Over the past 10 years, the quality of optics has advanced to such an extent that you wonder where it’s possible for top-end manufacturers to go with their products. Built-in electronic features, maybe?
Cameras, or even some sort of bird ID system, have been rumoured to be the next step forward.
So it’s safe to say few saw Swarovski’s new BTX binocular scope coming. At the launch at the company’s HQ near Innsbruck, Austria, there were audible gasps from the gathered European birders, journalists and optics experts.
Compatible with the ATX/STX objective modules, it offers 30x magnification for the 65mm and 85mm modules, and 35x for the 95mm. These can be increased to 50x and 60x respectively with use of the ME 1.7x magnification extender, which fits easily and quickly.
The ATX/STX scopes, of course, already provide images that are bright and sharp right to the edges, with impressive field of view and a very natural colour. So what’s new?
Well, the BTX is the most comfortable scope to look through that I’ve ever come across, for a start. You can adjust the interpupillary distance easily, and there’s then none of the squinting and eye-straining inevitable with any conventional scope. A day of scanning huge wildfowl flocks on the Rhine Delta at Lake Constance passed without my eyes ever getting tired, and there’s a built-in adjustable forehead rest to help.
More importantly, perhaps, the fact you’re using both eyes means your brain is getting more information, and that what you see thus feels more vivid, more three-dimensional, and has a greater depth of field. It feels, in short, like using binoculars rather than a scope.
There’s a removable aiming aid, which is both more useful and more robust than previous similar features, and a new BR balance rail and PTH tripod head are available to help keep the whole system stable and balanced, and to scan smoothly. It is heavier, as you’d expect, but not enough to put most people off, I’d suggest.