Apr 292010
 

My thoughts on the Zeiss 8X56 Victory T* FL Binocular

You know, I was never too much of a binocular guy up until I reviewed the Nikon Monarch sets a few weeks ago. I was blown away by not only the clarity, 3D view, and build that I almost bought myself a pair to go in my bag. After all, those were priced very nice at $279/$299, especially for the quality that they provided. Up until that point they were the nicest I have ever looked through. I found no negatives viewing in daylight or night and it was pretty incredible compared to my el-cheapo Celestrons.

There seems to be quite a few readers here that enjoy a good set of binoculars so B&H photo was kind enough to send me a few Zeiss models a few weeks ago to try out. I brought them with me on my road trip to Arizona and viewed everything from birds, hawks, woodpeckers, and even some pretty interesting lizards :) I also checked out the moon and stars at night (and it was breathtaking).

Before I even took delivery of them I was really curious as to how these could be so much better than the awesome Nikons I reviewed a few weeks ago. How on earth could Zeiss justify the cost of these suckers? Could they be that much better than the $300 Nikon set I tried out? I had my doubts but let me rewind a bit to the day they arrived at my door.

When I started unpacking the boxes I started to see why they cost so much more.

The models that were shipped to me:

Zeiss 10X42 Victory T* FL Binocular – $2249.00 at B&H Photo.

Zeiss 10X45 Victory T* RF Laser Rangefinder Binocular – $2699.00 AT B&H Photo

Zeiss 8X56 Victory T* FL Binocular – $2299.00 AT B&H PHOTO (at the time of this writing B&H is giving a free $150 gift card to their store with purchase) – Also in GREEN but at $2549.00Refurbs at $1799

Here are the Binoculars that stood out for me the most. The Zeiss 8X56 Victory. They are large but give an AMAZING 3D view through the gorgeous Zeiss glass inside.

Also available in BLACK

Right off the bat I was like “WHOA!!!” These things are MONSTERS! One set in particular was green and looked HUMONGOUS. My son was helping me unpack them from the shipping box and he immediately grabbed them and headed for the backyard where we have trees full of birds that are building nests. I swear they were half the size of my son. No, not really. But at first glance, especially when sitting next to my sucky Celestrons, the Zeiss commanded my attention. I knew these were SERIOUS binoculars and being a fan of Zeiss lenses for my Leica cameras I was excited to try them out.

The “big green monsters” were the 8X56 set and while they are larger than your typical Binocular, the quality of these are astounding. Now, I am no Binocular guru but I do know what I like and when I was watching a Robin building a nest in a tree I could see every detail, every feather. The dirt on her beak came through with so much detail it was scary. I handed them to my son and the words out of his mouth was “Woooooow, this is COOL”.  It was pretty amazing. I almost felt like I was Superman and I just engaged my super vision.

I had taken a bunch of product shots of these but the SD card they were on was accidentally left in AZ while on my trip AND they were accidentally deleted. I did not realize this until AFTER I sent them all back so sorry for not having any cool shots of these. In any case, I did include a stock shot of them above.

FEATURES:

Zeiss’ 8×56 Victory T* FL Binocular is the epitome of optical excellence. From any measurement of greatness it succeeds admirably, a tool bereft of weakness which becomes so intuitive with use as to functionally disappear from the user’s mindset. This should be the goal of any binocular-to be the invisible conduit to great viewing of the subject. Its 8×56 configuration provides a compromise between a lower magnification with greater hand-holdability and a higher magnification but limited hand-held options.

The optics of the 8×56 Victory T* FL were created with elements of abnormal partial dispersion, a chunk of gobbledygook easily translating to the observer as the theoretical limit of razor sharp imagery free of color shift or chromatic aberration, the dreaded bane of bargain binoculars. When focusing upon a flat subject, the image is as sharp at the edges of the enormous viewing field as it is at the center. The broad focusing range goes from end to end in just a single rotation of the center focus dial, which also houses the dioptric correction.

The 8×56 Victory T* FL, like all ultra-premium European crafted binoculars, is not for the frugally minded. It is instead a product intentionally designed to deliver awe-inspiring optical and mechanical brilliance, and for many the lifetime of expected performance from such a device quickly amortizes its high initial investment.

• Lightweight, durable fiber-reinforced polymer body with Green finish

• Abbe-Koenig roof prisms

• Twist-lock eyecups with 4 detented stops for perfect eye placement

• ±4 Dioptric correction

• 55-76mm Interpupillay adjustment range

Warranty Coverage That Retains Value

Zeiss’ Lifetime Transferrable Warranty protects the value of your investment like no other company. As long as the binocular was sold by an authorized USA Zeiss dealer they are under warranty for whoever owns them, and this makes the unfortunate prospect of parting with your 8×56 Victory T* FL a less painful experience.

THE NITTY GRITTY – Are they worth the cash?

So let’s get to the nitty gritty on these. No doubt they are VERY expensive, but are they really? These days many of us will plop down several thousand dollars for a Leica lens for several thousand dollars. Others will buy a $7000 M9 or $8000 Nikon D3x which are items  that LOSE value and have short warranties. When you look at what you get for your money with Zeiss Binoculars, they do seem like a great price for those who are really looking for a lifetime set. The lifetime TRANSFERRABLE warranty is killer, they are waterproof and fog-proof, the eye relief is 16mm but very comfy, there is a tripod socket built in and they are loaded with incredible glass and the view through them is magical at times.

When I compare these with the Nikon’s that cost $300 I can say that the Zeiss, build wise are built like a tank. They come in at 2.7lbs which is pretty heavy but if you want a stellar set of Binoculars that will last you the rest of your life then the entire Zeiss line is currently the best I have looked through. SO FAR. They beat the Nikons easily as they should.

The Nikons were awesome for the money and a superb “bang for the buck” but the Zeiss victory line was on a level about 5X higher. The 8X56 set is pretty large so if you are looking for a more compact binocular Zeiss also has the 10X45 and 10X25 which are VERY compact. Of course you will lose some of the quality and benefits of the larger sets.

The Zeiss Victory line, which includes the models I have in this page are the top of the heap in the Zeiss line. They have superior contrast, color fidelity, build, handling, and features that are up there with the best there is. The Eye relief was great and I had no issues when using these for the past few weeks.Unlike the $300 Nikons, the edges had no trace of softness.

Sure, $2300 is a lot to pay but again, not really. If you are someone who uses Binoculars and desire TOP quality then the Zeiss Victory line is something you have to check out. They have a LIFETIME warranty that is transferrable so that in itself tells you that they are quality. They can be passed down to your children and so on.

Let me repeat that I am not a Binocular guru but I do know what I like, and I really liked these. Alot! Would I buy them? Well, I would personally go for a compact set as it is not often that I go out with binoculars but when I do buy a new set I will seriously consider the Zeiss line. I still have to try a Leica set before I make that decision. One  thing is for sure, my Celestrons are now looking REALLY bad when I look through them! Thanks B&H for letting me try them out and thank YOU for reading my thoughts! For more info on eye relief and binoculars in general, check out this site.

Steve


  7 Responses to “My Zeiss 8X56 Victory T* FL Binocular Experience”

  1. Great post, Steve.I have a pair of Leica ultravid 8×20′s…totally diffent beast than the 8×56′s above, in terms of viewing field, but damn, the ultravids are SPECTACULAR. The rendering through the viewfinders is pure Leica, with great depth of field control. Plus, amazingly pocketably, I throw them in my Fogg or Billingham bags without much thought to space at all. After all, the best binoculars that you have are the ones that you take with you, right. I find that the ultravids are amazing bang for the buck, in terms of cost-size-performance terms.

    The much bigger Zeiss binocs here are tempting, for sure, but I don’t think they will fit in my travel sack. Probably better for serious birders or nature lovers who don’t have a camera in front of their eyes like (you or I, for that matter) do.

    On a second note, just got a Contax G2 set up with 28/35/50/90/flash and some kodachrome to try. Awesome set and a very different, but cool RF experience. I really wish they had made a digital contax…would have been cool to have something for Leica to compete with…

  2. Hey Ashwin, Ill have to check out those ultravids. For me, I would want compact. Funny as I have a G2 here with 28, 35, 45 and 90 as well :) Been testing it out for two weeks and while I find it VERY cool it reminds me of shooting an SLR! But it’s kind of cool to fire away with an RF and those small lenses while having AF, auto advance, etc. Different than an MP 100%.

    Im gonna have a review up soon of the G2 as they are pretty affordable these days WITH the lenses. This one is not mine but was sent to me by a reader of the site to try out. Pretty cool!

    Thx

  3. Ha! That’s funny. I got mine off Craigslist, thanks to funds acquired from selling my 75 summilux. Also got a summicron 35 v4 bokeh king for a song! All of $700 less than what I sold my summilux 75.

    BTW, I did purchase a contax t2 from Ken Hansen, and mentioned you in my correspondance with him.

    So no

  4. Woops, sent it early….

    So now I have as many film bodies as digital…gotta…s…t…o…p…

    I am mainly testing out the Contax G2…probably can sell it for what i purchased it for, and it’s a beautiful alternative. Agreed that it seems a lot like a SLR, but in rangefinder fashion. Plus that Zeiss glass is beautiful…just don’t know if I’ll be using it enough to justify, but at same time, film bodies are really affordable. The Contax G2 kit with those lenses used to run $3K plus…right up their with Leica…

  5. I have wrote that at the Nikon post already but that was when nobody reads the comments any more, because until that time you have posted so many new things ;-) so i thought i could write it again ;-):
    I have tested many binoculars one year ago. There were three high premium brands, that make the finest binoculars. And they were all German manufacturers ;-). It’s Leica of course, then the Zeiss Victory line, which in my eyes are a bit better than the Leica and another brand, i’m sure you heard of: Minox. It’s a traditional german optic brand, like Leica and Zeiss. They make the BD and HG line, which you can compare with the Trinovid and the Victory. And they make cheaper lines, which are not so good, but i think they can keep up with every Nikon. I have bought a Minox BD 10×42 BR asph. When you look through it, it’s blowing your mind. Sharp, clear and bright. And i got it, because there was a new improoved line on the way and i got the “old” one 60% cheaper :-0. I think the price achievement is very good at Minox. Steve you should test one, believe me you wouldn’t regret it. If you want to have further informations about Minox, go look at http://www.minox.com
    So if you are considering to buy a high priced binocular, look at those three brands, before you make a decision. They are pricey but they are the best money can buy.
    Sorry for my bad english.
    Greetings from Optic land No1

  6. A couple of moths ago, I decided it was time to upgrade past the ancient B&L binoculars I have had for years. Setting no limit on the spend, I tried them all from the cheap b&l’s all the way though the Zeiss line. After visitng several shops here in NYC, including B&H and several others while traveling I had an unexpected hands down winner – Swarovski – specifically the 10×42 Swarovsions – Absolutely superb. anyone looking for an amazing pair of nocs should be sure to look at these side by side with any of the Zeiss or Leica’s – you will be impressed and the build quality is spot on brilliance.
    All that being said – after a certain price point in binoculars they all share similar characteristics – N filled bodies, rooftop prisms etceteras – and for a company I would not normally consider since I am coming from the photo world and know and have known Leica and Zeiss and Nikon intimately for a long time – my eyes were truly opened (pardon the pun) and i now kind of hope they will produce a lens for some of my cameras – albeit my Leica Mx or my SLR.

    My two cents summed up – look at them, try them it costs no extra to hold them side by side and make a decision. A good few very educated dealers carry the line B&H sells them too. . .

  7. This thread is three years old, but wondering if you ever got some binoculars? I actually found this site because of this article on the Zeiss. lol I’ve now looked around quite a bit – Great Site! Love your approach that doesn’t have 15 pages of mind numbing tests that have little to do with whether one would want to use the particular camera.
    About the binos…
    I agree with Jerome above about Swarovski’s – simply fabulous. I was shocked when I picked up a pair of special birder model Swarovski’s – I never expected to see anything like that without the name Leica or Zeiss on it.
    Whether one gets the Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski, Minox (never looked through the high end ones) high quality binoculars are truly amazing to see the world through. It’s heightened reality. It’s like looking at some of the photos on this site of close ups of people’s eyes shot with some amazing camera/lens combo, except it’s moving and live.
    The incredible thing about the view through good binoculars, even small ones like 8 x 20, is you can look around within the image you’re seeing. The clarity and sharpness extends right to the edge so you can shift the focus of the eyes left and right a little – it’s not just staring straight ahead. That’s probably the biggest difference with quality binoculars – the image is so good you litterally look around in it and can get lost looking in it. Even the simplest objects become amazing and fascinating to look at.

    I can’t recommend a pair of small quality binouculars like an 8 x 20mm, highly enough. They are so easy to carry. You will take them everywhere once you see how amazing the world looks through them. You’ll even try watching tv with them! Well I do anyway.

    Years ago, in the early 90′s, a friend brought me into Ken Hansens which at that time was on Broadway near Madison Sq park I think. What a place that was. Lots of stuff to look at! I remember some enormous Leica telephoto that was $12,000. (not sure what an M body was then, but I believe about $8-900?) We used to wait till one of the salesmen – Jim Lager, was free. We bought almost nothing, but used to talk to him about Lecia cameras. The guys knowledge was incredible and was so much fun to talk to. He had even written a book on obscure Leica cameras. Anyway, on one of those visits, I bought a pair of 8 x 20 Leica Trinovid binoculars. I think at that time they were on “special” and were about $250. That sounds cheap, but at that time a good pair of Nikons, (not the crap that they sometimes put their name on today), was about $90.

    Best money spent ever. Those things are incredible. Your comment above about your child saying “WOW” when looking into the Zeiss Victory’s, is the same with a small pair. Everyone does it who’s never looked through them before. A run of the mill pair of binoculars on picks up to try and see something in the distance, then you put them down. A great pair, you pick up and really discover something about what you’re looking at. They are difficult to put down.

    Here’s the best thing though. People usually associate binoculars with outside – birds, landscapes, sporting events. But a small pair you can pull out quickly and look through inside – in a museum. Once you look at a painting through a pair of quality glasses, you’ll wonder why they don’t rent them out. It blows your mind. Then you let whoever you’re with try them, and they love it too and don’t want to give them back.
    I distinctly remember using them in the Louvre looking at the Mona Lisa. Incredible!! Everyone is crowded around in front and I stayed back and pulled out the Leicas. The quality of detail, the cracks in the paint, the beautiful colors in the lens. Just amazing. Everyone I was with wanted to look. Same thing at the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling is like 50 feet away. Through the Leicas, god that blue looks beautiful, the yellows, the greens. It’s hard to believe you’re looking at it so close. You can seriously get lost looking at it.
    That’s the reason to get a small pair of high quality binoculars!

    Opera glasses?? An 8 x 20 Leica/Zeiss etc make the most amazing pair. That’s where you take the fancy pair with the leather trim and shiny ends…or just look weird with the rubber armored pair. What you’ll see coming through – the colors of the costumes, the detail, the sets, will be so great you won’t care what the outside looks like.

    As for the 8 x 56mm Zeiss? Wow, what a view. Super panavision! Would be fantastic boating binoculars. Large exit pupil on those means on a bobbing deck you can keep the image in your eye. High powered usually is too hard to keep the image in your eye. Plus, it is very difficult, even with 8x to hold things steady enough to say read boat names far away. Still, 8x 50_ is great – I once spent a whole weekend on a boat and wouldn’t give the Captain his 8 x 50 Fujinon’s back until he yelled a few times.
    Thanks for the site. Truly great. You do need some binocular love here though! You spend way too much time making great images to not have some great binoculars. They are addictive…

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