Back in 2011, I was one of the lucky few to receive one of the first ever Swarovski rangefinding binoculars in New Zealand; as soon as I’d heard they were becoming available, I had my order in place. For a while, I’d been using another brand of rangefinding bino, which were good, and I’d become so used to having the rangefinder button right there at my fingertip – but they were still nothing like the Swarovski binocular I’d used in the past. Looking through the Swarovski binocular was significantly etched in my memory; they were by far the clearest and brightest bino I’d ever used – I couldn’t wait to own a pair. So, I decided to wait patiently for their rangefinder model to arrive before making my purchase; an expensive purchase it was, but at the same time, knowing how good Swarovski binos are, it was very exciting.
Fast forward to 2021 … Swarovski Optik have recently released an improved version of the EL Range binocular, which has several great new features and now includes the use of a smartphone app. In recent times, smartphone technology has moved into hunting optics, which is great, as phones are now so much more than just a communication or emergency device for hunting; they have multiple uses, so it’s awesome to see Swarovski have moved with the times with the new ELs.
So, what’s new …
The Tracking Assistant Function
This is a great new tracking feature, and the first I’ve seen become available. It’ll be a huge help for hunters, as this function can guide you to the spot where you’ve just shot your animal; it’s especially useful if you’re hunting in scrubby country where there’s a possibility of losing an animal due to the terrain being so similar. I have a story at the end of this article from a few years ago where this feature would’ve been very handy.
The tracking assistant function uses the built-in compass in conjunction with the rangefinder measurement. When activated, this function will guide you via a direction arrow in the bino display to where the target area is; or if you’re hunting where there’s cell phone reception, then you can use the arrow in the EL app on your phone.
Using the tracking assistant function on your phone or making other changes to the display can all be done via the Swarovski EL Range Configurator app, which you’ll need to download to your smartphone and pair with your new EL Range binocular using Bluetooth technology.
The new model EL now has the option to have your ballistic data correction displayed in your binocular, which is another great upgrade as it can save time if you’re running a separate device or using a drop chart; Swarovski have also added the option to have three different projectiles or rifles loaded into the app. They can easily be changed from one to the next and uploaded into your binocular once you’ve reconnected your bino to your device.
I see Swarovski have only loaded their own range of rifle scopes; if you own a Swarovski scope, this means you’ll just need to scroll through the library to find yours – otherwise, if you have a different brand of scope, then you’ll need to select a scope that tracks in the same value. An example is if your scope tracks in 1/4 MOA, then you’ll need to use the X5i scope, as this scope is also a true 1/4 MOA scope. It’s also crucial when entering your data to ensure it’s exact – to help with this, Swarovski have installed an extensive ammunition library inside the app so you can choose the correct ammunition or projectile you’re using.
Beware: a common mistake made is using the stated velocities from the ammunition manufacturer’s packet. I would say, from my experience, ninety percent of those velocities stated won’t be correct out of your specific rifle, and if they’re used, this may cause you lots of grief – possibly missing and even wounding game – so, it’s essential to have your rifle’s velocity and scope tracking verified.
Using the ballistic function has the advantage of knowing accurate atmospheric conditions such as altitude and temperature – these factors should be taken into consideration when you’re shooting at more extreme distances as these fluctuations will affect your projectile. (FYI: you don’t need Wi-Fi for any of these functions to work while out hunting – only Bluetooth is required.)
Improved Range Performance
From a hunting perspective, the new EL offers considerably more in rangefinding capability than what’s required – the new model can now range from 10 metres to 2000 metres (10.9 yards to 2187 yards). However, with the growth of the long-range shooting competitions now running throughout NZ, they’ll be very handy, having the ability to reach out to those extreme distances.
The new model EL Range binocular also features SWAROVISION technology, which offers precision edge-to-edge sharpness, colour enhancement and detailed resolution. I instantly noticed the difference between my older set of 10×42 EL Range and the new model, so my decision to upgrade was easy – out went my old ones and in came the new!
Swarovski have added their innovative ‘Forehead Rest’ accessory as an option for the new EL Range binocular, which is pleasing.
I had the pleasure of using this cool new gadget when I test fired the NL Pure binocular, so it’s great to see this accessory available for the new EL.
The other cool accessory that’s available is an adaptor ring for the EL Range that’ll fit the Swarovski’s phone adaptor – so you can also take better images through your binocular using your smartphone’s camera.
Please note these two items are sold separately, so make sure you ask for the correct adapter ring for the EL Range binocular.
I’ve had my new set of ELs out hunting/guiding on numerous occasions now, and they’ve performed faultlessly.
I prefer to use my own generated drop charts because I run multiple rifles; plus my hunting clients also like to use their own rifles. I decided to test the ballistic function in the new EL Range, so I entered the data for one of my rifles into the ballistic app. The rifle is a Tikka 6.5 CM, and I’m currently using factory Hornady Precision Hunter PH 143 ELDX ammo.
To give you an example of why it’s extremely important to make sure you verify your ballistic data, the factory packet stated velocity for the Hornady Precision Hunter ammo is 2700 FPS, and yet, out of my rifle, it’s a heck of a lot slower – it’s only doing 2570 FPS; this is mainly due to the shortened barrel on my specific rifle. To put that into context, at 500 yards, the difference between the two velocities results in 5-6 inches of bullet drop, which is more than likely a clean miss on an animal – or even worse, a wounded one. You can see why it’s critical to have the correct ballistic info.
To double-check the Swarovski app calculator, I tested a few ranges against my verified drop charts, and everything lined up perfectly, which was pleasing.
Optically, they’re exceptional, and while I’ve had years of using Swarovski optics, I continue to be blown away with how their technicians keep taking their products to another level.
As previously mentioned, my story is about one specific time when the tracking assistant would’ve been great to have.
A few years back, I was on a hunting trip with a couple of mates; we’d been flown into the backcountry for a spring hunt to fill up our freezers. We’d managed to strike it lucky with the weather, as a large high made its way over the island after a couple weeks of poor weather. This worked in our favour as the deer were happy to be out in the open grazing for longer periods, which made them easier pickings for us.
Being conscious of the number of animals we were allowed to fly out, we decided – as we already had a few – that we should take just one more deer.
On our last evening, Hamish and I made our way down the gully to an area we hadn’t hunted, and sure enough, we spotted a red hind out feeding in some scrubby country – from memory, she was about 300 yards away.
Hamish lined her up with his 7mm RM and made what I thought was a good solid shoulder shot – she ran a few yards before crashing over.
After a few minutes, we started our retrieve, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at the area where we thought the deer would be lying. After about 15 minutes of searching, we couldn’t find the animal, which was confusing. I then noticed some movement above us on the face. It was a red hind, and it was on the move. Instantly thinking it was Hamish’s deer, I lay down with my rifle and squeezed a shot away dropping her on the spot. Both Hamish and I were stoked to have got her, as for a little while, we’d started to lose hope of recovering the deer.
I climbed up to her and started searching the carcass for Hamish’s first shot, wondering if it had just been a poor shot. But she was completely clean – there was only evidence of my shot, which was at the base of the neck.
A little confused with what’d just happened, we boned out my deer before making our way back towards the area where we’d been searching for Hamish’s deer. Coming from above the area, we also noticed there was a second clearing ahead, and then we both realised we’d possibly been searching for the original deer on the wrong clearing!
We found Hamish’s deer just like that – right in the spot where she’d gone down.
Not that we were complaining – it just meant we had another deer to deal with and more meat to take home. Our chopper pilot knew, that’s for sure, as he made mention to us that we were way heavier flying out than we were flying in!
Over the years, the new tracking assistant would’ve been handy to have and I’m sure would’ve saved me many hours of searching for animals – these days, I’m lucky to have a good black Lab who helps locate my kills, but sometimes she’s not with me, so the tracking assistant feature will certainly come in handy.
The new EL Range comes in two options: the 8×42 and 10×42. I’m a fan of the 10s for the type of open country hunting that I do where the extra magnification is important.
One thing I’d like Swarovski Optik to make is a bino harness that would fit their entire range of binos, rather than persisting with the handbag-style carry case – I feel this would be a great asset as almost every time a pair is sold through my Rivers to Ranges store, an aftermarket harness is purchased at the same time.
Finally, they’re an expensive item, with the 8×42 retailing at $4890 and the 10x at $4990. But I will say this – if you’re considering purchasing a pair, and hunting is what you love and do, then they’re well and truly worth every penny; they’ll most definitely give you the best experience out hunting, and in turn, will help you become a more successful hunter.
el Range 8X42
el Range 10X42
|Exit pupil diameter mm||5.3||4.2|
|Field of view (m/1,000m/ft/1000yds)||140 / 419||120 / 359|
|Light transmission (%)||90||90|
|Twilight factor based on iso 14132-1||18.3||20.4|
|Weight approx. grams||930||925|
|Range accuracy (M/Y)||10-1500 (+/-) 1 m/y||10-1500 (+/-) 1 m/y|
|Measurement range||10-2000m / 10-2200y||10-2000m / 10-2200y|
|Approx. size L x W x H||172 x 126 x 79mm||169 x 136 x 79mm|
For more info please visit Swarovskioptik.com