Su Gough and Greg Conway reviewing the ZEISS binoculars

The ZEISS Victory SF 8×42 binoculars are most definitely are not budget binoculars, however, if you are planning on buying high-end optics you would rightly expect and receive superb image, excellent build quality and excellent after-sales service. So, why the ZEISS Victory SF?
ZEISS and other market leaders have long been the ‘Rolls Royce’ brands of birding optics. Fashions vary and other models are the current birders’ favourites but ZEISS have created a new product which has allowed them to explode back onto the market. Looking through this ZEISS pair, or equivalent models, most of us would struggle to notice differences between the images, so why choose ZEISS?

They are longer but lighter. I find many binoculars too heavy to carry round my neck for extended periods but these are fine. The narrower, longer barrels are a lot more comfortable for me to hold than the other makes, which I find bulky. Their balance is amazing, with a new arrangement of the internal ‘gubbins’ up at the eyepiece end, making them seem almost weightless in use. In addition I did actually notice a difference in image as well; I love the natural colour – bright but realistic and with an unexpected three-dimensionality – and the field of view width is unsurpassed. The close focus at just 1.5 m is incredible, fantastic for watching insects.

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I just can’t fault them and would highly recommend them. I was not in the market for new binoculars, but I found these Victory SF’s simply astonishing. I’ve saved hard and bought wisely!

Su Gough

Su Gough worked for 17 years as Training Manager for BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), teaching people to identify birds and how to survey them, for pleasure or professionally. She has worked at BTO since 1991, initially as a Research Ecologist in the Terrestrial Ecology Unit, working principally on farmland, woodland and urban birds. In 2000 she started delivering training courses for BTO members. In 2008, she took on the role of editor to the members’ magazine, BTO News, in addition to the training. As training continued to expand, in 2015 Su was able to finish her time as editor and concentrate on training full time. She has recently taken on the role of Communications and PR Officer for Hawk and Owl Trust, while she is still training in bird ID as well as leading birding holidays.

At first glance and handling, the build quality and finish of the Victory SF 10×42 is of the high standard expected from ZEISS. The weight, at just 780 g, is modest but the well-balanced design and the sturdy compact manufacture make them feel considerably lighter. My only opportunity for field testing was on gloomy winter days. Fortunately the excellent light-gathering properties and clarity provided a brighter than anticipated image, which more than compensated for the low light levels. The combination of wide angle and excellent colour rendition give an extremely bright and consistently crisp image.

The close focus of 1.5 m is excellent for a binocular of this size. When combined with the 10x magnification and superb optical qualities, the ability to scrutinise in such minute detail will appeal to not only birders but anyone with an active interest in other wildlife, particularly butterflies, dragonflies, etc.
A big positive from me, having to wear glasses, is the adjustable rubber eye cups, which can be easily moved to the required distance to maximise the field of view. This is unlike many other makes where the eye cup can only be retracted to its full extent, thus limiting the field of view and comfort of use.

Value for money: ● ● ● ●
Weight: ● ● ● ● ●
Image (brightness, sharpness, colour correction): ● ● ● ● ●
Build (durability, design): ● ● ● ● ●
Ease of use: ● ● ● ● ●
Overall: ● ● ● ● ●

Let’s face it, this purchase would be a sound investment and would serve you very well for at least the next 20 years.

Greg Conway

Greg Conway is a Research Ecologist at BTO and is Responsible for the organization of national and regional single species surveys, as well as data analysis and project development. He has worked on a variety of studies focusing on farmland, upland margin and woodland birds. He is an active birder and ringer.

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