This review on the Vectronix Vector 23 rangefinder binoculars is based on a 3 month long field test. It reflects the thoughts of 3 different precision rifle shooters as they used the product to observe and range targets from 25 yards to 18+ miles away hundreds of times. The full field test consisted of 8 different rangefinders, so we have a very wide view of what to expect in a good pair of rangefinder binoculars. This post is compiled from our notes of what we specifically liked or didn’t like about the Vectronix Vector 23 compared to the rest of the models out there.
- Ridiculous ranging capabilities well beyond anything else available … period. Can range over 30,000 yards, and can even range through glass (no others I’ve seen can)
- Many innovative design ideas in the small elements like the lens covers and strap connectors
- Etched, “always on” reticle makes ranging much easier than a lit/temporary reticle
- Very Expensive ($23,800 on EuroOptic.com, although the Vector IV is a lower cost model with a lot of the same features, but reduced range of 7,000 yards … just 4 miles!)
- Heavy and bulky
- Only 7x magnification (prefer 8x or 10x)
Vectronix is the industry leader for rangefinders, and this is their top-shelf product. It is almost absurd the ranging performance you can get from this model. If you need to range beyond 2,000 yards, you are probably in the military and already using a Vectronix Vector … but if not, you should consider one! It will give you an accurate range on whatever you point it at, every time you press the button. Every time.
When it comes to ranging, there is nothing better than the Vectronix Vector 23. I was able to use the Vectronix Vector 23 rangefinder to get ranges of 31,612 yards on a very distant hillside, which is 18 miles away. I don’t know how practical that is, because I actually had to drive 100 miles to be able to see something that far away that I could range. But make no mistake … it was very cool. To make it even more unbelievable, those 18 mile readings were taken in bright, midday lighting conditions as well. In my experience, you can expect most rangefinders to perform 10-25% better in low light conditions than in bright light conditions.
Vectronix has an innovative feature on all of their rangefinders called “Multiple Object Measurement” (also known as “3 DIS”) that you could enable to make it show the top 3 readings from a single measurement. When this is enabled, it will automatically highlight the distance it thought you were intending to range, but also shows you the second and third strongest readings received as well. For example, if you were ranging a tree at 250 yards, and 100 yards behind it was a jeep, and 1000 yards behind that was a building … it would display 250, 350, and 1350 (and probably highlight the 350 yard reading).
When talking to a rep from Vectronix about my post on how rangefinders work, he told me “like you said, the logic of what to display to the user is what’s truly important and that’s why all of our laser rangefinders have Multiple Object Measurement (also known as 3 Dist) to ensure the real range information is available to the user.” Most manufacturers just pick a distance and display that, and don’t provide a way for the user to explore the underlying data beyond that single reading. That is a bad approach, because the computer can’t possibly know as much as you do about the ranging scenario. I’m not saying display all the distances detected, but it would be ideal if manufacturers allowed you to drill down into more details about the underlying data the rangefinder was able to gather, instead of hoping all you need is the one number it picked to show you.
The biggest thing about the Vector 23 that surprised me was they would always, always give you a reading. It didn’t matter the scenario, bright light, brush, ranging through a windshield … it was always able to get a reading back. In fact, I couldn’t come up with a single tough ranging scenario where the Vector 23 would give me a reading for anything other than my intended target. The “3 DIS” feature is cool, but I never had to enable that feature in any of my testing with the Vector 23, because the range it displayed was always the one I was trying to get. The Vector always figured it out somehow. Honestly, after using all these other models, ranging with the Vector almost felt like magic.
The Vectors actually use a laser that is quite different than other rangefinders. The laser type it uses is 1550 nanometers (nm), where virtually all of the other rangefinders use something close to 905 nm. One reason they do that is because that spectrum of light is invisible to night-vision equipment, where the 905 nm can be seen with night-vision equipment. In fact, many people have been able to measure the actual beam divergence of a rangefinder using night-vision equipment, because you can see and measure it. You wouldn’t be able to do that with the Vector. The unique ranging capabilities of Vector could be at least partly due to the different type of laser and the extremely tight beam divergence (Vectronix defines it as less than 0.3 mrad in size).
Most of the rangefinder binoculars I’ve used have an electronic reticle that appears when you pressed the button. However, the Vectronix models have an engraved, “always on” reticle that makes aiming and ranging a little easier. The reticle is also mil-based, which is handy if spotting for another shooter.
Really Advanced Features
The Vectronix Vector rangefinders have a built-in digital compass, which none of the other rangefinders I’ve used had. The compass allows the unit to display the azimuth, which is the horizontal angle measured clockwise from due north. They also have a built-in inclinometer, which measures the vertical angle of incline (i.e. slope uphill or downhill to the object). So when you use the Vector to range an object, it not only knows the distance … it also knows the horizontal and vertical angles to that object. When you know all 3 of those values, you can do some really advanced things other rangefinders can’t.
I actually just thought “Vector” was just a cool name Vectronix came up with (like the “Bushnell Fusion Rangefinder” has nothing to do with fusion). But, in mathematics terms, a vector is used to represent quantities that have both magnitude (or length) and direction. So all rangefinders can measure the magnitude/length part, but because this rangefinder also knows the direction (both horizontal and vertical components) … it can piece those together into a vector. Sorry … I nerded out for a minute there.
The Vector can not only give you the distance to two distant mountain peaks … but it can tell you the distance between those peaks. You simply range one object, then range the other one and it can display the distance between them. In the example below, it is displaying a distance of 1,200 yards between the lighthouse and the boat.
Many rangefinder have a built-in inclinometer so that they can display the “equivalent horizontal distance” to the target. That is the distance that gravity is going to act on, so its the number you’d plug into a ballistic calculator to get the most accurate elevation adjustment (instead of line of sight distance). This is especially important for bowhunters, but can be important for high-angle, long-range shots as well, although those are rare. The Vector can display that horizontal distance, but it can also display the vertical distance component as well. The example on the left below shows the unit displaying the horizontal component (1,200 yards) to the object, as well as the vertical component (180 yards). Both of those measurements are relative to the rangefinder’s position. You can also display the horizontal and vertical components between two points, which is what is shown in the second example. You essentially just range the first point, then the second point, and it can display both the horizontal and vertical components.
The Vector doesn’t provide any ballistic features built-in.
For my field tests, I tried to come up with an objective, data-driven approach for testing optical clarity and what I ended up doing was placing eye exam charts from 600 to 1,400 yards and then recording what size of letters two different people could accurately read. These were virtually identical to the eye charts doctors use to assess visual acuity by determining how much detail and definition a patient can make out at a particular distance. I combined all that data into a single score for each model so they can be ranked in terms of how much detail my two testers could make out. I provide a lot more detail about how the test was conducted, and compare other optical specs in The Optical Performance Results post.
Here are the overall optical results:
Vectronix glass is amazing, and you can tell that from the first time you look through either the Vector 23 or the Terrapin models. However, the Vector 23 binoculars only have 7x zoom, but Vectronix offers a $2,600 accessory attachment that mounts to the binoculars to magnify them to a 10x zoom. They call this a Binocular Enhancer (Part# BE-10xT), and since the objective lens is also what gathers the “ranging echo” (i.e. the energy reflected by the laser pulse) this accessory can also increase range performance up to 35%. I guess this is good if 18 miles isn’t far enough for you! There are photos of that attached in the photo gallery above, and video that shows how they mount below. Although they appeared to have good clarity even with the external glass attached, the testers simply couldn’t make out the same level of detail with them as we could with some of the other models.
The 7x zoom may be ideal for some applications, but I prefer either 8x or 10x zoom. With the long-range capabilities of the ranging equipment on this model, it seems strange that they don’t have more zoom in the optics. I assume the military guys prefer 7x zoom, and that is likely what drives that design decision.
There are a couple benefits related to the 7x zoom. One is that they had an extremely wide field of view (360 feet at 1000 yards). Another is that they’re probably brighter than 10x binoculars with the same 42mm objective lens. There is a spec called Relative Brightness, which estimates how well optics will perform in low-light conditions. You can see the Vectronix Vector 23 has a much higher Relative Brightness index than other popular rangefinder binoculars.
Ergonomics & Design
The Vectronix Vector 23 had a lot of small, innovative features about it. For example, the flip-up lens covers are really nice. They pop on and off really easily, and when they are open they rotate all the way so they are flush with the body of the unit. That helps them not get caught on something and broken off as easily. You can also put them on and take them off easily. I thought this was a very ideal feature that every pair of binoculars should have. The Vectors lens covers also have an anti-reflective honeycomb-style metal built into them to reduce glare (but they also reduce ranging capabilities by 15%).
They also have a very cool neck strap connector, so you can remove the strap very quickly … yet it is still secure enough to have confidence in it holding up your $24,000 pair of optics. This is another small feature, but something that they obviously put thought into and they got it right. I wish I could get one of those straps for my other sets of binoculars. This video will show you how they work … very simple, but original idea.
But, what overshadowed all those things was the bulk and weight of the Vector. While most rangefinder binocular are in the range of 30-40 ounces … the Vector 23 weighed in at a hefty 64.0 ounces (including the strap and lens covers). Then when we attached the additional BE10 optical accessory to make it a 10x zoom instead of just a 7x, it weighed a whopping 101.4 ounces!
Optics Planet says “Most people find that anything more than 35 ounces is too much to comfortably carry around the neck and a weight of less than 30 ounces is much better.” At twice that, you aren’t going to want to wear the Vectors around your neck too long.
The unit is also bulky. I’m sure this is due to the amazing electronics that must somehow fit inside the body, but it can be cumbersome compared to other more compact models. It was 2” taller, 1” wider and ½” thicker than other models we tried. When you attach the optics accessory, it is not even in the same ballpark.
Most binoculars have a central focus wheel, but on the Vector you actually focus the eye pieces independently. That may be something serious rangers like, but I prefer the centralized focus.
One nice feature was the finger grooves on the side of the unit. That did make it feel nice in your hand.
Most manufactures make it very tough to compare their product to others out there. So, I spent days searching websites, user manuals, and calling/emailing manufacturers (several times each) to gather a complete set of detailed specifications and put them in a format that allows easy side-by-side comparison. There are almost 40 different specs, including actual measured weights, dimensions, and the max ranges found in my field tests for each model (which can be very different from what the manufacturer claims). Some manufacturers list this specs in metric units and others are in U.S. standard units … I’ve converted everything to the same units to make comparison easy. I also read through each of the manuals to see exactly what each one does or doesn’t have in terms of advanced features like equivalent horizontal range, and ballistics functions. Some of the specs I even measured or calculated myself, because they weren’t available anywhere or were specs manufacturers are notorious for exaggerating.
|Manufacturer Part #||906098|
|Measured Weight in Use²||64.0 oz|
|Measured Dimensions³||8.9 × 7.0 × 3.2 inches|
|Housing||Unknown metal with rubber armored exterior|
|Tripod Adaptable||Yes, Built-In|
|Included Strap||Neoprene (not contoured)
w/ quick attachments
|Limited Warranty||1 yr, Non-transferrable|
|Beam Divergence||< 0.3 mrad|
|Tested Max Range⁴||31,612 yd
Claimed: 27,340 yd
|Tested Min Range||9 yd
Claimed: 27 yd
|Claimed Accuracy||± 5 yd|
|Tested Repetition Rate||12 Ranges/min|
|Receiver Optic (Rx) Aperture Size||42 mm|
|Laser Type||1550 nm|
|Pulse Duration||MFR refused to specify|
|Battery Type||2 CR5 Lithium|
|Battery Life||5,000 measurements|
|Equivalent Horizontal Range Function||Yes|
|Display Multiple Object Distances Function||Yes|
|Advanced Ranging Modes||Multiple Objects, Equivalent Horizontal Range, Distance Between 2 Objects, & more|
|Objective Lens Diameter||42 mm|
|Exit pupil||6 mm|
|Eye Relief||18 mm|
|Field of view at 1000 yards||360 ft|
|Objective Angle of View||6.75°|
|Prism Type||MFR refused to specify|
|Glass||MFR refused to specify|
|Coatings||MFR refused to specify|
|Relative Brightness (RE)||36.0|
|Measured Focus Rotations||0.7|
|Focus System||Individual Eye Piece Focus|
I expected a military-grade warranty with the Vectors, but they only come with a 1 year limited warranty. And the warranty is non-transferrable, which means only the original owner is covered by the warranty. That is weak, considering Leica offers a 5 year warranty and Zeiss even tops that with a lifetime, transferrable warranty. But, since these are military-grade, they might last far longer than those other brands … they definitely out perform them in the field.
Download Manual(Vectronix prohibits publishing their manual online … sorry)
- Download Product Brochure
- View Manufacturer Product Page
- View Details on EuroOptic.com