In this Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 review you're going to see something that's very rare on any pair of mid-range binoculars. Welcome to GlassPak, a unique chest case/harness that promises not only to protect these binoculars, but make sure they're quick to deploy. As a bonus the wearer gets to keep any weight off their neck, something that can be a serious issue when using any pair of binoculars for a long time.
In practice this one-of-a-kind harness isn't perfect, but the binoculars they ship with – the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 – very nearly are. Manufactured by Wisconsin, US-based Vortex Optics, the Crossfire HD 10x50 combines compact roof prism optics with a rugged and waterproof design, and they're some of the best binoculars I've tested. Read on for my full Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review.
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review: price and release date
The Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 cost around UK£189 / US$219.99 / AU$387. They're one of four products in the Crossfire HD range, which also includes 8x42, 10x42 and 12x50 products, all of them roof prism binoculars.
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review: design and features
With 10x magnification and 50 mm objective lenses, the Crossfire HD 10x50 are designed to be all-round binoculars. Those 50mm objective lenses are ideal for using in low-light as well as for bright views of the night sky. That said, these binoculars are designed to be portable, travel-friendly and weatherproof, which makes them good for nature-spotting too (our best binoculars for birdwatching guide has some more recommendations on that front).
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars specs
Objective diameter: 50mm
Field of view at 1000m: 107 metres
Closest focusing distance: 1.83m / 6ft
Eye relief: 17mm / 0.67"
Weight: 862g / 30.4oz
Dimensions: 17 x 13.4 cm / 6.7 x 5.3"
They utilise the roof prism optical design, which helps make them compact. Instead of the Z-shaped light path used by rival porro prism binoculars, the Crossfire HD 10x50 is narrower, consisting of two aluminium tubes that join in the middle by a hinge. That's where you'll find the focusing knob, but also a small thread for attaching an L-shaped tripod adapter. Although that's a useful thing to have on any pair of step-up binoculars, you're probably never going to use it.
Much more importantly the Crossfire HD 10x50 uses BaK-4 glass prisms and its optics come multi-coated, which is par for the course for most mid-range binoculars. What you get here that you don't find on most similarly priced binoculars is high density, extra low dispersion glass, which should mean extra sharpness and colour accuracy (hence the 'HD' in the product name).
However, the feature to get really excited about on the Crossfire HD 10x50 is the included GlassPak chest harness. Initially it's a thing of wonder. After all, it's so incredibly useful to have a shoulder bag that protects the binoculars, but also can also be positioned on the chest, making it super-quick to deploy (and also to pack away). However, there are a couple of design foibles that in practice make it a less than perfect solution.
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review: build and handling
Although we enjoyed using the GlassPak harness, not only does it get in a tangle when it's not being used, but it's also less versatile than we had hoped. While the bag that protects the Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars is of excellent quality (with lots of padding and even a couple of stretch pockets on the sides), it's permanently attached to the chest harness. Effectively that prevents you from using the binoculars out without the harness, because although you do get a separate neck strap in the box, you would have to find an additional shoulder bag to carry them in.
Since they come with an unlimited lifetime warranty, it's hardly surprising that the Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars are among the toughest and best made you're going to find at this price. However, they do have a slightly unusual finish. While most rival waterproof and nitrogen-purged binoculars have a textured finish that is easy to grip, the Crossfire HD 10x50 do not. However, despite them being unusually smooth, they prove to be easy to hold and grip in all kinds of weather conditions, including drizzle and rain. That's in part thanks to a couple of indents on the underside of the two tubes, both of them natural resting zones for thumbs.
There's a refined feel to the Crossfire HD 10x50 from its smooth focusing knob through to its right eye diopter, which has enough stiffness to remain in place once calibrated for your eyes.
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review: performance
The entry-level model in the Crossfire range of Vortex binoculars, the Crossfire HD 10x50 is nevertheless hugely impressive. You don't get a super-close focus, but for anything beyond about six feet the Crossfire HD 10x50 will give you super sharp views.
During my tests I found them to offer high resolution images right across the field of view, which is slightly larger than you'll find on similarly-specified binoculars. That makes these binoculars particularly good for using while on safari, but also for stargazing. They also really impressed me at night. Using them to view the many celestial sites of the Summer Triangle, I was able to get a sharp view of the stars in the constellation of Delphinus, the dolphin, as well as in the nearby Coathanger asterism. (Check T3's binoculars vs telescopes for stargazing explainer if this is your priority and you're deciding where to spend your money.)
I like the way the binoculars clip into the harness, which does make it really easy to use the Crossfire HD 10x50 for long periods. I took them out into the field strapped to my chest during a long astrophotography shoot, using them just occasionally to stargaze. I found the harness really comfortable, though I did get irritated by the lens caps, whose tethers allow them to swing about too much.
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review: alternatives to consider
The Crossfire HD 10x50's GlassPak case / chest harness makes it a little bit of a specialty product. For something similarly specified and lower priced consider the Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 porro prism binoculars, which will impress for safari and stargazing yet have a more basic build quality. For something equally as well-built, but more portable, have a look at the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42, another pair of roof prism binoculars with little less magnification and slightly less light-gathering ability.
Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars review: verdict
An excellent pair of general purpose binoculars with impressive optics, a hard-wearing design and some unexpected extras, I think the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars will suit anyone after a step-up product primarily for using for long periods – because that's where its novel GlassPak chest case / harness truly impresses.