My thoughts on Simon King’s Review of the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 Binoculars

Big Cat Diary PresentersFirst off, let me just start this article by stating that I am a big fan of Simon King and especially love as well as completely respect the work that he does for wildlife conservation. Indeed one of my favorite wildlife TV series of all time is the Big Cat Diary which he was a co-presenter of.

Anyway I have always found what he has to say to be interesting, especially as it is often quite close to my heart and so because of this I subscribe to his Twitter feed. The other day I came across a post of his where he linked to a video review that he had made on the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 Binoculars, which of course was of instant interest to me.

Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 Binoculars – Review by Simon King

Below is the video and even though it is just over 2 minutes long, I really like the review and wish I had both the confidence and the ability to speak on camera half as well as he can.

However and far be it from me to be over critical, but I do think there are a few points that are worth going over so as not to misinform those who may watch it:

Unbiased Opinions?

In this video he starts by saying that he has always been a big fan of Zeiss and their binoculars.

Judging by his celebrity status and the fact that Zeiss themselves use Simon in their marketing, I imagine Zeiss now either pay him to use their products or maybe just give him free samples. Either way, I don’t think there is anything wrong with him saying that he is a fan as I do believe it to be true. The problem is, even if he does buy his own Zeiss binoculars, the fact that he is a lifelong fan of them, means to me that he is already at least slightly biased towards the product.

Anyway to be fair, most people will usually have their favorite brands and so will always lean in a particular direction to some degree. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as what you say about the product in your review is your honest and truthful opinion, which I think Simon does express in this review, it is just that I do feel that some of his facts and opinions in this video are a little erroneous:

Higher magnifications tend to be heavier?

Zeiss Victory SF BinocularsSimon mentions that in the past he has always tended to go for a binocular with a 7x or 8x magnification. This sounds logical to me and nothing wrong with that, but his reason for not selecting a 10x one is somewhat misguided: He says "Higher magnifications tend to be heavier and therefor harder to hold for prolonged periods in the field, you get a wobbly image".

Yes to a very small degree, to increase the magnification, you require thicker lenses, but this amount is very negligible in a pair of binoculars and when increasing the level from 7x to 10x and really not noticeable to be a factor. In fact if we look at the technical specifications of the 8x and 10x42 Zeiss Victory SF, they are listed as both being identical in weight! (780g).

What is true, is the fact that it is harder to keep the image still (or not wobbly!) with higher magnifications. This is because any slight movement you make is magnified even more due to the higher power and not because of any added weight.

However even here for the vast majority of people in most circumstances, the difference in image steadiness between an 8x and 10x binocular is very minimal and for me hardly perceptible.

Although it is one of the main reasons that most marine binoculars have a 7x magnification, but in this application you are using your optics on what is potentially a very unstable platform (boat on rough water), so it makes sense.

I personally feel that the main reason you would opt for a lower magnification like 7x or 8x binocular for wildlife observation and especially birding is because with the lower power you are less "zoomed" into the image and thus have a much wider field of view.

This makes it easier to quickly locate your subject and then follow it. So in the case of a small, fast and erratic moving bird in a tree this can be important.

Remarkably & Incredibly Lightweight?

Simon spends a lot of time in this video emphasizing just how lightweight he feels the
Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 Binocular is. For example he says "But what you notice straight away about the SF’s is that they’re remarkably light, incredibly light in the hand and even more so when you bring them up to your eye."

As we have already established and according to Zeiss themselves, these weigh 780g (27.5oz).

Whilst this is not heavy, I would not describe them as being a lightweight 42mm binocular.

I have reviewed many 8x42’s and 10x42’s that weigh considerably less. True some of the lightest tend to be cheap instruments that use a lot of plastic parts, but not all.

Minox HG 8x43 BinocularsA few examples include the very high specification Vortex 8x42 Razor HD which I consider to be on the same sort of level as that of the Zeiss Victory SF has a weight of 686g (24.2oz), the mid-high value Celestron 8x42 Granite weighs 24.0ozs (680g), the Pentax 9x42 DCF BR Binoculars weigh 23.5ozs (666g) and the Opticron Verano BGA HD 8x42’s come in at 26ozs (737g).

Indeed I have also tested some equally high end bins that have larger lenses and use the same quality of components (metal parts & magnesium chassis etc) but still manage to weigh less.

For example the Pentax ZD 8x43 ED Binoculars with their 43mm objectives have a weight of 25.2ozs (714g) and the Minox HG 8x43 Binoculars come in at only 650g (22.9oz), which is really impressive, especially when they to have slightly larger objectives.

So other than these few observations, I totally agree with Simon and as I said really like the way he comes across with such enthusiasm and confidence. I just wish I could do the same!

Also I would like to say that whilst I have not actually been able to use or test the Victory SF yet (big hint to Zeiss!), I would love to as I do think that they look like a truly great pair of optics with many great features that I would love to explain and write about.

Cost & Where to Buy Zeiss Victory Binoculars

More Info & Further Reading

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Not surprisingly for BBR, very interesting article and video. Some thoughts…

IMHO you would also opt for an 8x or a 7x (best-kept secret in nature optics) over a 10x because they’re brighter–7x’s sometimes astoundingly so. I encourage folks with access to alpha optics to do a side-by-side comparison of the Leica Ultravid HD 7x’s (the only super high-end 7 now?) and 10x’s and prepare to be blown away by the 7’s. Probably not enough to consider buying one (magnification being so overrated) but you will enjoy the “Wow!” experience.

Interesting that he mentions steadying the binocular against the eye socket–it reminds me of how so many eyeglass wearers think they can’t do the same thing with their eyeglasses. There’s often a reluctance to place the rolled-down eyecup gently against the eyeglass lens surface but in fact it’s actually desirable since it helps you steady the binocular. I’ve told eyeglass wearers it’s a rare plus for using binoculars while wearing eyeglasses. Still, a disappointingly large percentage of eyeglass wearers remove their glasses before looking through the binocular–an often time-consuming and always unnecessary habit.

Thanks again for the video an astute commentary–the Victory SF’s are an awesome binocular! (I would still go with the 8’s, though)

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