The SLC 42 Series is described by Swarovski Optik as "multipurpose binoculars for observing wildlife", which apart from being Slim, Light and Compact, their main strengths and indeed aspirations are to be as tough and durable as possible, offer a very high quality, but also high contrasting image with a wide field of view.
It is because of these core strengths, the 42mm Swarovski SLC binoculars tend to appeal to the needs of people like adventurers, general wildlife observers and hunters. To me it also looks like they could be a great option for birders who perhaps do not quite have the budget needed for the flagship EL series.
As you will read in this Swarovski SLC 10x42 binocular review below, I take a really close look at all of their components, specifications as well as give you my perspective as to their optical performance, all the time keeping a close eye on the similarities as well as differences between these and the EL series to help those who are undecided as to which is a better choice for their specific needs.
Main Features of the Swarovski 10x42 SLC
Produced in their facility in Austria, the most obvious difference between the EL and these SLC's is their body shape.
Unlike the EL's which have an open bridge, these with their single bridge body design keep a closer connection with tradition, but with a few modern twists, that are worth mentioning:
The bridge is fairly thin and is positioned a fair bit close to to the eye-pieces than the objective lenses. This frees up more of the ends of the barrels and thus gives you a little more to hold onto, which makes them nice and comfortable when glassing, but also makes them more secure to grasp when walking.
This may seem like a small point and not worth expanding on, but for those who have to clamber about over difficult terrain whilst in search of wildlife, it can be really important.
For example on safari, I often make my way through quite thick bush, up and down steep sections and often over large boulders. All the time carrying my binoculars as well as my camera (hunters will have their weapon). To have your bins simply swinging from your neck is not good enough as they will most certainly get damaged. Thus if I am not using a harness, I often find myself carrying them in one hand and protect my camera with the other and this is why a good grip like these provide is for me an essential feature.
The first area where we discover that Swarovski Optik mean business in their quest for a tough, lightweight, yet quality binocular is their use of Magnesium as the material for the housing.
Magnesium is stronger than the most commonly used and cheapest option of Polycarbonate and whilst it may not be quite as lightweight, it has a density of only two thirds of Aluminum and so is lighter and thus is the choice for most of the very best binoculars out there.
As you would expect to discover, the Swarovski SLC 10x42 binoculars are fully sealed and are thus both water and air-tight.
Whilst they do not offer a recognized industry standard rating in their marketing, Swarovski say that they can be submerged in water to a depth of 13ft / 4m with compromising the seals.
Remember that as well as protecting them from moisture, this will also safeguard the internal optics in dry and dusty areas.
Whilst Swarovski Optik do not got into specifics as to the exact gas, they do state that there is an "inert gas" filling the inside the device. So I am not sure as to if it is Nitrogen, Argon or something even more exotic like the blend of Argon and Krypton that Leupold Optics use in some of the models, but as you can read in this article on Fog & Water-Proofing in Binoculars, for the most part it does not really matter as all seem to do good enough job of preventing the internal glass surfaces from misting up.
Whilst this armouring is quite hard and so perhaps does not offer quite as much cushioning as some, along with the finely textured exterior it still presents a surface with plenty of grip.
As well as protection and grip this non shiny and thus less reflective exterior helps to keep your position hidden. The sound dampening that the rubber offers is also an important quality for those needing to be as stealthy as possible.
On the underside of the body, Swarovski Optik have moulded two thumb indents. These are well positioned and I found that my thumbs naturally gravitated towards them and thus just did enough to help me hold them in exactly the right way and spot to get a perfectly balanced setup.
At a depth of 13mm, the objective lenses are set comparatively deeply within the ends of the barrels. This may not help make for the shortest body in the world, but it does provide the lenses with plenty of protection from being scratched as well as keeping them sheltered from light rain and falling dust. Remember the longer your lenses stay clean for, the less often you have to clean them, which in turn means less chance of you damaging them and therefore ensures your pristine view is maintained for longer.
Positioned in the traditional location, on the side of each barrel are the loops through which you thread the neck strap through. These look to be part of the same mould as the rest of the chassis and thus are very secure and look like they will break very easily.
Whilst Swarovski advertise their TA-SLC tripod adapter as one of the recommended accessories for the 10x42 SLC, you do not have to use their adapter:
By removing the small dust cap on the front of the bin with a small coin (rather than unscrewing it in the more usual way), it exposes the small teeth used for Swarovski's own quick release adapter, but they have still also thankfully kept the standard thread which you can use to screw in most standard tripod adapters.
One aspect to keep in mind however is that there is not a huge amount of room between the barrels and this combined with the fact that the bridge is set far back from the ends of the barrels, means that you may have some difficulty fitting some adapters into the gap. However as you can see from the photos, I was able to use my Vanguard one, which is of a similar design to many others out there.
On top of this the actual eye-cup housing can be unscrewed and replaced should you ever need to. As this is one of the most vulnerable external areas on a bin, it is a part that takes the lions share when it comes to the parts of a bin that do get damaged (especially when dropped) and thus it make's sense that it can be easily replaced.
The metal shell has a small rubber padded area on the end for comfort and whilst this is quite hard and the diameter of the eyecup (38mm) is perhaps a millimeter or so less than some, I never felt any discomfort whilst using the bins, even when pushing them quite firmly against my face to get a really steady view.
Twisting up and down the eye-cups is nice and smooth and there is no undesired free-play or movement of any sort. There is also one fixed stop situated between the two extremes, which provides a little flexibility for some, although most non eye-glass users will simply have them set at fully extended and fully twisted in for those who wear glasses.
Also there is easily enough friction to movement for you to position the eye-cups at any point should you need to and they should remain in position.
Inter-Pupillary Distances (IPD)
By opening and closing the central hinge, you can adjust the distance between the eye-cups to match that of your own eyes. These Swarovski SLC binoculars have a minimum IPD setting of 5.6cm and a maximum of 7.4cm, which as you can see by comparing the IPD with others is a good range for a bin in this class and means they should accommodate most people.
Centrally located on the rear of the hinge is the focus wheel.
Whilst the one on my test pair worked very well: it turned smoothly, without any sticking points or undesired free play, I would have to say that being made from plastic it just lacks a little in terms of class when compared to the rest of the binocular, especially the eye-pieces. This is mostly an aesthetic thing and metal ones, apart from feeling more robust and solid do not really work any better.
At 29mm in diameter, the wheel is also a few millimeters smaller than that I most often find on a full-sized bin. However because it protrudes nicely above the barrels, turns smoothly and has a deeply grooved track running across it, I never had any problems in firstly reaching it or accurately adjusting the focus, even whilst testing with my gloves on.
In my experience, I would describe the focus mechanism as being lowly geared, by that I mean it takes just over 2 turns (730° of rotation) of the wheel to adjust the focus from one extreme to the other. The advantage of this is that it is in theory easier to make fine adjustments to the focus to get it spot on, but on the flip side, making large changes in the focus takes a little longer than those that require less turning of the wheel.
For a number of reasons, I really love the diopter adjustment on the Swarovski SLC 10x42 binoculars. Unlike most bins that have a ring positioned near the right eyepiece, you use the central focus wheel to calibrate your bins to match that of your eyesight.
To do this you have to engage it by pulling the focus wheel back, it then clicks out to reveal the easily readable scale. This scale is the first feature that sets this diopter apart as most manufacturers simply have a central point indicator, thus if your setting in not neutral and you want be able to quickly return it should it move, then you have to create your own mark.
Once engaged, you simply turn it as you would the focus wheel, but rather than turning with a smooth action like the standard focus mechanism, the diopter turns with a very fine ratchets, which lets you know that you are adjusting the diopter.
Then once you have set up the binocular to match your eyesight, you lock the diopter setting in place by clicking the wheel back in place. Having a lockable diopter is another small but nice feature that is missing from way too many pairs of optics out there.
The official dimensions of the Swarovski are pretty much in line with the majority of other full sized roof prism bins on the market.
For accuracy, I measured their length as 14.4cm with the lens covers removed and the eyecups twisted in. Twisting out the cups increases it to 15.1cm and then by adding the objective and ocular lens covers their maximum length is 16cm.
Their width with lens covers on and the IPD set to maximum is 13.5cm. by closing the hinge this reduces down to 11.6cm.
Likewise their height with the hinge open is 7.3cm. Note this includes the lens covers and the tabs and rubber loop on them. By removing the objective lens covers their height decreases to 5.3cm.
Closing the central hinge increases their height measurement to 7.1cm.
No details on the make-up of the lenses in the eyepiece, so all I can say is that after measuring the ocular lens, I found them to be 21mm in diameter, which is perhaps a millimeter smaller than the majority that I have measured on 42mm binoculars.
However where I think these do differ to the EL range is that Swarovski do not advertise that they use their Swarovision technology, which I will take to mean that they do not use field flattener lenses as which is found in the Swarovski EL 10x32 for example.
When Swarovski Optik updated the SLC range a few years back, one of the biggest improvements was to add their HD optical system to the range. This means that these now contain an extra-low dispersion glass element within the objective lenses. This is fairly common these days, but where Swarovski's are a little different to most is that this element is made using fluoride.
Whilst not the cheapest or easiest to use, Fluoride is generally considered to be the best extra-low dispersion material to better direct the wavelengths of light and thus even better at reducing or virtually eliminating chromatic aberrations to deliver a sharper image with less (or even no) color fringing around the edges of the view.
The carry case or "Field Bag" that you get with the SLC is exactly the same design as the one you get with the Swarovski EL models and is the only manufacturer I know of that includes separate instructions on how to use it properly!.
Whilst I suppose it is technically a soft case, it comes with more than enough padding and support to ensure the optics inside are protected from everything but being crushed by a very heavy object.
The Swarovski field bag comes with it's own carry strap. Unlike the neck strap, it is un-padded, but can be adjusted for length and attaches to the bag via the two quick release clips located on the rear. It is designed so that you can either carry it over your shoulder or round your neck in the traditional way, but you can also use it like a belt and carry it around your hips.
To get inside the bag, or to keep it closed, there is a long Zipper that runs the length of the two sides and over the top of the bag. For me a Zip is the most secure way of keeping the carry bag closed, but unlike a magnetic or quick release clip, you do have to be careful so as not to make too much noise when opening it should you wish to stay hidden or prevent yourself from flushing out birds and even larger wildlife.
Hidden from view, but located on the top of the front face of the bag is a small recess that is designed to be used should you wish to carry the bag in your hand rather than using the strap. I really like this and found that I would use it a lot.
Inside the bag there is a divider that keeps the binoculars and your accessories or what ever else you wish to carry apart and there are also two pockets. Once quite simple and the other an elasticated mesh one.
A point to note about the bag is that the binoculars fit perfectly into the case, not too loose so that it rattles about and not so tight that it is hard to get in or out. This fact remains true when you include the neck strap and have both the ocular and objective lens covers on and the eye-cups fully extended. I can't tell you how annoying it is to have to twist in the eye-cups every time you wish to place your optics into it's bag, so whilst this may be a small detail it is something that can really start to annoy after doing it all day long when out in the field. This I am really glad to see that Swarovski have not made this mistake that so many others do.
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