Pros: Superb image quality that lives up the name. Exceptionally bright, pin-sharp image across the wide field of view. Smooth, accurate focus and outstanding build quality rounds off what is a very accomplished binocular that holds its own with the best on the market.
Cons: A little on the large side for a 42mm binocular — particularly the length. Focus gearing, while smooth and accurate, is a little slow for larger changes/quick moving subjects. Occasional chromatic aberration evident in some situations, which is surprising in a binocular at this level.
Price: c.€2,070 RRP
Rating: Highly Recommended
Vortex Optics is a US optics brand that makes a wide range of optics including high quality binoculars and spotting scopes. Vortex binoculars typically offer impressive features and excellent image quality at a given price point. The Vortex Razor UHD takes the already impressive Razor HD I reviewed back in 2013 up a notch to compete with newer top tier models from the market leaders in premium optics.
If you’re looking for premium binocular that can go toe-to-toe with the big guns optically, but that won’t stretch the budget quite as much, and you don’t mind a bit of extra size and weight, then the Vortex Razor UHD deserves a place on on your shortlist.
Buy the Vortex Razor UHD on Amazon.
Vortex Razor UHD 10×42 Full Review
I was impressed the first time I tried Vortex binoculars more than a decade ago now. The Vortex Viper HD and the then flagship Vortex Razor HD are superb instruments both in terms of their optical performance and build quality.
With their new flagship, the Razor UHD, Vortex has raised the bar again, but can they challenge the long-established incumbents at the pinnacle of the premium optics market. Let’s see.
The first thing you notice about the Vortex Razor UHD is its size. This is a larger (mostly longer) than average 10×42 binocular. It’s also heavy, weighing in at a chunky 920ish grammes. Neither of those things is necessarily a bad thing, but if you favour more compact binoculars you may struggle to get on with the Razor UHD.
Their size aside, the Razor UHD looks and feels like a very polished and premium product.
Balance, handling and build quality
With their magnesium alloy chassis and comfortably grippy green rubber armour the Vortex Razor UHD feels as solid and robust as it does stylish. This is a very well made binocular, and its modern, single-hinge design is easy on the eye, although you can’t escape the fact that it just looks and feels very big.
The long barrels are to accommodate the improved optical system, which employs, among other things, Abbe-Koenig roof prisms (which deliver better light transmission / a brighter image than the more compact, and much more commonly used, Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms found in most binoculars). While that is a boon for the optical performance of the instrument, the longer and heavier design it demands does impact the ergonomics.
It’s not that the ergonomics are bad — the Razor UHD is a very comfortable and well balanced binocular — it’s just that they feel different. It forces you to readjust if you’re used to a more compact binocular. You get used to it quickly, but if I grab the Razor UHD after using my regular binoculars for a while, they just feel “off” for a while, until I recalibrate.
It’s a muscle memory thing, and I’m sure if I used the Razor UHD exclusively it would soon ebb, but when you switch from other bins they definitely feel a bit odd at first.
Focus and dioptre adjustment
The knurled, rubber-coated focus wheel is large and grippy, and rotates smoothly, with a bit more resistance than I was expecting. It takes about two-and-three-quarter anti-clockwise turns to go from an excellent quoted close focus distance of 1.4m out to infinity. That’s a lot more than the typical 1.5ish rotations of focus travel, and while it makes fine focus adjustment very precise, when coupled with the high-level of resistance it can make switching focus from near to far subjects (or vice versa) a bit laborious.
In general that’s not an issue, but there where times during the review period where I found it frustrating when trying to focus quickly on a bird that popped up in an nearby bush as I was watching a more distant subject. On more than one occasion I failed to focus on my intended target before it disappeared into the undergrowth, never to be seen again.
The dioptre adjustment on the Razor UHD is in the traditional location just beneath the right eyepiece, and locks securely in place. To adjust it you just pull it up, turn it to your desired setting, then push it down to lock it: straightforward and effective. There are markings on the dial to allow you to note your preferred setting — but no numbers.
Eye cups and eye-relief
The twist-up eyecups on the Razor UHD are metal, with a soft rubber collar on the upper edge which makes them very comfortable when you hold them up to your eyes. They have three set positions: fully up, fully down and one intermediate click stop in between. That should be enough, although I would typically expect one or two more stops in binoculars of this calibre. It won’t be an issue for most users, who will either use the eyecups fully extended (without glasses) or fully retracted (with glasses).
The quoted eye relief of 16.7mm is a bit less than the best of the 10×42 competition, but should still be sufficient to allow most spectacle wearers to enjoy the full field of view.
I’m not sure if the eyecups screw off/are user replaceable. I couldn’t easily unscrew them on the review sample and didn’t want to force it — but I’d be surprised if they aren’t removable/replaceable.
There’s almost no need to include this part in a review, but for completeness, and as you’d expect, of course, the Vortex Razor UHD is fully sealed and water/dust proof, and purged with inert gas (argon in this case, rather than the more customary nitrogen) to expunge moisture from the optical system and prevent internal fogging.
Image quality and field of view
The Vortex Razor UHD renders an image thats up there with the very best binoculars I’ve ever used. It’s extremely bright, pin sharp from the centre across the field of view hardly any discernible softening out at the periphery. That field is pretty wide for a 10x binocular too, at c.115m/1000m, 346 feet/1000 yds or 6.6°.
Overall the view through the Razor UHD is outstanding.
Colour Fidelity, Contrast and Chromatic Aberration
Colours are natural and vibrant through the Razor UHD, with excellent contrast that gives the image that elusive “pop” you only really get with the very best optics. To my eyes at least there is no discernible colour bias, with colours through the Razor UHD appearing the same as those viewed with the naked eye.
Surprisingly I did experience some issues with chromatic aberration during the review period — specifically when watching a small flock of goldfinches feeding in the branches of a strongly backlit spruce. While the Razor UHD pulled plenty of detail out of the shadows, the edges of the branches, pine-needles and the birds themselves (the ones that were backlit) were haloed in purple and green fringing. Viewing the same scene through other high-end and even mid-range binoculars either showed no or minimal fringing.
That said, chromatic aberration wasn’t generally an issue when using the Razor UHD, even in challenging light with high-contrast subjects, so perhaps that particular situation was an outlier. Nevertheless, it surprised me.
Low Light Performance and Coatings
As you’d expect with an optical instrument of this calibre, all air-to glass (or argon to glass) surfaces in the optical system are fully-multi-coated with Vortex’s suite of proprietary XR™️ high-transmission anti-reflective coatings. These cut out glare, prevent stray reflections and ensure the maximum amount of light passes through the optical system to your eyes. Use of Abbe-Koening roof prisms also help maximise the amount of light passing through the optical system in this binocular.
The coatings, prisms and lenses combine to deliver excellent low light performance for a 10×42 binocular , and the Razor UHD can match some of the best 10×42 binoculars on the market in challenging twilight conditions. It kept pulling detail out of deep shadow long after I could discern nothing the naked eye.
Vortex has also applied a special protective coating it calls ArmorTec® to the external lens surfaces of the Razor UHD, which deters dust and dirt, and causes water to bead and roll off. This tough coating makes cleaning the lenses much easier and protects the more delicate coatings beneath from damage.
Vortex hasn’t skimped on things with the Razor UHD — and nowhere is that more apparent than with the included accessories. As well as the usual padded neoprene strap, cleaning cloth, eyepiece rainguard, tethered objective lens covers and high-quality case, there’s an additional binocular harness that attaches to the case so you can wear it on your chest, with an elasticated cover giving quick access to your binoculars for viewing.
It’s a novel approach, and a harness might be handy if you’re toting a large and heavy binocular in the field for long periods… however, I never advise keeping binoculars in a case or anything else likely to delay your access to them. The best place for a binocular case is in the back of a drawer or cupboard. Keep your binoculars out, ready to grab and use at a moments notice… because in birding and wildlife observation a moment is often all you’ll get.
There’s also a small accessory pouch included that can attach either to the front of the case or to your belt or bag with velcro straps. It seems to be designed more for the hunting fraternity — with elasticated loops that seem designed to hold extra ammunition — but I guess you could use it to store whatever small bits and bobs you want to carry with you.
All in all it’s a pretty comprehensive set of accessories that, apart from the comfortable neoprene neck strap, the essential eyepiece rain-guard and the cleaning cloth are essentially surplus to requirements.
The Vortex Optics unlimited, no fault, transferrable lifetime warranty promises to repair or replace your damaged Vortex product, for life, whatever the reason for that damage. According to their website, you don’t even need a receipt, and there’s no product registration required.
Bottom line: if you own a Vortex product, and it gets damaged, you’re covered. They promise to repair or replace it, free of charge, for life.
Simple right? Or at least it should be. However I notice there’s now a caveat on the Vortex Website in terms of how their warranty applies for international purchases. Here’s the wording:
INTERNATIONAL VIP WARRANTY
The Vortex Worldwide Lifetime VIP Warranty covers your purchase worldwide through the distributor or dealer in the country where you purchased your product.
Distributors and dealers in countries other than where you made your purchase may apply service charges due to different rules and regulations in that country. We recommend you make your purchases from your local distributor or dealer to ensure you get the best service should there ever be a need.
Products that are not imported into your country by the Vortex Authorized Distributor, including items brought in to a country without having paid the necessary taxes and duties, are considered “Grey Market Products” and are not covered by this warranty.Vortex Optics VIP Warranty Page
The good news is that Vortex has an Irish Distributor in Galway based Gowan And Bradshaw — so presumably if you buy your Vortex product through any Irish retailer or online store, they’ll look after you in terms of warranty claims. What’s less clear is how or if warranty claims for Vortex Optics products purchased in/from other EU countries and/or post-Brexit UK stores/websites will be honoured. I’ve asked Gowan and Bradshaw for clarification and will post an update here as soon as I have one.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions around the warranty, and how it applies in Ireland, I’d suggest contacting Gowan And Bradshaw for more info.
The Vortex Razor UHD is an outstanding binocular that optically can match some of the very best instruments on the market today. Its bright, sharp, immersive view is simply stunning, and while I did run into some slight issues with colour fringing, it wasn’t something that detracted from the experience in normal use. For the most part it was exemplary viewing experience.
The one thing to bear in mind is that, if size and weight are an issue for you when it comes to binoculars, the Vortex Razor UHD may not be a good match for you. That aside, if you’re looking for top tier performance, and either your budget doesn’t stretch to, or you’re not prepared to pay the premium for the marginal gains offered by flagship models from the leading brands, the Vortex Razor UHD is an excellent choice.
At €2,070 these are far from cheap, of course, but that price still saves you €500-€1,000 or more compared to top-tier 10×42 offerings from the acknowledged Alpha brands.
|Objective Lens Diameter
|Linear Field of View
|346 feet/1000 yds
|Angular Field of View
I’d like to thank Vortex Optics/Gowan & Bradshaw for providing a sample of the Razor UHD 10×42 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.