There is no doubt these are simply excellent binoculars and easily comparable to the very best binoculars on sale at the moment – all of which I have used.
Over the past 8 months I have been able to do a long-term field test of the new Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 Binoculars – when I say ‘field test’ I mean in a variety of locations about my home, but also abroad – including my latest tour to the Argentine Andes.
There is no doubt these are simply excellent binoculars and easily comparable to the very best binoculars on sale at the moment – all of which I have used. My pair have had some heavy use whilst tour leading for Limosa Holidays, with many hours a day birding, but have been faultless in their quality of image and handling.
All binoculars ultimately stand or fall on this and I can honestly say that I very much enjoyed the sharpness/clarity and richness of colour of the Victory SF 8x42s. The modern coatings of lenses seem to allow so much light to pass through the glass that they seem almost to enhance the light and this is surely true of the Victory SF 8x42s. In the dark cloudforest of Calilegua, Argentina, I felt they almost allowed me to see more than my naked eye as I searched for Andean Slaty Thrush or the recently discovered population of Yungas Manakin.
Edge-to-edge sharpness is excellent, the acutance and accurancy of colour as good as you would expect on high-end binoculars – though there is a slight yellow cast to the image to my eyes (just like top-of-the-range Swarovskis). Close focusing is very good – c. 2m I would guess – easily enough when needing to watch butterflies. Seeing 100 species in a week in Switzerland in June tested them thoroughly and the sharpness and colour rendition was very much enjoyed when checking out the variety of blues and fritillaries.
I feel that the image quality of the Victory SF 8x42 is as good as it can get in binoculars – I am not sure if any currently available can beat them. I have one slight issue, which again is the same as other binoculars, and that is the ‘rolling ball’ effect you get when panning. This creates slight distortion of the image – a ‘rolling’ effect – that at first use is a bit disconcerting but one I soon got used to and now hardly notice.
The handling of all binoculars is to some extent a personal thing and I found the weight and balance of the Victory SF 8x42s perfect for me. The eye-cups feel comfortable in my sockets – even after 12 hours of birding a day for 15 days – and I found the focusing wheel to be smooth and just the right stiffness – not too loose. When holding the binoculars the balance was good and the focusing wheel in the perfect, natural, position to maintain that balance.
The eye-cups can be screwed out to 3 clickable settings: I found that barreling was obtrusive on the 1st setting and that for my eyes a setting intermediate between the 2nd and 3rd would have been most preferable – I plumped for fully out. (I like to have a neat black circle when looking through binoculars, but fully screwed out the black circle was slightly soft.) The diopter setting is a separate (small) wheel to the focusing and clicks out to set and in to lock it.
The neoprene neck strap is comfortable and after a long day’s birding my neck was not strained at all.
Top-end binoculars don’t come much better than these. All in all, I love the Zeiss Victory SF 8x42s and can highly recommend them for birding and butterfly watching. Don’t just take my word, though, try them out for yourself.