Swarovski CL 8×25 Pocket Binoculars – Green

There are many reviews to be found of the Swarovski CL 8×25 Pockets on the web and all are in agreement that these little binoculars are excellent and punch well above their weight.  Like many reviews in most cases the reviewer doesn’t actually own a pair but has them loaned to them for a week or so for the purpose of the review. However in my case after trying them in store at Clifton Cameras I purchased a pair and have been using them for about 4 months! Swarovski8x25CLPocketbinocularsGreen

 

Like all other reviewers I found the Swarovski CL 8×25 Pockets to be optically excellent, well constructed and very easy on the eye.  This is nothing less than you would expect from Swarovski but for me the stand out feature was how good they felt in the hand and how well they handled compared to previous 8×20 binoculars I have owned.  Previously I have never felt comfortably using miniature/pocket binoculars as they don’t sit well in the hand and the focus wheels are awkward and fiddly!  As a result in the field I find them more difficult to align instinctively with your subject and slow and fiddly to focus which often results in your subject disappearing before you have focused on it!  The Swarovski CL 8×25 Pockets go a long way towards addressing these issues and feel much more like a pair of 8×32 than a pair of 8×20!  Being that little bit bigger than most 8×20 binoculars they sit nicely in the hand and the focus wheel is perfectly positioned for use with your forefinger.  Another downside of miniature/pocket binoculars is that with quite small objective lenses they don’t perform that well in poor light however this is another area in which the Swarovski CL 8×25 Pockets really excel and give a more than acceptable performance in low light situations.  Are they as comfortably to use as a pair of 8×32 or 8×40!  I would guess that most would prefer the ergonomics of a larger binocular but for me they come pretty close and are so good that I am sure there are those who would actually prefer them!

However it’s ‘horses for courses’ and although I also own larger binoculars, as a photographer I am often weighed down by heavy optical equipment and don’t want to add to that weight with a pair of full sized binoculars – these fit the bill perfectly and are now my most used binoculars.

For the birder who carries little else in the way of optics the better choice would probably be a pair of 8×32 (which I also own and rate as excellent) or 8.5×42 but for photographers or as a second pair when size and weight are an issue or you want your optics to be unobtrusive the Swarovski CL 8×25 Pockets are an excellent choice!

As I said earlier I purchased mine from Clifton Cameras a company I found knowledgeable, friendly and most of all have a very comprehensive range of binoculars and telescopes from all the leading manufacturers and unlike many of it’s competitors many if not most of the optics are in stock!  As you will see if you visit their store they also stock all of the top names in photographic equipment and whilst in the store I also purchased a Canon EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS II USM at a very competitive price.  An excellent lens which I intend to review when I have used it a little more and can find the time.

David

Photo Logistics

In early July, 2015 together with David Tipling I went on a 5 day trip to the Catalonia region of Spain where we were guided by Photo Logistics.  We made our own travel arrangements flying into Barcelona where we picked up a hire car and had a 3 hour drive to Montgai where we were met by Roger one of the directors of Photo Logistics.  This was a fairly new experience for me as in all the years that I have been photographing wildlife I have only once used a commercial/paying hide, this was almost 10 years ago in Finland for Golden Eagle when sadly we were not successful!  So why now with Photo Logistics, two reasons, firstly David T knew both of the directors of Photo Logistics, Roger and Carles and had a very positive previous experience using their hides.  Secondly two of the many species they had on offer were Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, two birds that I had seen before but not well and would love to photograph.  I knew that without assistance my chances of photographing either species well was highly unlikely.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse at water hole, Spain

Roger had arranged our accommodation close to where we were to photograph the Sandgrouse which was very comfortable and only 25 euros a night.  Up at 0500 hours we were met and driven to the hide by Roger which was spacious and comfortably seated 3 photographers.  At this point I will mention that like many other commercial hides you are shooting through one way glass!  Now I must admit this was a concern of mine as friends who had used hides with glass before had complained of soft images particularly if not square onto the glass and I also knew that you lost a stop of light, which once the sun was up was not a problem.  For both me and David T sharpness was not an issue, yes when images are viewed at 100% you could see that there was a very slight loss of sharpness, contrast and a slight red colour cast but not enough to be a concern as this was easily corrected during processing and the final image for most applications was as good as you would have achieved if you had not been shooting through glass.  It does also have it’s advantages as you have a perfect wide view of  everything outside and you are far less likely to miss a shot!

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Male & female Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spain

For the first 30 minutes or so the light was too poor to photograph but even in this half light the bird watching was excellent with Stone Curlew being the first visitors and the Sandgrouse not arriving until shortly after 0900 hours.  However before their arrival there was plenty to photograph including 4 species of lark, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Great Grey & Woodchat Shrike and Red-billed Chough – 21 species during the 5 hours in the hide!  I think our head count was possibly a little higher than usual as it was very hot throughout our trip and it had been very dry for weeks prior to our visit!

Stone-curlew

Stone-curlew, Spain

Stone-curlew

Stone-curlew, Spain

Great Grey Shrike

Great Grey Shrike, Spain

Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove, Spain

However the stars of the show for me were the Sandgrouse and because we were a little late in the season and had missed out on a number of other species we would like to have photographed we decided to have 2 more days in the Sandgrouse hides.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Spain

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Female Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Spain

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Male & female Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Spain

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Male Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Spain

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Male Pin-tailed Sandgrouse collecting water in breast feathers to take back to chicks, Spain

For our last 2 days we drove to Solsona close to the foothills of the Pyrenees about 2 hours north of Barcelona where we hoped to photograph Lammergeier.  In Solsona we booked into our hotel which had been arranged by Carles a director of Photo Logistics – again very comfortable and only 25 euros a night.  Our start time for the vulture hide was much more leisurely and after breakfast Carles collected us from our hotel and drove us to the hide in the foothills of the Pyrenees around 35 minutes away.  As Carles regularly puts food out for the vultures at this site, whilst he was putting food out we could see Griffon and Egyptian Vultures were already circling overhead.  The hide was again spacious and very comfortable easily accommodating three photographers with a large panoramic glass window giving great views of the site making it easy to track birds as they flew in.  Within about 10 minutes of Carles leaving us in the hide several Ravens flew in quickly followed by a pair of Egyptian Vultures.

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture, Spain

Shortly after the Egyptian Vultures arrived the Griffons started to come in and this was quite spectacular as over the course of only a few minutes well in excess of 100 birds landed in front of us and fed.  Needless to say with this number of birds the food didn’t last long although they left the sheep legs which were put out for the Lammergeier, as they had no flesh on them.

Griffon Vulture

Griffon Vulture, Spain

Griffon Vulture

Griffon Vulture, Spain

Griffon Vulture 9

Griffon Vulture, Spain

Egyptian Vulture & Griffon Vulture

Egyptian and Griffon Vulture, Spain

However we were to experience our only disappointment of the trip so far as the Lammergeier had not appeared when Carles came to get us out of the hide in late afternoon.  Yes we were a little disappointed but the photography of the other vultures and a visiting Red Fox had still been excellent and the day was not over as Carles took us to one of his woodland drink in pools a little higher up in the Pyrenees.  Again the hide was comfortable and spacious and we spent a little over an hour in the hide where there was an almost continuous stream of small passerines visiting to drink and bathe.  One of the most frequent was Common Crossbill but we also had Citril Finch (new bird for me!) Serin, Siskin and even a male Ring Ouzel to name just a few!

Crossbill

 Male Common Crossbill, Pyrenees, Spain

We wished we had been able to spend more time in this hide but the light was fading so we drove back to our hotel.  On the trip back, Carles knowing that our flight home wasn’t until late afternoon, suggested we might like to try another morning in the Lammergeier hide as he was surprised we hadn’t seen them as they had been very reliable with sometimes as many as three visits in a day!  We jumped at the chance and the following morning met Carles close to the hide.  On our arrival things looked very promising as in addition to a few Griffons circling overhead there were also two Lammergeiers.  Carles had told us there would still be plenty of sheep legs left on the hillside and he was also able to put out a Badger carcass (road kill). Shortly after Carles left again the Ravens were first to arrive quickly followed by the Egyptian Vultures and shortly after the Griffons.  Within about 5 minutes the Badger carcass had gone and as the Griffons slowly departed we could see the two Lammergeier circling much lower.  This was where the large panoramic glass window was a positive advantage as we had good early views of the Lammergeier and were able to capture many flight shots as they passed overhead and also when coming into land.  Having not seen Lammergeier before I was amazed to see them feeding on the sheep legs which were  in excess of 20cm long complete with hoof, they would just swallow them whole!  Had I not been able to take a picture I would still have enjoyed this experience and it is one I will not forget!

Lammergeier

Adult Lammergeier, Pyrenees, Spain

Lammergeier

Adult Lammergeier, Pyrenees, Spain

Lammergeier

Pair adult Lammergeier, Pyrenees, Spain

Lammergeier

Adult Lammergeier, Pyrenees, Spain

In summary our trip was highly successful being, well organised with some great birds in natural settings and we returned home with some super images!  Based on my experience with Photo Logistics and an earlier trip David T had taken with them I would highly recommend photographers and birdwatcher alike using their services.  In those few short days in Spain I got to know Roger & Carles quite well (both speak very good English) and discovered that they have both worked in conservation and are very knowledgable naturalists with a genuine love of wildlife.  They are also keen and accomplished photographers and know what as photographers we are looking for and being very hands-on are also very flexible and where possible will structure your visit to suit your requirements.  You can also be assured that where licences are required for a given species these will have been obtained!

I’m sure no experienced wildlife photographer or watcher needs reminding that these are wild animals we have come to see and that birds and mammals don’t always put in an appearance when you want them to but they will have done everything possible to ensure you get the species you want.  If a particular hide/location has become unreliable they will tell you in advance, for example we had hoped to photograph the Sandgrouse last year but some early rain meant the water holes were not reliable and Roger was quick to inform us of this, so we cancelled!

Finally the most important part, how much will this cost you?  At the time of writing this review their prices are very competitive and if you take one of their 4 day packages they are very good value for money – you could spend a two weeks in Spain and not photograph as much as you would on a 4 day package and you would have spent a lot more money!

To check out their prices and what they can offer click on this link Photo Logistics

David