New Vortex Razor HD 50mm Review
Best Small Spotting Scope
Although it's slightely heavier than the Nikon, by 5.5 oz., and an inch longer, the Vortex has a greater zoom range of 11-33x, compared to the Nikon’s 13-30x.
We did resolution testing on both scopes at 30 power. They got the same scores when judged by a person with 20/20 vision. Then we tested both scopes at their maximum magnification, which was 33 power for the Vortex and 30 power for the Nikon. Again they looked about the same.
The third time, we put a 2x doubler behind the eyepieces. This time, we could see more detail with the Vortex. Both scopes have excellent optics. However, the Vortex will let you see more detail in a bird if you have better than average vision.
The Vortex can zoom down to 11 power. We found that we could hand hold the scope at this magnification. This might help you get a fast look at a bird. You could rest it on a car window, for example.
Field of view
The Vortex has a wider field of view overall. By Nikon's specifications, at the lowest power, 13x, their scope has a field of view of 157.5 feet at 1000 yards. By Vortex's specs, at the lowest power, 11x, their scope has a field of view of 191 feet at 1000 yards.
We also did our own tests, in which we compared the field of view of both scopes at the same higher magnification of 30x. The Vortex showed 95 feet, and the Nikon showed 86 feet.
We also tested at the maximum power (33x for the Vortex and 30x for the Nikon). We found the Vortex still had a 6.5% wider field of view than the Nikon, even though it was at a higher magnification.
The Vortex has a published eye relief of 20mm, great for glasses wearers. Nikon, 12.9mm, not as good.
The Vortex focuses as close as 6.6 feet, the Nikon at 9.8 feet, a significant difference.
Size and weight
Both scopes are very compact. We measured the length of each scope including their eyepieces and found the Nikon to be 9.5 inches long, compared to 10.3 inches for the Vortex.
The Nikon (at 20.1 oz.) is also somewhat lighter than the Vortex (at 25 oz.).
Considering that you need to have a tripod and head to use either scope, the differences in weight and length may not matter much in the field. We suspect that resolution and field of view will prove more important to many birders. However, if minimizing weight and size is your primary consideration, the Nikon offers an advantage here.
The Vortex body is partially armored, at points of hand contact, while the surface covering of the Nikon is hard all over.
Lens covers attach to the barrel of the Vortex by elastic rings, so they can stay attached to the scope while in use.
We also appreciate the view-through case that is included with the scope. It lets you reach all the controls while the case is on the scope.
The Vortex has the advantage of a dual focus knob. One knob is good for getting from close to far quickly. The other knob is good for making precise adjustments to the focus.
A slight flaw of both the Vortex and the Nikon is old-fashioned, roll-down rubber eyecups. And the tripod mount does not allow rotation of the scope to different angles.
If you're looking for a scope with good optical quality that you can carry with you under all circumstances, the 50mm Vortex Razor HD is the new sheriff in town. Combine it with a small carbon fiber tripod, and you'll have an outfit that will weigh under 5 pounds and will fit in any carry-on bag.
Having a scope with you can make it possible to ID a bird that's simply not reachable with binoculars.
And did we mention the prices? The Vortex costs less than the Nikon!
For current pricing and more details, see
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Copyright 2013 Michael and Diane Porter.