Gear Re­view


Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - RE­VIEWED BY M IKE WEE­DON

Are Zeiss’s new­est binoc­u­lars wor­thy of a £2k price-tag? We put them to the test

BACK IN THE early 2000s, I was in­vited along with for­mer BW ed­i­tor David Cro­mack and the Bird­fair leg­end Tim Ap­ple­ton to visit Zeiss in Ger­many. The com­pany were af­ter in­put on mak­ing its top range binoc­u­lars bet­ter. Partly as a re­sult of our in­put (I like to think), the FL binoc­u­lars were de­vel­oped, which later were called the Vic­tory FLS. I have been bird­ing with th­ese bins for more than a decade. In fact, they are al­ways with me. They’ve had the rub­ber ar­mour­ing re­placed, the eye­cups swapped, but th­ese work­horses are still de­liv­er­ing the goods. I feel naked and vul­ner­a­ble with­out them. I for­get I am wear­ing them and don’t think be­fore us­ing them, they are part of my bird­watch­ing na­ture. So, how do the Vic­tory SFS compare with binoc­u­lars which are se­cond-na­ture to me? Firstly, let me point out that this test­ing ses­sion is the third time I have had a good go with the SFS. A few years ago I went to the ini­tial launch event in Ger­many, Aus­tria and Hun­gary and was us­ing them all the time then. Again, last spring, I was in Poland with Zeiss, bird­ing with th­ese binoc­u­lars (and sneak­ily hop­ing I’d be lent a loan pair to take home). Each time, I have put aside my FLS for the SFS, I have found my­self im­me­di­ately for­get­ting my old friends. In many ways, they are sim­i­lar binoc­u­lars, but just a bit (a no­tice­able bit at that) bet­ter! Like other brands of top mod­ern binoc­u­lars, Zeiss have opted for an open bridge de­sign, which looks stylish and feels nat­u­ral and very com­fort­able. There are no un­nec­es­sary dim­ples to guide the thumb, just grippy, lightly tex­tured rub­ber. They are not at all heavy, and with the ex­cel­lent Zeiss strap, sit­ting so nicely on the chest I oc­ca­sion­ally for­got I was wear­ing them and had to do a sneaky feel with my hand to make sure they were still there. They are a breeze to use, sit­ting well in the hand, so the thumb rests nat­u­rally on the gen­er­ous two-fin­ger rub­ber fo­cus wheel. This wheel moves as smoothly as silk and takes you from about 1.5m close fo­cus to in­fin­ity. Fo­cus­ing is easy and pre­cise, get­ting the bird in fo­cus in an in­stant.

In the field

With my trusty FL pair, I am used to the easy, re­lax­ing, sharp and nat­u­ral im­age Zeiss bins can de­liver. And I have never grum­bled about bright­ness, es­pe­cially as my pair are 7 x 42s. But with the SFS you get all of the nat­u­ral look, but no­tably brighter (th­ese are bright bins!), even crisper and seem­ingly even sharper. But res­o­lu­tion has got so good on the best binoc­u­lars, that this th­ese slight dif­fer­ences are ex­tremely hard to de­tect. They ex­cel in field of view, which adds to the nat­u­ral feel, in the field. In fact, they are not far off my Fls in field of view, even though they are 8x bins not 7x. I like this, as I love a nice open field, but the ef­fect is wasted if the im­age is not sharp all the way across. Luck­ily, edge-to-edge sharp­ness is ex­cel­lent with the SFS. I come back again to that word ‘nat­u­ral’, which is about as big a com­pli­ment as you can give to the im­age of a pair of binoc­u­lars. The binoc­u­lars come with an ex­cel­lent, elas­ti­cated strap, fine case, and the usual rain guards etc.


Choos­ing be­tween the best of the best brands of binoc­u­lars has never been easy. Th­ese days, it is harder than ever, but the Zeiss SF is as good a pair of binoc­u­lars as I’ve had the plea­sure of us­ing. If you are in the mar­ket for a top-range binoc­u­lar, put th­ese on your short list.

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