Gear Review: Zeiss Victory SF

A hunting guide's review of the Zeiss Victory SF binos

May 3rd, 2017 #hunting

In 2000, I had the great fortune to guide with a guy by the name of JR Jones. JR had been guiding for quite a few years by that point and he knew his stuff. He wore King of the Mountain clothes and a black cowboy hat. He looked, played and owned the part of being a professional guide. The one thing that intrigued me about his arsenal of gear was his Zeiss 10x56 Night Owl binoculars. Those things were huge! But he swore by them. I grabbed a Cabela's catalog, saw the price tag of the Night Owls and figured my $250 Nikons were just fine. They weren't cheap.

Fast forward to the middle of hunting season. A group of elk fed out on an open hillside about five miles from camp. JR’s binos were brought out so we could all watch the elk feed. The clarity and power were nothing short of amazing. To make a long story short, those binos took a ride on the bumper of my truck that day. They were gone and seemingly lost forever. JR was some kind of devastated. He would not guide without his Night Owls. He ordered another pair. The new ones arrived and we found his old ones the next day, broken but found. In short order, they were shipped to Zeiss and back to Montana, in good working order. I soon got an education in why he couldn't guide without them. He MADE me borrow his old pair. Unbelievable! No wonder they were called Night Owls, you could see in the dark with them! That week of borrowing his binos made me a believer in high caliber glass. The following year, I shelled out the $1700 for a pair of my very own. No other binocular had ever come close to comparing until…

Zeiss 10x42 Victory SF

Jonas Burkes put a pair of SF’s in my hands at the RMEF show in Vegas. I'm not one to judge a pair of binos indoors but these things were bright! They actually hurt my eyes looking through them under the fluorescent lights. He explained all the latest and greatest technology that went into the making of the 10x42 Victory SF binoculars:

  • Field of view 360’/ 1000 yds
  • 4.9 close range focus
  • Schott HT glass/ Ultra-FL lens system
  • 92% light transmission (have seen other studies that claim 96%)

To be honest, I could care less about all the fanciness that the German company put into making them. I just want know if they work under hunting conditions and will they take the abuse a hunting guide will give them year in and year out.

The Test

Field use started in January 2016. Arizona Coues deer hunt with Antler Canyon Outfitters. Sharp, bright and clear. Everyone in camp wanted a pair. We could see on average 13 minutes earlier in the morning and 15 minutes later in the evening. They were also great at picking shadows apart under 1000 yards during the mid-day sun. Over 1000 yards, the 10x was a little under gunned for the gray ghost.

I carried them throughout my shed hunting endeavors and turkey season. Low Light viewing was their greatest attribute. Clarity was a close second, unbelievably crisp. It was also nice to shed the weight of the 10x56’s without giving up low light.

They rode in the tractor during spring planting.

They stayed on the dash of my truck through the summer months. (I know, not good for them but that's where they always end up.) They penetrated the evening humidity and haze that a Maryland July and August bring. I took them back to Arizona in August. While glassing the shadows during the midday heat, I was in complete shock to see a mountain lion sitting there watching the same waterhole I was. With the naked eye, you couldn't see him. 4 hours later, we put an arrow in him.

On that trip, one of the guides binos were ruined during a thunderstorm. He had two elk hunts coming up and didn't have the time to get a new pair. Nervously, I left mine with him. Five weeks later they showed up in the mail still looking brand new. From there it was off to Montana for a month then to Kansas for a couple weeks. I fell on them. Threw them a time or two and when they weren't strapped to my chest they stayed on the dash of my truck. Extreme heat, exposure to the sun and cold didn't seem to affect them in the least. They performed the way a $2,000.00 pair of binos should, flawlessly.

Final thoughts

The gray finish is definitely a plus, it cuts down the glare that solid black binos produce. There has been no "edge" distortion around the perimeter of the binoculars.

Zeiss claims light transmission at 92%. I personally believe it is better than that. No other 10x42 binocular that I've tested has come close to them during low light.

There is one thing I would like to see done differently. I would like to see the focus ring set lower so that it's not sticking out so far from the binocular.

Overall, the Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 is a great buy that I could and would recommend to anyone looking to buy quality glass.

*To be fair to all other optics and brands, I did not spend the time behind their glass as I did with Zeiss. I don't believe you get a "real feel" for how good or bad something is by testing it out for a week.

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Lenny MillerTaneytown, Maryland, United States
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1 Comment
Jonas Burkes Great article Lenny !
3 years ago