This summer I had the heartbreak many of us experience with our binoculars...moisture inside the lenses. Who knows when I did it--park service canoe program or on a plane coming home from Hungary. Considering they had been used almost daily since 2005 and I'm rough on equipment that was a hell of a good run. Fortunately, being Swarovskis they have a great warranty and something like this can be repaired with only shipping from my house as the cost.
I contacted the repair office to get a tracking number and sent them in for treatment. Swarovskis have a lifetime warranty. I've sent my old ELs in for what I thought was a realignment about 9 years ago. That's when I learned I had a minor astigmatism and hello, glasses! Even though they didn't need to be repaired, the team completely refurbished and cleaned them. When they were returned to me it was like having a brand new EL. I could tell they were still mine though by the dings along the hinges. Oh the times those bins have been tossed in a backpack for last minute birding runs, dropped on the floor, dragged across mud when I wriggled under electric fences or fell along with me when I slid down mountainsides or volcanoes. The lifers they brought to me, both expected and unexpected...that time a dear, sweet Brit named Mike Watson ran into me early one morning on the boardwalk at Biggest Week and said, "Hey, Shaz, fancy a male Kirtland's? It's just right here."
"Get the F*CK out of here!"
His face and the lifer were priceless.
Swarovskis are a tough piece of equipment. I have put these binoculars to the test on many continents. There was even a point at a meeting at Swarovski Headquarters in Austria a couple of years ago after the new versions of the ELs were out and a staff person noticed the state of my old ELs--good, but well worn and well loved. He said, "I'd really love to see you with a fresher pair. We've upgraded them since that model."
I politely declined the offer for an upgrade. I know it's an inanimate object but those 8x32 ELs was been with me almost every day in any sort of weather condition, every sort of mood. They've known temperatures from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to -32 degrees Fahrenheit. They've known the thrill of a sociable lapwing in Kazakhstan and the agony of missing resplendent quetzal in Honduras and Guatemala. They gave me my first glimpse of a Zapata wren in Cuba and my lifer Syrian woodpecker on the border of Israel and Syria. They have helped me enjoy waxwings and purple finches chowing down on crabapples in my yard and give me a crisp view of woodcocks illuminated by flashlights. We've seen some serious shit together.
Because of my relationship with Swarovski, I knew when my old ones were sent in for repair they'd be noticed. They were...as was all of the equipment I've been loaned over the years. "LOOK HOW OLD YOUR STUFF IS, LET'S UPGRADE!" If you've ever seen the movie Moonstruck, it's kind of like when Cher's character stops into the salon to take out a few grays in her hair and the stylist goes nuts and they give her a complete makeover.
I dug out all of my Swarovski boxes from storage and found my old EL box from years ago. I poured a glass of Talisker Storm, put in some Harry Nilsson and toasted them and all the adventures they gave me. They grew with me as I grew my blog which led to my writing and speaking career. I carefully packed them in to the box. I had hoped that maybe I hadn't trashed them too badly and maybe we could turn them into a contest like we did years ago and I gave away my old scope. Despite asking, I have not heard. I suspect that the scratches on lenses and worn hinges have deemed them recyclable.
And then my new 8x32 ELs arrived. And let me tell you that was a painful two weeks. I have a back up pair of bins--which are not bad. They are a great mid price binoculars but once you've gotten used to using a pair like this on the regular, it's hard to go back. They arrived just in time for me to go to an event with the Lorain County Bird Club in Ohio.
I got to take the on a trial run on a cloudy and misty day which is where you can really see the difference between mid-price binoculars and Swarovskis. Holy cow. My old ELs were fantastic...but the new edge to edge clarity and they way these worked with my glasses was stunning. This new pair fits in my hands perfectly. I need to dirty her up a little bit, give her that fantastic field-worn look, but I think we'll get along fine. In the meantime I'll enjoy that new binocular smell and christen her with some fantastic winter specialties. Maybe in January I'll take her on her first trip to Sax Zim Bog.
For those who are into the whole unboxing trend, Non Birding Bill made an unboxing video of the ELs.