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Zeiss Victory FL Binoculars

zeiss victory fl binoculars Birders with 20 or more years in the field can probably remember when the Zeiss name was synonymous with pretty much the finest binocular one could own. There are more birders today than ever before, but the many companies competing for their dollars has led to a dwindling market share for Zeiss. The Victory binocular line was Zeiss' bid to recapture that market share, but while an excellent optic, Victory binoculars didn't inspire the loyalty among birders that the old Classic Dialyt Bs did. Zeiss apparently did some market research, and the latest entry in the Victory line, the FLs, is much more attractive to the high-end birding optics consumer. We heard about the FLs long before we saw them, and the wait seemed interminable. But Zeiss was selling them so fast, they couldn't spare one for us to review. We finally got the 10x42 model for review and can tell you: it was well worth the wait.

Where do we start? Zeiss Victory FLs come in 7x, 8x and 10x42 models. The Victory FL is a roof prism binocular, and like all roof prisms today, they are fully sealed and nitrogen purged to be dust-proof, externally fog-proof and waterproof. Zeiss has their proprietary T* multi-coating on all interior surfaces to enhance light transmission, maximize color fidelity, and minimize distortion and color aberration. Then again everybody has a proprietary multi-coating, for all the same reasons! Tell us something different. Well, the glass is fluoride rather than the barium/potassium (BaK) used by most binocular manufacturers today. Whoa! That's different! Though we couldn't make an exhaustive comparison against all the top manufacturers, we compared the Victory FLs with every other high-end 42-mm binocular we had available and it beat them all for brightness. Clarity and sharpness are a little harder to quantify, but our impression was that the FLs are also slightly sharper than many of the competitors. The color fidelity is excellent - we detected no bias of any kind.

The Victory FLs have a 330-foot field of view at 1000 yards, which is among the widest of high-end 10x binoculars. We measured the minimum close focus at 5.75 feet with only minimal collapse at the edges of the field; this is excellent performance for this trait. The focus knob is large and has raised ridges on the soft rubber coating to improve the grip. The focus mechanism is very smooth even when new. Going from minimum close focus to infinity requires about 1 and 1/8 turns of the knob. We noted that the Zeiss Victory FLs are a bit shallow in terms of their depth of field, though not problematically so. If there is a knock on the Victory FL binocular, it comes at the edges of the field. The FL has a "soft" edge: the focal plane is different at the edge, so when the center is sharp, the edge is a bit blurred and vice versa. It also manifests as a color aberration when viewing high-contrast objects under bright light. The curvature of the field edge doesn't bend all wavelengths of light equivalently, so that white light is broken prismatically and you see a yellow or blue fringe. It's a common effect even in the most expensive binoculars, and it is confined to the edges where it doesn't much affect things. If it were in the middle, we'd be complaining about it!

Mag x Obj Eye relief Field of view Close focus Objective Glass Weight Dimensions
7x42 16 mm 450 ft/1000 yds 6.6 ft Flouride 26.6 oz. 6.46" x 5.04"
8x42 16 mm 405 ft/1000 yds 6.6 ft Flouride 26.6 oz. 6.81" x 5.04"
10x42 16 mm 330 ft/1000 yds 6.6 ft Flouride 27.0 oz. 6.81" x 5.04"

The diopter adjustment is concealed beneath the focus knob. You pull it out to reveal the mechanism, which is then twisted to adjust. The fact that you cannot focus while adjusting it makes finding the proper setting more difficult. The diopter setting is well marked however, so once a user requiring an unequal setting has located the correct point, it is easily refound in the future. The adjustment covers a range of ±4 full diopters, which is a broader range than usual. The Victory FLs have an interpupilary distance of 54-76 mm, which renders them easier to fit for someone with close-set eyes.

The Zeiss Victory FLs look larger than they actually are. At 6.5 inches long by 5 inches wide, they're pretty average in size. We measured them at 27.1 ounces, and they are so beautifully balanced that they feel lighter, even after hours in the field. The overall shape of this binocular is also an ergonomic feature in itself. The barrel shape is just a bit convex, swelling to fit into the palms, while the rubber armoring has just enough of a texture to provide a slightly more secure grip. There are longitudinal ridges on the upper surfaces of the barrels that also serve to improve the hold. The only other thing they might have done would be to add a thumb groove or strip on the underside, but overall, Zeiss gets a high grade for their ergonomics.

Other minor features that still add up are in the lens caps and rainguard, the strap, and the case. The objective lens caps are soft rubber covers mounted on stretching rubber rings that fit over the end of the barrels. The system works pretty well. The caps seldom blow up to obscure the view, and being attached, are hard to lose. The rainguard is a pliable piece of rubber with cups that fit deeply over the eyecups. It has enough texture that it tends to stick in firmly place unless deliberately removed. The rainguard has two closed brackets through which the strap is designed to thread. As noted with similar such guards, this feature allows the user to cut their own gap on whichever side they would prefer it to be. The strap on the Victory FLs is a hybrid of cordura and an angled neoprene section that cushions the neck and causes the binocular to settle more comfortably against the chest. The case is a padded cordura pouch with a flap lid that closes with a plastic squeeze clip. The lid contains a little net sub-pouch that zips shut, for storing a binocular cloth, lens paper or other cleaning devices. It's a nice little touch. The back of the case has loops for fitting it to a belt, and there are plastic brackets for attachment of a carrying strap for the case.

Overall, the 10x42 Victory FL is a superb birding binocular. Incredibly bright, amazingly sharp, lightweight and comfortable in the hands, the FL continues the Zeiss tradition of world-class optical excellence. Priced at an MSRP of $1,932 but discounted to about $1700 (7x42s sell for $1600 and 8x42s go for $1650), the Zeiss 10x42 Victory FL is definitely in the high-cost binocular class. We would place it near or at the top of that class for performance. We already see a lot of these in the field, so evidently birders agree: the FL has brought Zeiss back to prominence in the birding binocular market.

Zeiss Victory FL Binoculars - current price and availability