Zeiss Victory SF 8x32 Binoculars
- The new 32-mm version of Zeiss’ spectacular roof prism binocular
- Gigantic field of view
- Great minimum close focus to just 6 feet
- Feather light, superb balance, awesome ergonomics
Zeiss recently released the newest family member of their Victory SF premium binocular line. People always wonder, why should I select a 32-mm
binocular? For starters, size and weight are two reasons you might prefer a superior quality smaller binocular like this. This is particularly
true if you will be travelling and are concerned about packing them. The Zeiss 42-mm Victory SF binoculars have already been on the market for
about 6 years, so in a sense, this binocular felt overdue. The 32-mm Victory SFs come in both 8x and 10x models, but we only received the 8x
version for review, so this assessment is mostly confined to that specific model. Overall, we were quite impressed with this new little SF,
and we think it will be very well received by birders too.
Sharp views always begin with great glass, and these new Zeisses start with some of the best. The 32-mm Victory SF binoculars are made with
Schott AG Ultra FL glass, a superior, high-fluoride content optical glass. Just like the 42-mm SFs, these little 32s deliver a crackling sharp
image. Smaller objective binoculars don’t have the same light-gathering capacity of 42-mm binoculars. Still, these Victory SFs will compare
favorably to most other 32-mm binoculars for image brightness. But the truly striking thing about these little Victory SFs is the field of view.
Zeiss lists the field of view for the 32-mm Victory SFs at a remarkable 465 feet at 1000 yards. Generally, 32-mm binoculars have larger fields
of view than 42-mm binoculars, and 8x binoculars always exceed the 10x versions in this trait – those are simple consequences of the design.
But 465 feet is simply gigantic, and if you’re familiar with this sort of stuff, it will hit you as soon as you look through them. If you’re not
familiar with it, please feel free to take us at our word! Also, at 19 mm of eye relief, the 8x32 SFs exceed their larger cousins in that
characteristic. A few really important things didn’t change relative to the 42-mm SFs. The prisms are still made with phase-coated BaK-4 glass.
They are still fully multi-coated with Zeiss’ proprietary T* coatings. The outer lenses are treated with the LotuTec coatings to help them shed
water and dirt and better resist scratching.
Zeiss employed the same “ErgoBalance Concept” with the 32-mm SFs that they pioneered with the 42-mm models. There are a couple of key features to this
design concept. The triple link bridge design means that there are three hinges linking the ocular tubes: two bracketing the focus knob and a third one
by the objective lenses. On these petite 32-mm SFS, this puts the focus knob just above the middle of the binocular, closer to the ocular lenses. That
means even less finger strain in keeping the forefinger constantly on the focus knob. We found there was just enough room between the focus knob and the
objective end hinge for three fingers, but for people with large hands, there may only be enough room for two. Realistically, you can only get the fingers
of one hand completely into that intra-hinge space; fingers from the other hand won’t fit unless you have really small hands! This doesn’t matter for two
reasons. First, these binoculars have magnesium alloy chassis that make them incredibly light at just 21.6 ounces (612 grams). That means you can easily
hold them quite steadily with only minimal support from the second hand. Second, the matte black rubber armoring imparts a wonderfully secure grip - it’s
almost as though the binocular is clinging to your hand! Just like the larger SF model, the balance on the 32-mm SFs is simply perfect, making them feel
lighter than they actually are. Zeiss Victory SF 8x32 binoculars are fairly small at just 5.9 inches (15 cm) long with the eyecups folded down, and just
over 6.25 inches (16.1 cm) long with eyecups extended. With the hinges fully open, these binoculars are 4.75 inches (12.2 cm) wide. So, the 32-mm SFs are
truly a compact binocular. In field trials, they were very comfortable to wear all day long. The interpupillary distance range is 54-76 mm. Like all
high-quality roof prism binoculars, the 32-mm Victory SFs are dry nitrogen-purged and sealed to be completely waterproof, dust-proof and internally fog-proof.
Focusing on these 32-mm Victory SFs is really smooth right out of the box. Testing indicated that going from minimum close focus to infinity takes about 1.6 turns
of the focus knob, which is pretty much perfect. This allows for precision focusing of the binocular without taking too long to get there. The focus knob rubber is
soft and pliable, and the knob is covered in broad ridges that impart a secure grip even when wet. Zeiss lists the minimum close focus distance at 6 feet
(about 2 meters) for the 8x 32 Victory SF binocular. This characteristic can vary somewhat with the user, and we found at least one person who tested out at just 5.5
feet for minimum close focus. Either way, that’s great performance on this characteristic.
User Adjustable Features
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All binoculars rely on the user to set certain parameters, and the 8x32 Victory SF binoculars are no exception. The eyecups have much the same shape and feel as on the
42-mm SFs, but this is one thing that Zeiss has improved in the 32s. Field testing indicated that these eyecups worked better than those on the 42-mm Victory SFs. The
helically adjustable eyecups extend with a counterclockwise twist. There are two completely stable detents between fully-in and fully-out, so most users should be able
to find a comfortable position. We experienced no collapse of the eyecups during extensive field testing. Even smartly tapping the eyecups didn’t cause them to collapse.
So, in this important property, the 32-mm Victory SFs exceed the 42-mm models. The 32-mm Victory SFs have a locking diopter mechanism on the ocular side of the upper most
bridge. Pull the knob towards yourself to unlock it, adjust it and pop it back down to lock it in the desired position. Locking diopter systems abound in the binocular
market, but this one is delightfully easy to use.
Caps, Strap and Case
The rainguard on the Victory SFs consists of two soft rubber cups linked by a flexible bridge. The cups are deep and fit firmly over the eyecups. If you invert the binocular
and shake it hard, the rainguard won’t fall off. This is pretty much the standard rainguard found on every high-end binocular – not just those made by Zeiss. The objective lens
caps share essentially the same design as the 42-mm Victory SFs. They are made of the same flexible rubber as the rainguard. They comprise linked flanged cups designed to fit up
into the armoring of the barrel ends. In practice, the objective caps seem to work better on the 32-mm version than they did on the 42-mm Victory SFs. These 32-mm caps fit into
the barrels more easily, and they are much harder to dislodge accidentally than the larger versions were. The strap provided with the Victory SFs is a molded foam neck pad with
leather attachments to nylon cord straps. The strap is plenty comfortable enough, though frankly, we always recommend some kind of harness strap
(see the Zeiss harness here).
If anything disappointed us about these binoculars, it was the case. The case is well-padded, made of water-shedding, Cordura®-like material, and it zips shut across the top.
There is a pocket inside the closing flap for storing a cleaning cloth. The case is large enough to accommodate the binocular with lens caps on, even with the eyecups completely
extended. But it won’t fit anything else! That means you can’t zip the case shut if you have a larger strap (like a harness!), or you must fold the eyecups down or detach the strap
from the binocular every time you put it away. Granted, the case may be the least important part of any binocular kit, but honestly, Zeiss could have done better here.
In summary, we loved these new little 32-mm Zeiss Victory SF binoculars. The image quality is everything one could wish for. The gargantuan field of view, really low weight, and
ergonomic optimization of these binoculars make them an absolute joy to use. They are so comfortable to carry that you almost forget you have them on until you go to look at something!
The Zeiss Victory SF 8x32 binoculars retail for $2,249.99;
the Zeiss Victory SF 10x32 version costs $2,299.99.
In the end, we were sad to have to return these little gems to Zeiss, but all those lawyers get so tiresome... If you are in the market for a high-quality smaller binocular, you simply must consider the 32-mm Victory SFs.