After testing both Swarovski NL Pure 10×42 and 12×42, I – a self-confessed lover of smallish full-size binoculars, felt the urge to try the latest 32 mm NLs. For most of my birding life, I birded with 8s, and with NLs and their extreme wide-angle field of view I found myself in a dilemma: should I stick to 8s and gain a 20% wider FOV, or should I keep the FOV I am used to and am happy with, but gain some extra magnification?

NL Pure 42 mm vs. 32 mm

Ideally, I would love to have both, but binoculars are a lot like kayaks: if you want to go faster, go for a straighter, slimmer and longer hull. Yet, if you want more control in tight bends, go for a shorter, curvier and wider boat. You cannot get both short and long hull in a single kayak. Choose what is more important to you and sacrifice the other. It’s the same with binoculars: I can either get a wider FOV with a true wow-effect, or a higher magnification while keeping the same FOV I am already using. What should it be?

Most of the time I bird my local patch, consisting of mosaic habitats with a series of ponds intersected with islets of willows and poplars and surrounded by grasslands and forests. Usually I am not in completely open habitats, and even less often inside a closed-canopy forest. If I were a forest birder, without a second thought I’d go for 8s and their extra FOV, yet this way I felt that my FOV is satisfactory, hence I opted for a higher magnification: 10×32 NLs.

The very first time I held them, the very first look through them, I just knew: this is it, this is the pair for me. Full stop. Although I did test them thoroughly later, I knew from that first sight, this pair was made for me. The old knight in that Indiana Jones cave full of holy grails to choose from would say to me: You have chosen wisely.

What made me so certain, so quickly, so easily? When I picked them up, I used the last hour of the day at the nearest pond to try them on Whiskered Terns and Squacco Herons, European Bee-eaters and a Black Woodpecker, Eurasian Golden Orioles and Great Reed Warblers. Expectedly, the views were bright and crisp, focused edge to edge.

10s are a whole new experience compared to 8s. It is a new level of quality birding, giving me just that bit of extra magnification I needed for a long time. I still carry my scope with me most of the time, but with 10s I do not reach for it as much as I did with 8s.

32 mm NLs are 144 mm/5.7″ long and weigh rather a moderate 640 g/22.5 oz, hence they can be easily worn around the neck for the whole day without fatigue. The barrels are flattened into ellipse in the middle section, making NLs noticeably slim and ergonomic to hold. The FOV of 10×32 is 132 m/1000m (396-foot/1000 yards), while the light transmission is 92 %. I am not a very technical person and I do not feel like going into fine numbers and percentages much more. Of course they are waterproof and inert gas filled, that is already becoming a standard in mid-range binoculars, and NLs are as premium as can be.

After ages spent with bins around my neck, I knew exactly what it was that I needed, that I liked, that I wanted. NL 10×32 are comfortable to use, they fit my expectations perfectly and they are everything I ever dreamed of in a pair of binoculars: seductively bright and crisp, moderately sized and almost lightweight.

Still, if I like everything, is there something I do not like? There is, once you adjust the dioptre, you cannot block it in the position. Some people commented that the spike on the front side, next to the focusing wheel, used to adjust the dioptre, is hard to move anyway, but I find it not true. You are unlikely to move it when binoculars are hanging from your neck, but when driving alone, I tend to keep the binoculars in the passenger seat, front side down, as I have been doing for decades. And that spike is on the front side and it is quite prone to movement during the drive. Now I am trying to put the front side up, but I do find it odd to have to twist my hand before I put them down.

NL Pure 10×32 is actually the 6th pair of Swarovski binoculars that I have tested. I was happy with CL Companion 8×30, so much so that I used them for 11 years without deciding to upgrade to ELs. But the extra-wide FOV of NLs is a true game changer, making 10s the new 8s.

Now I could give an elaborate conclusion why the NLs are so good, but would you really want to read that? They are so good that I put my money where my mouth is and bought them. And that is my conclusion: I don’t think I will ever be looking for a new pair of binoculars.

Written by Dragan
Dragan Simic is obsessively passionate about two things – birding and travelling in search of birds, and that has taken him from his native Balkans to the far shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, southern Africa, India and Latin America. His 10,000 Birds blog posts were Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. Birder by passion and environmental scientist by education, he is an ecotourism consultant, a field researcher and a bird blogger who always thinks that birding must be better behind that next bend in the road, and that the best bird ever is – the next lifer. He tweets as @albicilla66