Kowa Genesis 33 Prominar 8x33 vs Swarovski 8x32 EL binoculars

Feb 15, 2009
205
0
18
Clarke County, VA
#1
First of all, I don't purport to be an expert on optics. For that you need to find someone like Ilya but I can provide my personal, first hand observations of these two sets of binos. I will also tell you right up front, the Swaros I used were NIB (Swarobrights not the current Swarovisions).

So setting that aside, I have been on a quest to downsize from my current Swaro EL 10x42s due to size and weight. As I get older, I want to shed oz.s where I can. So, I know quality glass whether it's in my binos or in my scopes. In fact, my older eyes (60+) demand good optics just to break even.

I called Doug at Cameraland to discuss the purchase of a new pair of Swaro 8x32 Els but during the discussion, he asked if I was familiar with the Kowa Prominar 8x33s? I confessed I was familiar with the Kowa Prominar spotting scopes (which the picky, anal birdwatchers LOVE) but I was not aware of the fact that they are now making binoculars with the same lenses. Doug confessed "most people don't."

With that Doug explained that he felt the optics were as good, if not better in some aspects than the ELs at much less cost. That of course got my attention but I shamelessly admitted that I wanted the better of the two regardless of cost. With that Doug said he didn't think I would be disappointed with the Kowas. So with the current rebate offer from Kowa, and knowing that if I didn't find them to my satisfaction, I could send them back, I ordered a pair.

First impression out of the box was very favorable. They are solid, well built and ergonomically as comfortable as the ELs. They are almost the same weight but actually a little shorter when laid side-by-side with ELs.

I immediately took them outside my back door where I have a very nice view of farmland that borders my property. After adjusting the dioptor for the differences in my eyes, I started to play with them. BTW, the diopter adjustment on the right lens has a locking feature which I really appreciate.

Immediate impression was that the glass is very sharp and clear. The one thing I did notice though was a little halo around the outer edges which was bothersome but it didn't affect the clarity of the center of the sight picture. Next day however, was the real test when I went to my local Swarovski dealer to compare directly with the 8x32 ELs.

Going back and forth (outside) I compared and compared and re-compared several times the clarity of the two binos on several things but mostly text on the signs at several commercial businesses within eyesight. I keyed in on the smaller things like telephone pole tags, and "how to operate the car wash instructions" and things like that.

The winner time and time again was (drum roll please) the Kowas. Not by a large margin by any means but enough of a margin that in my mind's eye, the Kowa Prominars (in bright daylight) were the clear winner (no pun intended). HOWEVER; I still noticed that darned halo affect.

I had at least two other folks look through them and we all came to the same conclusion. These are damn nice binoculars but there was a halo which wasn't apparent in the Swaros.

Now I wasn't able to bring the Swaro 8x32 ELs home with me so I can't do a direct "low light" comparison but I suspect the Kowas will be competitive with the ELs in that regard but probably would end up giving a slight edge to the Swaro based on the coatings. That is only a guess though. To my eyes, I probably wouldn't notice a significant difference. You might to the tune of a minute or so.

Now I was really conflicted: The Kowa Prominar binos are extremely impressive regardless of price BUT, I wasn't happy about the halo. I had almost decided to send the Kowas back to Doug and order the Swarovski ELs when a light popped in my brain; I had the eyecups extended all the way out which is normal for me with the Swarovski ELs but when I turned the cups back down to only the first notch and not the second, guess what? The dreaded halo went away. (I'm old, what can I say!!)

Bottom line in my opinion is that the Kowa Genesis Prominar binoculars are a great binocular regardless of price but when you factor in they are literally half the cost of the Swarovski ELs, it becomes somewhat of a no brainer.

Yes, if someone offered me either for the exact same price: I'd take the Swarovski ELs only because they are Swarovski and I've owned them before. But, in this instance, I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep the Kowas and don't feel like I'm settling at all.

JUST TO BE CLEAR; WHEN DOUG AND I DISCUSSED, HE NEVER SAID THE KOWA WAS A BETTER BINOCULAR THAN THE SWAROVSKI. HIS POINT WAS THAT FOR THOSE THAT COULDN'T AFFORD THE VERY BEST OUT THERE, THE KOWAS WERE A GOOD OPTION TO SERIOUSLY CONSIDER.

Thanks again to Doug at Cameraland. He is a great asset to the Sniper's Hide community.
 
Last edited:
May 24, 2013
1,193
128
63
WY
#2
EL 8x32 - they don’t make an EL with a 30mm objective.

Secondly did you adjust the diopter on each binocular to your individual vision?

I am not saying the Kowa is better or worse. Also I am no expert, but at least do yourself a favor - any alpha glass is an expensive investment. I have owned both, Kowa is excellent - but, well you need to decide performance vs $$ spent

1) adjust the diopter on each to your vision
2) get them stable - tripod or similar - read an eye chart in the garage for a comparison in good light. Gradually turn down the lighting.
3) again stable glass outdoors first and last light. Find some game and look at detail - birds will work.
4) Move your glass closer to the sun - not directly into it to damage your eyes - but enough to understand what you will be dealing with trying to spot game first and last light with glare.
5) Resale....many of us sell stuff and buy again in a few yers
 
Feb 15, 2009
205
0
18
Clarke County, VA
#3
EL 8x32 - they don’t make an EL with a 30mm objective.

Secondly did you adjust the diopter on each binocular to your individual vision?

I am not saying the Kowa is better or worse. Also I am no expert, but at least do yourself a favor - any alpha glass is an expensive investment. I have owned both, Kowa is excellent - but, well you need to decide performance vs $$ spent

1) adjust the diopter on each to your vision
2) get them stable - tripod or similar - read an eye chart in the garage for a comparison in good light. Gradually turn down the lighting.
3) again stable glass outdoors first and last light. Find some game and look at detail - birds will work.
4) Move your glass closer to the sun - not directly into it to damage your eyes - but enough to understand what you will be dealing with trying to spot game first and last light with glare.
5) Resale....many of us sell stuff and buy again in a few yers
I stand corrected, you are correct. The Swaros are 8x32.

Yes, I did adjust the diopter for each eye in both pairs.

You make good suggestions on the other tests. I'll play with them.

As far as re-sale, that's a non-issue for me. I tend to keep my stuff but if I do sell, it is what it is. I just want to make sure I'm happy with them when I have them.

Thanks,
 
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Ornery

Full Member
Aug 13, 2010
120
1
18
67
S. California
#4
Swarovski's have a field flattener lens which the Kowa's do not,and the view is sharp to nearly the edge of the barrels. The Kowa is like Zeiss Fl's and Leica Ultravid HD's in that the view from the center to 80 -85% of the total view is in sharp focus. The focus then degrades on the outer edges.

I have had the Kowa Prominar 8 X 33's and they are top end binoculars.
 
Feb 15, 2009
205
0
18
Clarke County, VA
#6
Swarovski's have a field flattener lens which the Kowa's do not,and the view is sharp to nearly the edge of the barrels. The Kowa is like Zeiss Fl's and Leica Ultravid HD's in that the view from the center to 80 -85% of the total view is in sharp focus. The focus then degrades on the outer edges.

I have had the Kowa Prominar 8 X 33's and they are top end binoculars.
No doubt you're right. I personally don't have an issue with the outer 15% of the edge as my natural tendency is to center the object of my attention in the picture anyway. In fact, I had a hard time evaluating the edges as whenever I tried, I kept shifting the binoculars in that direction.
I suppose if I mounted the binoculars on a tripod (which some folks do), I'd be able to force myself to discern the difference. I however, always simply hand carry.

My issue with the newer SwaroVision ELs however is that "rolling ball" effect with is very noticeable to my eyes. This is an unwanted feature that the former SwareBrights didn't have.

Would love to have (and may yet purchase) a second set of binos which will be the EL Swarobright version.

 
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