Three Models of Zeiss Binoculars Compared
As a binoculars enthusiast, I have spent considerable time comparing and evaluating three of the best Zeiss binoculars, and my report is below.
The three models of binoculars are:
- Zeiss Dialyt 7x42 BGA T*P* (known as Dialyt Classic) - I shall call it the 7X42 Classic, below.
- Zeiss Victory 7X42 T*FL - I shall call it the 7X42 Victory, below.
- Zeiss Conquest 8X42 - I shall call the 8X42, below.
The odd one out is the 8X, being more powerful than the two 7X, so I wasn't comparing exactly like with like, but the point of the exercise was to choose between three of the best handheld binoculars ever made. When I say, "best" I mean best for this particular size. You could possibly find better if you want a far larger binoculars (10X50 or 8X56) but what I like about these is that you can, just about, hold them in one hand.
For my first test I sat in a park for 45mns as it got dark. This was particularly good for testing brightness, the light was dimming significantly when I started, it was almost dark by the time I finished.
My second test was on a hill just North of Watford, looking at an industrial estate about a mile away. The targets were railings and shipping containers. Conditions were dull and drizzly.
My third test was on the roof of the office block, here, looking at landmarks I know well and often use for evaluating binoculars: a pedestrian crossing and control box about 1/4 mile away, and a transmitting tower about three miles away. Conditions were bright with hazy sunshine.
I noted the field of view (the real field of view, by looking at landmarks, not the apparent field of view), the brightness, distortion around the edges, reflections, and the sharpness of the image in the centre of the field of view.
The two 7X42s were so similar that there really wasn't much to choose, even after several minutes of comparing. To my surprise I found the brightness (in the fading light) the same with both, I would have thought the more modern (7X42 Victory) to be brighter due to developments in coatings, but the 7X42 Classic was every bit as bright. The sharpness in the centre was also the same...near enough (the more modern 7X42 Victory was possible sharper, very slightly...possibly) - but the difference was so slight that I couldn't be sure.
There were, however, two noticeable differences between the two 7X42s. Firstly, the field of view was identical but the 7X42 Classic had slight distortion around the very edges, thus reducing the clear field of view, and it also had some noticeable reflections, probably from the eyepiece, due to the unusual combination of fading light all around, and me sitting out in the open, causing light to glance the edge of the eyepieces (it's only a theory). As with many minor imperfections, at first it didn't bother me, but the more I noticed them the more I prefered the 7X42 Victory to the 7X42 Classic.
Finally, the 8X42 Conquest. I bought this from a fellow binoculars enthusiast, one who is far more finicky than me, and who also has good colour sense (of which I have none), and who reckons this is the best for sharpness and for giving true ('more saturated') colours; it's even better, he said, than the same Zeiss 8X42 Victory model (and, incidentally, better than its nearest rival, the 7x42 Leica Ultravid HD).
To illustrate this, he found a cobweb on the side of a building. The cobweb was simply invisible through the other binoculars, it merged so completely into the background, but you could see it through the 8X42. This shows the ability of the 8X42 to handle not only detail, but contrast.
However, It's not a fair comparison, to compare the 8X with the two 7X, because the 8X is an 8X...compared with 7X. But my question was: which one would I consider so good that I will keep it for myself? (for a few months, anyway - I do sell everything eventually).
As regards brightness, the 8X42 wasn't quite as bright as the two 7X42s (generally, low-power binoculars are much brighter than high-power binoculars) but I was quite surprised that it was very close, I did have to compare them for a few minutes before deciding. As regards the 8X42's field of view, it was slightly less than the 7X42s (again, a feature of higher power); as regards distortion, there was some at the very very edges of the 8X42, but it was very slight, so slight that I decided I could live with it. But it was the 8X42's sharpness in the centre that took me aback, it was remarkable. Even in the rapidly fading light of the park I would see the individual railings on the other side of the park, and individual leaves in the darkest parts of the woodland.
So which of the three would I want to keep for myself (for the moment, anyway)? I've had the 7X42 Classic hidden away at home for a few months now, since it is better than anything I've had in stock for years. So when I tell you that this one rates as third place, I am not saying it's bad, it is one of the best binoculars ever made.
Of the other two, the 7X42 Victory and the 8X42, the choice is between the higher power of the 8X42 (combined with that amazingly sharp image) or the wider field of view of the 7X42.
Generally, this boils down to what the binoculars will be used for, and also which 'feels' the most comfortable to look through. For me, the joy of binoculars is to be able to see what's going on, and binoculars with a small field of view means you will miss the action. So for watching horses or yachts, aeroplanes or birds, or scanning the sky for faint objects, the 7X42 Dialyt Classic is best, it is the best if you are at a viewpoint and want to scan 'everything', it is the best for glancing through, and seeing the most at one go, it is simply the best for 'taking in the view'.
For seeing the greatest detail, the added power and unparalleled sharpness of the 8X42 is best; it is best for identifying subjects (birds, plants, people, names on boats or aeroplanes); it is best for 'getting up close'.
And so my final final conclusion?
This is a very hard choice. I have a firm policy of 'borrowing' just one pair of binoculars to take home, I never take two home, I am a trader, I sell binoculars I don't collect them, and so (and this might be the wrong decision) I have decided that, of the three, my second choice is the 7X42 Victory and my first choice is the 8X42.