the play I noticed. With both of these design changes, this should be a dynamite setup. If I can get my hands on a 2nd Gen model, I’ll update this review. Even with the play I noticed in this 1st Gen model, the locking design keeps your optics secure. That feature and being the lightest adapter of the group make it a great option. With a price tag of just $35.00, this adapter is really tough to beat.
Swarovski SLC quick release tripod adapter
The final model I took in the field was the Swarovski SLC Tripod Adapter. I hadn’t originally set out to try this one due primarily to the price point, but after trying the above two models, I had the opportunity to field-test this one. After looking over the design of the SLC adapter, it appeared to have both the rock solid stability AND quick release function I was looking for. Just a few moments into glassing with the SLC Adapter, I knew quickly that this one possessed the stability I had been looking for. Similar to the other two models, a post attached to the tripod attachment point on the binoculars. Attaching the binos to the adapter is accomplished simply by sliding the adapter over the post and flipping the lever. There was absolutely no play when glassing, and the attachment was quick and easy, even in cold temps.
As with most things, the stability and ease of use came with a trade-off….the cost and weight. The SLC Tripod adapter retails for a whopping $177, and weighs in over three times as much as the other two options. If anything, this adapter almost feels overbuilt for a binocular tripod adapter. But, you can rest assured that you will enjoy rock-solid glassing with this adapter. The price point may take this one out of consideration for many folks, but you are sure to experience zero play while glassing and, as with most Swarovski products, you get top-notch quality.
|Field Optics Research Quick Release Adapter||1.3||$35.00|
|Swarovski SLC Quick Release Tripod Adapter||4.9||$177.00|
In the end, whatever features are most important to you will determine what best fits your needs. Looking for the fastest setup and don’t need your binos to lock into place? The Vortex Uni-Dapter is a good option. If you feel better knowing your expensive optics won’t fall off the tripod(as I am), the Field Optics Research option is a better way to go. If you want your optics locked into place with a rock solid setup, well, you may have to open up the pocket book and go with the Swarovski SLC adapter.
I would not hesitate to use any of these for those more in-depth glassing sessions. Personally though, I just wasn’t comfortable with my expensive optics sitting atop a tripod adapter that didn’t lock them into place. All of them will give you an edge in spotting game…as long as you take the extra step to set up your tripod. Just give it a try. It’s so worth it. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve been missing. Don’t take my word for it though. Get out there and see for yourself.