Zeiss Victory 8x32 T* FL Binocular
By Rick Ryals
There are several requirements for a good hunting binocular. First, it needs to be light and small enough that it will actually be carried into the woods rather than left behind. Second, it needs to be durable enough to survive the inevitable bumps and knocks. Third, it needs to be water and fog resistant, since rain and cold is an unavoidable part of hunting. Finally, the optical quality needs to be very good in order to distinguish an animal from a rock or bush and antlers from twigs or branches.
The 8x32 size is ideal for hunting use. It is an excellent compromise between size and weight and the lens diameter necessary for decent optical performance. It also has sufficient size and mass to facilitate a steady hold. I have carried 8x32's hunting for the past three years and have never found them to be a burden. On the rare occasions when I forgot to put them around my neck before leaving the truck, I always missed having them.
The Zeiss 8x32 Victory T* FL is a roof prism model that is compact and attractive. It is nitrogen filled and sealed to be water and fog proof. Dimensions are 4.6” high by 4.6” wide and weight is 20 ounces. It has a very solid feel in the hands and the balance is neutral. Here are some specifications.
The Zeiss Victory FL is a premier binocular, among the best available. It also carries a premium price tag in the neighborhood of $1500 at retail. This high price pays for the best optical engineers and technicians, as well as for top quality components, tight tolerances and the most stringent quality control procedures.
However, being a natural born cheapskate, I would never have paid $1500 for binoculars. I discovered mine on sale at Natchez Shooters' Supply as a 2007 SHOT Show demo for $1029. Even at that price, I pondered long and hard. Eventually I decided it was a bargain for optics of this quality and made the purchase.
The binocular body is glass-fiber reinforced polymer. This provides high strength and light weight. The armor coating is available in either olive green or black. The barrels have a slight taper with the smallest end at the eyepiece. There are no finger or thumb depressions to dictate hand location, but each barrel has four longitudinal ridges approximately 2” long by 3/16” to assist with a sure grip.
The eyepieces, focus knob and lens covers are matte black. The eyepieces twist in and out to adjust the eye relief, with positive stops for four different settings. The objective covers can be attached to the ends of the objective barrels. The eyepiece cover is one-piece plastic with slots at each end for attachment to the straps. It is well fitted to the eyepieces.
The diopter adjustment is on the center focus knob. It is adjusted by pulling the focus knob out, twisting and pushing back in to lock. It allows an adjustment range of +/- four. The center focus knob is about an inch long and is positioned for easy access by the index finger. It turns easily, yet is very precise with no slop or free play.
The focus knob requires slightly more than one turn from closest focus to infinity. However, more than a full turn is available for the close focus feature (5 to 20 feet). I have that found for practical field use, only a quarter turn is required to adjust focus from around 20 yards to several hundred yards.
These binoculars incorporate fluoride glass, which helps to reduce color fringes and aberrations to a minimum. The T* indicates Zeiss' proprietary T* multicoatings on all air to glass lens surfaces to decrease flare and increase light transmission. The roof prisms are Abbe Koenig and Zeiss proprietary coatings provide the phase correction for superior image contrast and resolution required for roof prism binoculars.
The Zeiss Victory comes with an excellent case. It is padded nylon with both belt straps and a detachable shoulder strap. It is the right size for the binoculars and appears to be designed for actual use. The top wraps over the edges for full coverage and weather protection. A padded and contoured neck strap is also supplied, which fits well and is very comfortable.
Now for the important part, the optical performance. The view through the Zeiss Victory FL is crystal clear, although it appears flat and two-dimensional. At first it is distracting, but you get used to it after a while.
What separates a binocular like the Zeiss Victory from others is in small details. I found I could read 1” to 1.5” lettering on signs approximately 100 yards away. I also tried reading the same sign with two other 8x32 binoculars, a Pentax DCF SP and a Burris Signature. Not surprisingly, the quality of optical resolution was of the same order as the price of the binoculars.
Binocular manufacturers have made great strides in the past 10 years in optical quality. We probably have the bird watchers to thank for that. The mid-priced binoculars of today are better than the top of the line models of 15 or 20 years ago. The mid-priced models in the $300 to $600 price range probably offer the best value in terms of optical quality to dollar spent. However, the best optical quality is a joy to behold and will be in the top models from the quality companies such as Leica, Nikon, Swarovski and Zeiss.
Purchasing a quality optic is a balancing act between the performance you need (or want) and the price you are willing to pay. The Zeiss Victory T* FL is one of the top choices among available binoculars today. Its optical quality is among the best that can be achieved at the present level of technology. The 8x32 model is also quite small and light. These binoculars would be at home in any hunting field in the world.
Copyright 2008, 2010 by Rick Ryals. All rights reserved.