Vortex Razor 11-33x50 versus first gen Razor 16-48x65: Initial impressions

donrleonard

Junior Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2022
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TL;DR In both low light and longer distance, the little Vortex 50mm spotter comes shockingly close in performance to the first gen razor 65mm in initial tests. I’ve taken to calling it Mighty Mouse.

I should start by stating that I am a rookie hunter, so this is very much a “building my first backpack hunting kit” story. That said, I have a lot of experience with optics from my photography and astronomy hobbies. I am also an experienced backcountry hiker/camper who knows the value of 25 ounces and unnecessary bulk. Enough so, that when I first took my first gen Diamondback 2-60x80mm into the field, I knew I’d bought the wrong glass.

I also know the value of a buck. With an Exo pack and plenty of other toys that are quickly adding up, I had to keep my budget here well under $1k. That eliminates some of the nicer Kowa options, unfortunately. With the first gen Vortex Razor HD 65mm down under $800, I decided to put that up against the 55mm in the same line. BH Photo has them on sale for $599 as I write this.

That said, I poured over these forums trying to discern whether a smaller 50mm spotter was even worth bringing into the field for Western-style hunts, or if 65mm was considered the bare minimum. I’ve seen experienced Roksliders take ardent stands on both sides of the debate.

That being the case, I ordered both the first gen razors and decided to put them through their paces. Since I’m stuck in the city right now, the first test was a low light experiment in my basement reading heavily shadowed nutrition labels across the room. It was a horse race between the 50mm and 65mm first gen Razors, with my first gen Diamondback 80mm thrown in for a baseline.

The first surprise was that in this test the text on the heavily shadowed nutrition label was much easier to read with the 80mm Diamondback than the 65mm Razor. No substitute for aperture, I deduced.

The bigger surprise was when I mounted the 50mm Razor and could make out the smallest of text—slightly edging out the 80mm Diamondback and easily besting the 65mm Razor. I had to re-check this several times as I just couldn’t believe it.

Recognizing that this was a close range test—one that might favor the smaller optics, I headed to the top floor of my house where I could glass objects at over a thousand yards—a skylined cell phone tower and a tall chimney.

Just as I expected, these conditions immediately revealed the advantage of the ED glass on the Razors in dealing with chromatic aberration. The Diamondback view was a purple mess.

Under these conditions, the greater aperture of the Razor 65mm did seem to produce a slightly sharper image at similar magnification with its smaller sibling at max (33x) magnification. But only slightly. The critical thing for me was that cranking up the magnification on the 65mm didn’t seem to reveal greater detail. As it approached 48x things just became messier in the eyepiece.

My preliminary impression here was that the maximum magnification of the 11-33x50mm Razor was more useable than the maximum magnification of the 16-48x65mm Razor. Combined with the encouraging performance of the 50mm Mighty Mouse in low light, and I’m very close to saying that the weight and size penalty of the 65mm may not be worth it compared to the 50mm.

Of course, if you have the capacity to serve up an 85mm, all the better. And if I’m ever in a position where I need to count rings and points I might just grab one of those. But for now I’m just trying to learn to find legal animals and put meat in my freezer. So count me among the 50mm fanboys. This little thing is magical.
 
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donrleonard

Junior Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2022
Messages
22
Follow-up: Got it up to the farm this weekend for some field tests. It did well against heavily shadowed targets in the trees--like a clump of tires at 400 yards—as well as targets far off like the inside of a barn at 1500 yards.

I’ll wrap my rookie impressions by saying that, compared to my 10x42s, it struck me as a “super-bino.” Not quite telescopic magic at 33x, but still quite sharp and way way way more light gathering and magnification than any bino I could imagine carrying into the field.

Will I want an 85mm telescope someday? Probably. But I think this piece should get me done.

The one thing I’ll say is that I hate the case and lens caps that it came with. So much so that I ordered the now-discontinued neoprene case off eBay for nearly $100. Good thing I caught it on sale at BH.
 

Mykolaivka887

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
944
I looked at and examined that little Razor spotting the other day while I was in town. Lightweight, that's for sure. Compact, too. Things I don't like about it are the angled eyepiece and low magnification. Otherwise, it's a cute little spotting scope.
 
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donrleonard

Junior Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2022
Messages
22
I looked at and examined that little Razor spotting the other day while I was in town. Lightweight, that's for sure. Compact, too. Things I don't like about it are the angled eyepiece and low magnification. Otherwise, it's a cute little spotting scope.
Yeah. Not sure you’d want to go much past 33x with a 50mm objective. Seems the Kowa 55mm is the one to beat in this category. Maybe someday. But for now, at a third of the price this thing seems to punch way above its 25 ounces.
 
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