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SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure 12×42 Binocular Review

SWAROVSKI OPTIK is renowned in the outdoor sports industry for manufacturing first-class observation optics, notably their binocular and spotting scopes. Bird watchers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts know that Swarovski optics perform at a high-level with few direct competitors (e.g., Leica and Zeiss).

In the middle of 2020, SWAROVSKI OPTIK announced the NL Pure 42 line of binoculars (and the NL Pure 32 in 2021). The NL Pure line is the next step forward after their highly regarded EL family of binoculars and the NL Pure binoculars have become coveted by anyone that uses binoculars.

A friend of mine acquired the SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure 12×42 binocular and after I looked through them, I immediately understood why there is so much buzz about the NL Pure. The clarity, resolution, and field of view were quickly apparent, and the form factor also is phenomenal. I instantly knew I had to get an NL Pure for myself.

After some time researching and debating over which magnification to acquire, I settled on the NL Pure 12×42.

SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure 12×42 by way of EuroOptic

I will address my choice in magnification up front since many are likely questioning this decision as opposed to an 8x or 10x binocular.

It is widely accepted that an 8x or 10x binocular will be idea for general observation, particularly when handheld and not on a support device like a tripod. However, the NL Pure changes the game on how people approach binocular selection due to the field of view.

The NL Pure 8×42, 10×42, and 12×42 have field of view (FOV) specifications of 477 feet at 1000 yards (9.1 degrees), 399 feet at 1000 yards (7.6 degrees), and 339 feet at 1000 yards (6.5 degrees), respectively. This is industry changing field of view capabilities. To better put this into perspective, the Vortex Optics Razor UHD 8×42, 10×42, 12×50 have a field of view of 420 feet at 1000 yards, 346 feet at 1000 yards, 288 feet at 1000 yards, respectively.

The NL Pure 12×42 FOV of 339 feet crushes the Vortex Optics Razor UHD 12×50 FOV of 288 feet and is right on par with the Vortex Optics Razor UHD 10×42 FOV of 346 feet.

I am not a hunter and my primary use for binoculars is target spotting at the range (e.g., shots on steel) with secondary use of general purpose observation (e.g., birds, wildlife, aircraft). More magnification is better for me so I elected to go with the 12×42 with the full knowledge that I would still have a field of view on par with a traditional 10x binocular and still be able to handhold to some degree.

Other relevant specifications for the NL Pure 12×42 are:

  • 3.5 mm Exit pupil diameter
  • 18 mm Exit pupil eye relief
  • 339 ft @ 1000 yds Field of View
  • 6.5 degrees FOV (71 degrees effective)
  • 8.5 ft minimum focusing distance
  • ± 4 Diopter adjustment
  • 91% Light transmission
  • 6.2 inch length
  • 5.1 inch width
  • 2.8 inch height
  • 29.5 ounces

As you may have picked up from the earlier photo, I acquired the SWAROVSKI OPTIC NL Pure 12×42 from EuroOptic.

Incidentally, EuroOptic does sell on Amazon and ships directly from EuroOptic and not by way of Amazon distribution. This avoids any chance of fakes or counterfeits. If you happen to have Amazon gift cards, this could be a good way to get quality optics from EuroOptic. If you are not familiar with EuroOptic, they are a reputable and authorized dealer of sporting optics and is a solid place to acquire top tier glass, as well as budget-minded optics.

Opening the box reveals an encased binocular with additional accessories.

SWAROVSKI OPTIK includes a neck strap, strap for the included bag, soap and brush for cleaning, strap adapters to use with the proprietary attachment system on the binocular body, and a microfiber cloth.

Opening the Swarovski Functional Sidebag (FSB) uncovers the NL Pure 12×42 binocular.

Note that even though the FSB is a well-constructed padded case, I will not be using it as it is worn more like a shoulder bag. It might be a nice way to carry the binocular in another larger bag, but I elected to find another bag to use with the NL Pure 12×42 (more later).

Inspecting the NL Pure 12×42 binocular, one immediately senses the quality of construction and the well-thought ergonomic design.

The diopter adjustment is located at the top of the bridge behind the focus knob with a stealthy, yet easy to use lever.

The diopter scale is located at the bottom of the bridge with clear markings.

Diopter scale markings and the “Made In Austria” indicator.

After I unboxed the binocular, I immediately installed a separately sold accessory: The SWAROVSKI OPTIK FRP Forehead Rest NL Pure.

The forehead rest is nearly a requirement for anyone wanting to use their NL Pure handheld as it provides another point of contact for stability. As the name implies, it provides a contact point to place the binocular against the forehead. If you hold the binocular with both hands and with the FRP equipped binocular resting against the forehead, you have three points of contact (eye cups and eyes and forehead) plus both hands for maximum stability.

Furthermore, people who are one-hand fielding the binocular (due to holding a bow or rifle in the other hand) will still be able to use the NL Pure handheld as the forehead rest provides that extra point of contact making one-hand use feasible.

The FRP Forehead Rest is very easy to install. Simply remove two screws protecting the sockets for the adapter and insert the FRP until it clicks into place. This also means the FRP can be removed without tools if for some reason they need to be uninstalled.

The first thing anyone is going to notice on the NL Pure when they pick one up to try out is the ergonomics because they will immediately sense how well the NL Pure fits in the hands. The NL Pure barrels have a taper near the middle which is made possible by the redesign of the prism system coming from the EL family.

Although very slight, this taper makes for a more natural feeling in the hands as opposed to a straight-line barrel dimension. Frankly, I do not think the ergonomics of the NL Pure can be oversold. It simply is going to be one of the most comfortable binoculars you will ever handle.

I am not an optics expert so I am not authoritative when it comes to comparing the NL Pure to the other options out there. However, when I say the NL Pure 12×42 is near the top of all binoculars that I have ever looked through with regards to clarity and resolution, I am not exaggerating.

Comparatively, my Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 binocular, which is very usable as a short and medium range spotting optic, does not hold a candle to the NL Pure.

The Viper HD 10×42 is certainly usable and it looks relatively clear and I can even read mirage with it effectively But once you look through the NL Pure the Viper HD 10×42 immediately appears like the budget binocular it is. The Viper HD 10×42 edge-to-edge clarity lags behind with edge fringing and vignetting.

Edge-to-edge image clarity in the NL Pure 12×42 appears to be near-perfect with no apparent fall off or vignetting.

The NL Pure 12×42 has superb depth of field, as in you can easily distinguish the focused object from the foreground and background, and still have some leeway on the focus distance and still see the object clearly. The focus knob moves very smoothly and makes focusing effortless even when handheld.

The separation of the focused object(s) from the background (and foreground) objects results in clear and crisp image. The NL Pure (as well as the EL family) of binoculars supposedly have a “field flattener” technology which is intended to remove image curvature. Some argue this makes the image less three-dimensional, but I feel like this is not accurate and that I do have excellent depth perception with the NL Pure.

As far as I can tell, the colors are true within the image. There’s no enhancement in saturation or dulling of colors and it all appears to be very neutral with no tint or casting.

The remarkable image quality through the NL Pure 12×42 is what makes up for what is going to be a small exit pupil diameter of 3.5 mm. Exit pupil diameter directly impacts low(er) light performance on any optic as it affects the ability of light to illuminate the image.

To better understand exit pupil diameter, the human eye pupil has a diameter of 2-3 mm in bright (sunny) condition, and around 7mm in low-light conditions.

So if you are in low-light conditions where your pupil is opened to 7mm, any binocular with an exit pupil diameter less than that will appear dimmer. Of course, the smaller the exit pupil diameter, the dimmer / darker the image will appear to be.

While the NL Pure 12×42 has an exit pupil of 3.5 mm, the low-light performance is not as degraded as you would expect it to be because the image quality and image clarity of the NL Pure optical system ‘boosts’ the ability to make out the image. At dusk, the fall off of the image brightness is within the NL Pure 12×42 does not severely degrade the ability to make out objects and continue scanning an area.

Handholding the NL Pure 12×42 with the FRP forehead rest is definitely very doable. If the FRP makes the NL Pure 12×42 comfortable to use handheld, I can only imagine how stable the NL Pure 8×42 and 10×42 are with the forehead rest.

As far as price, the SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure 12×42 binocular retails for $3199 USD and the corresponding FRP Forehead Rest NL Pure accessory retails for $139 USD. The NL Pure 8×42 and 10×42 retail for $2999 and $3099 USD, respectively. There is also the NL Pure 32 line which is the 32 mm objective binocular and include 8×32 and 10×32 models that retail for $2549 and $2599, respectively.

Many will see the $3000+ price tag and experience sticker shock especially when the previous SWAROVSKI OPTIK EL line were priced in the mid and upper $2000 range, and options from Leica, Zeiss, and other binocular manufacturers are well under $3000.

However, all of the improvements that set the NL Pure apart from the EL family and other competitors binoculars are why the NL Pure command this higher price point and by and large is viewed as being justified according to the authoritative opinions within the optics community.

$3000+ may be hard to stomach for many. However, I have always recognized the importance of top tier optics and have reverence for high quality even with high price points, whether it be in cameras for photography (and video), rifle scopes, red dot sights, or spotting scopes and binoculars.

Are the SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure binoculars right for you?

If you make frequent use of a binocular, then I feel the NL Pure will be a solid buy for you. You will be getting tons of optical performance in an ergonomic and relatively small package that will last a lifetime. There is the axiom that “great glass lasts a lifetime” and it is an ideology to keep in mind whenever buying any optical system.

If you are an infrequent user of a binocular and only have the occasional use case, then I would definitely recommend getting something more budget friendly.

If the NL Pure line is simply out of your price range, thankfully there are a plethora of binocular options out there where you can find something that can work well enough for your use case(s).

If you decide you are willing to shell out for the SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure, you will still need to decide on what magnification to get.

I was thinking for a good amount of time on whether to get the NL Pure 10×42 instead, but after reading other people’s experience and opinions, the NL Pure 10×42 feels more like the oddball of the three in the NL Pure 42 line. The 12×42 provides more magnification with excellent image clarity and the depth of field of a traditional 10x binocular. The 10×42 gives even more field of view which will appeal to hunters, but at the same time, if you want maximum field of view, I feel like the NL Pure 8×42 with the massive 477 foot FOV at 1000 yards is the way to go. You lose magnification compared to the 10x or 12x, but the image clarity of the NL Pure should make up for that loss of magnification when needed more detail.

I think the 12×42 is the best choice for me and so far I am not regretting it. The NL Pure 12×42 appears to fit the bill for spotting shots on steel, being able to scan an area, and general landscape and wildlife observation.

To close out this article with my perspective on the SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure 12×42, I do want to mention the method of transport I selected for it: the No-Mag Enclosed Binocular Pack by Marsupial Gear. You may recall earlier that the SWAROVSKI OPTIK NL Pure 12×42 comes with FSB Functional Sidebag. While a well-constructed and padded bag, it is not an expedient pack.

The Marsupial Gear No-Mag Enclosed Binocular Pack is a padded pouch-style case that is designed to be used with a harness to be worn on the chest. This type of chest pack is quite common for hunting applications as the binocular is the primary observation optic for a hunter and keeping it on the chest is the most field expedient location.

While the binocular can be worn over the head and neck using a neck strap, this would mean the binocular is exposed to the elements and potentially rain, snow, and dust, and also subject to impacts and abrasion if the user were to get into a shooting or observation position on the ground, rocks, or other terrain. Thus, an enclosed chest pack is ideal.

I selected the Marsupial Gear product because it appeared to be a solid design with regards to how it fully encloses the optic including the sides and it has a non-magnetic flap using bungee or shock cord.

Based on the specifications listed on the Marsupial Gear website, I selected the Medium size pack and it does hold the NL Pure 12×42 with the FRP forehead rest. However, it does have some stretch to the flap as the FRP makes the NL Pure 12×42 taller than the binocular bridge and protrudes upwards.

It will close and sometimes the side flaps may allow for a slight opening on the sides if the flap is not pulled back firmly enough. Marsupial Gear might wish to revise the Enclosed Binocular Pack to add more material to the side of the flap to account for this type of fit.

NL Pure 12×42 inside Marsupial Gear pouch. Note slight opening.

Note that the bungee cord enclosure is a variation of the Marsupial Gear binocular pack as it is normally a magnet enclosure. I avoid magnets because I wear mechanical watches often and magnetic fields will disrupt timepiece movements requiring some amount of service.

It does come with the harness so the pack can be worn on the chest, and I also acquired the backpack adapter straps so I can direct attach it to a backpack. However, for range use I’ll simply be using the pack as a carry pouch and will only don the harness if the situation dictates (e.g., hiking).

If you are interested in a well-made pack made in the United States (Arizona), check out Marsupial Gear.

2 Responses

  1. Michael Deegan

    Not once did I see a price did I miss something

  2. Jonathan Ocab

    Quick tip: Ctrl+F or Command+F and search for $. However, this was written over a year ago, so you should go off current prices, which is now $3429 USD at authorized dealers (price increased a little over $200 since when I bought mine).

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