column By: Patrick Meitin | May, 22
Ten years of Swarovski refinement brought us the EL Range, certainly an impressive demonstration of the innovation that has made Swarovski Optik world renowned. The EL Range combines the edge-to-edge sharpness of Swarovision technology with .5-second, precision range measurement at extreme ranges.
Because they are from Swarovski, the EL Range includes bright, clear state-of-the-art optics. That’s a given. The ranging portion of the equation is where things become more astounding. The binocular measures range in yards or meters, from 10 meters (10.9 yards) to 2,000 meters (2,187 yards), or let’s just say, farther than the vast majority of us are able to shoot a rifle with any degree of barn-door accuracy. The binocular includes an integrated tilt indicator for accurately correcting uphill and down-hill shots. A unique, angle shot program can be set to display either the straight-forward corrected shooting distance, or the angle of incline/decline to punch into a ballistics calculator.
An EL Range Configurator smartphone app is used to set the unit up for specific loads and ballistic data. The app applies this information, plus atmospheric data including atmospheric pressure/altitude and ambient temperature to help hunters execute precision shots at extended distances where small details make or break results. With this data inputted, along with the corrected shooting distance, a rifleman will know exactly how many turret clicks are necessary to dial in the shot. The EL Range can also be programed to accept a hunter’s own proven ballistics data, again through the app, allowing the shooter to maintain control over every shot. This data can be applied directly through a smartphone.
Swarovski Optik has this to say about those concerns: “Digital technology provides unprecedented accuracy when shooting at long range or in tough conditions. In combination with the skill of the hunter, it makes it easier to stay totally focused, even in challenging situations. We see this as an important contribution to ensuring responsible hunting at all times.” The company added that this kind of shooting is still very challenging and emphasized the need for hunters to use personal responsibility when deciding between what is technically possible and what is ethically acceptable.
As for the intelligence, the EL Range’s integrated Tracking Assistant (TA) is designed to make recovery after long shots easier by guiding the shooter to the point where the last shot was directed, greatly narrowing down the search area. This program also requires a linked smartphone via the Configurator app.
The EL Range I used for several months included a Western ideal, 10x42mm configuration (an 8x42mm is also offered). A 42mm objective lens not only gives this glass exceptional low-light capabilities (90 percent light transmission and a 4.2mm exit pupil), which also helps penetrate deep shadow during the heat of day.
The 6.8-degree field of view is fairly average for this kind of magnification and it points well, meaning it instinctively and automatically grab subjects of interest when tossed to the eyes. As a stand-alone binocular it is as good as it gets. As a rangefinder, it is Johnny-on-the-spot well beyond practical hunting ranges. The fly in the ointment is price. MSRP is a startling $4,032 (8x42mm $3,921). Intelligent technology comes at a price.
Functionally, this binocular is extremely ergonomic. It handles easily and remains steady when gripped in the hands. It also handled fairly well one-handed while gripping a rifle for instance and checking out a suspicious spot or grabbing a quick laser range. The focus knob is large and well textured, firm, but not too stiff while turning. The ranging activation button is located on the rear bridge hinge, just forward of the focus knob. This makes it readily accessible and intuitive to operate. Another less conspicuous button on the inside left barrel controls various functions, such as selecting meters or yards, Fahrenheit or Celsius, and so forth.
I developed a kind of love/hate relationship with the lens covers during two rainy weeks of elk hunting in rough and brushy habitat. The dual ocular cap, tethered to the shoulder strap, kept moisture and debris at bay and proved easy enough to engage and disengage. The objective lens covers, including an integrated hinge system that keeps them attached to the bottom lip of the housing, proved more frustrating. They include a “bead-in-groove” locking system and top pull tabs. They were needed under the wet conditions experienced, but were prone to dislodging while navigating thick brush and then occasionally proved difficult to pop back in place.
I used the provided neoprene neck strap adjusted long enough to carry the weight over my right shoulder while tucking the binocular under my left arm for further protection. In this way, the heavy-ish, 5.3-by-7.25-inch, 32.6 ounces/ 2-pound binocular carried comfortably. The snazzy, streamlined plug-in strap attachment system made it difficult to add my preferred split shoulder harness without major modifications to the existing strap system. I also managed to break one of the attachment sockets while fighting especially thick brush, though it snapped back together and stayed in place with a small dab of glue. Strap length is controlled by locking buckles. Overall, the connection system and strap adjustment are over-engineered – in my opinion at least.
Understand, these complaints likely would not have emerged during a hunt that did not include climbing through jungle-like second-growth alder, red willow, mountain laurel and Juneberry. The EL range also comes with a padded, shoulder-strapped storage/carry pack that was convenient when back at the truck or at home.
For hunters interested in a more detailed account of the technology included in the EL Range, visit swarovskioptik.com.