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The new Swarovski SLC 56's under the stars

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#1 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 09:40 AM

This fall, one of the leading manufacturers introduced a very exciting new series of binoculars for the lovers of low light observations. Wether you are a birder, hunter or astronomer, if you want to observe under the light of the moon or stars, these new mini-giants should be of interest to you.

Thanks to Bert Kadijk, owner of verrekijkerwinkel.nl , one of the premier Swarovski dealers in the Netherlands, I was able to test and compare all three of them under a variety of day- and nighttime-conditions. In addition, I compared them briefly against the new SLC 42’s and the EL 50’s. Finally they were compared with my own current binoculars, the Zeiss Victory FL 10x32, FL 7x42 and Nikon IF-WP 18x70.

While the SLC 56’s carry the same name as the binoculars they replace, the new SLC 56 series are designed new from the ground up and are improved in many ways. The only step back is the fact that the new SLC 15x56 no longer come standard with the marvelous tripod adapter.

The new SLC 56's feature new lenses, different prisms, a compacter housing and are now available in three magnifications: 8x, 10x and 15x.

First impressions are very positive. Built quality is superb, focus is smooth and the views are bright, sharp and contrasty.

Because of my choice to share my experience with the new Swarovski SLC 56 models on the Cloudy Nights binocular forum, my report will be posted in consecutive sections. All text and photo's copyright by the author.

Disclaimer: I am in not associated in any way with the companies mentioned in my report. What I share are just my personal experiences and opinions with the products described, based on using them under the stars or otherwise as I see fit. Your mileage will likely vary.

 

6248615-SLC 8-10-15x56.jpg


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#2 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 10:10 AM

Introduction and mechanics.

After picking the three Swarovski SLC’s up in the store, I gave them a first try under low-light dusk conditions on some distant targets to become fimiliar with them.

When you pick any of these up, they feel solid and quite comfortable in the hand. Adjusting interpupillary distance feels the same with any any of them. Ditto for focussing. If blindfolded, you could not tell them apart by the feel of the mechanics, indicating very tight tolerances and precise adjustments of the mechanics.

The second thing that struck me is the feel of the green rubber armor. Very similar to that of a quality hunting boot. Not quite as classy as that of the Swarovski EL, but very functional and grippy. Because the rubber is a shrink fit around the whole body, the armoring feels a little loose where the bridge joins the barrels. Nothing to worry about, but by design different from the EL’s, where only the barrels are armored and the bridge is bare black metal. So no cold spots with low temperatures for the new SLC’s, where the EL’s metal bridge feels cold to your hands.

Adjustment of the new SLC's 4-position eyecups to your personal preferences is smooth and precise, just like those of the EL’s.

Focussing itself is pure pleasure. Very precise and smooth, no play and the right amount of reduction to easily achief focus from near to far.

Diopter adjustment is made by focussing for the left eye, then pulling out the focusser knob and consequently focussing for your right eye. Push focusser knob back in and your are ready to go.

The field stop in the new SLC’s is perfectly round, smooth and sharp. Here the new Swaros pull ahead of the new Zeiss Victory HT’s, with many samples showing less than perfectly smooth fieldstops and some not even round. Bravo Swarovski!

 

6248683-SLC 15x56 focus knob.jpg


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#3 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 10:13 AM

The prisms

For the first time with these 56 mm SLC's, Swarovski employs the Abbe-Koenig prisms. These prisms were first used by Zeiss in their Dialyt roof binoculars, notably the 8x56 and later the 7x42 Dialyts. Current bigger Zeiss models like the Victory FL 42 and FL 56 mm's and Victory HT's also use the Abbe Koenig prisms. All these binos are known for there extremely bright images.

Because Abbe-Koenig prisms have total internal reflection and thus don't have any silvered surfaces like the Schmidt-Pechan prisms that reflect less light and scatter more, transmission and contrast are the highest of any roof-prism type.

Swarovski is only the second alpha-manufacturer after Zeiss to use these special prisms in their binoculars. And you could have guessed it by now, these new SLC's are also extremely bright binoculars. Attached is a picture of this new prism in the new SLC 15x56.

 

6248692-SLC 15x56 Abbe Koenig prism.jpg


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#4 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 10:53 AM

The glass

The new SLC 56's are best characterized by big, bright quality glass in a compact quality package. We already discussed the new bright prisms. But there is more that makes the SLC 56's so bright. It starts with those big 56mm lenses at the front. They gather much more light and thus information than smaller sized lenses. This means that even at similar magnifications, these binos deliver more punch to the eye than smaller binos. And when light diminishes, this effect becomes stronger, because for a given magnification, these 56mm have bigger exit pupils than their 42 and 32 mm counterparts.

Additionally, the new 56mm lenses are much better than the old SLC's with respect to color correction. For all practical purposes the new SLC's are color free. Only under close scrutiny with a 3x monocular, one can see that the Zeiss Victory FL's have slightly less chromatic aberration. The new SLC have a tiny bit of unfocused red light around Jupiter when observed with the 3x monocular, but this remains invisible at the native magnifications of the 3 new SLC's. A very strong point of these new SLC's compared to any bino I know, including the Zeiss, is the way they reach their point of best focus. They do that in a very precise and reassuring way, comparable to an f/8-f/9 apochromat. In comparison, the Zeiss Victory binos are more comparable to an f/5 apochromat. This gives a solidness to the Swaro SLC's focus point that is incomparable to any other bino.

Coatings on the SLC's are superbly applied on all surfaces of the objectives at front, the eyepieces at the back and all glass in between. On the outside, a Swaroclean coating is applied, similar to the Zeiss Lotutec. These coatings repel water and dirt and make the outer surfaces durable and very easy to clean. Color and effectiveness of the Swarovski coatings is very similar to the Zeiss coatings. As can be seen in the attached picture of the front lens of the new Swarovski SLC 56, the Swaro has no blackened lens edges (shiny!) and no glare reducing ribbed front mounted objective ring.

 

6248763-SLC 15x56 en Zeiss FL 7x42 2x coatings1 (1).jpg


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#5 hallelujah

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 10:55 AM

Excellent!
Looking forward to your next report.

http://www.swarovski...-15x56-p5068619

Stan

#6 saptharishi

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:11 AM

Hi Erik, Thanks so much for sharing the review. Did you also get a chance to compare it with Zeis FL 10x56?

#7 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:15 AM

For comparison, I have include a picture of the Victory FL 42 objective. Zeiss has taken more care in reducing glare at the front side. The design choices of Swarovski have the bonus of a very small diameter tube for the objective size. The Zeiss tube is a little wider for a given objective diameter.

 

6248809-SLC 15x56 en Zeiss FL 7x42 2x coatings2 (1).jpg


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#8 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:20 AM

Size comparisons and dimensions

All dimensions are measures for the binoculars as shown. Most but not all are close to manufacturers' specifications.

Measured dimensions:

Swarovski SLC
Model    close focus   weight          length (eyecup in-out)
8x56     405 cm         1.225 gram   193-209 mm

10x56   365 cm         1.195 gram   192-204 mm
15x56   370 cm         1.200 gram   192-199 mm

Zeiss Victory FL
Model    close focus   weight          length (eyecup in-out)
7x42     162 cm          755 gram     151-163 mm
8x42     172 cm          775 gram     160-172 mm

10x32   146 cm          555 gram     116-128 mm

 

6248823-Dimensions SLC 56 FL 32 FL 42.jpg


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#9 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:28 AM

Comparison of the Swaro SLC 56, Zeiss Victory FL 32 and FL 42 and Nikon 18x70

 

6248840-Dimensions Nikon 18x70, SLC 56 FL 32 FL 42.jpg


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#10 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:29 AM

Another view of all contenders. Take a look at the differences in eyepieces.

 

6248843-Dimensions above Nikon 18x70, SLC 56 FL 32 FL 42.jpg


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#11 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:32 AM

Here are the big guys: Nikon 18x70 and Swaro SLC 15x56.

 

6248849-Nikon 18x70, SLC 15x56.jpg


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#12 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:34 AM

Looking at Big Glass.

 

6248852-Nikon 18x70, SLC 15x56 front.jpg


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#13 Rich V.

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:34 AM

Excellent report, Erik! Thank you.

Those are some really attractive binoculars.

Maybe I missed it somewhere but do these SLCs use a similar eyepiece design to the SLC HDs where there is some pincushion introduced to remove the angular magnification distortion when panning?

When I compared the SLC HDs to the SVs, I noticed there is quite a bit of difference between the designs. I liked panning with the HDs better than the SVs.

Rich

#14 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:42 AM

Eyepieces!

 

6248874-Nikon 18x70, SLC 15x56 eyepieces.jpg


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#15 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:45 AM

Sizes big and small

 

6248878-Nikon 18x70, SLC 56 , FL32 and 42.jpg


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#16 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:47 AM

2x big exit pupils: The SLC 8x56 and Zeiss Victory FL 7x42

 

6248881-SLC 56 , FL42.jpg


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#17 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 11:51 AM

2x big eyepiece-glass

SLC 8x56 and FL 7x42

 

6248885-SLC 8x56 , FL7x42 eyepieces.jpg


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#18 DDwa

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 12:11 PM

they are not eyepieces, they are lenses!!

great report!

#19 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 01:29 PM

Front view of the SLC 8x56 and FL 7x42.

 

6249079-SLC 8x56 FL 7x42 front view.jpg


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#20 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 01:38 PM

Family portrait of the eyepieces of the SLC 56's.

 

6249096-SLC 56's eyepieces vs 2.jpg


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#21 ianatcn

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 01:48 PM

Thank's Eric, looking forward to handling the 15x56 sometime in the next two weeks. How did you find the eye relief on the 15x? Your binocular collection is impressive.

#22 Erik Bakker

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 03:13 PM

Taking the SLC 56 family out under the stars!

As luck would have it, skies cleared to wonderful mag 6 skies the second and third night I had these binoculars on loan. Over these two nights, I observed with them extensively on a variety of astronomical objects. During the day I used them on birds in my garden and at dusk I took them out to observe some geese and deer.

All three performed flawlessly and had spot-on collimation as tested on the stars while mounted on a tripod. The new rubber armor turned out to have a great combination of feel and grip. The thumb rests are well placed and make these binoculars easy to hold and feel smaller than they really are.

Fields were sharp for 3/4 of the field with only slight deterioration towards the edge. Almost EL-class. But without the rolling ball effect of the EL. All in all a great combination of sharpness over the field of view and comfort of the view.

Brightness in all 3 is fantastic for their aperture and respective magnifications. They are brighter and more transparent than their EL series counterparts like the 10x50 and 12x50's.

Mechanics of the SLC 56's are different, but definitely EL-class, unlike the smaller SLC 42's, which are a notch below the SLC 56's in the mechanical department (sticky focuser in the 42) and less bright of course.

When the moon is far (40-50 degrees) outside the field of view in the SLC 56's, it generates a weak reflection, but nothing to worry about in the field. And ghosting with the moon inside the field of view is absent.

All 3 SLC's 56 are wonderful binoculars and a joy to use. All show a 56mm class sky with similarities and differences. All interact differently with the observers' eyes and the sky-conditions.

So here we go!



The new SLC 8x56

Of the 3 SLC's, the 8x56 are the brightest. Their views are supremely easy on the eyes, have great depth of view (helpful during the day) and offer the steadiest views, thanks to their low magnification. Their eye relief is enormous and comfortable at the same time.

They are the only new SLC 56's that fit the Belt and Sword of Orion in one view. Or the Heiades. And generally have at least 2 guiding stars in their field of view to find fainter deep-sky objects.

The moon is on the small side for detail-observing, but the views are fantastically sharp, color free and contrasty. Their very big exit pupils of 7 mm make stars a bit spiky to our less than perfect eyes. It is in our eyes though, as adding a 3x booster easily demonstrates. If your eyes open up wide enough, or if you simply want to enjoy very bright, wide and easy views, the new SLC 8x56 could be just the ticket for you.



The new SLC 10x56

These are great allround binoculars for both night- and daytime observing. Brightness is a notch below the SLC 8X56's. To most eyes they do appear a tad sharper than the 8x56's at night due to their smaller 5.6mm exit pupils. Eyerelief is wonderful, both for most observers with glasses and those without. But they are noticeably tighter on eye relief than the SLC 8x56.

The Moon and Pleiades start to come alive at 10x and smaller deep-sky objects become easier to distinguish from each other and from stars. But they do loose that critical overview for finding deep-sky objects. And the new SLC 10x56's are unable to fit the Sword and Belt of Orion into the same field of view. Or really display the Heiades in all their wide field splendor. Yet they still lack some magnification for more detailed observations of the heavens. During the day and early dusk, these 10x56's give a powerful demonstration of the benefits of 56mm of aperture and 10x hits a sweet spot for this size binoculars during these heavy duty hours for birders and general observing. All in all, they are a great compromise, but also a Jack of all trades and a master of none.



The new SLC 15x56

Enter the SLC 15x56, or shall I say the masters of hand-held (deep) sky observing? These binoculars are stunning astronomical performers.

Although eyerelief is the shortest of the SLC 56 series, it is still very good except for those who must wear thick glasses. Because of their relatively small exit pupils of 3.7 they appear very sharp to most peoples' eyes. And they ARE in fact very sharp. Very sharp indeed. As verified with the 3x Zeiss monocular while tripod-mounted, the views remain sharp and virtually color free at 45x!

Observing the moon with these binos is an incredible experience. Sharpness, brightness, contrast and purity images is unsurpassed by any current production binocular in this aperture class. They are miles ahead of the old SLC 15x56 they replace, specially in color correction. Views are 3-D with the Moon appearing as a very detailed sphere comparable to the view in an apochromatic refractor at similar magnification.

Deep-sky objects take on a new identity in these 15xSLC's showing detail and structure the 10x or 8x SLC's cannot remotely reveal. And the best thing is that these new SLC 15x56 are handhold able. Balance is subtly better than the lower magnification models of the series. Less front heavy, they are easy to hold well for longer periods of time, giving the impression of some magical hidden image stabilizer. Of course they work even better on a tripod, but they work really well without. For astronomical use, these are the finest SLC's in my opinion. But you have to know your way around the stars, because finding is a lot more challenging at 15x and the correspondingly smaller field of view. Especially when the SLC 15x56 are teamed up with the wide field brightness masters of the family,the superb SLC 8x56, you have a great team for hand-held binocular astronomy.

Later on, I will compare the SLC 56's with some other binos. The SLC 15x56 has to take on the Nikon 18x70 to see which of them is the best medium sized astronomical bino. And the SLC 8x56 challenges the Zeiss Victory FL 7x42 to see who is he brightness champ. As a bonus I do some comparisons between two binoculars with identical magnification, but different sizes and -exit pupils: the new SLC 10x56 and the Zeiss Vixtory FL 10x32.

 

6249317-SLC 56's with thumb grip.jpg


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#23 Mark9473

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 03:37 PM

Erik, you're going to cost some of us a lot of money. :money: I'm actually sitting here drooling. :crazyeyes:
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#24 DDwa

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:15 PM

Erik, you're going to cost some of us a lot of money. :money: I'm actually sitting here drooling. :crazyeyes:



Exactly what i am thinking!

are they the dream team?

#25 ronharper

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 05:08 PM

Good work Erik, thank you for your reports.

Is the likening of the FL to an apo of f/5, an the SLC to one of f/9, due to a difference in focus gearing ratio, or do you mean there's some subtle difference in image quality?

It might be sort of apple to orange since you won't be comparing the same size FLs, but please comment on the relative falloff in sharpness as the edge of the field is approached. In this area I find the FL good enough but not red hot, and the Swarovision EL near perfect, so is the SLC in between or what? I am interested in this not because I give a hoot as observer, but as an optics nerd. I have speculated that the fast objectives necessitated by the minimally light-folding Abbe Konig prisms limit the field correction of the FL (given the practical weight and cost constraints on the eyepieces, that they can't be Naglers). And the SLC now has for sure the same speed objectives as the FL. So.....(drumroll) does Swaro make a better and yet still small, lightweight and cost effective eyepiece than Zeiss?

Ron
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