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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
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High Tech Binocs - Alpen Apex 10X50
By Todd Spotti
     I might as well get to the bottom line first. These binoculars are just about as good as any that you can buy at any price. Got your attention? Read on.

     Between my many years of visiting the manufacturer’s booths at both the Shot Show and the NRA Show, I’ve probably looked at hundreds of binoculars ranging from the low end to the super priced products that have difficult to pronounce names. I don’t say this casually, but I would be very hard pressed to substantially differentiate the image produced by the Alpen Apex 10 X 50’s, which sell on the internet for around $350-$375 and the same sized super premium products that also sell on the internet for nearly $1400. Perhaps if we took both products into an optical laboratory, we just might detect some significant differences, but I doubt it. I suspect any differences that would be found would be pretty subtle. The Alpen's are more than just nice binoculars, these are great binoculars - especially when you consider the price.

"The Alpen Apex 10X50 binoculars match the quality of the super premimum types at less cost."

     I got curious as to how this was possible so I decided to take a detailed look at the technical specifications of the Alpen’s and compared them to one of the super premium brands. So what did I find? Actually, in a way, it wasn’t too surprising. When you look at the design and construction details of the Alpen Apex, you’ll find that they’re practically identical to one of the super brands, so obviously they produce for all practical purposes, very similar results.

     I usually don’t make direct comparisons of products that have a $1000 disparity in price, but let’s do a side by side comparison of the specifications of the Japanese made Alpen Apex and the Austrian made Swarovski SCL binoculars. Both are 10X50’s and both are roof prism designs.


Focus System

Center Center

Exit Pupil

5mm 5mm

Eye Relief

20mm 17mm


Full Multi Full Multi


28 ounces 41 ounces

Close Focus

9 feet 16 feet

Field of View

262’ at 1000 yrds 336’ at 1000 yrds

Prism Material


Phase Corrected

Yes Yes


Yes Yes


Polycarbonate Aluminum

Objective lens

3 element APO 3 element APO


Yes Yes

Tripod Adaptable

Yes & No Yes

     To summarize, the Swarovski has an advantage in that its field of view is much wider. This of course gives you a bigger picture. How important that advantage is really dependent upon on your needs. However in every other category, the Alpen either matches the Swarovski or betters it. Both have the same type focus system, same exit pupil, full multi coating, same prism material, phase correction coatings for their prisms, and both are waterproof and rubber armored. However, the Alpen's are also lighter, can focus closer in, and have superior eye relief.

     A quick note. You may have noticed that the Swarovski has an aluminum body and assumed it to be the superior material. Actually, it’s not. The Alpen’s body is made from a proprietary composite polycarbonate which is stronger by far than the aluminum, and has much better heat stability. Also as you may have noticed, the polycarbonate is much lighter. Lastly, producing binoculars from this particular material is actually more expensive than making them from brass, aluminum or even magnesium.

     The Swarovski’s are tripod adaptable. On the other hand, while the Alpens do have the means to be tripod adaptable, it takes a some extra effort. Let me explain. There is a built in threaded receptacle on the front of the Alpen’s center focus spindle to accept a tripod adaptor. However, the spacing between the two barrels is too narrow for most standard adaptors to fit into this small area. However, if you or a friend is at all handy with tools, making an adapter is perhaps a 15-20 minute job. My good friend Bill Racer threw one together for me with a strip of scrap metal, two washers, and a screw. I think the total cost was 65 cents.

     When I look through the Alpen's, I see a bright, vivid, slightly exaggerated three dimensional image in which the colors are true and clear. There’s no yellow, green, gray or blue tinting. Nor is there any distortion, waviness, bending, or blurring even at the extreme edges of the image. The picture you see is completely lifelike.

     So what is it that makes these Alpen’s so good? Well, first you’re starting off with big, high quality 50mm objective lenses. These are three element apochromatic types. Most objectives for almost all sport optical products consist of a two element achromatic lens to correct chromatic aberrations for two colors. These do a pretty good job, however the three element apochromatic lens types can focus the incoming light to the same wavelength in three colors (usually red, blue, and green or yellow). Only the very best optics use APO lenses. For a more complete discussion of the subject see my article "The Best 60mm Spotting Scope on the Planet".

     We’re also dealing with a optical system that is fully multi coated. Why is full multi-coating a good thing? Well when light hits those big objectives, and all the other lenses in the system, it’s natural tendency is to be reflected away. All that reflecting and light scattering does all kinds of bad things to our image. The coatings are multiple layers of rare earths that reduce the reflecting and scattering, which then results in more light being transmitted through the system while increasing contrast.

     Another big part of the winning formula for these binoculars is the fact that they use BAK4 glass for its roof prisms. So why is that good? BAK4 is a type of barium crown glass that has a couple of significant advantages. One, there is less chromatic dispersion. Translation - colors are more true and distinctive with no fringing which gives you a more vivid image.

     Two, BAK4 glass will give you images that are unvignetted. So what’s vignetting? Well it has to do with something called the cos-4th law of optics. In a nutshell, this means that with most lenses, the edges will receive less light than the center. The result is the fact the the farther you get from the center, the darker the image will become. Use of BAK4 glass helps to overcome that situation resulting in a brighter image across the whole lens. BAK4 glass also produces a perfectly round exit pupil (the shaft of light containing the image exiting the rear of the optical system) instead of a "lumpy" shaped exit pupil.

     Additionally, the Alpen’s prisms are phased coated. This is very important. This feature separates excellent binoculars from binoculars that are merely "good". By their very nature, roof prisms will split the light that hits them into two paths. Of course this is occurring in each of the binocs two barrels. Those two light beams are then forcefully refocused back together by the time they exit the eyepieces. However, there’s a problem. Both of the refocused beams will be slightly out of phase (sometimes called phase shifted) with each other even though they’ve been mashed back together. So here you’ve got a situation where out of phase light is coming out of each of the two barrels of the binoculars. (Sounds kind of Star Treky doesn’t it?)

     Phase coating on the roof prisms, will refocus the beams back into phase. The result is superior resolution and contrast and a very edgy image. If you want binoculars that will be able to see a 6.5 mm bullet just passing under a steel ram’s belly, or can pick out an eight point buck bedded down in the tall dry grass, you definitely want phase coating to see that level of fine detail.

     Lastly, there’s waterproofing and rubber armor. If there’s any chance at all you’ll be taking your optics into the field, you need waterproofing and armor. You wouldn’t buy a rifle scope that wasn’t waterproofed would you? Things happen in the field. It gets wet out there. It snows out there. Things get dropped out there.

     So does that Alpen water proofing really work. You bet. I recently heard of a case where a fellow took his Alpen binocs on a hunt and accidentally left them hanging on a bush by their neck strap. Those binocs were left out there in the wild exposed to snow, rain, and all the elements for a full year. When the owner went back to the site on another hunt, he found them right where he had left them the year before. The rubber eye cups had rotted away but the binoculars themselves were in perfect optical and mechanical condition . I know that most of the time it’s probably over kill, but I just feel better knowing I won’t ever have to worry about my binoculars fogging up or letting me down at a critical moment. Reliability is important to me.

     In summary, you can pay nearly $1400 for a pair of super premium binocs, or you can pay well under $400 for a pair of Alpen Apex binoculars that gives virtually the same level of super premium performance. Your choice, your money.

Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.