Swift Audubon ED 8.5x44 Binoculars Review

Swift 8.5 x 44 Audubon ED Binoculars
Winner Best Birding Binocular 2010
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Buy & Compare Prices for the Swift Audubon ED 8.5x44 Binoculars
Price Range: (4/6) Mid-High Value Binoculars       

Ideal Uses:

General Use Rating for General Use Binoculars
Birdwatching Rating as Birdwatching Binoculars
Outdoor Sports Rating asOutdoor Sports Binoculars
Safari & Travel Rating as Safari Binoculars
Hunting Rating as Hunting Binoculars
Marine Use Rating as Marine Binoculars

Awards: Winner Best Birding Binocular 2010

Swift Audubon Binoculars

Swift Sport Optics have produced three models in their Swift Audubon series, the Roof Prism 828 Swift Audubon 8.5x44 Binocular, and two Porro Prism designs, this the 820ED Swift Audubon 8.5x44 Binocular and the very similar looking 820 Swift Audubon 8.5x44 Binocular. Also sometimes known as Swift Audubon 8.5x44 HP Binoculars, they are both very similar, but this model comes with extra low dispersion glass (ED), that are said to give an even clearer, sharper images. So make sure when you are comparing prices that you are looking at the same models.

Because the two binoculars are so similar the reviews are also going to be pretty similar and so I think the best way to start is to point out the differences between the two. The main one is that these come with extra low dispersion glass (ED) which as Swift Optics put it: "provides exceptional, precise color definition, while promoting optimum resolution and sharpest possible images. It even further expands the viewing capabilities of fine optics".

So what exactly is ED Glass?
Extra low dispersion glass is used to make lenses on cameras, telescopes, microscopes and binoculars. The Extra low dispersion glass prevents chromatic aberration because it concentrates and directs the wavelength of light more effectively onto the camera’s film or to your eyes in the case of binoculars. Lenses made from extra low dispersion glass have less air bubbles and glass deformities that are more likely to cause image distortion.

Consequently, most professionals and some serious amateurs are more likely to buy higher end optics that come equipped with extra low dispersion glass lenses. Camera's with the glass tend to take picture that are clearer and sharper with little or no chromatic aberration and binoculars and telescopes transmit clearer and sharper images to your eyes.

For me, the biggest difference is the price, because of the added expense of the extra low dispersion glass, these binoculars are about $100 more expensive than the version without the ED glass. Is that $100 worth it? Comparing the two the difference in the view through them is small and so I would say if you can afford it, then go for the more precise optics, but if the extra amount stretches beyond your budget, don't worry as the cheaper version without the ED glass are still fantastic quality binoculars and at an exceptionally good price.

Roof or Porro Prism?

So what about the Roof Prism Audubon's? The roof prism design means that the objective lenses and ocular lenses line up making the binocular smaller and lighter, but because the objective lenses are closer together than the porro prism design, the depth of view is slightly reduced, as is the field of view. So the choice is really a matter of what is most important to your needs, a smaller, lighter more compact design, or better depth and field of view. See comparison details below for the main differences:

820 & 820ED Porro Prism Swift Audubon 8.5x44 Binoculars
Weight: 24oz / 682g
Field of view at 1000 yds/m: 430ft/143m
Close focus distance: 10ft/3m

828 Roof Prism Swift Audubon 8.5x44 Binoculars
Weight: 23.4oz / 663g
Field of view at 1000 yds/m: 336ft/112m
Close focus distance: 9ft/2.7m

Why 8.5x44?
The Swift Premier HP Audubon 8.5x44 Binoculars were rated "Best Buy" by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Better View Desired, and the English publication "British Birds."  and Swift say that these binoculars were designed by birders for birders, but most birders go for an 8x42 configuration when selecting a birdwatching binocular so how did they come to this unique set-up? According to a survey conducted by Swift on some of the worlds leading ornithologists the ultimate size for birding binoculars is 8.5x44. I have not been able to find any more details on this research, but personally I like the slightly bigger magnification as you get a slightly larger image, giving you that little extra reach that you sometimes need, but without adding so much extra magnification that the image becomes hard to hold still (if you imagine larger magnifications add leverage magnifying any small movements even more). The larger objective lenses take in more light, producing brighter images in poor light conditions but are not that much bigger that you feel that the binoculars are larger than normal 8x42's.

Optics & Optical Performance

Because the 820ED Audubon was designed specifically for birding they have ensured that you get a really good wide field of view. In fact the 430ft at 1000 yds beats the 390ft that you get on the Swarovski 8.5x42 EL Binoculars, that many people regard as the ultimate bird watching binocular. The close focus of 10ft/3m is good and the five-lens ocular system with quality BaK4 Prisims, combined with fully multi-coated optics as well as the already discussed extra low dispersion glass on this model mean that the view I got through the binoculars during my test was both bright and incredibly crisp. Swift also use a prism coating technology known as CFT, which stands for Cold Fusion Technology. CFT is the process of applying multiple coatings to the surface of each roof prism without using high temperatures, which helps protect the integrity of the prism surface and gives you increased reflective performance up to 99.8%. It also enhances brightness and color definition, meaning you can use these binoculars in all types of lighting situations.

Body Design

The rubber-coated body is made of magnesium to reduce weight and at 24oz/682g, which is about average, but once again they beat the 28.9 oz. of the Swarovski 8.5x42 EL binoculars. The rubber coating gives you a great tactile feel for a secure hold so your fingers won’t slip even in wet conditions and in protecting the binoculars from minor bumps. The body is sealed to make the binoculars waterproof and fogproof, which also helps prevent any dust from entering the system.

The excellent twist-up eyecups, give you a good 16mm of eye relief. Whilst just outside my category of long eye relief binoculars, they should be fine for most eyeglass wearers.

What's Included
Neoprene neck strap, objective and ocular lens covers, microfiber lens cloth and hard leather storage case as well as the impressive SwiftPremier 25 year warranty.


If you are after a serious birding binocular, but just cant afford something like the 8.5x42 Swarovski EL, I would suggest that you take a look at any of the Swift Audubon Binoculars. I love the increased magnification and slightly larger objective lenses when compared to most standard 8x42 birding binoculars that produced a sharp bright image during my test even though the conditions were dull and overcast. The excellent quality optics, combined with a tough comfortable and well balanced body all at a reasonable price make this package really hard to beat. If the price of these is a little too high, why not look at the 820 Swift Audubon 8.5x44 Binoculars that come without the ED glass that I still highly recommend and are around $100 cheaper. If you are after something a little lighter and compact and are willing to trade a little field and depth of view, you may also consider the roof prism Swift Audubon binoculars.

Customer service
Last, but not least I would like to thank Swift Sport Optics and Pyser - SGI Limited, the UK distributors of Swift Binoculars for providing me with the binoculars to review. This review is completely independent and I have no preference over which brand of binoculars people buy on Best Binoculars Reviews, but I would go on to say that the UK distributors and Swift Europe got back and dealt with my request to review their products promptly, unlike many other popular binocular brands which is a big plus in my opinion.

Main Highlights

  • Wide Field of View
  • Extra Low Dispersion Glass
  • Waterproof
  • Rubber Armored
  • 5-lens ocular system
  • Fully multi-coated
  • BaK4 prisms
  • Pop and lock eyecups

Reviewed by

Best Binocular Reviews Ratings:

Body Construction Quality: 8/10 80%
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Components Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Attention to Detail: 8/10

Compare Prices & Where to Buy the Swift Binoculars

Winner Best Birding Binocular 2010Awards:

Winner Best Birding Binocular 2010

Main Specifications & Features:

More Images of the Swift Binoculars

More Information:

About Swift | View all Swift products I have written reviews on

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Full Size Binoculars | Porro Prism Binoculars | General Use Binoculars | Birdwatching Binoculars | Outdoor Sports Binoculars | Wide Angle Binoculars | Mid-High Value Binoculars

Similar Binoculars:

Below are similar pairs of Binoculars that you may also want to have a look at:

Swift 8.5x44 Audubon Porro Prism

Swift 8.5x44 Audubon binoculars were designed by birders for birders and are one of the most popular birdwatching binoculars available.

Binocular Price Comparison
Where to buy the Swift 8.5x44 Audubon ED Binoculars

General Price Range: (4/6) Mid-High Value Binoculars

Below is a link that will take you to a page with online retailers in both the US and UK that sell Swift 8.5x44 Audubon ED Binoculars this page makes it easy to compare prices and then to buy from your preferred option:

Are out-of-date/old stock binoculars still worth buying now?
This review was written a few years ago now. Check out my guide to
older/old stock binoculars & if they are still worth buying now

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