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Vortex Razor 50mm vs. Nikon Fieldscope 50mm

50mm Razor Scope50mm Nikon Scope







A Side-by-side Comparison

For years we've recommended the 13-30x50mm Nikon Fieldscope as the best choice for a super-compact, high-quality travel scope.

Now there is a new contender, the 11-33x50 Vortex Razor. As soon as we got our hands on new Vortex, we did a side-by-side comparison between the two scopes.

Here's what we found.

Image quality

We mounted both scopes on sturdy tripods, aimed them at a resolution chart and a dollar bill with its fine graphic detail, and compared the images through the two scopes.

Both produce excellent images. We found the Vortex Razor 50mm to be equal in sharpness to the Nikon Fieldscope 50mm.

Field of view

The Vortex has a wider field of view overall.

By Nikon's specs, at the lowest power, 13x, their scope has a field of view of 157.5 feet at 1000 yards.  By Vortex's specs, at the lowest power, 11x, their scope has a field of view of 191 feet at 1000 yards — point to Vortex Razor.

We then did our own tests, in which we compared the field of view of both scopes at the same magnification of 30x. The Vortex showed 95.5 feet, and the Nikon showed 86.8 feet — point to Vortex Razor.

We also tested at the maximum power (33x for the Vortex and 30x for the Nikon). We found the Vortex still had a 6.5% wider field of view than the Nikon, even though it was at a higher magnification — point to Vortex Razor.

Close focus

The Vortex focuses as close as 6.6 feet, the Nikon at 9.8 feet, a significant difference — point to Vortex Razor.

Size and weight

Both scopes seem very compact.

We measured the length of each scope including their eyepieces and found the Nikon to be 9.5 inches long, compared to 10.3 inches for the Vortex.

The Nikon (at 20.1 oz.) is also somewhat lighter than the Vortex (at 25 oz.).

Considering that you need to have a tripod and head to use either scope, the differences in weight and length may not matter much in the field. We suspect that resolution and field of view will prove more important to many birders. However, if minimizing the weight and size is your primary consideration, the Nikon offers an advantage here.

Point to Nikon.

Objective lens covers

The Nikon's objective lens cover is a plastic snap-in design. Vortex's is a flexible rubber cover that is attached by a rubber ring that you can remove completely if you wish.

The advantage of the Vortex design is that it can stay attached while the scope is in use. The Nikon design requires that you stow it in a pocket. We've lost lots of lens caps that way.

Focus knob

Nikon has a slightly smoother focus knob.

However, the Vortex has the advantage of a dual focus knob. One knob is good for getting from close to far quickly. The other knob is good for making precise adjustments to the focus.

Eye relief and eyecups

The Vortex has better eye relief (Vortex 20mm vs. Nikon 12.9mm), which is a boon for eyeglass wearers. For those who do not wear glasses, it makes no difference.

Both scopes have eyepieces with rubber fold-down eyecups, which are not so nice as twist-out eyecups found on most high-end scopes. However, this is a minor matter.

Zoom range

The Vortex has a greater zoom range (11x to 33x) vs. Nikon (13x to 30x), and the Vortex has a wider field of view at all magnifications. The wider zoom range makes it both easier to locate a bird in the scope and to zoom in for more detail.


The surface covering of the Nikon is hard all over. The Vortex is partially covered with a more hand-friendly, rubberized armoring. Incidentally, this also provides an attractive design, with contrasting colors, dark green against grey.


Specifications Nikon 13-30x5o Vortex Razor 11-33x50


If you're looking for a scope with good optical quality that you can carry with you under all circumstances, the 50mm Vortex Razor is the new sheriff in town. Combine it with a small carbon fiber tripod, and you'll have an outfit that will weigh around 5 or 6 pounds and will fit in any carry-on bag. Having a scope along can make it possible to ID a bird that's simply not reachable with binoculars.

And did we mention the prices? The Vortex costs less than the Nikon!

For current pricing and more details, see

Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Angled Spotting Scope

Nikon 13-30x50 ED Angled Fieldscope

Gitzo Carbon Fiber Traveler GT1542T

Gitzo 2-Way Birding Head GH1720QR



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Copyright 2013 Michael and Diane Porter.