In February, I had the opportunity to tag along on a desert sheep hunt in Baja Sur, Mexico. Considering that this was not my own hunt, and my primary purpose for going along was to film the hunt, I thought it a good opportunity to take the Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50mm spotting scope to use in the field and write a review.
This little Razor HD is a unique optic. It’s so small and lightweight, you hardly know you have it with you. But would the 50mm objective lens be too small to enable enough light through the tube to use? And is 33x enough magnification power to make its weight, however light it might be, worth carrying along.
A little note about the hunt. Despite being the middle of winter, the Baja Peninsula was hot. The high temperatures every day approached 90+ degrees, with little cover in places to find shade. And the mountain we hunted turned out to be a pretty typical sheep hunt, in that we covered long miles and climbed steep grades through rough country. So packing light was essential.
First off, since I’ve already mentioned it twice, the Vortex Razor HD 11-33×50 weighs only 25 ounces, and has only an 11″ by roughly 4″ footprint in your pack (for the straight model). This is by far the difference this scope makes to your overall glassing system. Compare it’s 33x maximum magnification at 25 ounces, to the Razor 85’s 60x magnification that will cost you nearly 66 ounces. It’s magnification to weight ratio (Max Magnification/Weight – a specification I just made up) is nearly 50% superior to the larger scope.
At 33x, the field of view is a slim 96 feet, which is exactly what you expect from a spotter. But what are the optics like at 33 power? The exit pupil is only 1.5 mm, is there enough light for the glass to be usable? In a word, yes. In another word, absolutely. Owing largely to its short barrel length, the Razor HD 11-33×50 is bright enough at 33 power to use even in the early morning and at sundown. And it’s edge to edge clarity is superb, giving you a full 50mm of objective lens, unlike those lower quality of scopes that struggle everywhere except a sweet spot in the center of the view window.
But still, is 33x enough magnification power to be usable? Here’s where the optic struggles some. Especially at distances over 1,500 yards. The purpose of a spotting scope in western hunting applications is strictly about field judging trophy potential. For sheep, this is a little easier to do than with antlered animals like Coues deer, where you’re trying to find small cheaters that make a 95 inch frame a full 100 inches. 33 power is good, but it’s just not enough to really get a good look at an animal that’s out there a way. You’re still assigned animals size classes instead of putting actual numbers on individual animals.
So is it worth carrying these 25 ounces and dealing with the limited 33 power magnification, or are you better off packing the weight of a larger, more versatile spotting scope?
My verdict is that this is a very specialized optic. It’s perfect for hunters who enjoy going deep into the wilderness on a bivy hunt and may stay in the wilderness for five days to a week. These situations make saving weight and space in your pack critical, in which case the tradeoff between magnification power and weight is well worth it. If you’re more of a base-camp / vehicle hunter, however, this is probably not the right spotting scope for you. The 80mm and larger optics will get you a much better idea of whether the animal you’re looking at is worth the effort of getting in close.