Swarovski threw the book of features at their new binocular, the NL Pure
Swarovski NL Pure Binoculars

That September afternoon was cool and overcast.  My teenage son, James, and I had climbed to a glassing point above treeline in Western Montana.  I had often seen mature mule deer bucks in this area this time of the year, so I sat down and glassed the rocky cliffs layered to the North.  The elk had been silent since the early morning, so I transitioned to deer hunting, but James was more interested in chasing dusky grouse from tree to tree on the hilltop.  I told him to keep it down.


I picked apart every cliff edge, shelf, boulder, and avalanche chute I could see for over an hour before I finally scanned the cascading cliff terraces directly below me.  As I panned from left to right slowly looking at a mini-basin about 250 yards below, I noticed a velvet point at the very edge of the binocular’s field of view.

A buck was a mere 80 yards below me, obstructed by the terrace above!  I gently scooted back up to the crest of the ridge and frantically searched for James, who I found harassing squirrels a few hundred yards away.  We skirted the cliffs, got the wind, and tip-toed back towards where I last saw the buck.  I finally peered around a cliff and pulled up the Swarovski NL Pure 12X42 binoculars with my right hand.  I could see him feeding on the ledge, and he was a good buck, about two feet wide, with deep forks and perfect, untouched velvet.

The Stalk

James told me he wanted to watch while I made a stalk, so I de-booted and crawled through the cliff shelves, finally reaching around 55 yards undetected.  I could see him feeding head down, so I went for the next rock closer, and knew I would be looking at a chip shot from there.  As I crossed a drain before the rock though, I looked down to see a two-point feeding 20 yards below me.  As I tucked back out of sight I considered my options.  I was likely to be discovered if I moved either way.  I could just wait and let the buck move into a shooting lane, and that seemed more reasonable.

My heart sank, though, as I suddenly felt the cool breeze switch from my chin to my neck.  Out of sight, I heard the buck snort and hop, suddenly coming into view.  I got a range of 62 yards and drew my bow, finding the peep just in time to see him bounce down the cliffs to the safety of the basin below.

Swarovski’s new 12×42 NL Pure binocular shrinks down bulk from the 12X50 EL SV.

Another close call, and great experience in the mountains with my son.  I was really surprised that I saw that tine to begin with.  If I had the narrower field of view of a standard 12X binocular, I may never have seen the deer to begin with.  This, of course, leads to the stark realization that we hunters miss a lot out there.  However, good optics sure do help, as evidenced by the new NL Pure binocular from Swarovski Optik. Available here.

Swarovski Optik

The magician engineers of Austria’s Swarovski Optik have long been known to serious hunters as the makers of some of the world’s best hunting optics.  Many knowledgeable optics aficionados considered the premium “Swarovision” EL binocular line to be about perfect for Western hunting.  With its open-bridge ergonomics, field-flattened wide view, and razor-sharp-to-the-edge image, the EL deservedly earned this lauding.  So how could Swarovski improve on the industry-leading instrument?  Well, they found a way.

Thanks to Swarovski, I was able to use both the NL Pure 12X42 and the EL SV 12X50 side-by-side this season to see just what hunters are getting for the NL’s hefty $3400 price tag.  Both binoculars had the Outdoorsman’s tripod adapter stud installed for easy use with the excellent Outdoorsman’s support system.

The binoculars came with the stud installed for the Outdoorsman’s tripod adapter and pan head.

For a baseline, I compared both of the binoculars on a USAF resolution chart at 50 yards in good light and failing light.  As one would expect from this class of binocular and at unboosted 12x magnification, both excellent binoculars resolved the same element on the chart.  Lowlight still favored the EL’s larger exit pupil, however.  While I couldn’t resolve any smaller elements on the chart as the light faded, I could definitely see the target for longer into the darkness.  I was a little surprised by the NL Pure, though, in how close it was to the EL SV, even with 8mm less in objective size.

The author found the NL Pure’s ergonomics the best he ever used.

I would describe the NL view as more “contrasty” than the EL’s, which is saying a lot since the EL is famous for its color and punchy contrast.  This provided a great viewing experience with the NL Pure.


The biggest optical difference between them though was the enormous field of view of the NL Pure.  The 12X50 EL has a pretty wide FOV spec of 300 feet at 1000 yards.  The NL Pure, though, is like taking another step closer to a picture window at 339 feet at 1000 yards.  It sounds like a lot because it is … a lot.  That is wider than many “wide field” 10x premium binoculars.  The extraordinary field of view goes for the whole 42mm NL Pure line, too with the 10x coming in at 399 feet at 1000 yards and the 8x at an insane 477 feet at 1000 yards.  It makes me wonder if you can see behind you with the 8x.  Still, Swarovski gets these huge fields while maintaining a glasses-friendly 18mm of eye relief.  The wide view suffers very little distortion, although straight lines curve a little, showing mild pincushion distortion right at the edge of the massive FOV.  The benefit here is that those sensitive to rolling ball will get along well with the NL Pure.

Chromatic aberration control is typical Swarovski.  Color fringing is well controlled in the center of the field of view, while it grows towards the edge.  It can be seen readily at the edge on high-contrast targets but isn’t obtrusive or especially bothersome.

Overall, the new NL Pure pushes the limits of field-worthy hunting binoculars and succeeds the EL SV as the class leader.  The viewing experience is second to none.

NL Pure Design

While the optics are excellent in every way, Swarovski pushed the limits in design as well.  They rotated the prisms to give the binocular a slim and curvy look that will make some blush if they look right at it.  Swarovski wraps the NL Pure in their excellent lightly textured armor and gives the extra-large removable eyecups seven detent positions to find the viewer’s perfect eye relief.  Two, solid hinges are on each side of the buttery center focus wheel giving the appearance of a single hinge design.  The diopter is hidden next to the wheel with the markings on the inside of the hinges.  While it doesn’t technically lock, it is so tucked away and unobtrusive that it never, ever moved on me.

Swarovski tucked away the unobtrusive diopter in keeping with the sleek and functional design theme.

The ergonomics of the NL are amazing.  In first seeing the design, I was skeptical, and it looked a bit gimmicky.  However, in actual use, I learned soon those curves weren’t only for sex appeal.  This is the best feeling roof prism binocular I have used.  The curves fit wonderfully into one hand or two and allow the firmest, most secure feeling fit I have experienced with a binocular.  It is hard to explain just how good the ergonomics are.  It has to be experienced first hand.  This sleek design leads to weight savings with the 12X42 NL Pure weighing on my scale at 1 pound 14.6 ounces (plus another 0.7 ounces for headrest), and the 12X50 EL dropping in at 2 pounds 3.2 ounces.

Swarovski EL 12×50
The improved design and smaller objectives of the NL Pure lead to substantial weight savings over the 12X50 EL SV.
Optional Headrest

Another ergonomic benefit comes from the optional headrest.  The headrest pressure-fits into the bridge on the user-side of the focus wheel.  It has an adjusting wheel that changes the distance between the rest and the eyecups.  I had a love/hate relationship with the headrest in that it would slowly collapse sometimes when I was pressing my head into it, and I would have to re-adjust.  Still, I ended up using it more often than not, given that I needed to steady the 12X binoculars the best I could, and the headrest definitely helped with the chore.  Which leads us to …

The author found the forehead rest accessory useful for steadying the 12x view, but a little finicky.
Field Use

I really loved using the NL Pure binoculars.  The ergonomics and optical performance are like none other.  I did, however, have an issue with the 12x magnification.  When affixed to the Outdoorsman’s tripod adapter on the Outdoorsman’s pan head, I felt like a superhero glasser.  A giant, steady, ultra-sharp, mega-wide FOV massaged my eyeballs for hours at a time.  When seated, elbows propped, headrest pressured, and further supported by my hat bill, I could get almost as good of an image.  However, while the NL Pure with headrest was useable handheld (even one-handed) for me, I still couldn’t get near as steady as 10x binoculars.  I think the 10x NL Pure might be a better match for me, given how frequently I use binoculars handheld.

“I have used the 12×50 EL binoculars for the last five years. I didn’t think you could make a better 12 power binocular. But, the 12×42 NL is better in almost every aspect. Swarovski Optik has set a new standard in glassing pleasure.”Ryan Avery

The author found Swarovski put more than good looks into the NL Pure binocular.  Swarovski bested themselves in ergonomics and performance.

The Swarovski NL Pure 12X42 binocular is the finest 12x hunting binocular I have used.  Tripod-mounted, the NL Pure provided the kind of glassing experience that could mean the difference between success and failure.  The ergonomics are the best available, and everything about the build is top-notch.  Hunters looking for the very best optics and ergonomics need not look any further than the NL Pure line, as long as they can afford the price tag. Order here.

The only caveat is that significant expense could go to a rangefinding and ballistic computing binocular that could be a better fit for many hunters.  A Swarovski ballistic range finding binocular with ergonomics and optics from the NL Pure line would be interesting indeed.  Your move, Swarovski Optik magicians.

You can comment on this review or ask Matt questions here.

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Matt Cashell
Matt Cashell is a Montana hunter. Matt has traveled to all corners of his home state chasing whatever game he can. Matt has been lucky to take great trophies in Montana’s classic game species: Rocky Mountain Elk, Mule Deer, and Pronghorn. When he isn’t out chasing big game, he might be pointing a shotgun at flushing roosters, casting flies for Montana’s monster trout, or working on shooting precision long range rifles. Matt has spent more time outdoors than in through his formative years, and has deep roots in family hunting traditions garnered from years of following his father and uncle in Montana’s wild places. Family is important to Matt as he works to pass on those traditions to his five kids in the Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana, with the help of his loving wife, Heather.A self-proclaimed gear geek, Matt continues to pursue the ragged edge of hunting technology, and any small advantage or comfort that can increase his chances of backcountry success. Particularly an optics addict, Matt is always trying to see better, and find those wiley critters before they find him. It doesn’t matter what weapon is used, the hunt and wild places draw him to the woods, time after time. Going in deeper, and hunting harder is always the goal with Matt, and the pursuit of that goal never ends.