Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 Binocular Review
By Jose Gardner
To say I was excited when finding out about the opportunity to review the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 binos would be, quite frankly, an understatement. I had a northern Colorado Archery elk hunt coming up and couldn’t help but think these would be a great upgrade for the venture. While waiting on delivery, I decided to go to the Zeiss website and read up a little on the binos. When I clicked the Features tab, I noticed that Zeiss describes the features of the Victories in the form of 5 claims: Brilliant visual experience, best focus, faster viewing, comfortable discoveries, and top-quality marksmanship. I thought to myself, these claims would make a good criterion for evaluation of the Victory SF binos.
On the first claim (brilliant visual experience), the Victory SF binos far exceeded expectation, which is quite the feat considering how high-end they are already considered. On the second claim (best focus), my personal opinion is that the Victory’s Smart Focus system is smooth and intuitive , but can sometimes be too easily moved out of focus unintentionally. I will get into this in more detail later. On the final three claims (faster viewing, comfortable discoveries and top-quality marksmanship), Zeiss hits the nail on the head. All in all, these are a top tier pair of binos that anyone should be proud to have in their pack.
Glassing for elk with the Victory SF’s on the Colorado Front Range.
First, I will address the claim of “brilliant visual experience.” Zeiss claims 92% light transmission, being great for very early or very late glass. And Zeiss goes on to explain the innovative technology behind its glass production that allows for incredible image quality.
The day before season, my group went up the mountain to our area to hopefully glass up some elk for the morning. 45 minutes or so before dark we spot a few cows on a hill side 800 yards or so away. I was frankly pretty amazed at how well I could see even ruffles in their hair from that distance and with that low of light. Eventually, a few more came out of the brush to include the herd bull. I was left pretty much speechless when I could count points on this nice 6x6 bull against a dark background at 20 minutes before dark. Zeiss most definitely got the edge in visibility at dusk.
I also used the Victory SF 10x42 binos for some range time and even spotting a local PRS match. Now, I recently wrote a review on Zeiss’s Conquest Gavia spotter, which I absolutely love. I ran the Victory binos and the Gavia side by side that day. It was a fairly hazy, overcast day and seeing bullet trace was quite the struggle for most. Not for the Victories. I would watch one shooter through the Gavia and the next shooter through the binos. The difference was comparable to having a flat screen tv set on a standard definition channel and then switching directly to HD. The Gavia has great image quality, but the victories were that much better. Even with the extremely high regard I hold for Zeiss glass, these binos exceeded my expectation.
Zeiss Victory SF Binoculars are available at The Long Range Hunting Store - HERE.
Next, Zeiss claims “best focus.” They go on to explain that the focus on these binos is simple and intuitive due to the Smart Focus concept. It may just be a personal preference issue, but I believe this is the area where the Victories leave a little to be desired. Now don’t get me wrong, they focus extremely easy. The focus wheel is incredibly smooth and functions in my mind nearer to a fast moving fine focus than a coarse focus. It functions incredibly well. However, the position of the wheel coupled with the fact that it is oversized is something that others who used the binos and I both agree is a bit of an annoyance.
Zeiss purposely places the focus wheel farther forward than usual in order to allow the index finger to naturally land on the wheel. The issue comes in the fact that the wheel moves SO smooth and easy that you end up moving out of focus unintentionally quite often. From a tripod, this isn’t such a big deal as you use a pan head. But when constantly using the binos off of a neck strap or bino harness, you find yourself refocusing the binos constantly. Furthermore, the hinge action on the binoculars is also incredibly smooth with no slop or grit, but quite soft. Once again no issue for tripod glassing, but for wearing on your chest, you find yourself constantly adjusting the width and focus of the binos. For other uses such as birding, this may be an incredible feature and Zeiss seems quite proud of it. For the backhills hunter, I would like a little more stiffness to the hinge and focus wheel.
How my hand naturally settles on the binos. Focus wheel is unavoidable.
The last three claims made about the Victory SF’s are faster viewing, comfortable discoveries, and top-quality workmanship. The faster viewing claim comes from a claimed best-in-class field of view. This I can’t argue a bit. I would set the victories on a tripod and have a lot of area to pick apart before panning to a different spot. Target acquisition was fast and easy as well.
The comfortable discoveries claim comes from the incredible ergonomics the Victories provide. They are incredibly light and balance more towards the rear than typical binos. This results in much less fatigue over extended periods of glassing, as well as a lot less neck and/or shoulder pain after a long day of hauling them around. Additionally, the binos have 4 different settings for eye relief, which provides a lot of flexibility for various users’ needs.
Finally, Zeiss claims the Victory SF 10x42 binos provide top-quality workmanship. In my mind, the Zeiss brand name implies top-quality, and the Victories do not disappoint. I have held various optics that were lightweight, and even though I knew they were great, they kind of felt like toys. This is not the case with the Victories. The feel of the Victory SF 10x42 binos is one of durability. Furthermore, the archery season started with me wearing a T-shirt in the afternoons and sweating, and ended with three inches of snow on the ground. The Victories functioned flawlessly at each extreme and across the entire spectrum in between.
Using the Victory SF’s to glass elk on the farthest ridge.
My experience with the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 binos has been quite enjoyable. Regarding my minor complaint about the Smart Focus system, I believe that this is something I would get used to over time. Frankly, that is overshadowed by the incredible thought and detail that went into the design of the Victory SF binos. Couple that with the fact that Zeiss managed to exceed my expectation on what I already knew was great glass, and you have yourself an incredible top tier pair of binoculars that anyone should be proud to rely on in the back country.
About The Author:
Jose Gardner has been shooting and hunting since the age of 5, running hounds for big game in the Southeast. Moving to Big Sky country for school and work, he quickly found a passion for long range shooting. Still an avid hunter, he now also enjoys PRS style matches any time he gets a chance. He currently works as a food scientist and product developer in the beef, pork, and poultry industries.