Introduction

In this article, I will compare Vortex Crossfire 10×42 and Kowa SV 10×42 binoculars. These two models are both brand’s entry-level 10×42 binoculars, available at a reasonable price. Both are offering a lot for their prices and are a good choice for anyone who wants to observe the details, large open areas, mountains, birds, etc.
Vortex established its company in 2002 and to this day, they are still trying to preserve their basic ideology and mentality, that the service needs to be fast and professional. The company is relatively “young” but grows constantly and has to offer more and more quality optical products.
Kowa is a Japanese company that started manufacturing spotting scopes and binoculars after the end of World War ll. Their massive production began after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, where they provided their optical devices, mainly for the shooting events. Soon after that, Kowa binoculars and other scopes gained great popularity all over the world and their binoculars became indispensable especially among bird watchers.
I will compare these two models by their optical and external characteristics and make a comparison test with a help of 6 people.

Vortex Crossfire 10x42 and Kowa SV 10x42

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 and Kowa SV 10×42

 

Size & Weight

 Vortex Crossfire 10x42Kowa SV 10x42
Weight:660 g670 g
Width:129.5 mm128 mm
Length:152.4 mm172 mm
Max interpupillary distance:76 mm76 mm

The proportions of these two binoculars are very similar, the biggest difference between them is the size and the look of the armoring. Kowa SV is bigger and has its barrels extra long, narrow and made out of two pieces. Crossfire is shorter and more ergonomically designed. The rubber on SV is black and matted around the bridge. On the underside of the binoculars, rubber is shaped in a way that provides a better grip and thumb placing. The bridge has a typical red stripe in the middle, which can be found on several Kowa’s binoculars.
Crossfire is coated in beautiful soft black and matted green rubber and has ellipse-shaped thumb rests on both barrels. These binoculars are excellent for observation in nature because they blend-in nicely with the surroundings due to their appearance.
Build quality of both binoculars is good.

Vortex Crossfire 10x42

Vortex Crossfire 10×42

Kowa SV 10x42

Kowa SV 10×42

Optical Properties

 Vortex Crossfire 10×42Kowa SV 10×42
Prism type:Roof -Schmidt/PechanRoof -Schmidt/Pechan
Lens Diameter:42 mm42 mm
Magnification:10x10x
Variable Magnification:NoNo
Coatings:Fully multi-coatedFully multi-coated
Close focus:2.4 m 4 m
Field of View:99 m /1000 m105 m / 1000 m

10×42 configuration is perfect for bird watching and safari expeditions, since they provide a lot of details, are much better for the longer distances. In low light conditions they will perform worse, than the 8×42. With 10×42 binoculars you will have a feeling of being more close to the object/action. Unfortunately, the shake in your hands will be more noticeable than on an 8×42 configuration, but still within normal ranges.
These two binoculars both provide bright and very detailed images. They have their lenses fully multi-coated, BaK-4 glass used on the roof prisms, providing high light transmittance.
Close focusing distance is much sorter on a Crossfire, so it makes the binoculars more suitable for close observations. Field of view is a bit wider on an SV and is actually above average for a 10×42 model of this price category.

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 (Left) and Kowa SV 10×42 (Right)

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 (Left) and Kowa SV 10×42 (Right)

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 (Left) and Kowa SV 10×42 (Right)

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 (Left) and Kowa SV 10×42 (Right)

Focus Properties

 Vortex Crossfire 10×42Kowa SV 10×42
Focusing System:CentralCentral
Central Wheel Grasp:7/108/10
Central Wheel Rotation:8/108/10
Diopter Setting:Right-eyeRight-eye
Central Wheel Diameter:32 mm31 mm
Central Wheel Length:25 mm21 mm
Total Revolution: 700°520°
Bridge Length (Without the Central Wheel Length)46 mm50 mm

Both have a central focusing system and right-eye diopter setting. The rotation on both is smooth and sturdy, is not too fast and does not feel loose. The knob on both is big enough for using it with gloves on. The one on Kowa SV has a better surface to grip and that is why I have evaluated it better (8/10) than the Crossfire (7/10). The rotation on both is good; Crossfire’s focus wheel can rotate for almost two turns so it can sometimes take a little longer to get a sharp and clear image. I have, however, evaluated both wheel’s rotation with a good 8/10. Crossfire has a slightly shorter bridge, that is better for using with one hand.
The diopter setting is not tight enough on these two models and it can change the position quickly if we are not careful enough. Both have a little line drawn in this section, which helps with the orientation when setting the diopter.

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 & Kowa SV 10×42

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 & Kowa SV 10×42

Eyepiece Properties

 Vortex Crossfire 10×42Kowa SV 10×42
Eyepiece type:MultipositionedMultipositioned
Number of Click-stops:13
Eye relief:15 mm15.5 mm
Exit pupil:4.3 mm4.2 mm
Firmness:8/108/10
Quality:6/106/10
Suitable for Eye Glass Wearers:YesYes
External Diameter:40 mm38 mm
Internal Diameter:20 mm20 mm

Both binoculars have a multi-positioned eyepiece with a turn and slide mechanism. Kowa SV also offers 3 click-stops for a proper adjustment. Eye relief is similar on both and so are the other proportions. I have evaluated the firmness on both with an 8/10 since they are well made and give a good eye-relief. The quality, however, did not convince me on either of them- the eyecups rubber has a plastic feeling, is a little hard and does not feel so comfortable when pressed to the eyes/face. That is why I gave them only 6/10 for the quality.

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 & Kowa SV 10×42

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 & Kowa SV 10×42 Eyepiece

General Properties

 Vortex Crossfire 10×42Kowa SV 10×42
Housing Material:Plastic/ RubberPlastic/ Rubber
Armoring:RubberRubber
Quality of Armoring:8/107/10
Quality of Covers:8/106/10
Build in Rangefinder:NoNo
Waterproof:YesYes
Submersible:Yes Yes
Filled With:NitrogenNitrogen
Number of Colors:11
Tripod Adaptable:YesYes
Made in:ChinaChina
Introduced in:20122012
Warranty period: 10 years10 years
MRSP Price:219.00 EUR269.00 EUR

These two binoculars were both introduced in 2012 and they are very similar in most of the characteristics. Both are filled with Nitrogen and O-ring sealed for the fog and water resistance. I preferred the quality or armoring more on the Crossfire (evaluated with an 8/10) since it looks more aesthetic and well-made. The rubber coating on both is fine but tends to get stained quickly. Especially on the Kowa SV, the white spots appear all over the surface, especially around the eyepiece (evaluated with a 7/10). As for the objective covers, Crossfire has them attached to the barrels with a rubber band and Kowa SV has them in two parts, individual for each lens. In my opinion, the covers are quite disappointing, because they are thin and plastic, also, very impractical.
Otherwise, these two binoculars are very suitable for carrying around, because they are light-weight, compact and practical to use. Both are made in China, available in one color, are tripod adaptable and offer a 10-year warranty.

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 and Kowa SV 10×42 Covers

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 and Kowa SV 10×42 Covers

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 and Kowa SV 10×42 Covers

Vortex Crossfire 10×42 and Kowa SV 10×42 Covers

Group Test

How we made a test

We made a test with a group of 6 people with very diverse knowledge about sports optics. Some had previous experiences with binoculars and other almost none. We compared central and edge sharpness, glare, real FOV, eye-box and overall impression. Everyone in the test group tested binoculars individually without being influenced by other people. We also covered down any brand signs on binoculars, so no one was influenced by knowing which company manufactured which.

 Vortex Crossfire 10×42Kowa SV 10×42
Central sharpness:2/64/6
Edge sharpness:2/64/6
Glare:3/63/6
Real FOV:1/65/6
Eye-box:4/62/6
Overall impression:3/63/6

The results of the test, in which 6 randomly selected people helped me, were more in favor of Kowa as far as the optical characteristics were concerned. Kowa SV won in central and edge sharpness and the real FOV. Eye-box was chosen to be better on the Crossfire. Glare and the overall impression ended up in a tie- this, unfortunately, means we have no absolute winner in this comparison test.

Conclusion

In my opinion, both binoculars are very much alike. Optical attributes are seen to be slightly better at Kowa SV and as for the appearance, I would prefer the Crossfire. Both binoculars are relatively affordable and they offer a lot for their price.
Both binoculars come packed in black sport-looking bags with a neck strap and cleaning cloth included.

Kowa SV 10×42 and Vortex Crossfire 10×42 Bags

Kowa SV 10×42 and Vortex Crossfire 10×42 Bags

Kowa SV 10×42

Kowa SV 10×42

Vortex Crossfire 10×42

Vortex Crossfire 10×42

Disclaimer

This test wasn’t financed and is unbiased. As a wildlife enthusiast interested in sports optics I made this tests because I would like to see how binoculars perform and if they meet the advertised expectations. With this test, I also hope that it will help people choose the right binoculars for their personal use. I am not in any way connected with the manufacturers of sports optics and I’m not personally in favor of particular brand.
In the end, I would like to thank Optics-trade.eu to lend me these binoculars for this test. I also thank them for letting me use their videos.

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