A Work Commenced February 20 2024
Product: Swarovski Habicht 8 x 30 W
Country of Manufacture: Austria
Exit Pupil: 3.75mm
Eye Relief: 12mm
Field of View: 136m@1000m(7.8 angular degress)
Dioptric Compensation: +\_ 5
Close Focus: 3m advertised, 2.68m measured
IPD Range: 56-72mm
ED Glass: No
Light Transmission: 96%
Waterproof: Yes(4m/13 feet)
Operating Temperature Range: -25C to +55C
Weight: 540g advertised, 536g measured
Accessories: Cordura carry case, neck strap, rain guard, lens cloth, instruction manual.
Warranty: 10 Years(+1 year if product registered online)
Anyone with an interest in binoculars and their history will undoubtedly be familiar with the Swarovski Habicht Porro prism binoculars, the company’s oldest continuously developed product line, which began production immediately after WWII. This review will concentrate on arguably the most popular of the Habicht line: the compact and lightweight 8 x 30 W.
The instrument was bought from a reputable dealer: The Birder’s Store in Worcester. The instrument was dispatched via expedited delivery and arrived within 24 hours of purchasing. The package was delightful: a nice presentation box with a beautiful alpine scene. The instrument was found encased in a lovely green Cordura case together with its rain guard. The package also contained a logoed neck strap, instruction manual and microfibre lens cleaning cloth.
The instrument was immaculately presented with a serial number beginning with the numerals 12 indicating that its year of manufacture was 2022. The rubber eyecups are very comfortable but afford minimal eye relief at 12mm. This didn’t present a problem for me as I don’t wear spectacles while glassing. However, some folk have endeavoured to acquire the longer rubber eyecups that accompany the more heavily armoured GA model for better eye relief.
The focus wheel moves smoothly and very precisely. Just over one revolution clockwise takes you from closest focus to a little bit beyond infinity. Unlike quite a few other reports, I do not consider the focuser on the 8 x 30 W to be overly stiff. Indeed, I very much liked it right out of the case! What I especially appreciated though was the + and – markings on the side of the focus wheel facing the ocular lenses: which allow the user to dial in the approximate focus for objects close at hand and in the middle distance without ever having to look through the instrument!
I was very relieved to see the dioptre compensation ring moves with a fair amount of tension. This means little to no wandering while operating in the field. Indeed it is just about as good as that found on the Nikon EII 8 x 30.
The leatherette armouring on the 8 x 30 W seems more organic to me, less artificial, than that found on the Nikon EII body. It is slightly more elastic and grippy too. It didn’t take me long to find the best way to handle the instrument, which is a joy to hold in one’s hands. Being intimately acquainted with the haptics of the EII 8 x 30, I would say the only significant difference between the two models is the slightly wider spacing between the barrels and the central shaft of the Habicht, making it easier to wrap one’s fingers round. The latter is also a bit more streamlined than the former: a fact confirmed by comparing their weights – 565g for the EII and 536g for the Habicht 8 x 30 W.
The ocular lenses are a little smaller than those found on the Nikon EII and thus are ever so slightly harder to engage with.
The 30mm objective lenses have immaculately applied coatings and are recessed a few millimetres from the binocular frame.
The leather neck strap is a real work of art it must be said, and an absolute pleasure to use. Beautifully crafted from traditional materials it’s adorned with the fetching silvered avian Swarovski logo on either side. Indeed I have yet to see a better neck-strap than this one!
Although I elected not to store the instrument in the supplied green Cordura case for everyday use, it will serve as an excellent travel case when I need it.
All in all, the Habicht 8 x 30 W is a most charming and impressively designed instrument with a great deal of attention to detail immediately in evidence!
My first optical tests were to check the collimation and look for internal reflections. Collimation was spot on as my star testing revealed. Directing an intensely bright beam of light from across my living room into the binocular revealed excellent results: just two very insignificant reflections noted with no diffused light or diffraction spikes( the standard result for a Porro). This was a most excellent result indeed!
This was confirmed by glassing a bright, waxing gibbous Moon in the February sky and a bright yellow sodium street lamp after dark, both of which showed the same great results.
Next I took some shots of the exit pupils, which you can see below:
As you can see, both pupils are perfectly round with very little in the way of any false pupils in their vicinity. You can however make out some light leaks well beyond the exit pupils which may be responsible for manifesting some glare and off axis flaring. More on this later.
The view through the Swarovski Habicht is simply out of this world! In careful tests involving my EII 8 x 30, Zeiss Victory Pocket 8 x 25 and a Leica Ultravid HD Plus(UVHDP)8 x 32 , it was the clear winner in terms of sheer central sharpness, brightness and contrast. Really quite incredible!
Particularly memorable was a shootout I conducted with a new villager, Davey, who had just completed building a new home overlooking Loch Carron, just a few miles from my home. He recently acquired both an 8 x and 10 x 32 Leica UVHDP, as well as an older Leica Trinovid BN 8 x 32, and invited me up to his place to have a look around. Observing the loch and the surrounding forests from his porch, he got a good chance to compare the views in both the Habicht and his 8 x 32 with their similar sized fields. We both declared the Habicht to have the superior optics but his jaw dropped when I told him that the Habicht was half the price of the Leica!
It makes for wonderful viewing in any kind of lighting conditions, but really excels in dull, overcast lighting where its extraordinary light transmission(an astonishing 96%) pulls it readily ahead of all the competition. Comparing it most carefully to the EII 8 x 30 I would describe the Habicht as peeling off that last layer to reveal its subjects in breathtaking clarity.
I do want to mention another brief test though. My former student and astrophysics graduate, Joe Stearn, joined me one afternoon with his dad’s Oberwerk SE 8 x 32. Joe reckoned his dad’s instrument was sightly better than his own unit which he left back home in rural Massachusetts. We compared the views and decided they were very close; with the nod going to the Habicht in ferreting out low contrast detail in dull overcast. Like I said before, the Oberwerk SE 8 x 32 with its ED objectives is an exceptional performer but at 800g it’s not a glass you want to carry round your neck all day!
Chromatic aberration is better controlled in the Habicht compared with the EII, particularly off axis, but this might be due to the former’s smaller field of view(7.8 compared with 8.9 degrees in the EII). Pincushion distortion is also vanishingly low in the Habicht, even at the extreme edges of the field, rendering it a most excellent instrument for studying architectural features. The sweet spot on this unit is quite generous: maybe covering the central 60 per cent of the field, after which gentle field curvature gradually distorts the outer part of the field of view. The Habicht has a very uniformly illuminated field though. Moving the gibbous Moon from the centre of the field to the edge revealed little in the way of light drop off. Some lateral colour and a touch of astigmatism were also in evidence by studying the bright star Procyon as it was gradually moved from the centre to the field stops.
Notes from the Field:
Several Habicht 8 x 30 W users have reported that the instrument suffers from excessive glare. I can report that this is grossly exaggerated. Yes, it behaves less well against the light than the Nikon EII or Zeiss Victory but I have never perceived it as excessive with the worst cases easily improved by shielding with an outstretched hand over the objectives. The Habicht does exhibit strong off axis flaring however. But placing a bright Moon just outside the field of view reveals this fairly easily.
Close focus was measured to be 2.68m: better than the advertised 3m but this can actually be improved owing to the large beyond infinity reach of the existing focus wheel. By resetting the position of infinity closer to the end of its travel, a significantly better near focus value could be obtained. I am aware of a binocular repair company that can provide such a service.
I have not had any issues with the focus wheel on the Habicht. Reports that it can’t be used for extensive birding activities because of the sluggish movement of focus wheel are also untrue in my experience. I’ve been able to track birds flitting from nearby bushes to trees in the middle distance with no problems at all. In short, it’s called skill and practice makes perfect!
Depth of focus and the wonderful stereoptic view only provided by Porro prism instruments are very similar in both the EII and the Habicht. Indeed they render roof prism models decidedly ‘flat’ in comparison.
I elected to store the Habicht 8 x 30 W in a dry box: just like all my other non/waterproof Porros. It’s much easier to access the instrument using this set up compared with storing it in the zipped Cordura case supplied with the instrument.
Closing Remarks & Conclusions:
The Swarovski Habicht 8 x 30 W exhibits the best optical performance I have personally experienced in the 30mm/ 32mm binocular format, with ergonomics that don’t fall far behind it. If anything it underscores my conviction that compact alpha roof models are a profligate waste of money. If you are after world class optics in a small, lightweight and weather resistant chassis, check this binocular out! It will delight its owners with years of flawless optical and mechanical performance.
Very highly favoured!
Neil English’s new book, Choosing and Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, is now available for purchase.