Vortex Spotting Scope and Binoculars: What Worked and What Didn't in 2016

For the record, I’m not an expert optics guy and I never have been.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve used a small set of Nikon binoculars, but continued getting that nagging feeling like I was missing out on something.  Everyone who hunts and uses good glass says that optics are game changers so I decided to jump in head first and purchase a pair of Vortex Razor HD 8x42 Binoculars and the Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope.  By the end of the season, I found myself using only the binoculars because I sold the scope shortly after I purchased it.  This post is about why I dumped the scope.

This is the Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope.  It's ultra compact, and though it was cool, it just didn't provide the information I hoped it would.  



I hunt in Southwest Washington State where it’s dense and dark most of the time.  I rarely, if ever, have that commanding view of the surrounding lands and even if I did, I don’t believe it would do me much good.  I hunt Blacktail Deer in the fall and Elk in the summer.  I’ve never had much of an issue finding elk and if you know anything about Blacktail, they’re not exactly the most open-minded animal when it comes to exposing themselves in a nice meadow.  After years of hearing about how optics can change your hunts, I purchased my glass and hit the hills for a test run.


What I Learned

I bought the 11-33x50 Spotting Scope because I thought I needed a compact scope for backpack hunting.  Every review said this was the one to get, so that’s what I did.  What I found was that I was unable to gather additional information from my scope over what I had already gathered from my binoculars.  Optics are about information gathering, right?  Naturally, I thought I’d get a huge bump in information when I swapped over to the scope, but because of the zoom only reaching to 33 power, there wasn’t much additional information to gain. 

What I found was that I was unable to gather additional information from my scope over what I had already gathered from my binoculars.

First morning of elk season.  I'm so glad I had these bino's!


The best way I can explain this is to say that my 8x42 binoculars had a large field of view which made it easier to find animals right off the bat.  If I found a buck or a doe, or whatever else and switched to the scope, I still could only tell that the subject animal was a doe or a buck.  Though the scope could technically reach out further than my binoculars could in terms of power, they just didn’t provide any more valuable information than I already gained through my binoculars.  A buck was still a buck, and a doe was still a doe.  Depending on the distance, you can’t count the points with such a small scope (at least in my experience) without being closer to the animal.  But if I were closer, then my binoculars could already tell me how many points the buck had.  Does that make sense?  The magnification powers are just too close together for there to be any real differences (I know that sounds weird, but that’s what I experienced).


Vortex Razor HD 8x42 Binoculars         

Price as of February 2017 - $1479.99 per the Vortex website

I love these things.  For the country I hunt in, they’re great.  I’d buy them again and again for how small, but bright they are and they feel amazing to hold.  The picture is clear, but I also think I could drop to the next model down and be just as happy.  Like I said, I’m not an optics guru so I just see what I see. 

The Vortex Razor HD 8x42 Binoculars are sturdy, clear, and a great asset for where I hunt.

What is cool about the Razor models is that the image is crisp from edge to edge.  If I were to go up a size, I’d try for a 12x50 or somewhere in there just to have some fun.


Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope

Price as of February 2017  - $999.99 per the Vortex website

I purchased my scope, tried it out, and sold it on Craigslist to someone who wanted it more than I did.  For the weight it required me to bring with me (tripod + scope), I didn’t feel it added any additional informational value over what my binoculars were already providing.  That said, the scope was very cool.  It was small, light, and easy to handle. 

This photo was taken during my test run with the scope and the binoculars.  I fell in love with my bino's and fell out of love withe the scope.

The size makes the objective field of view very narrow which means it’s harder to locate whatever you’re looking for.  If I had to choose between this compact scope and a pair of lower power binoculars, I’d take the binoculars every time.  The image is brighter and the field of view is far better.  In fact, I’d rather have a 15 or 20 power pair of binoculars over a scope at this point based only on the field of view provided by two objectives versus one.

Would I buy another scope?  Maybe, but it wouldn’t be the compact one.  If I ever buy a scope again, I’ll go big so it’s worth the weight.  That said, if I find out that it doesn’t increase my information gathering very much, I’ll never pack a scope again.

It's compact, but the 11-33x50 spotting scope from Vortex just isn't powerful enough to give me the information I expected or wanted.  My binoculars did the job perfectly over this scope.

I know a lot of guys might cringe at these comments, but I’m just telling you how I feel based on my experiences.  If I see a deer or elk and I know it’s legal, I’m going after it.  I’m not hunting trophy animals here, I’m hunting for fun and meat, so to me I don’t need to size up an animal past knowing if it’s a buck or bull.



When it comes to optics, it’s all about information gathering.  If a piece of glass isn’t giving me any sort of edge over what my binoculars already provide, I’m not interested. 


Let me know what you think!  If you’ve experienced the same thing, I’d love to know about it.  If you haven’t or if you’ve experienced something different, please let me know!  What set up’s do you use?  What are your thoughts?


Thanks for stopping by and stay safe out there!


By Land,


Emory Ronald