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The Scopes Advisor

High-end Scopes Review

For Bird Watcher's Digest, November, 2009

by Michael and Diane Porter

Best Value

What if you could get a scope whose optics and ergonomics were in league with the top scopes, and whose price was about half of the ones you were comparing it to? You'd think it was a great value. And you would be probably be thinking about the new Vortex Razor HD 85mm scope, released in late 2009. In our review of high-end scopes for Bird Watcher's Digest (November, 2009), we found that the Razor shares the best qualities of all the top scopes.

Swarovski ATM Copyright 2009 Michael and Diane Porter

Optically, the Vortex Razor is among the top few scopes in the world for brightness and sharpness, holding its own against $2300 to $4000 rivals. The Razor's resolution closely approached all but that of the 88mm Kowa.

The Razor employs extra-low dispersion glass (the "HD" in the scope's name), which reduces chromatic aberration. Many high-end scopes report that they use HD glass, but there is usually still a noticeable amount of chromatic aberration.

However, when we tested the Vortex Razor scope, we detected no chromatic aberration at all. Images were crisp.

Leading the field of view

The generous field of view at maximum magnification matches that of the Zeiss Diascope's (60 feet at 1000 yards). We know of no other scope that exceeds or even matches the field of view of these two scopes at 60 power. (And now that the Zeiss Diascope has been discontinued by the manufacturer, that leaves Vortex alone on top.)

The 85mm objective lens and HD glass helped the Razor achieve its good resolution scores, and yet the weight is a moderate 65.5 ounces, right between the Kowa and the Leica.

Shape and design

In body shape, the Razor closely resembles the Kowa Prominar. It has similar dual focus knobs, of outstanding smoothness and precision. The Razor's fine focus has virtually no slack. The gross focus has a slight degree of slack (as do nearly all scopes) but is easy to turn and smoother than some that cost far more.

The Vortex actually outdoes the Kowa in that the Vortex is rubberized in the central areas, where the human hand is most likely to contact the scope, unlike the Kowa's all-metallic surface.

The external design of the eyepiece is elegant, with a lock at the back of the scope and nicely engineered twist-up eyecups.

The screw-out eyecup has no indents, but one does not feel the need, as the motion is finely tuned. It twists out smoothly to exactly the desired degree. It is easy to turn, to an infinitely variable degree, and yet it holds its position due to friction. This is very well done.

Mechanical details

Mechanically it's the equal of the best-made scopes, with impeccable engineering in the zoom mechanism and other moving parts. The Razor is built for heavy field use — well made, sturdy and with good build quality. It looks and feels as if it would withstand a lot of knocks.

The body housing is made of magnesium alloy, which imparts great strength while maintaining moderate weight.

The scope is at present available in the angled eyepiece design only, and only with an 85mm objective lens.


The Vortex Razor is waterproof, with tight O-ring seals. Argon purging prevents condensation on internal lenses, so you get to enjoy clear views even when the temperature changes suddenly.

Included with the scope

Variable eyepiece zooms from 20- to 60-power
Eyepiece cap
Objective lens cap
View-through carry case
Vortex VIP Unconditional Lifetime Warranty
Free shipping to Lower-48 States

Our comment

The Razor is Vortex's first foray into the high-end scope market. If their strategy is producing superior-quality products at budget prices, they have a winner. And their transferable, lifetime warranty promises that Vortex will replace or repair the scope for any defect, even accidental damage that is the fault of the owner. Wow!

Price info

Copyright 2010-2013 by Michael and Diane Porter.

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