Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Vortex Razor 20-60x85 HD Spotting Scope!

Vortex Razor 20-60x85 HD

We'll begin 2010 with a spotting scope review!

I recently spent a few hours evaluating the Vortex Razor 20-60x85 HD spotting scope alongside some of its market rivals. Considering the comparatively friendly price of the Vortex Razor scope at $1,599.99, I was curious how it would stack up against my personal favorite high-end spotting scopes. Under overcast lighting, I compared it with a Swarovski 80 HD, Zeiss 85, Kowa 88 Prominar, and Leica 82 APO on a resolution chart placed at 100 yards.

To my critical eye, the Kowa Prominar and Swarovski HD offer marginally better detail at 60x, viewing a resolution chart at 100 yards. Compared to the other scopes, the Zeiss 85 exhibits a distracting warm colorcast, with whites tinged yellow. The Leica and the Kowa beat everything else in terms of brightness under low light. All but the Zeiss 85 has excellent edge-to-edge sharpness. These were the obvious differences in optical performance that most scope observers should be able to discern. For an 85mm aperture scope, the Vortex Razor HD is very compact. At 65.7 ounces, it may feel a little heavy when holding it in your hands, but it's well-balanced when mounted on a tripod. The Leica APO 82 is the heaviest at 68.16 ounces. Typical of other high-end spotting scopes on today's market, the Razor HD has a dual fine and coarse focusing knob.

Digiscoping with the Razor HD

Of particular interest to me was the Razor's digiscoping adapter (sold separately). Like the extremely popular Digital Camera Adapters made by Swarovski and Kowa, the Razor DCA is thread-based and includes adapter rings in these sizes: 30mm, 37mm, 43mm, 52mm, 55mm, and 58mm. This adapter will support the best point-and-shoot digital cameras for digiscoping as well as a DSLR coupled to the spotting scope's eyepiece.

Vortex Razor Digiscoping Adapter

Vortex Razor digiscoping setup

Digiscoping Samples:

The top feather was digiscoped with a Swarovski 80 HD and the bottom through a Vortex Razor HD, same digital camera (Nikon Coolpix 8400) and settings. I can tell the top image is a little sharper in some detail areas, but admit they're pretty close. Again, when considering the price difference by performance, the Vortex Razor HD is a very attractive option even for digiscoping. So, if you're in the market for a new spotting scope but want to keep the price tag under $2,000.00, there's nothing out there that'll beat the Razor HD in its price class. At the same time, you'll enjoy optical performance that's right up there with the top scopes!


  • Optical views comparable to rival high-end scopes at a fraction of the cost.
  • Vortex HD System: XR coatings, XD Objective lens elements, XT Optical Design.
  • Digiscoping Friendly!
  • Eyepiece included!
  • Waterproof & Fogproof (Argon gas purged).
  • Dual (fine and coarse) focusing system.
  • Unconditional Warranty.


  • A bit heavy at 65.7 ounces.
  • At present, only available in an angled body format.

© 2010 Mike McDowell


  1. Nice review, Mike! I have to agree that the Zeiss 85 suffers from some soft edges, but still don't see evidence of yellowing (maybe if I were to compare it w/ another scope, like the Swaro, next to it). With the price of scopes going up its nice to know that birders have a budget option.

  2. If the Razor came out 2 years ago, It would been my Scope of choice over the Vortex Skyline ED.


  3. Hi,

    Love the blog, keep up the good work! I was trying to find contact details but couldn't so I posted.

    We have just finished a new site for use by the birding community:
    We are contacting a limited number of people that we hope will let us know what they think about it before we take it out of beta. If you could let me know what you think that would be great.


  4. I was impressed with the scope and with an all inclusive price with a zoom eyepiece included it is a good buy.
    The one thing that is rather annoying is the rubber from cover that is a pain to get on and off, this thing is a real struggle.
    Bill Elrick

  5. Hey Bill,

    I suppose being too tight is better than being too loose, but I know what you mean. The objective cover is a a bit of a pain to take on and off. I'll post here if Vortex is planning on addressing the objective cover.



  6. Hey Jerry,

    I suspect, but cannot prove, that Zeiss may have changed their glass and/or coatings mid-production. The first diascopes that came out were better than the ones available today.



  7. I do like your blog. The very interesting thing is that being compared to those high-quality and most popular scopes. Good review!