“Are alpha worth it?” How I answered it for me (answering?) Swaro, Zeiss, GPO…Maven

Brian Fahs

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Thanks for the honest review.

Optics are one of the most subjective pieces of gear we own. What's great to one guys eyes are horrible to the next. Buy what you like the best.

I personally own several different pieces of alpha glass, each has its purpose to me and are used regularly.

We all have different interests and varying amounts of disposable income. Spending my money on alpha gear has always been important to me and I'm happy with what I own currently.
 
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Bluto

Bluto

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I probably should have just wrote that instead. 😂

(Other than owning several alpha glass models. Although I’m leaning that way.)
 

Marble

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I enjoyed the review and I generally won't read them. Great job writing an interesting post.

In the last 4 years I have gotten both Swaro binos and a spotter. The one thing that really has stood out is low light abilities of the Swaro. I have stood outside the truck for 30 minutes while my oartnwrs insist they can't see anymore. Several time I have found herds coming into the basin at dark to go hunt in the morning.

Not everyone can afford this stuff, I was in my 40s before I got one, but looking back into my early 20s and going through 6 or 7 spotters and 4-5 binos, I should have just spent the money up front. I would have spent less and seen more.

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Marble

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For me, limiting the cost difference to just one hunt doesn't seem realistic. What I mean is that for me, I use my bicnoculars lierally year round (limited in the summer though), season after season, for multiple species. So when I consider that cost difference being spread out over all those hunts, year after year, it becomes much more of an investment for years and years of hunts.
Grabbing my bino case is almost like grabbing my car keys. I use them nearly daily.

Good point!

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100percent

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By the best you can afford! Save up a couple years for the best, if necessary!
Warranty period may be irrelevant with these mid tier+ upstarts in competition with (not only) the established alpha companies but at least a half dozen like vortex, maven, and others…. Which leads me to my point—GPO? How long will they be in business? How long will Swaro or Zeiss be around? if history repeats—the alphas will be around a long time! No crystal ball here but, the old maxim of getting what you pay for is “clear” in optics. Ha!

You won’t find many legitimate complaints for warranty service on alpha glass in or out of warranty.

Asking for a friend, anyone know how I can warranty a Nikon scope???
 
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Bluto

Bluto

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That could all very well be true. I absolutely believe the GPO warranty is different than the Vortex business model of building a planned replacement into the price. The GPO is *very* good optically. If they keep doing that, and with a warranty like that, they’ll be around at least as long as Vortex.

It’s nevertheless disappointing that the most expensive and purportedly best optic on the planet offers…10 years.

That said, it does bring about another topic I have no personal experience to comment on, but is probably relevant. Regardless of warranty details, I’ve heard very exceptional things about Swaro service and updates. Does Zeiss hold the same reputation? (And Leica? I didn’t test any this time but I’ve heard their customer service is night and day different (better) than it was traditionally.)

This is obviously a factor for those of us who don’t switch to new gear often. Whatever I buy I want to keep for a long time.

Edit - also, I stand by my comments about being tripod adaptable. The alpha’s not having standard threads is asinine. 😉
 
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Bluto

Bluto

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And one more question that has to accompany the “save and buy the absolute best you can.”

While I agree, my question is - best of what? I’ve read multiple posts here on Rokslide and elsewhere, advising people that if their optic budget is $2000, buy a $1500 tripod/head and a $500 optic. Seems odd to me, even though I can see where the platform effects the glass. I could swing the NL’s if I find they work for me, but I’ll be honest. Ain’t no way I’m paying $1000 for a tripod. (Probably not $500.)

Is my money wasted on the NL/EL/Victory?
 

pacoalcracker

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Sorry to see you didnt test the Leica Noctovids. They deserved to be tested with the rest of the Alpha glass. I have Leica Ultravid HD's( not the HD+) and they stack up pretty darn good to my new EL's except for the edge to edge clarity and the field flattener lenses....you have to bump up to Noctovids to get that. However, i love the 3D effect of the non-flattener lenses and the far superior true coloration you get with Leicas. Thats why birders love Leica. In addition, the build quality, appearance of quality and "feel" of Leicas are superior to EL's in my opinion. I cant speak to Zeiss though as ive never held a pair but understand they are at the top as well. You did a fine job on the comparisons...explained in laymans terms anyone could understand.
 
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Bluto

Bluto

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Honestly, so am I. I didn’t think it was as big of a deal until I took a liking to the Zeiss. I think I could very well be missing out. Since I’m going to rent a pair now and can back my purchase timing back, I might try and get my hands on a set.
 

nobody

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The Maven’s arrived in time for a good long session leading up to dark last night. Just goes to show, something appearing the same doesn’t really mean it will turn out the same. The eye cups on the maven just don’t really work for me. I struggle to get proper eye relief regardless of position or lighting condition. I think these are another *really* good piece of glass! Unfortunately, all this and my original posts do is confirm the nebulous advice of - it depends on what they look like to each person. I was positively biased that the Maven 10x50 would outpace the GPO in low light but it just didn’t happen. I’ll give it another shot tonight but then it’s time to wrap this all up.

Two things that aren’t deal breakers but not addressed earlier, I’ll bring up now.

Warranty:
This is a major hit against the alpha glass to me personally. The mindset of “yeah, brand X should have a better warranty cause you’re gonna need it!” is pretty silly to me. If I give you $2,000 - $3,000 because your glass (pinky out) “is an investment,” it had better perform and you’d better be willing to stand behind it. Looking at you, Swaro. 10 years? That’s a good guarantee of performance at $500-$750. Not $2500. Zeiss is better here with a lifetime warranty and a 5 year no fault policy on top. I can live with that.

GPO’s policy is leagues better. Lifetime, transferable, and any retailer is authorized to fulfill it on the spot. (Verbatim from their warranty info.) Nope, does you no good when they go out of business. Same thing everyone said about Vortex. Will GPO stick around? Dunno, but Swaro used to have a better warranty, too. I think if they work for your eyes and your mission with your glass, and you find some used for $600…you might have the best thing going, dollar for dollar.

Am I saying that would keep me from buying Swarovski? No. If you need the very best of every category (except warranty) AND the fit, features, and ergos work for you, I suspect they will be your best choice. Same for Zeiss.

The other thing is the adapter issue. It’s ridiculous to me that the alpha manufacturers haven’t figured this out. It’s not like they’re churning out updates to the EL and Victory frames every year, this would be a good and overdue update.

So I’ll wrap it up soon, but I had another odd to almost comical thought today. My order of preference for what I think is the best *for me.*
Zeiss
Swaro/GPO
Maven

The funny part is, the gap between the GPO and alpha, to me, is factor dependent. It’s there, no argument, but small. Well the gap from Swaro to Zeiss is also marginal. Maybe even a push. Except the same cost/value discussion is here. While Swaro shows the EL at $2500 retail, I think we can agree that they’re selling for about $2000-$2100 now while the Zeiss are still a shave under $2800. This makes the EL the…budget choice? 😂 Food for thought. And a chuckle.

Regrets:
If I am trying the GPO, it probably would have been prudent to also try the Zeiss Conquest. But I had to draw the line somewhere on the drug deal with my wife that I was about to “buy” north of $7000 in binos and return them. The elephant in the room is the same convo with the NL Pure. Same answer, but just noting that I do realize there are these and many more options. (Uhhh, Leica?! I know, I know.)

So, I’ve taken all of my notes, and my solution is?

I’m renting from @Rent Outdoor Gear for this upcoming hunt and I’ll sort out a purchase later.

I’ll shut up until I see what these are all about.
I wish I could like this post 1000 times. Optics are mechanical devices with bearings and raceways and moving parts that can and do fail with enough use and over enough time. Knowing I'll be taken care of when something does go south means a ton. No, I don't think you should be content needing to send in your optics for a refresh at the end of every season, but travel is hard on gear and we hunt in some pretty gnarly weather and conditions, so sometimes things need a tune up.

Platinum level glass, if the company has so much faith in it being infallible, should come with platinum level coverage. It's just nuts to me that the "top 3" alpha dogs just don't have that type of attitude.

But hey, I'm just some random guy on the internet...
 

svivian

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If I give you $2,000 - $3,000 because your glass (pinky out) “is an investment,” it had better perform and you’d better be willing to stand behind it. Looking at you, Swaro. 10 years? That’s a good guarantee of performance at $500-$750. Not $2500.
Where did you see 10 year warranty for Swaro?
 

Matt G.

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To me GPO has not been established long enough, although their optics are pretty good. Some that leave a bad taste with there life time warranties lile alpen, zen ray, and stryka... i know their are others. i heard that Alpen was bought but don't know anything. i got an older pair where i chipped the ocular and there is nothing i can do about it. if i ask going to drop the cash, it is going to be someone well established where i know i can at least get it repaired.

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Bluto

Bluto

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Where did you see 10 year warranty for Swaro?
From Swarovski website. I could only find it stated if you download a product manual from them, warranty statement is at the end.

22EC4D86-3654-4E11-9E5D-5A2F37CC55AD.jpeg

As I brought up as well though, lots of stories of Swaro taking care of folks beyond that. Which is great. Not sure how much that has translated to them changing the warranty to 10 years, I believe that was recent but I’m not sure when it changed.
 
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svivian

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Bluto

Bluto

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Unknown. I just read what I could find. Certainly better if that is accurate, and current. If it’s lifetime, that absolutely changes my thoughts on their warranty.

I know there was discussion here about the warranty change recently, but I haven’t called Swarovski so I’ve no idea which is correct.
 

nobody

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I didn't even catch your comment about Swaro being a 10-year, but it is in fact a form of a lifetime warranty. It's not as all-encompassing as others, but it is a lifetime warranty.

Leica is just a 10-year, maybe that's where you're getting things mixed up?
 
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Bluto

Bluto

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Yep, fully accepting that I don’t know (or know the difference in a stated 10 year and implied lifetime.)

Unknown on Leica, I didn’t purchase/test any. Could be, though.
 
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Bluto

Bluto

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Thread from 2019 when “the change” apparently happened? (Thread details into people thinking/injecting stuff about no fault warranties, etc.)


Apparently warranty cards now say 10 years?
 

RAPTOR

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Grabbing my bino case is almost like grabbing my car keys. I use them nearly daily.

Good point!

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Agreed, they come on the boat when fishing, go on vacation, and great to have to check out birds or anything else around the house. A pair of good knockers is hard to beat and I find myself grabbing them often
 
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