Wednesday, June 22, 2011
From Rod in KY:
Like most birders, I don't have an unlimited budget for optics. But like most birders, I'm willing to pay for excellence. For many of us, that often brings up the question, "If you could only have one pair of binoculars, which would it be?" With that in mind, the Zeiss Victory 7x42 T*FL LT is definitely a contender on that short list.
In general, the 7x42 sized binocular is not fully appreciated. Seven power in most situations is sufficient power to see plenty of detail, particularly in woodland environments. Combined with a 42 objective lens, you get the benefits of lots of light, a generous field of view, a nice depth of field, and fantastic eye relief. That translates into a bright, beautiful view, especially at dusk and dawn when birding in the filtered sunlight of the tree canopy. Also, the image is more 3-dimensional and life-like rather than flat. Less focusing is required to get a clear picture. The wide field of view makes it easier to find birds and stay on them in flight. All in all, a 7x42 binocular is perfectly proportioned for birding under most circumstances.
Specifically, this 7x42 by Zeiss really shines. I really appreciate the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Initially, I was concerned about the weight as it is a bit heavier than the Swarovski 8x32 binoculars I favored. The only time it has been noticeable is when I've tried birding one-handed. But honestly, how often does one do that? These feel wonderful in the hand, although not quite as comfortable as the Swarovski 8x32. Still, I appreciate the rubber armor grip, which I suspect I'll love even more when birding with gloves in the cold. The eyecups adjust to multiple positions and stay there! I cannot say the same for either pair of my Swarovskis (8x32 and 10x42). The close-focus is perfectly crisp and adequate for enjoying butterflies and dragonflies as well.
The only drawbacks I've noticed in comparison are that the Zeiss tends to shift colors to the cooler end of the spectrum. It isn't a big difference, but it is noticeable. The other is these are not as crisp edge-to-edge as my Swarovskis. The distortion at the edge isn't as large or annoying as it can be with cheaper optics. But, again, it is noticeable.
My purpose here is only to provide a brief summary of my comparison, not to rank Zeiss better than Swarovski or visa versa. Furthermore, this is only one birder's opinion. Both manufacturers make spectacular optics. For the user, it comes down to which features are most important for you. You really can't go wrong either way. My best advice is to get them in your hands and try them for yourself. If you bird in low-light conditions frequently as I do, then the Zeiss 7x42 might be the better choice. If you have small hands or weight is a primary issue for you, you might be happier with a Swarovski 8x32. It's one thing to nitpick all the merits of the technical data (power, field of view, eye relief, weight, etc.) on a chart. But using them in the field is really the only true test. Only you can decide what is best for you.
I would really like to do a side-by-side comparison of these to the Leica 7x42 and Swarosvki 8.5x42, which both seem to get consistently excellent reviews as well. But they aren't in my optics budget anytime in the near future. What I can say with certainty is that the Zeiss 7x42 is an excellent binocular in general.
Finally, I tip my hat to the good folks at Eagle Optics for their friendly, knowledgeable and excellent customer service. It is a daunting prospect to spend so much money on anything, and the staff at Eagle Optics have always gone above and beyond to make purchasing optics a good experience. Thank you.