Price as reviewed: £2359 (RRP: £2500.00)
Diopter slightly stiff on first use
Zeiss…everyone with an interest in optics from cameras to telescopes to microscopes will have probably heard of them. Zeiss are a German company which has been flexing its optical muscles for decades and is the creator of models like the Dialyt, which are still optically superb and highly thought of.
The previous generation top end binoculars, the Victory FL and Victory HT, were very nice to use and a superb rival to the Swarovski EL. Initially released at the 2014 International Birdfair this new “SF” model is currently the most expensive mainstream binocular available to buy in the UK. Does it live up to this price point and best everything else out there?
*The majority of this review is still applicable to the original “grey bodied” Zeiss SF. We have highlighted key improvements which feature on the Zeiss SF BLACK*
Zeiss have gone for what could be described as a “triple bridge” open bridge design. The larger top bridge holds the main focusing wheel and diopter adjustment while the smaller bottom bridge sits right at the end of the binocular. The Victory SF isn’t the most compact binocular but is fantastic to hold and never feels a burden to carry. Zeiss has clearly put thought into the design of the Victory SF, as they did with the HT. The rubber armouring feels strong, the eyecups are comfortable and little bits of detailing give this binocular a quality appearance with strength to match.
This rubber armouring has seen further improvement with the new Zeiss SF BLACK. Gone is the slightly rubbery feel and it appears to fit the chassis of the binocular far better, giving an improvement in build quality beyond the excellent levels of the mark 1 Zeiss SF.
Everything is as it should be when it comes to operating the binocular as well. The eyecups click into place when extended in an assured manner and adjusting the diopter is easily done to get the exact position you want. From the off adjusting the binoculars for your eye distance is easy and the mechanism used feels strong and well designed.
Precise focusing is very easy with the Victory SF thanks to a smooth and freely rotating focus wheel which also has a quality rubber finish to provide grip when fine focusing. Unlike the Conquest HD the focusing isn’t overly critical which makes it very easy to adjust.
If there is one small criticism, and it is very small, it’s that the dampening on the focus wheel isn’t great. This leads it to feel not quite as smooth as some users might like. Saying this it has no effect on what is a precise and functional focusing system so it really is a minor complaint.
The new Zeiss SF BLACK now has a far better action and damping on the focus wheel. This gives far more confidence in focusing than before and a pleasing action in use.
Overall the design of the Victory SF is as good as it gets in the binocular world. Robust and easy to use while being very traditional Zeiss in appearance and having a quality feel.
This is crunch time now for the Victory SF. It looks and feels great but what about to use? Has Zeiss pulled off a master stroke and bettered the fantastically engineered Swarovski SV?
Short answer….YES! The HT got Zeiss right on Swarovski’s tails but the SF goes beyond and into the future, it is the benchmark by which all others will be compared. The image is bright and crisp on first view and as you adjust to it the sharpness, clarity and perfect colour representation come into play, there is no bias towards warm or cold tones at all.
Objects appear to jump out at you. This may only be an 8x binocular but somehow everything appears much bigger, closer to a 10x than an 8x. The field of view is also superb meaning the Victory SF is useful for a variety of scenarios.
When something is this good, or in some cases bad, it is very hard to describe how good (or bad) that thing is.
To sum it up very simply the Victory SF, for us, is THE top binocular for optics that money can buy. To top the Swarovski SV, and the Zeiss HT, takes something truly special and when you pick up the Zeiss Victory SF you can feel just how special it is. The moment you look through it you are witnessing the best that money can buy in the world of binoculars, they are simply fantastic and have set a new standard for brightness, sharpness and overall optical quality.
Current owners of Swarovski binoculars, and even owners of the Zeiss HT, may not “upgrade” to the Zeiss Victory SF, but those looking for a top of the range binocular then look no further.
The Zeiss Victory SF 8×42 has been a very easy binocular to review, there is just so little to fault about it.
Optically its unmatched, Swarovski and Zeiss HT owners may not agree, and they have good reasons not to, but for us the Zeiss Victory SF has raised the bar again on everything a good binocular should be. The margins between the Zeiss HT and the Swarovski SV are fine but in the SF they are noticeable and at this price it’s important to know you are getting the best out there.
Overall Zeiss has produced a superbly built binocular of the finest quality. It is nearly impossible to fault and that is exactly how it should be.
What the SF has done is made the task of choosing a top end binocular even harder. The Zeiss HT also is fantastic value . The Swarovski SV 8.5×42 is still a fantastic option. But the Zeiss SF, despite is lofty price tag, takes its place as the king of the binoculars. It is simply fantastic.