My friend recently purchased a new pair of binoculars as an upgrade (from Celestron Outland X 10x42) and offered them up to Target Tamers for review.
He handed over almost everything that came in the box, but since a couple things were missing, my review is strictly based on the binoculars.
The optic subject to scrutiny is the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars - a favorite of the masses thanks to the low cost.
As such, I compare value to the Diamondback series, probe its build quality, and assess its optical system. I expect much given the manufacturer and price point. So, I tell it all in my hands-on experience with the Vortex Crossfire binoculars!
What I Like: Price
What I Don’t Like: Eyecups & IPD
Best Uses: Bow & Rifle Hunting, Recreational Use, Wildlife Observation, Sightseeing, Hiking
- Magnification: 10x
- Objective Diameter: 50 mm
- Coatings: FMC
- FOV: 320 ft/1000 yds
- Eye Relief: 17 mm
- Dimensions: 6.7 x 5.3” / 30.4 oz
My Verdict: Seldom can you find a full-size binocular at a low price point from an authoritative optics manufacturer. The Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 are budget roof prism binoculars. Durability, configuration, and the warranty are its strong suits.
Who is the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 Best Suited to?
If spending absolutely no more than $200 is the goal, the Crossfire HD binoculars will suffice for most people. If you’re accustomed to better glass and can spend more, then don’t settle with the Crossfires.
There’s some harsh criticism about the Crossfires that includes it’s a no-go for rifle hunting. I disagree. I could spot elk approx. 2000 yards away out West. Yes, you’d need to get closer to see if they’re cows or bulls and to count points if you don’t have a spotting scope. I’d say it performed very well to 1000 yards on elk that hunters would be pleased with.
I would recommend it for bow and rifle hunting and as affordable binoculars for those on a budget. I could see the velvet on this elk's rack, so yeah, it’s more than good enough for most hunting purposes.
It’s suited to hiking and sightseeing if you can manage the weight. For birding, it’s excellent for close range. With just passable resolution at distance, you won’t get much detail to really satisfy the Aves obsession.
How Does the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 Perform?
In general, the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 are affordable binoculars that get you in the Vortex family when the budget is tight. They’re entry-level in quality in every way possible but protected by the VIP warranty. In this case, the basic performance outweighs the cons.
What I liked best about its performance is the durability. Since the binoculars don’t belong to me, I didn’t want to sit it in a stream, but I did simulate a downpour (more like a dumping) of rain since it’s likely you could get caught in one.
O-ring seals did their job, dust has cleaned off easily from the armor, and there’s minimal to no sign of the bumps on rocks it’s been unintentionally subjected to.
To be honest (as I always am!), the focusing and sharpness were a bit disappointing. I consistently overshot it because I couldn’t acquire the resolution I wanted even with the HD Optical System.
However, I did spot elk a good distance out. I thought there were some big boulders in the distant background as seen with the naked eye approximately 1800-2000 yards away, but with the Crossfires I was able to see that it was a herd.
There’s not anything top-tier or even mid-tier about the Crossfires. They’re entry-level and budget binoculars. If you want as affordable as it gets from Vortex out of roof prism binos, they fit the bill.
Features & Benefits
Price: Crossfire HD VS Diamondback HD
The Crossfire HD series is a very entry-level line. While the Diamondback HD series are also entry-level, they are a step above the Crossfires in quality and performance. As far as cost is concerned, the Crossfire binoculars are cheaper than the alternative Diamondbacks.
Street prices put the full-size Crossfires under $200. It’s good for the money especially since it comes with a bunch of accessories. That includes the GlassPak case and harness, neck strap, and the caps.
The Diamondback full-size binoculars also come with the same accessories, but they have better light transmission, image quality, and improved overall performance. In fact, one of my first and favorite binoculars to play with were the Diamondback 10x50 back before the HD version was out.
The Crossfires seem to be one of those budget binoculars that you either love or hate. If you need full-size binoculars under $200, they must be considered.
If you have more to spend, I would recommend expanding your options to include the Diamondback HD series or consider a smaller configuration with better glass to stay closer to the initial budget, like a 10x42 or a 7x28.
In general, to put its best foot forward, the Crossfire HD 10x50 binoculars have proven to have good durability. The ergonomics, design, and even the aesthetics are very well done. It’s attractive, sleek, and well built.
Having been O-ring sealed and nitrogen-purged, it’s waterproof and fogproof. There is a lot of plastic on this binocular from its chassis to the hinge, focusing system, and eyecups.
The armor is glued on tight, and I find this to be an excellent trait. It’s really smooth, which is sort of a downside. It’s not grippy at all, so it slides around easily in the hand. What helps to offset the slippage is the weight.
Though the Crossfire 10x50 binos technically weigh in at 30.4 oz, which is comparable to other 50mm binoculars, they feel heavier, and it’s noticeable. Though they have 10x power, they're not in the same boat as mid-size binoculars. These count as full-size.
The focus knob has been said to be rough in spots, but that hasn’t been the case for me. It has smooth movement with minimal resistance – I have made unintentional focus adjustments when grabbing the binoculars. The knurling on it and the diopter is smooth and soft but easy on the fingers.
While the armor didn’t shed water as impressively as I thought it would, it did dry quickly. It’s obvious the glass was not treated with a hydrophobic coating. I had to rush to dry the glass before they became water spots that could damage the coating.
Some of these traits are double-edged as they’re either benefits to some but drawbacks to others. In the end, they’re not binoculars that I’d be particularly intense with, but they will hold up to daily use.
Objective Lens Caps
The way the objective lenses are tethered to the binoculars are great. Attached to the tripod cap, they will not be easily lost. The lenses are seated into the objective bells by almost half an inch deep, and the caps themselves are half an inch deep. The rainguard caps are almost 0.75” deep.
The only way I foresee losing these caps in the field is when the Crossfire HD binos are mounted to a tripod.
The tripod cap must be removed and with it the objective caps also go. It will take some intentional pocketing in my pack to retain these. But the huge caps actually make them easier to find, and since the tripod cap is with them, I won’t be losing the tripod cap any time soon!
Tripod Adaptable & Eye Relief
On average, 10x50 binoculars are considered full-size binoculars. As such, they’re excellent for tripod mounting. The Crossfire HD 10x50 are tripod adaptable. My recommendation is to use it with a tripod adapter like that from Outdoorsman’s.
Space is limited between the objective bells of full-size binoculars, so it makes things a tad frustrating. Admittedly, it’s not as hard as I’m making it look because I’m doing it one handed – camera in the other hand! If you have bigger fingers, it could be an issue.
Fortunately, they’re good for handheld use. I do find that I’m more unstable with these than usual or at least more-so than 10x42s. Stability performance is better with it mounted to a tripod.
The eye relief is 17 mm and will present no issues for those who don’t wear glasses. For those who do, the Crossfires are much like other binoculars with similar eye relief – glasses right up against the eyepieces. You might be able to get away with using sunglasses with the Crossfires if the lenses are flat rather than curved.
There’s about 3-4 correction in both negative and positive directions on the diopter, so if you can get away with that, you won’t need your glasses.
The optical performance of the Crossfire HD fits the entry-level and budget category. The binoculars have fully multi-coated (FMC) lenses and phase coated prisms. This is about the extent of any sort of dress-up the optical system has.
As a warning, I’ve judged the Crossfires very hard. For the price point, I’m expecting a lot because it’s a Vortex even though it’s an entry-level model. While I find them passable, my buddy thought they were really good to his eyes with his glasses on.
They performed better than expected in low light conditions which I was glad about. The extra weight from the larger objectives prove its worth at sun down. Next to some ED 10x42 binoculars, they are brighter but not comparable in resolution.
Inside a few hundred yards, I have zero complaints about the image quality including resolution and color fidelity.
You’ll earn your way to a focused image. It takes a lot of tuning to dial in from near to far and requires constant tweaking even for targets mere yards apart. The depth of field is quite shallow.
Chromatic aberration is visible. It’s definitely not bad enough to turn off bird watching hobbyists for hummingbirds on the porch. Most of the CA seen in my images is from extra magnification from digiscoping.
I think my harshest criticism is the very unforgiving image quality when not perfectly centered behind the eyepieces. What results is some annoying light reflections at the peripherals, spherical aberration, and vignetting that creates a drop-off in overall image quality.
This tires my eyes out quickly, and makes it slow to use in a jiffy. The solution is to take your time to get behind them. It takes me longer with the Crossfires to get a collimated, focused image than with other similar priced binoculars I’ve worked with in the past.
Overall, the optical quality of the Crossfire HD binoculars is slightly underwhelming. However, they’re entry-level binoculars with average glass performance in my opinion.
If you just need to spot the herd, get a closer view of a landmark, or watch for trespassers around the perimeter, your needs will be satisfied.
HD Optical System
Vortex states that the Crossfire HD binoculars have the HD Optical System with fully multi-coated (FMC) lenses and a phase correction coating for the roof prisms. The new HD binoculars have replaced all the older non-HD models.
I’ve seen the term “HD” to either mean High Density or High Definition. It’s a marketing term to indicate that this series uses this particular optical system, but Vortex does not make it clear as to exactly what that means in either the lens design or elements.
From what I’ve been able to gather, HD just means that it has improved optical coatings. There is no clarity provided regarding the use of ED (extra-low dispersion) elements.
From handling, I haven’t seen anything optically evident about the Crossfires that indicates ED glass. The HD system might mean that it has an achromat doublet design to help reduce optical aberrations and improve the sight picture quality, but it doesn’t mean that an ED lens element has been incorporated.
Keep in mind that ED glass, optical systems, and optical coatings are not universal nor made equal.
Limitations of the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 Binoculars
Eyecups & IPD
The eyecups seem to be 2-position eyecups: all the way in and all the way out. With any sort of multi-step position, they slip under pressure with the hand, but not too badly against the brow. They are hard and uncomfortable to sit firmly behind.
Since I didn’t find the eyecups very comfortable, I often found myself off-centered from the optical path. This caused fast eye strain and aberrations that are exaggerated but can be resolved if you take the time to properly get behind the eyepieces.
Considering that the IPD is 60-76mm wide, it does not work for those with smaller IPDs from 54-59mm. The result will be an uncollimated image with double vision and vignetting. An imperfect collimated image is easy to acquire if you’re on the narrower side.
Popular Questions About the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 Binoculars
Vortex is an American brand, and the Crossfire HD optics are an entry-level line manufactured in China. Vortex has production facilities in Japan, the Philippines, China, and the USA.
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers
The Diamondback HD and Crossfire HD full-size binoculars come with the GlassPak pouch, GlassPak harness, comfort neck strap, rainguard, tethered lens caps, and a lens cloth.
Though a harness is included in the box, I didn’t feature it because my buddy who owns it forgot to hand it over.
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers
In general, the Crossfire HD 10x50 configuration is well suited to stargazing and amateur astronomy. Points of interest in the night sky include double stars, star clusters, and of course the moon. You can spot planets and galaxies, but they will still have a small apparent size and lack detail.
As far as lunar observation, they’re adequate performers for this purpose. It’s not a lot of magnification compared to a telescope or even a spotting scope, but it will provide a larger image. Best performance for this is when it’s tripod mounted for ultimate stability. Though my camera and photos don’t show it, you can see some decent detail on the moon – there’s a lot of light from the moon and picked up by the camera. It's far superior in reality than I can show.
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers
Overall, all Vortex optics are covered under the VIP Warranty including the budget Crossfire HD series. It’s an unconditional, unlimited lifetime warranty that is fully transferable, and you don’t need to have a receipt to provide proof of purchase. Their warranty reputation precedes them.
Image by Tina Fa'apoi (Own Work) for Target Tamers
Vortex Crossfire HD: Full-Size & Built Like a Tank
The Crossfire HD 10x50 are not extravagant binoculars. The optical performance is average, but it will be the cost for a Vortex roof prism binocular, the durability, and the VIP warranty that will sell you on this pair.
As a recreational and basic hunting pair of binoculars, they won’t disappoint. They’re plain and without the dress-up of mid-range binoculars for a reason: affordability.
Overall, it’s difficult to find quality 50mm binoculars under $200 from an authority manufacturer in the optics industry. The Crossfires fit the description and the bill. Plus, competing manufacturers are yet to outdo Vortex’s warranty reputation.
Thanks to my dear friend Roger for lending me these binoculars to field test. Please note, even though this product was provided by my pal, all my opinions expressed are my own and not in any way influenced by peer pressure. Honest.