Richard Gregory’s experiences with the 10x42

Having been wowed by ZEISS’s new wonder binoculars, the Victory SF 10 x 42, at the UK BirdFair back in 2014, I have been using them ever since and I have been very pleased with their performance in a variety of conditions, home and abroad. But there is now more, as the sharp looking black Victory SF binoculars are just out and I have been putting them through their paces recently. Obviously the first thing that strikes you with the updated binoculars is the sleek black look and ZEISS have redesigned the armouring and how it is fitted to overcome niggles with reports of poor fit and discolouring with the original grey armour.

The result is a very pleasing smooth tactile, sticky and solid grip; and personally the nostalgic black seems right for ZEISS again. The other obvious thing to me on the new binoculars is the focus action, which is notably much smoother and more even on the updated Victory SFs. Previously, the large focus ring was great, moving your view from infinity to a metre instantly, but it could be sticky in places and on some pairs; and that’s an issue I have seen on the bird forums too. The new bins have none of those problems and that is a significant improvement on something that was pretty good to start with.

The image brightness, quality and crispness, field of view, neutral colour rendition, weight and easy feel and balance puts them in a class of their own as the top birding binoculars.

The other nerdy feature I noticed that has changed was the eyecups, though not in an obvious way. An original pair I tested had the odd feature that if you extended the eyecups upwards, as I would normally do, an overzealous birder could inadvertently unscrew the whole thing and end up holding the eyepiece! I managed to do this surveying waders on the mudflats in China and it is not recommended. ZEISS have again listened carefully to feedback from birders and diligently acted upon it to improve the binoculars and fix that issue.
The optics in the updated binoculars have not changed, which means you still get the amazing razor sharp image, depth of focus, wide field of view, and stunning close focus. They are designed to perform particularly well in lower light conditions and that’s a feature I noticed watching wonderful short-eared owls coming into roost recently near home.

The relatively light weight, ergonomic design with a balance away from the objective lens means they are very easy and comfortable to use, which is a big plus over their competitors. The binoculars come with adjustable eyecups, rain guard, objective lens cover, a broad comfortable neck strap and a solid carrying case – all of which exude quality and attention to detail for ZEISS – even the box they come in is a thing of beauty. A great deal of care and thought has been put into these binoculars by people who clearly understand optics and birders, and in consequence, the new bins perform superbly. I prefer to use 10x magnification for my birding but I know lots of other birders prefer to use 8x – and there was a glowing review of the later bins by Roger Riddington in British Birds last year.

Learn more about the ZEISS Victory SF binoculars.

Personal preference and budget have a lot to do with which binoculars you choose, but if you are after top-end binoculars, I would strongly recommend the Victory SFs. In my opinion, and it is a personal view, these are the very best bird watching binoculars on the market today and are demonstrably ahead of the pack.

Professor Richard Gregory

Professor Richard Gregory is the Head of Species Monitoring and Research at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science. He has an Honorary Professorship at the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER) at University College London.