From Chuck P. in Kula, Hawaii:
First Look Victory SF
Just returned from a birding trip to Honduras partially sponsored by Zeiss and Eagle Optics to field test the new Victory SF's.
We were allowed to choose either an 8x or 10x 42 model. I chose the Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 Binocular, as a senior birder I can no longer steady a 10x well enough. I have a Swarovision EL 8.5x42 with which I compared the new offering from Zeiss.
The first appearance of the Zeiss is of a LONG barreled bino. Compared side by side it is only a ocular cap thickness difference between the two and the listed specs give it as .5 inches longer. But it looks long. I prefer the finish of the Swarovski - the green color and roughened surface appeal to me but this is personal.
The next difference is when you pick it up. The perceived weight difference is really noticeable with the Zeiss feeling much lighter. My wife, who uses tiny Leica 10x32's, picked it up out of box and without knowing anything about specs exclaimed, "Wow, this is light!" The Zeiss is listed at 27.5oz, the Swaro 28oz, hardly noticeable (one would think) but after repeated testing back and forth the weight difference is noticeable. Zeiss claims to have pushed the weight balance back from the objectives toward the oculars making them feel lighter but the perceived lightness is very real and extends to scanning treetops for long periods with less arm fatigue. The elastic neck strap also seems to decrease the weight on the neck with long field use.
In the hand the thinner barrels of the Swaros feels better to me (small hands) and I really like the thumb detents on the Swaros. The Zeiss focus knob seems in a slightly more "natural" position for me, but this may vary with users' hands. I like the rubber ocular guards on the Zeiss slightly better than the hard plastic Swaros. The focus on the Zeiss is butter smooth - the best I've used on a bino.
I missed the extra 0.5x of the Swaro on the Zeiss, but the huge field of view and slightly increased brightness were noticeable on the Zeiss. I couldn't detect any difference in sharpness and the increased field of view in the Zeiss made comparing edge sharpness difficult. Depth of field and close focus appeared equal. Hard cases were of equal quality and similarly fiddly.
In summary, they are pretty close and will come down to individual preferences: sleeker design, 8.5x, of the Swarovski($60 less expensive at EO) vs the lightness, field of view, slightly brighter image thru the Zeiss SF. Both are state of the art.