Zeiss Victory RF 10x45 Rangefinder Binocular Review
By Len Backus
Zeiss has been lurking in the weeds, staying out of the optics manufacturers’ rangefinder competition. But now they are in the game in a big way. They have just brought to market a combination binocular and rangefinder obviously designed to compete directly with the Leica Geovid BRF rangefinder binocular. Chris Farris at SWFA offered me the loan of a Zeiss unit for my Wyoming antelope hunt. I recently tried this Zeiss unit and feel it will be a strong competitor to the Leica Geovid model. Street price is around $3,000.
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet!
On my recent antelope hunt I was able to show the Zeiss Victory RF 10x45 Rangefinder Binocular unit to several other hunters. Without exception, the first comment was always to marvel at the speed with which the unit returned a range. Only one touch of the main control button is needed. This eliminates incorrect measurements caused by delays and unintentional “shaking” of the binoculars – and with it, the laser beam.
The hunters also liked the ergonomics. The focus wheel turns easily, but not too easily, and it is well located. There are two control buttons are located well and the unit has a good, solid feel to it. The second button controls a number of functions.
The glass is superb. I thought it was slightly better than that of my Swarovski 10x42 SLC binoculars. Edge to edge sharpness was very good. The slightly larger 45mm objective size should theoretically be better in low light, though probably hard to measure. The outer surfaces of the glass have a new coating called LotuTec, which sheds rain and dirt, making them easy to keep clean.
The eyecups retract to the user’s choice of 4 positions, an advantage for glasses wearers. Dioptor adjustment is available for each individual ocular lens. There is no provision for attaching to a tripod, which would have been nice for getting a steady reading at the long distances we shoot at. There is a self-illuminating LED for the range readout.
BIS™ – Ballistic Information System
The unit has an integrated electronic ballistic calculator (BIS™) which will also give you the correct holdover, based on the distance measured and the load trajectory you have pre-selected. I don’t know how interested our more serious long rangers will be in this feature but it is unique as far as I know.
Ballistic program settings let you choose between one of six programs (depending on your ammunition). The calculator is sophisticated enough to allow you to select both ballistic curve and sight-in distance independently of each other – enabling the use of both conventional 100-200 yard zeroes and two European systems of sight-in distances.
Ability To Range Accurately In Real Hunting Conditions
Accuracy of readings with rangefinders depends on many factors. “Beam divergence” is perhaps the most important among those units otherwise similar in quality. This is the measurement of the “focusing” of the laser beam as it hits the target. The tighter this beam focus or divergence, the greater the accuracy in many hunting situations. We all talk about how far our rangefinder model will range a tree, a mountain side or a big rock. But there is a factor called “ground scatter” which we all deal with. This refers to the problem in ranging a deer or antelope that is standing in sagebrush with only its upper body exposed. As we have all experienced, it is often hard to know whether our rangefinder reading is of the animal or of the surrounding brush.
With rangefinders of otherwise similar quality, the unit with the tightest beam divergence will deal best with ground scatter. In the Zeiss Victory RF 10x45 Rangefinder Binocular this number measures 1.6 x 0.5 millirads, with the second number being the vertical component. The vertical component, in my own experience, will most often be the limiting factor in filtering our ground scatter problems in the field.
The beam divergence numbers on the Swarovski rangefinder are 2.5 x 2.5 and on the Leica Geovid they are 2.5 x 0.5. At 1.6 x 0.5, the Zeiss Victory RF 10x45 Rangefinder Binocular beam divergence numbers are the lowest I know of for a consumer level rangefinder.
The Zeiss Victory RF 10x45 Rangefinder Binocular is rated by Zeiss to 1,300 yards but this is a conservative rating…the first I have ever seen from a manufacturer. The color of the reticle is hard for me to see with my partial color blindness but no different in that regard than the Swarovski and Leica offerings. As a result I did not test its ranging capability much. I did easily get a reading on trees at 1485 yards in bright midday sun. If not for my poor color vision, I would have purchased this binocular rangefinder.
Zeiss is also introducing a monocular version of its rangefinder, called the Zeiss Victory 8x26 T* PRF Rangefinder, street price in the $700 range and also rated for 1,300 yards. Beam divergence is 4.0 x 2.0 millirads.