See my binocular wish list.
Roy P wrote with an extensive discussion of his thoughts on the 25 or so binoculars he tried back in December. He now has some follow-on thoughts:
I’ve got to add the Zeiss 8x42 Victory SF binoculars right up there with the Swarovsky 8.5x42 EL42. Depending on the use case, you could make either of these the #1 and the other the #2, but they are more like a #1a and #1b.
The Zeiss is slightly bigger in size, but slightly lighter, so it has a lower density. It handles very well – the specs says the weight is distributed more towards the oculars, so the binocular tends to lean towards the user instead of away from the user, and that indeed seems to be the case – it just feels a little more secure in the hands.
It has the same kind of very good focus from around 250’ to 1000+ feet, so you can look at anything in this range without having to focus, very much like a porro prism.
The big difference is, the Zeiss has a whopping 446’ field of view at 1000 yards, and that is over 10% more than the EL42. And not only that, there is no fall off in the sharpness or curvature I can see towards the edges – it looks pretty darned flat. Very impressive, I think.
Brightness, contrast, clarity, and CA control all look identical between the Zeiss and the Swarovski, as well as the Leica Noctivid.
The 8.5x magnification in the Swarovski EL42 vs. 8.0x in the Zeiss makes things look marginally bigger, which perceptually feels even larger because of the smaller FoV. But once you realize you’re seeing a 10%+ larger area, the magnification in the Zeiss doesn’t look too mingy.
The eye relief in the Zeiss is 18mm, which is 2mm less than the Swarovski, so for some people who wear eyeglasses, that could be borderline.
The Zeiss also has a much shorter focus throw to go from near to infinity. The Swarovski takes almost an entire extra turn of the focusing ring. So the Zeiss allows a much quicker navigation up and down the Z axis, but the Swarovski allows greater control over the focusing within a zone of focus. Depending on the use case, some people will prefer one over the other. In my case, if this were a manual focusing lens, I would definitely prefer the Swarovski, since I’m not likely to be rapidly bouncing up and down a scene. But for a binocular, since I don’t have any one specific use case, I think I personally prefer the faster navigation the Zeiss offers.
Now, here’s the piece de resistance: the $1150-off sale is still on, so the price is still “only” $1700.
I had no use case to justify buying this binocular at $2850, nor the Swarovski EL 42 for $2550, or the Leica Noctivid for $2600, even with the 10% off deal I had. But for $1700, I am thinking hard about use cases for the Zeiss! I already have it from B&H, now it’s a matter of deciding to keep it or return it. I’ve already all the other full-size binoculars I had been evaluating.
BTW, there is one other Zeiss 8x42 Victory SF listed on the B&H site for $2850, not discounted, that seems identical to the above binocular, with the ONLY difference I can see being a T* in the title. I don’t know if this is a newer model (it has zero reviews) with improved coatings that reduce any residual longitudinal CA (there is no lateral CA I can detect). I definitely don’t have a use case for it – I think I can live without whatever further improvements this model might have!
John D writes:
FWIW, the Zeiss dealer in Mendocino "Out of this World" told me that the fine focus adjustment on the new series of Victory bins is easier to use than in the version that's currently on sale.
After they pointed this out I did notice how the focus on mine is very touchy compared to my friends Swarovski's. However I'm not sending them back.
Darin B Writes:
The first version of the Victory SF binos came out in 2014 (gray color, the ones on sale now). There was a problem with the focus mechanism plus people complained about not enough click-stops on the eyepieces. So Zeiss redesigned the focus mechanism a bit, changed the eyepieces, and switched the armor color to black. Birders are very picky people.
Same binoculars, really.
DIGLLOYD: small things might or might not matter to some.