Re: Swift binoculars

Subject: Re: Swift binoculars
From: Stuart Mulvenna <>
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003 18:02:14 +1000 (EST)
For reviews of the new Swift Audubon binoculars, see:

There is also a review of these by a Barry Simon which
was posted on the Yahoo Group Bino-net. You will have
to join to see the messages, but it's free. Barry
compared them to a pair of 8x42 Eagle Optics Raptors
and concluded that they came out of the same factory.
Looking at the photos he posted of the 2 bins side by
side, you'd have to agree. Both are actually rebadged
Vixen Forestas, although Vixen doesn't sell the Swift
equivalent under its own name.

The text of Barry's article is as follows:


I have got to be nuts! Why do I need another pair of
binoculars? I don't, I guess it is just the collector
in me and the continued search for perfection, for I
had not found that yet (and still have not).

In a nutshell- the Swift Audubon 8.5x44 ED is a very
attractive, ruggedly built, wide-field, waterproof
porro prism binocular with center focus which performs
very well for most daytime uses and is ok but far from
perfect on the stars.

More info-about a year ago I was seriously interested
in the new Swift Audubon 8.5x44. During the summer of
2000 they were very hard to get and for a while were
unavailable as there was a problem with the eyepieces
unscrewing (messing up the waterproofing). They went
thru a minor redesign/fix. By the time they were
available again I had already purchased an equivalent
pair in the Eagle Optics Raptor.

The Raptor is sold exclusively by Eagle Optics. It is
available as an 8x42 or a 10x42. It is actually a
Vixen Foresta. Comparison with the new Swift Audubon
shows amazing similarities to the point where I will
say they are made by the same company in Japan with
some minor external differences plus the obvious small
difference in objective size. The pictures that I have
just posted to the Files Section will bear this out.

When I got the Eagle Raptors in the summer of 2000
(which were not sold to me as or recommended in any
way for astronomy), I was disappointed that the images
did break down considerably near the field edge for
astronomy. Even in daytime use the edge of the field
(outer 20%) was noticeably distorted on objects such
as distant chimneys. Given that the field of these
binoculars is 8.8 degrees true (70 degrees apparent),
this really is a small price to pay for the wide view
as you essentially still get a 6.5 to 7 degree true
field with good image definition and an outer field
that will help you capture rapidly moving birds if
they are your targets. I subsequently found that the
sharpness/resolution of these binoculars was really
second to none in my collection.

Other nice features on the Eagle Raptors include the
well placed central focusing wheel (between the two
hinges), the waterproofing, and the screw up and down
eyecups with a fairly broad upper rim which I find to
be comfortable. The eye relief is listed at 17 mm and
I find the eye relief to be adequate for me. The
binoculars also focus down to 10 feet which is nice.
There is also a nice tripod socket (see the pictures
with the internal spring loaded ball bearing) which
does not require a screw in cap. These binoculars are
rugged and do not have to be coddled as some other
pair need to be. I found that they were my go to
binoculars for daytime use and I believe most of you
birders should be very happy with them at their $258

So why get a very similar pair in the Swift Audubon
8.5x44 ED? First of all I recently looked thru the new
fixed and revised Swift Audubon 8.5x44 binocular and I
have to admit that the edge of field image is
noticeably better than the Eagle Raptor. The field is
a bit smaller at 8.2 degrees, but it is better. As I
had the Raptors I resisted the Audubons for the past

Additionally I did not like Swift's coordination of
colors (function is important to me, but so is form).
I felt that the medium gray rubber body covering with
the black hinges and eyepieces was somewhat retro and
butt-ugly. Well, Swift has come up with an answer to
that in the ED version of this binocular with a solid
black body. Much nicer looking plus the trademark
Swift logo on one barrel, yellow-gold in the regular
non-ED version, and I believe blue in the Ultra-Lite,
is a very nice amber-orange in the ED. Well, all of
this information caught me in a weak moment, so they
were ordered (from Eagle Optics for $378, which is
$110 more than the non-ED version).

The salesman told me that you will notice the
difference that the ED glass gives you with better
color definition and less false color along the edges
of bright objects. So in the spirit of giving all of
you more information on if this is really so, I
further justified the order.

Well, they did arrive Thursday and they passed the
first hurdle - they were well packed and were not
damaged in any way. Assessment of the binoculars
was done at my testing stand (my second floor bedroom
window) with many nice test objects to the south
including chimneys, trees, flowers, birds (includes
Quaker parrots), letters and numerals of various sizes
on my neighbor's air conditioning condenser unit,
houses and street lights. The Eagle Raptors were used
for comparison purposes.

I found that this pair was typical of what I expected.
The field was ever so slightly less than the Eagle
Raptors, the resolution was equivalent, the field edge
was much nicer, at least on the brick work of a
chimney about 300 to 350 ft. away. Looking at the edge
of a bright, white gutter I could see that the ED
glass showed much less false violet and green when the
gutter was brought to the edge of the field. Not that
the Eagle Raptor was bad, it wasn't, it did have more
false color though, but not objectionable.

Additionally I found that the Audubons do focus a bit
closer, down to 9.5 feet! I also held both binoculars
in such a way (belly to belly) where I could look thru
a barrel of each at the same time and line up various
targets to see if I could detect the difference
between 8.5x and 8x. I could, but it was very slight.

Looking at the binoculars side by side, they are
amazingly alike. Look at the photos I have posted. The
hinge, focuser and tripod socket assembly are
identical. The eye cups on the Raptors screw up and
down which is nice. This also allows you to set them
in a "middle position". On the Audubon ED the eye
cups lift and twist. There is no middle position
available, either all the way up or all the way down.
The eye relief is listed at 17 mm and I find it
to be fine for me with the eye cups up. With the eye
cups up however the edge of the field is not sharp as
I am not seeing quite all of it. I have to retract the
eye cups to do that and then you have to "float" your
eyes in the right position, they cannot be steadied
against the cups as that position would be too close
and I know I would quickly get eyelash marks on the

One other point about the eye cups on the Swift
Audubons - they have to be fully retracted to fit the
binoculars in the case. The case itself is much like
the cases I am familiar with that come with the
Celestron Ultima binoculars - stiff but padded, with
the latch offset on the front. I liked the soft case
that came with my older Swift Audubon Kestrel 10x50
(now sold) better. The Audubons do come with a nice
wide black and yellow strap.

The Eagle Raptor comes with a green nylon zippered
hiking sack as pictured. For day hikes I believe the
Eagle Raptor case is a better one. Last night I did
have a chance to try both of these binoculars plus my
Carton Adlerblick 8x42 binoculars on the night sky.
The ED glass in the Audubons does make a difference. I
saw no false color on Sirius or Jupiter. I found
however that the large majority of stars are too faint
for false color to be a real issue at these low 8x and
8.5x powers. In respect to the edge of field
definition, I was surprised and disappointed to see
that the good edge definition that I saw with daytime
use did not carryover to nighttime. My first target
was the constellation Orion and the 3 belt stars did
distort a good bit near the field edge. The Swift
Audubon ED's were better than the Eagle Raptors but
not as good as the Carton Adlerblicks. While the
Raptors have a listed 8.8 degree field, the Audubons
an 8.2 and the Adlerblicks a 6.5, the practical
difference on the night sky was slight (using beta
Aurigae and another bright star approximately 7.8
degrees away according to the charts). The two target
stars could just be captured with the Audubons, you
could see a bit more to either side with the Raptors,
and you could just not quite get both of them
with the Adlerblicks. The Adlerblicks overall gave a
much nicer, comfortable view of the night sky in this
initial test under less than optimal conditions. It
remains my best 8x40/8x42/8.5x44 binocular for the
night sky, especially from home.

If one is looking for a fairly rugged, waterproof
binocular ideal for daytime use and fairly good for
occasional astronomy, the Swift Audubon ED is a very
nice choice. In fact right now if I could only keep
two pair of binoculars for all my varied interests,
primarily astronomy and general daytime use, my
choices would be the Fujinon FMT-SX 16x70 and these
Swift Audubon 8.5x44 ED's. I would pick the Audubons
primarily because of their positive features, the fact
that they are waterproof and their very nice optical
performance (especially in the central 80% of the
field) in spite of the fact that their edge definition
for astronomy is not as good as a few other pair
that I own.

While the Swift Audubon ED's are ok for astronomy,
they are not great and certainly would not be
recommended by me if someone was looking for one good
handheld use binocular for astronomy. With binoculars
that I am familiar with or trust highly the opinion of
others greatly, astronomy recommendations would
include the 7x50 Fujinon FMT-SX, the Carton Adlerblick
7x50, the Carton Adlerblick 8x42, and the Nikon
Superior E 10x42.

A recommendation in a 10x50 binocular becomes more
difficult, they either have a small field that many
will find unacceptable (Pentax PCF V 10x50 with a 5
degree field, plus a number of 10x50's with 5.3 degree
fields) or they have too much edge distortion. The
Minolta Activa gets a mild recommendation as a good
moderate priced 10x50 binocular with a very nice build
quality, nice features, a very nice case, very good
eye cups for astronomy and at a price under $200.00. I
like the Pentax 10x50 too as well as the Carton
Adlerblick, but I believe there should be a 10x50
binocular with a 6.5 degree field and better edge
definition than any of these can give you. I am off
the subject though, this posting is supposed to be
about the Swift Audubon 8.5x44 ED, so let me

The Swift Audubon 8.5x44 ED is a very attractive (all
black body) ruggedly built binocular (rubber over
magnesium) BaK 4, fully multi-coated porro prism
binocular that has ED glass. It is moderately priced
and performs very nicely with good edge of field
definition that birders and hikers will appreciate.
With a 5.1 mm exit pupil and moderate 17 mm eye relief
it will appeal to most binocular users. It falls a
little short for astronomy, while it does have a
nice, wide field of view, the edge definition is not
on par with the Fujinon FMT-SX series, the Nikon
Superior E, the Canon Image Stabilized, the Carton
Adlerblick or even the Pentax PCF series (20x60,
16x60, 12x50, 10x50 or 7x50). If you intend to use a
binocular primarily for astronomy, this should
not be it. Note that you will not really notice too
much of a difference going to the ED glass. You will
save over $100 with the regular Audubon and a bit more
with the Eagle Raptor. The Audubon does have a better
field edge, but the Raptor has a slightly wider field
of view and a better case for field use.

In addition the case on the Audubons does have a few
shortcomings - the fit of the binoculars and strap is
tight. The covering of the case is not sufficiently
rugged to survive many trips into tight places, thru
brush, etc., without some damage. As the primary
purpose of this binocular is birding, the case should
be redesigned with the birder in mind.

I invite any questions.

Barry Simon


Note that false colour and edge-of-field sharpness are
far more important to astronomers than birders, since
we naturally centre the bird in the field of view.

As far as value goes, these bins sell for ~$US270
(~$A400) in America, see:

for prices and another review. Even adding in GST,
$A880 is daylight robbery.

Stuart - Yahoo! Mobile
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