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Vortex Razor HD 50 Spotting Scope Review

Vortex Razor HD 50mm spotting scope

This spotting scope has now been discontinued. To read our review of its replacement please click here.

A 10 day birding trip to Oman in November 2015 gave me the opportunity and challenge to try out one of the lightweight travel scopes. Hot temperatures and carting about camera gear meant my requirements were for a lightweight and not too bulky scope, but one that was of top quality.

I considered the following: Nikon ED 50, Opticron Mighty Midget and the Vortex Razor. I plumed for the Vortex as it was the latest in compact travel scopes and I have already been extremely impressed with the Vortex Razor range of binoculars which have delivered unbelievable value for money, especially when compared with top end models from Swarovski and Zeiss.

So I left for Oman with the Vortex Razor ED 50 angled scope with 11- 33x zoom eyepiece and stay on case.

Design

Featuring a lightweight but tough rubber armoured body the Vortex Razor 50mm spotting scope is absolutely ideal for use as a travel scope in tough conditions or as a day to day scope for general wildlife watching. At just 10 inches long and 700 grams in weight it is extremely portability over extended periods is not tiresome or cumbersome. This scope fitted easily into my hand luggage being so compact and the lightweight design meant no sweating at check in over weight allowances!

The materials used to make the Vortex Razor HD 50mm spotting scope are all of the highest quality. As well as the rubber armouring the scope body has a smooth focusing action, with both fine and course focusing on one mechanism. The eyepiece zoom action is    equally pleasant to use and the whole construction feels like a quality product.

The Vortex Razor HD 50mm also features Argon gas within the scope’s body. Argon is more resistant to changes in temperature and therefore improves the waterproofing of a scope or binoculars containing nitrogen gas.

Optics

As with all Vortex products the Razor HD 50mm has outstanding optical quality, especially at the price point. Definition, contrast and sharpness across the field of view are all high and these traits are present throughout the 11-33x zoom range. Colour fringing is also superbly controlled and this makes for a very pleasant viewing experience.

Considering the scope only has a 50mm objective the image is always bright and punchy, with the slightest drop in brightness at 33x in poorer conditions. However in all but the worst conditions the image retains brightness throughout the zoom range.

These traits, combined with a 2 metre close focus, make the Vortex Razor HD 50mm scope a joy to use and a very able alternative to a larger spotting scope, especially when the weight and portability are also considered.

I was initially a little concerned that the maximum magnification of 33x would not be sufficient, however this was soon dispelled when actually using it in the field. With the temperatures in Oman around 33 degrees daily the intense heat haze knocked out any magnifications above 30x. Using my friend’s scope at 40x and even trying it at 60x and the image was almost indiscernible due to the distortion of the heat haze. In fact for the majority of the time 20x magnification gave the best results to enable identification.

Criticism

A short section here due to all the above positives, but I didn’t really get on very well with the stay on case. I found it a bit cumbersome and awkward to fold back for use.

Admittedly I didn’t spend much time trying as the case came off almost on arrival and was only again used when packing away into the hand luggage. Vortex products are warranty protected for waterproofing and I haven’t yet heard of any letting in water.

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