Review: Swarovski 8x32 NL Pure vs. 8x32 EL WB

by Holger Merlitz

When Swarovski introduced the 8x32 EL WB (initially termed SV for Swarovision) in 2012, they set new standards in terms of edge sharpness and haptic. Many regarded this binocular as the cutting edge of its class, despite of its minor quirks such as its proneness to glare and its globe effect. Now that Zeiss has recently introduced the Victory SF with its huge field of view, the successor to the EL WB has emerged in shape of the NL Pure. With the present review I am going to compare the NL Pure and the EL WB in order to decide whether and to which extent the NL Pure does in fact represent an improvement over its predecessor.

Fig. 1: Swarovski 8x32 EL WB

Fig. 2: Swarovski 8x32 NL Pure

Fig. 3: Size comparison between NL Pure and EL WB

The following table summarizes some of the specifications of the two contenders.

  Real angle Field of view Eye relief Exit pupil Close focus Transmission Weight(*)
  of view (deg) (m/1000m) (mm) diam. (mm) (m) (%) (gram)
8x32 NL Pure 8.5 150 18 4.0 2.0 92 670
8x32 EL WB 8.0 141 20 4.0 1.9 90 600

(*) Including objective covers

Angle of view: With 150m/1000m, the NL Pure comes with a visibly wider field than the EL WB's 141m/1000m. Moreover, I find it easy to cover the entire field comfortably at once - the field edge remains discernible all around without the need to vary the direction of gaze. Thus the ease of view, which has been great with the EL WB, has not diminished despite of the increase of field.

Image sharpness: Both binoculars offer an image that is - for all practical purposes - sharp all over the field, made possible with field flattening lenses and highly optimized optical computations. These binoculars differ in some details only: The EL WB is fully optimized to achieve the highest possible sharpness at the field edge. The star test shows point-like star images both at the center and at the edges. But there exists an intermediate ringlike region between maybe 80% and 90% to the edges inside which the image turns just slightly softer. This elusive phenomenon (sometimes termed 'Absam-ring') is not visible under the night sky, but under rather extreme conditions while slowly panning over structured surfaces. The NL Pure is sharp over almost the entire field with a very slight softness creeping in near the edges, where star images turn somewhat blurred. In any case, both binoculars feature industry leading standards here and there is definitely nothing left to complain about.

Image color: Both binoculars show a neutral image color, with the NL Pure being a tiny bit cooler than the EL WB.

Rectilinear distortion: The EL WB got a very low amount of pincushion distortion and straight edges remain straight in all areas of the field. The NL Pure has a small degree of pincushion distortion which somewhat bends straight edges toward the center. The resulting panning behavior is perfectly smooth, while the EL WB shows (to me) a bit of a globe effect. It is a matter of individual taste which approach to the distortion pattern would be the preferable option.

Stray light: The tendency to develop stray-light in some situations remains the only considerable weakness in both binoculars. In difficult light conditions, bright spots are emerging around the edges of the exit pupils, which tend to create partial whiteouts (in most cases a crescent-shaped glare in the lower half of the field) when the eye-pupils accidentally get in contact with them. A careful setting of eyecup positions and a certain discipline in the way and angle at which the instrument is held in front of the eyes go a long way to avoid these whiteouts in the vast majority of situations. Observer's reports vary wildly about the severeness of the glare, ranging from 'irrelevant' to 'irritating'. Fact is that there exist binoculars (including the Zeiss 8x32 SF) with a superior resistance against stray light.

Ghost images: If, at night, a bright object (street lantern, moon) is positioned into the field, reflections on the air-to-glass surfaces take place, which can lead to multiple 'ghost' images of the light source. A successful suppression of these ghosts indicates a high quality of the anti-reflection coating. There are no reflexes visible either with the EL WB or the NL pure.

Chromatic aberration (CA): The color fringes along edges of high contrast are well suppressed in both models. I see no differences between the NL Pure and the EL WB.

Low light performance: On paper, the NL Pure got 2% extra transmission over the EL WB, although in real life observations during advanced twilight I have been unable to make out any differences in image brightness.

Mechanical robustness: Is high and appears identical with both contenders. One might question whether the new single-bridge design of the NL Pure reduces its robustness against impact over the double-bridge design of the EL WB, but that would be speculative at this stage without any backup from available observation data.

Usage/features: In my opinion, the new body shape of the NL Pure further improves the instrument's haptic and usability. I am able to hold the instrument very comfortably and steady over longer times when compared to the EL WB. The new location of the focusing wheel seems preferable as well. On the down side, the NL Pure is heavier and slightly longer than the EL WB - a factor, which may be of relevance to some observers who want to use this 8x32 format as their compact alternative to the 8x42 or 10x42. But it seems that the modern 8x32 high-end binocular is increasingly taking over its role as the new all-purpose binocular, in terms of performance but also weight. Note that the NL Pure got a slightly reduced eye-relief and increase in close-focusing distance, but I doubt that these changes would create notable disadvantages in real-life situations.


The following table is supposed to summarize the above observations. The best performing binocular gets two points, the other one just a single point. In case both of them perform equally well, the scores are averaged.

  Angle of Image (edge-) Stray Ghost Color Low Usage/ Mechanical Final
  view sharpness light image fringing light features robustness score
8x32 NL Pure 2 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 2 1.5 13.0
8x32 EL WB 1 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1 1.5 11.0

The 'final score' is the sum of the individual scores and is intended to serve as an orientation only.

In my opinion, the NL Pure represents a successful evolutionary step above the El WB. Among its improvements are most of all its haptic, its expanded field of view, as well as its rather pleasant panning behavior. It is nonetheless just an evolutionary step forward and differences in optical performance are usually subtle if visible at all. Who already owns the EL WB would hardly gain from an upgrade to the NL Pure, since both are virtually playing in the same league. The stray light issue which has occasionally been reported to plague the EL WB has not been resolved with its successor, and this is going to remain a matter of dispute whenever the NL Pure's merits are discussed. Nonetheless, there exists only one binocular which could currently challenge its pole position, the Zeiss Victory SF. In comparison, the SF has the advantage of an even wider field, a lower weight and - yes - a superior stray light protection. On the downside, I am having some issues with the SF's ease of view (hard to find a proper eye-cup setting to view over the entire field) and its somewhat unpleasant panning behavior. Moreover, it appears that the colors offered with the SF display a somewhat lower saturation when compared to the NL. At the end of the day, it remains a matter of individual preferences which of these high end binoculars would suit somebody's needs best. To me, the NL Pure appears perfect, with the only exception being its occasionally erratic stray light behavior.


The information given in this report reflects the personal impression and opinion of the author only. I cannot guarantee for the accuracy of any given specification. I have neither been payed nor have I been supported in any other way to write this review. I thank Swarovski Optics for providing the NL Pure test sample and Reinhard Schuster for leaving me his EL WB for the present comparison.

Back Home

Last modified: June 2021