Luke Tiller’s review on the ZEISS Victory SF32

I am so excited about these new ZEISS Victory SF 8x32s binoculars. For a long time now 8x32s have been a favorite format of mine because they offer the light weight and compact size that are essential in my life as a tour guide and traveling birder, so I have been waiting patiently for a new high end 32 since the launch of the Victory SF line in 2014.

What a surprising number of people do not realize is that in the same line of binoculars the 8×32 is always going to give you the wider field of view than a comparable 42, essentially because of the shorter body. One of the main features found across the Victory lineup is the lines incredible field of view and here in the 32’s it is a spectacular 465 feet at 1000 yards (twenty percent larger than many comparable binoculars). Of course, that wide field of view is sharp edge to edge, with the Ultra FL Glass providing a razor sharp and true to life image.

The binocular is extremely comfortable in the hands and the one-and-a-half turns from the close focus of six feet (great for observing butterflies and odes as well as birds) to infinity provides the speed of focus birders require but also allows for easy precision adjustments when required. The focus on the binocular is silky smooth, as befits the SF designation (special focus) and the three stops on the eyecups allow me to set them precisely for my favored stepped down position.

As a professional hawkwatcher, I find people often think that extra magnification would be the key element that you would be looking for in a birding binocular, however many eschew more magnification for a wide field of view and a bright image. Lots of professional hawkwatchers used to use seven power binoculars to get just that, however with the SF’s you no longer need to sacrifice the magnification to achieve that. When you have a lot of open sky to cover the large field of view allows you to do that quicker and a bright image can be especially useful when trying to pick out plumage detail on backlit birds. Of course, actually getting on the bird is of importance to all birders and a large field of view is important as it allows you to find birds easier, a key starting point for any bird ID.

What I loved about the 8×42 Victory SF’s is that they combined an incredible wide view with being both incredibly well balanced in the hand and taking top spot as the the physically lightest high end 42 on the market – a record they hold to this day.

In my mind there is no point having a big field of view in a clunky and heavy binocular that will be exhausting to carry all day. As a professional tour guide, hawkwatcher and wildlife biologist I am often wearing my binoculars for up to 12 hours a day, so I therefore want as light a pair of binoculars around my neck as I can. This is ever more relevant these days, when like many birders I am also encumbered by a camera and/or spotting scope too. With these new Victory SF 8x32s you are looking at a binocular that weighs a third less than many of the high end 42s and that lack of weight around my neck is a massive draw.

Of course, all optics are something of a tradeoff and with the 8×32’s you sacrifice a little light gathering, however thanks to the incredible light transmission of these new ZEISS Victory, for most birders that’s not going to be perceptible. I regularly lead tours in Panama in fall to see the spectacle of hawk migration there. That migration coincides with rainy season and often days can be heavily overcast. Even birding deep in forests in those overcast conditions with a ZEISS 8×32 I have not ever felt like that has impacted my ability to identify and enjoy birds. Though I cannot currently travel to rainforests to test these out I have taken these new SF’s up to the mountains here in Los Angeles to use at dawn and dusk in forested conditions and with their amazing light transmission they perform incredibly well.

I’ve always been something of an 8×32 evangelist. When I am working at birding festivals, I always ask people to look at the 32’s and it’s amazing how many converts I’ve made. It always surprises me when you see people lugging around these huge heavy binoculars that really do not seem to fit comfortably in their hands. The weight savings and compact size alone make them such an appealing format, and a pair of 8×32’s is a no brainer in my opinion especially if you plan to pack and carry a camera or scope too.

The new ZEISS Victory is a binocular that marries the incredible quality of glass and innovative lightweight technology that you’ve come to expect from the ZEISS Victory line with a compact and light weight design. If you do not currently own a high-end binocular you need check out this binocular before you buy anything else. If you have a high-end 8×42 and are thinking about something lighter and compacter either for travel or as your primary binocular, then you need to check out this extraordinary little binocular too!

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