Optics review - Vortex UHD 12x50 binoculars

perma

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Wanted to share a small review from a nobody like me. I’m super cautious on purchases over $1000. Especially sight unseen. That being said, I don’t see a lot of decent reviews regarding the UHDs so I wanted to share in hopes it helps someone make a decision.

Disclaimer- I’m not looking for a pissing contest or any degrading comments saying I should have just saved for Swaros or get Leupold. I took a chance on Vortex a year ago and have been nothing but satisfied with their products and service. Not saying one is better than the other but I’m loyal to a brand that has been loyal to me. Nothing more nothing less.

Anyway, the story goes that I’ve always favored the extra power. This years elk hunt featured some 10x42 Vipers (my wife’s set). Thoroughly dissatisfied JUST because it didn’t have enough power. I also bought some 8x42 Vipers for Midwest hunting for a more favorable field of view. Love those nocks to death. Between those, I decided to go big and capitalize on the GOHUNT sale and snag the top dog 12x50 UHDs. Thanks to Cody from GOHUNT to validate my purchase.

First impression; this SOB is heavy! I think the spec is around 2 lbs or so. Definitely throws you off when you pick them up. I’m greeted with the box below. A350ED37-3DA0-41CB-A5C9-9509A0498579.jpeg 4B0F1837-DD95-4247-ACC5-E5B886AB006A.jpeg

Packaging was super nice and clean. Box is also super sturdy. You lift up the black insert and you’re greeted with a bino harness, which houses the glass.

A tidbit on the harness; I wouldn’t recommend it. The lid is held on by two bungee cords and has exposure on both sides. My Outdoor Vision seals up the entire unit nicely so I don’t see myself using these. Sadly, the UHDs do not fit in my OV so a new harness will be ordered. Yay….

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As I unwrap them from the bag I also take note that they are long. Extremely long. 7 1/2” in total. I had to double-check to make sure I didn’t order 15x or 18x. And again, heavy. There’s no way you can glass with these reliably without a tripod. In fact, I’d argue that based on the magnification, weight and length, that these nocks would hinder you finding game if you were to free hand with them. Unless you’re a buff surgeon with steady hands….

The adjustments are super clean and easy. The eyeline bends with ease and no slack. The eye cups glide and out with sturdiness as if they “lock” in place. The diopter and focus where turn with the right amount of resistance and doesn’t take much to adjust (this is important to me; I have an eye condition that requires me to wear hard plastic lenses so focus adjustment is everything).

Compared to the family set, it sticks out. UDHs on the left, my 12x50 Diamondbacks on the right and my wife’s 10x42 front and center.

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The kit also came with the standard tether straps, harness and neck straps, lens cloth and a little pouch. The pouch itself seems to also have slots for holding .22 bullets (?) which I thought was neat. I will repurpose this somewhere.

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Now onto the meat and potatoes. I tested the clarity on a huge scale from the DB to the UHD. The motto buy once cry once is there for a reason. Huge difference. I recently framed and mudded a hole in my wall about 16’ high. With my DB, I could see the outline of the tape vaguely. With the UHD, I was able to see some white dimples where the paint didn’t get recessed into the wall after I textured it. While impressed, I felt belittled.

I’m going on another Midwest deer hunt this weekend. I’m taking the 8x42 and the UHDs. They will be overkill but field tests are the best tests. Will report back.
 

perma

Well-known member
Joined
May 31, 2022
Messages
262
Location
Soon to be rockies (again)
I was able to do two things this week: upgrade my bino harness and field test the glass. I decided to get the OV first gen harness (square style) in a large. It fits better but you do have to make sure the lid fits over the binoculars. The newer one can just be flipped over with no effort and close properly. Regardless, much better harness and much better fit. No difference in the perceived weight on my chest either so that’s a plus.

Field testing on a tripod was phenomenal. I was able to glass a barn that was on state land and used that as my test. The comparable unit was my 12x DBs. Weather conditions were sunny and 50 deg F, slight wind drift and glassing into the sun. I know not to do this but that’s where the barn was. This was at 11:30. I don’t recall the exact distance but I would guess maybe 300-400 yards? I have super poor perception of distance, and today was the day I forgot my rangefinder.

First initial thoughts was how fast the clarity came after adjusting the focus and diopter. Secondly, these are bright. Way bright. Maybe too bright if there’s such a thing? Anyway, I start glassing the barn and I try to notice detail, similar to as if I was counting rings on a sheep. I notice that the barn was green. I was able to notice some of the nail holes the wood HAD before they were renailed back onto the barn. I also noticed that the wood was starting to splinter and chipping away. The barn was also painted over and was formerly a lighter shade of green, maybe like the color of bluegrass. This was now a fir tree color. I was also able to able to see some knobs in the wood.

Now onto the DBs. I could tell right away the differences. If any of you looked through the Air Force bar chart with binoculars, you know when I refer to the green lines it displays when you look at the bars. When I try and focus on those chips, they disappeared unless you really strained your eyes. The splinters vanished. The knobs looked like a dark spot on the wood, like a shadow. The door of the barn had a green aura around it. The other shades of green underneath blended in as if it was a freshly painted barn. You would never know its flaws unless you were 100 yards from it.

I then tried to freehand the UHDs and notice the same things. It was hard to near impossible to do. I then tried to rest my elbows on my truck bed. Although 10 better, still not perfect. I couldn’t gather the splinter details for beans. I then tried to crouch and hold my arms up with my knees and take my fingers off, then hold it with just my fingers. It was worse than using the truck but better than free handing.

In summary, I would 100% recommend these binoculars ON THE CONDITION that you have a solid sturdy quality tripod. I use a Sirui carbon fiber capable of holding 22 lbs (I think). If you’re not into tripods, I’d consider 10’s. Much less weight and much less power. I know with certainty I can’t freehand anything more than 8x. If you can freehand 2 lb 12x binos then more power to you. In my opinion, these are not effective to freehand. Between the extreme magnification and weight, I personally can’t see how anyone can effectively glass. That being said, I’m willing to bet I could probably see a bull walk through a park or some oak brush while freehanding. If it was laying down, I’d probably miss it.

Would I consider these over swaro’s? Don’t know, I’ve never laid eyes through them. heck I haven’t even seen a pair in person. But I do appreciate the warranty Vortex has, just because I am fairly abusive with gear. I’ve never had to use the warranty before so fingers crossed that streak keeps going.

Overall I’m happy with my purchase. If you’re on the fence on purchasing the HDs and the UHDs, you’re not wrong either way. But if brightness and focus clarity is important, go UHD.
 

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