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One of the most sought after categories in spotting scopes is the small travel one. This category has become popular among birders because of the ease of packing them in backpacks while travelling. Two most popular spotting scopes in the travel scope category are Nikon Fieldscope 13-30×50 and Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50. Both of them are pitted against one another in the smallest and lightest spotting scope category. Both are priced below $1,000 and have a price differential of around $350 between each other. While Nikon Fieldscope 13-30×50 ED spotting scope is priced just above $650, Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 spotting scope is priced just below $1,000. In fact, this $350 differential is not a big deal for a birdwatcher and can buy any one of it. What matters to a birder is the quality of spotting scope they are buying. This is when the Scopelist’s team of reviewers decided to compare different features of both these spotting scopes.
Many birders regard this Vortex spotter as the best small travel spotting scope available currently. This optical device was introduced in 2013 and comes with a decent 50mm objective lens diameter. In fact, its greatest contender is Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50. The Vortex spotter is 5.5 ounces heavier than the Nikon spotter and the former is also one inch longer than the latter. While Vortex Razor HD spotting scope’s magnification range varies from 11x to 33x, that of Nikon’s vary from 13x to 30x.
When tested, we found out that resolutions of both these spotters at 30x magnification are quite similar. The only aspect where Vortex edged past the Nikon spotter is in the extra power it provides to the users both in the lower end and higher end. Another feature where Vortex beats Nikon is in the maximum field of view, which in case of the former is 191 feet at 1,000 yards. This comes especially handy in cases where a bird watcher is trying to find out a bird through the scope. It saves precious time for the bird watcher to find birds when the field of view of a spotting scope is wider at lower power.
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Another advantage of the Vortex spotter is the ability of it to zoom down as low as 11x power, which is lower than the minimum power of Nikon Fieldscope ED50. This helps users to have a look at the bird even in closer quarters. Because of light weight of both the spotting scopes, users will be able to check out birds even without setting up tripods, just by holding them in hands.
Another feature that we considered a good feature is greater eye relief, which is 19 mm in case of the Vortex spotter. This feature is especially beneficial for glass wearers as they can view through the spotter even with their glasses on. Close focus of the spotting scope is 6.6 feet. Especially at hand contact points, we found the body to be partially armoured.
You will find a double focus knob in this spotter and lens covers are attached to the device with the help of elastic rings. However, there are two aspects where Vortex could have worked on. One of the flaws is the roll-down rubber eyecup, which is an old fashioned one. Another feature that could have been improved is the lack of rotation in the tripod mount. We found out that the Vortex Razor HD spotting scope can’t be rotated to different angles.
Besides competitive pricing of Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 Straight Spotting Scope RZR-50S1, the four features that we liked are long eye relief, wide FoV, wider magnification range, and most importantly great optical quality/clarity.
Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30 x 50mm
This is a time tested spotting scope that is not only popular but also one of the lightest as well as smallest in its category. As mentioned before, it has one of the best resolutions at 30x in the category, which has been found to be similar as found in Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 Straight Spotting Scope. Instead of the double focus knob we find in the Vortex spotter, this Nikon spotting scope comes with single focus knob and the close focus is 9.8 feet. In this parameter too the Vortex spotter is ahead of Nikon. We didn’t find any slack while turning both fast and fine adjustments. Both smoothness and precision are very traditional to what we find in Nikon’s optical devices.
We found out eye relief in the Nikon device to be 13mm at lowest (13x) magnification. It is not only less than ideal for the birders who wear glasses but is also much less than what we found in the Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 spotter.
Let’s have a look at the different important specs of Nikon Fieldscope 13-30 x 50mm ED50 so that we are in a better position to understand how it fairs against other scopes, especially the Vortex Razor HD light weight spotter. It comes with a length of 8.2 inches, 157 feet at 1,000 yards field of view, 3 degree angle of view at 13x magnification, 3.8mm to 1.6mm exit pupil diameter, 25.5 to 38.8 twilight factor, and 13.5 to 2.5 relative brightness.
Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 vs. Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50
We have till now discussed about both the spotting scopes and also compared some of the features and specs. Now, let us check out the differences or even similarities between Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50 and Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 spotting scopes on a structured manner, especially by comparing the different features.
i. Image Quality
While testing both the spotting scopes, we mounted them on sturdy tripods so that there are no aberrations due to placement of the spotter. When we looked through both, we found that the image production was of high quality in both the cases. Sharpness of image (edge to edge) produced by both the spotters is equally good and it is tough to put one ahead of the other. It is a tie in this feature.
ii. Field Of View
Field of view at Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 Straight Spotting Scope RZR-50S1 is better than what we found in Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50 spotting scope. When both the scopes are set at minimum magnification, we found out that the field of view at the latter is significantly lesser than that in the former. In case of Nikon, it is 157.5 feet at 1000 yards when power is set at 13x. However, in the Vortex Razor HD spotter, the FoV is 191 feet at 1000 yards when the magnification is set at 11x. This is what the specs say. However, we ran our own tests and found out that FoV of the Vortex spotter at 30x is more than that is the Nikon device (95.5 feet over 86.8 feet). We also checked field of views of both the spotting scopes at their respective maximum powers (33x at Vortex and 30x at Nikon) and found out that Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 Straight Spotting Scope RZR-50S1 has a 6.5 per cent wider FoV than Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50 spotting scope’s.
iii. Close Focus
When it comes to close focus, Vortex Razor is a clear winner. Its 6.6 feet close focus is much better than that of Nikon’s 9.8 feet.
iv. Size as well as Weight
Though both the scopes are compact, Nikon seems to have won this round as it comes with a lesser length (9.5 inches over 10.3 inches) as well as weight (20.1 oz over 25 oz). However, these differences hardly matter, mostly because these spotters have to be put on tripods for getting a better quality image. Even if you are holding them in hand for quickly spotting birds or wildlife animals, the weight and length differentials between these two spotters will hardly matter.
When it comes to ergonomics, both the manufacturers adopted two different approaches. So, it is difficult to compare. However, considering the length of time a bird watcher has to keep hold of the spotter in hand, a comfortable hold is always preferred. This is where the Vortex device scores more than the hard all over cover found in Nikon spotter. Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 Straight Spotting Scope RZR-50S1 comes with rubberized armoring, which partially covers the scope body. This feature is more hand friendly and helps in holding the spotter for longer hours. In fact, this feature also gives an attractive look to the Vortex spotter because of the contrasting grey and dark green colors.
vi. Eye Relief
Eye relief in the Vortex spotting scope (20mm) is much better than the Nikon spotter (12.9mm). This feature is especially helpful for the birders who wear glasses. However, if you don’t wear glass, this feature will hardly make any difference until and unless you are wearing sunglasses. Therefore, Vortex wins this round too.
vii. Focus knob
Vortex comes with dual focus knob, where one knob helps users to get precise adjustment during the focusing process and the other to change from close to far and the reverse quickly. At Nikon, there is no dual focus knob but we found the same to be slightly smoother than that in Vortex spotting scope.
Though Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 Straight Spotting Scope RZR-50S1 is pricier than Nikon Fieldscope ED50 13-30×50 by around $350, the former is better in almost all the specifications and features. To bird watching enthusiasts, shelling out some more bucks hardly matters, especially when they are getting a superior quality device. So, we vote in favor of Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 spotter.