December 1, 2021

Zeiss Binos – low, mid, high price points. What is your money really being spent on / Sportsman Gun Centre Blog


This entry was posted on 05/11/2021 by Sportsman Gun Centre.

By Chris Parkin

When asked the difference between binoculars and what your money is spent on, there are key factors to consider when considering budget and function. `Big` numbers may well sell and seem better value, but not always the best approach.

Specification

Most shooters choose an 8 or 10x magnification binocular to balance between field of view, likely proximity to the quarry and your ability to hold the binoculars steadily. More magnification doesn’t create more vibration but will amplify unstable position. Lower magnification, comparing all other factors like-for-like, will offer a broader field of view and slightly larger exit pupil diameter which in some scenarios will enable slight brighter image transmitted to the eyes. It is crucial to remember that light transmission is often quoted but don’t underestimate the benefits of larger objective lenses that offer significantly more area to allow light entry into that tube. A 42mm versus 32mm objective allows in 70% more light into each tube.

Ergonomics

How heavy the binoculars are, how physically large they are, do the eyecups for your face’s orbital sockets, do the twist up extending cups lock solidly in position? Think about the different angles your head will be at in relation to walking and stalking and prone positions, the latter will often see the eyecups need to twist inward a little more to accommodate the angle of the eyebrows yet in the former with your head upright, it’s likely they will need to be a little further extended. Binoculars might offer 3,4, or sometimes more positions and the eye `box` is the extent within which the full exit pupil is visible as your angle and the binoculars naturally move in relation to your face. The Terra and Conquest offer friction extension from minimum to maximum length with a detented `stop` only at either end, whereas the Victory RF give two intermediate `clicks`  for finer overall position. The shape of the outer rim fitting into your eye socket is also more rounded and comfortable on the upper two units as costs increase.

Image quality

Consider colour balance, will chromatic aberration be present, will colours be truly perceived similarly to your natural eyesight or will they appear distorted and yellowed as very low-cost optics often encourage. Different binoculars will use different types and numbers of lens coatings to limit some, and therefore boost the prominence of certain light frequencies to cope with our hunting environment and likely low light preferences. Similarly deposited coatings (applied at high temperatures in a vacuum), are used to deposit metallic compounds on the glass to promote water dispersion from matters as simple as rainfall, or for tough external surfaces to fend of mechanical damage from dust and other debris. As costs increase, it’s not all about superficially higher numbers and greater promises, some binoculars will offer colour rendition better suited to bright light, others to poor light. The mechanical grinding of the glass into lenses is a critical factor for binocular production and the time taken to grind lenses with increasingly fine abrasives to the `mirror` like finish we require is a huge factor. The more you pay, the longer can be spent on this quality and to a greater degree of precision both in the lenses, and reflective prisms that are integral to the system. This also applies to the mechanical alignment of the binoculars, tiny internal threads, helical arrangements for focussing etc. although almost fractionally small, these tolerances and factors all add up to give those last few percentages of precision adjustment, optical perfection and poor light performance key to hunters, bird watchers may well be more interested in tiny colour details for identification and differentiation in similar plumage, we differ.

Ergonomics

Focal control is a constant factor as we change distances so the comfort with which your hands wrap the binoculars and reach this regularly altered function are crucial, with open bridge or closed bridge designs allowing the supporting fingers to wrap the tubes in different positions, some will suit larger hands, others smaller ones. Something like the Terra offers focal control from <2m to infinity with just 0.75 rotation of the focal dial, the Conquest HD do a similar job from 2m out with 1.25 complete turns of the focus knob. Lastly the Victory RF, regardless of other functionality, run from <3m to infinity with 1.4 rotations of the focal dial for an increasingly fine control over precise depth of field when trying to segregate possible items of interest from their background.

Additional features

The Terra and Conquest are straightforward binoculars with Schmidt-Pechan prism layout for straight optical tube outers even if the light path will reciprocate back and forth within to offer required optical magnification. Lens protectors both ends are supplied with all three units, slotted over the neck strap and very similar in flexibility and ease of addition or removal during use. Similarly, the neoprene lined neck strap grips and cushions the weight of the units which as quality rises, also start to increase in weight, 813gr, 893gr and 1058gr respectively, including strap and lens caps. Of course, the Victory RF adds in a huge functional benefit in having both laser rangefinder and ballistic calculator along with necessary atmospheric and angular measuring tools within as well as Bluetooth connectivity for your phone to set up, program system variables and preferences for LED display intensity among many others! It’s noteworthy to say that within the same adverts, Zeiss don’t have the light transmission factor published for the RF binocular and I suspect this is because as functional matter, the RF capability adds an additional display packages within one tube which fractionally lessens light transmission.

Specification/Binocular Terra Conquest Victory RF
Light Transmission % 88 90 N/A
Twilight Factor 18.3 18.3 18.3
Field of View, degrees 56/125m@1000m 59/128m@1000m 61/135m@1000m
Exit Pupil diameter, mm 5.3 5.3 5.3mm
Exit Pupil Distance, mm 18 18mm 16mm
Dioptre range +/-3 +/-4 +/-4
Close focus, m 1.6 2  
Focussing range, m 0.75 1.25 1.4
Case Soft Case Soft case Clamshell
Prism Type Schmidt-Pechan Schmidt-Pechan Abbe-König
Weight, gr 813 893 1058
Price 402.99 1020.99 2373.99

All three binoculars add a carry case which is also reflective of increasing costs, the Terra’s offer a soft case which is fine for daily protection and easy carriage, the Conquest a harder cordura clamshell case with zipper around the edge. Finally, the Victory RF have an even more visually deluxe clamshell with inner pockets to suit the necessary instructions and pers to aid usage when setting up. This last factor seems a bit of a relic for hunters who tend to use aftermarket cases for their binoculars offering protection during daily use but are visibly a sign of added benefits.

Summary

When using the binos in the field, you never really appreciate the small steps in image quality increase going `up` through the range but you notice more as you return from the Victory back through to the still very competent Terra. They all offer great image quality and are functional hunting assistants but the colour rendition as price increases is noticeable yet it’s functionality as light fades where the money spent is most obvious side by side, the Victory and Especially the Conquest offer critical extra minutes and clarity as light fades. All three binoculars hear offer good ergonomics, smooth focal control, streamlined bodies with minimal interference under the fingers and hands from angular or overly bulky neck strap anchors. Design details like these are what separate even entry level premium binoculars from no-name competitors and longevity in the internal mechanics set them apart, you don’t get misaligned tubes, eye strain or headaches from any of the binoculars to wear the name of the respected Zeiss brand. Setting up dioptre balance between the eyes illustrates the slight sharper focus control as price increases and similarly, the more expensive binoculars seem to `snap` a little more clearly to expose their slight shallower, but more precisely focussing depth of field. For the close in hunter who knows his land, the RF functionality is unnecessary and an expensive additional cost with factually, slight compromise in poor light conditions compared to high level NON-RF brothers but I must admit, I wouldn’t be without this assured capability from binoculars as a hunter travelling across differing locations all the time.

Photo Captions

  1. Zeiss Terra Ed 8×42 Black Binoculars (sportsmanguncentre.co.uk)
  2. Zeiss Conquest HD 8×42 Binoculars (sportsmanguncentre.co.uk)
  3. Zeiss New Victory 8×42 T Rf Range Finder Binoculars (sportsmanguncentre.co.uk)
  4. Multiple eye cup positions greatly ease optical and facial comfort across various shooting positions
  5. Interpupilliary focus can vary widely between models
  6. Lens caps have to be considered vital, how easily do they fit on and stay on, or off for that matter
  7. Zeiss hang all accessories from their neoprene neck strap
  8. Reaching the focal control knob and how many turns it requires ae important for different hand sizes
  9. I prefer loose hanging objective caps, they are less likely to apply themselves when unwanted as flip up caps seemingly always do
  10. Additional functions like the Rf capability and ballistic calculators work well in addition to suitable optics that enable easy dialling to distance
  11. Lateral neck strap anchors are under your hands all day, make sure they are unobtrusive and secure





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