All the expensive optics manufacturers have the same problem: should they launch cheaper models? If they do, it opens them to the charge of going downmarket. Also, they may have to cut costs in the manufacturing process, which could bring with it a quality issue.
All of the expensive optics manufacturers worry about this for all their product lines with the exception of one: the binoculars you stuff in your car glovebox.
Well, it has worked for Swarovski. It launched its CL ‘pocket’ or ‘companion’ series binos in 2013. They are small, relatively cheap and a hot seller. It has sold 70,000 of them since then.
In 2021, it is updating the model. The main change is the focusing wheel, with a reinforced hinge, which product manager Michaela Leeb claims is even easier to use than the old one. With a 110mm x 65mm and 350g weight, it still fits neatly in an outside pocket. It comes in two colours: green or anthracite.
The focusing wheel is about the same size as the original model but recessed more into the bridge. To look at, this model is just a hint more ‘StarWars’ than the old CLs.
Sizes are 8×25, 10×25, 8×30 and 10×30. Weighing just 500g (about 1lb), the 8×30 offers field of view of 372ft at 1,000 yards and 15mm of eye relief.
Much of a good bino is in the coatings the manufacturer applies to the lenses. The CL series come with Swarotop and Swarodur anti-reflection coatings, so no problem there. And, to prevent fogging, the binos are waterproof and nitrogen filled.
Available in green, black or sandbrown and priced at around £600, they are up against the market-leading (according to our research) Zeiss Terra series, priced from £260 to £350, and the Leica Trinovid from £340 upwards. Also consider the Vortex Diamondback and Nikon Monarch series.