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Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope Review

A Vortex Razor HD spotting scope on a white background.

Pros: Bright, sharp, high-contrast image that delivers plenty of detail at lower magnifications across a wide range of conditions. Large objective lens pulls in plenty of light through twilight and beyond, focus ring integrated into scope body is quick and accurate. Reasonably compact for a full-size scope. Excellent build quality and ergonomics. Arca-Swiss compatible foot handy if you pair it with an Arca Swiss head. Best warranty on the optics market.

Cons: Image degrades somewhat at higher zoom levels… perhaps more than I’d expect from a scope at this level. While the Razor HD is undoubtedly an excellent scope, for me the image falls just short for a scope that aims to compete with the very best on the market. Included neoprene cover renders the built in sunshade unusable.

PriceRRP c. €2,199

Rating: Recommended

The Vortex Optics Razor HD 27-60×85 is the US optics company’s flagship spotting scope, and is aimed at competing with the best-of-the-best at the top of the sports optics market. It is an outstanding scope, and while it falls a fraction short of the very best scopes on the market optically, it remains more affordable than most competitors, has superb build quality and comes with a lifetime warranty that blows what’s on offer from acknowledged Alpha-brands out of the water.

View the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope on the Vortex Website.

Contact Vortex’s Irish Distributor Gowan and Bradshaw for more information, and details of where to purchase this scope in Ireland (let them know we sent you ????).

Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope Full Review

Vortex is a manufacturer that’s earned a reputation in the US for producing optics that deliver outstanding image quality, excellent build quality and superb value at any given price point. I’ve been very impressed by Vortex binoculars like the Viper HD, the Razor HD and most recently the Razor UHD in the past, but I’d never had the opportunity to try one of their scopes before.

So when the Razor HD 27-60×85 arrived at IWHQ for review, I couldn’t wait to get it out in the field and try it out.

A box with a Vortex Spotting Scope, specifically the Razor HD model, in it.

First Impressions

The Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 is a sleek, contemporary spotting scope that certainly looks the part. It’s solid and well made, with a premium finish befitting its relatively high price tag. It’s also surprisingly compact for a full-size/85mm objective spotting scope, which is always a plus for wildlife observation and birding. That said, it still weighs in at a not insignificant 1,860g.

Premium materials, a modern design aesthetic and high quality materials combine to make the Razor HD 27-60×85 feel about as premium as a spotting scope gets.

Balance and Handling

At under 40cm in length, and weighing just under 2kg, the Vortex Razor HD is small for a full-size large-objective spotting scope. That comparatively small size and manageable weight make it easy to carry and handle in the field, and also means you can use the scope on a relatively lightweight tripod and still get good, stable views. That’s great, because if you are out watching wildlife or birding in locations you have to walk out to, it’s the tripod that is generally the most unwieldy piece of kit to carry — so being able to get by with a smaller, lighter one is a real boon.

I reviewed the angled version of the 27-60×85 razor HD, but if you prefer a straight-through view that option is also available from Vortex.

Mounting

The metal mounting plate of the Razor HD Spotting Scope is designed to fit directly into an Arca Swiss style tripod head without the need for any adapters or quick release plates. That’s fantastic if you have an Arca Swiss head on your tripod, but if you don’t, there’s a standard tripod thread on the bottom of the plate that allows you to attach a quick-release plate for your tripod brand of choice.

As with most full-size scopes, the mounting plate is attached to the scope body via a locking, rotatable ring that allows you to position the angled scope to your preferred viewing position. The collar is conveniently positioned, as you’d expect, at the scopes centre of gravity, which means everything’s well balanced from the start when placed on the tripod.

A person holding a Vortex Razor HD spotting scope in front of a fireplace, providing a comprehensive review.

Focus and Zoom

Focusing on the Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scope is achieved by turning a wide collar on the main body of the scope. It turns smoothly, and allows quick and precise adjustment of the focus, and the wide, grippy ring is easy to use, even when wearing gloves, so its great when you’re out scoping in the winter.

The zoom ring, as with most scopes on the market, is built into the interchangeable 20-60x zoom eyepiece. It turns smoothly and precisely, working very much as you’d expect, moving easily enough not to knock the scope off target, but offering enough resistance to ensure the zoom setting won’t slip once set.

Eyepiece Attachment and Eye Relief

The interchangeable 27-60x Zoom eyepiece that comes with the Razor HD spotting scope attaches via a bayonet-style quick-release mechanism to the scope body, with a handy locking mechanism to hold it firmly in place. The zoom eyepiece that ships with the scope offers an eye relief of up to 16.7-17mm which should be enough for most eyeglass wearers to comfortably experience the full field of view while wearing their glasses.

As well as the 20-60x Zoom eyepiece that ships with the Razor HD, Vortex also offers a long-eye-relief (LER) fixed 22x Wide Angle eyepiece and an LER fixed 22x reticle eyepiece to fit the scope, both of which offer a much longer eye relief of 31mm (NB. I have not tested either of these eyepieces for this review).

Weatherproofing

Of course, as with any optical instrument of this calibre, the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 spotting scope is fully sealed and inert-gas purged, making the scope completely impervious to the elements, and preventing internal fogging when moving the instrument between extremes of temperature.

A pair of Vortex binoculars on a tripod with a view of the ocean.

Optical Performance

I was expecting the view through the Vortex Razor HD to be exceptional, and by and large I wasn’t disappointed. The image is bright and vibrant, showing lots of contrast and detail across the entire field of view at 27x, and holding up very well all the way up to 60x — with perhaps a little softening around the edges of subjects as you approach maximum zoom, along with the inevitable darkening of the image that happens with all zoom scopes.

The 85mm objective lens drags in plenty of light, even in challenging conditions, and the high quality glass, including APO elements, combine with the premium proprietary lens coatings to deliver most of that light to your eye. It’s only at the extremes of the zoom in difficult conditions that the Razor HD struggles ever so slightly to hold its own with other top-tier scopes, and even then, the difference is small. Overall Vortex has done an exceptional job in delivering outstanding optical performance at a price point that, while expensive, is still significantly more affordable than the market-leading Alphas.

Colours are vivid and vibrant, although I felt they tended to pop a little more than when viewing with the naked eye. That’s not necessarily bad… just a bit different.

Field of View

The 27-60x zoom eyepiece of the Vortex Razor HD offers a crisp sharp view across most of the 27-60x magnification range. It is marketed as a wide angle eyepiece, and the figures offered in the specification (38.42m/1000m or 2.2 degrees at 27x, and 22.69m/1000m or 1.3 degrees at 60x) are very good for this kind of a zoom eyepiece, although they fall short of some of the competition. In testing, while the view didn’t always feel expansive, it never felt constrained either, and I typically never struggled to get on a subject, or scan large areas effectively. Overall the comparatively wide field of view (for a zoom eyepiece) combined with excellent optical performance delivered by the premium glass, coatings and optical design, along with very good edge-to-edge-sharpness, combine to deliver a very comfortable viewing experience throughout the zoom range, with some inevitable fall off in the quality of the image as you push towards the upper reaches of the magnification range.

A pair of Vortex binoculars on a tripod next to a body of water.
The Vortex Razor HD (right) during testing on the West Cork Coast alongside my Meopta Meostar S2 HD

Accessories

In the box you’ll find the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 scope body, the 27-60x eyepiece, a decent neoprene stay-on case (which is nice to have included — with most other premium spotting scopes the stay on case is an optional accessory you have to purchase separately, although I did feel the included case didn’t quite match the premium feel of the scope), eyepiece and objective lens caps and an instruction/warranty booklet.

One thing worth noting about the case is that when in use it renders the built in sliding sun shade at the objective end of the scope practically unusable. Without the case, the sunshade slides in and out relatively freely, however, with the case attached, the neoprene impedes the sunshade to the point where deploying it in the field is practically impossible. Most of the time that isn’t a problem, and the scope performs fine without the additional shading — but it’s something to bear in mind.

Warranty

Vortex Optics offers one of the most comprehensive, lifetime, transferable, no-fault warranties on the market for all of their optical equipment. Basically, if you have a problem with your Vortex gear, ever, regardless of the cause — as long as you can return the unit (or the remains of it), they will repair or replace it free of charge, for the life of the product — no proof of purchase, registration or anything else required.

You simply can’t get better than that — and it’s one of the most appealing aspects of buying Vortex gear.

Irish distributor, Gowan & Bradshaw has assured me that they fully support the Vortex VIP Warranty for Irish Vortex customers — so if you have a problem with your Vortex product in Ireland… you’re covered.

Conclusion

Vortex Optics has delivered a very compelling package with the Razor HD 27-60×85 HD spotting scope. It’s a compact, premium-grade scope that offers performance rivalling some of the best scopes out there, at a price that includes a high-quality wide-angle zoom eyepiece and a stay on case for substantially less than you’d have to pay for a similar package from the acknowledged market leaders.

However, while the Razor HD comes really close to matching the best scopes out there, ultimately falls just short.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but the Razor HD doesn’t give me that feeling you get when you look through the best scopes: that feeling that leaves you frantically looking for any excuse to get out there and look through it again.

While it may fall a fraction short of the best — particularly when you push it at higher zoom levels in marginal conditions — there really isn’t too much in it (to the point where much of the difference could come down to subjective personal preferences). The combination of superb performance, lower price point and a warranty that frankly blows its rivals out of the water, may well be enough to sway you towards the Razor HD. If you’re in the market for a top-tier scope, but find the pricing of the top brands a little much, or prefer the comfort level of a comprehensive warranty to fall back on, the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 is a solid option.

View the Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Spotting Scope on the Vortex Website.

Contact Vortex’s Irish Distributor Gowan and Bradshaw for more information, and details of where to purchase this scope in Ireland (let them know we sent you ????).

Vortex Optics Razor HD 27-60×85 Specifications

Taken from the Vortex Optics website

Magnification 27-60 x
Objective Lens Diameter 85 mm
Linear Field of View 117-68 feet/1000 yards
Angular Field Of View 2.2-1.3 degrees
Close Focus 4.9m / 16.4 feet
Eye Relief 17mm – 16.7mm
Exit Pupil 3.15mm – 1.42mm
Length 393mm / 15.5 inches
Weight 1840g / 64.8 ounces

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank Vortex Optics/Gowan & Bradshaw for providing a sample of the Razor HD 27-60×85 for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.

NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer, and all reviews on the site are completely independent and objective. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site, please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.

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