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
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
||Field of view
||450 ft/1000 yds
||6.46" x 5.04"
||405 ft/1000 yds
||6.81" x 5.04"
||330 ft/1000 yds
||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
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 42mm binoculars have been discontinued. The current top 42mm binoculars
from Zeiss are the Victory SF Binoculars
that are setting new standards in both optics and ergonomics.