The old adage of “buy the very best optics and you only cry once” was preached to me by my grandfather and great-uncle when I was starting my hunting career. It still holds true today. However, as a young man on a lance corporal’s salary in the Marine Corps, that meant nearly 4 months of wages. So, I purchased the best that I could afford at the time and after 20 years, I had amassed a pretty solid collection of optics. Each purchase was a little better and a little, or in some cases, a lot more money.
When Vortex Optics hit the market in the mid 2000's, they knew there were a lot of customers just like me out there. Their focus was to build the very best product they could in each price point to accommodate all levels of buyers. In addition to that, they made sure to put the best warranty ever offered on it so that once you purchased the product, you never had to worry about it again. That meant even if you made a bonehead move and ran them over, Vortex was willing to warranty your mistake, which says a lot about a company. They have built a world-renowned brand because of this.
Over years of testing and watching Vortex Optics get better and better, I would say I was very impressed with products they were putting out. When you looked at their very top-of-the-line products in the Razor line, they were really good. However, when compared head-to-head with the very best on the market there was still a little room for improvement. We weren’t truly comparing apples to apples during these tests because the Razor line was still two-thirds the price of what we were comparing them to, but it was the best they had to offer at the time.
During the 2019 hunting season, we had a set of the latest-and-greatest Vortex Razor UHD binoculars in 12x50 in our possession. These were designed and built with the best available resources to bridge that gap.
Someone on our team had them in the field nearly every day from July through December and we put them to the test in nearly every type of climate, hunting situation, and torture test that you could ever imagine. We had them side-by-side on a tripod with the biggest names in the business and did these things ever perform.
Testing a binocular in a real-world environment provides you so much more than looking at them in the store or even heading out to the parking lot during the day. Low-light visibility when animals are most active are best when being tested in that situation and when you can put them side-by-side with other high-end competitors, you can truly see how they compare. Although the Vortex Razor UHD binoculars are less expensive than their high-end competitors, I would definitely say we are comparing apples to apples this time around. Those low-light glassing sessions are when you truly see the improvements in the glass and coatings used with this new model. Long before and after legal shooting light, we were able to determine antler quality within rifle range. They put us in a position to know the animals we were after were right in front of us and to be set and ready when it was legal shooting time. Spending countless hours behind your optics is another great test as a lower quality of glass and coatings will put added fatigue to your eyes and a week in the field will start delivering headaches you wish you didn’t have.
We had the 12x50's in our possession for the entire year and had a customer with a pair of 10x42’s in camp on one hunt and they were both identical in glass quality. They also come available in an 8x42 version which is ideal for those whitetail treestand hunters and watefowlers. For those Coues Deer fanatics out there, the 18x56's on a tripod is a tremendous resource which gives you a bit more magnification than your standard 15's and the edge-to-edge clarity is absolutely amazing.
The single-hinge design provides for a very ergonomic feel and the thumb indentations on the bottom deliver a comfortable grip. The 12's were fine for holding by hand, but I do recommend utilizing a tripod whenever you are serious about glassing. All models are tripod-adaptable and an inexpensive $20 Vortex Universal Binocular Tripod Adapter will have you stable and ready at all times. The center-focus wheel is oversized and set perfectly with your standard grip to gain crisp focus even with heavy winter gloves on.
The diopter adjustment is just what you would expect with high-end optics like these and allows you a perfect adjustment for both eyes. The magnesium housing provides a durable yet lightweight chassis to build from and the spills and drops during the fall proved it as we didn’t have to make use of the warranty. Our test binoculars are just a hair over two pounds (36.1 ounces), the 8's and 10's run a few ounces less, and the 18's are a few ounces more. The Armortex lens coatings provide an extremely durable outer coating that protects from scratches from routine wear and tear. They also come with a very usable bino harness-style case. Last but not least, they are covered by that Vortex VIP lifetime warranty. As spelled out on the Vortex website, this warranty is about you and not about Vortex. It is their very important promise to repair or replace your optics regardless of what happens to it or whose fault it might be for the life of the optics. It doesn’t matter if you were the original buyer, handed down, or picked up at a yard sale. Vortex will protect your investment if anything goes wrong.