Comparing 8x42s - looking back from 2020

8-7-2020

 

 

 

2015 I did this 8x42 shootout. Some remarks about these glasses and manufacturers 5 years later - from a slightly wiser man.

First, one correction. Today I think there is no "high transmission sparkle". That is, the wonderful sparkle some glasses have more than others is probably not caused by high transmission alone, but might be a product of microcontrast (especially the frequencies defining textures), colour clarity, 3D high fidelity, skewed transmission curve and other properties. Just like in still lenses (for example, compare a Zeiss Distagon 25/2 vs a Sigma Art 24/1.4 and you will see what sparkle and a great lens is - looking at the Zeiss here...)

 

SWAROVSKI

strives for absolute ease of view and they are probably still best in that respect. The Swarovision 8.5x42 is the only bin in the 8x42 class that let´s you roam its whole image with eye movement only and no blackouts. Also, it can reasonably be used from infinity to close without adjusting interpupillary distance. Pretty unique. Both lazy and totally inexperienced users can handle a Swarovision easily.

But that uniqueness involves weak or absent baffling. Accordingly, flare suppression is low on their design priority list, and I do not appreciate that. This march on a trip to Iceland I had a look through my Nikon EDG 8x42, a Leica UV HD+ 7x42 and a latest model Swarovision 10x42. A friend moved a torch in front of me, imitating strong sunlight. The Swarovision flared by far the most, the Leica was better and the Nikon best in flare suppression and global contrast.

Moreover, I Swarovision flat fields are only useful for astronomy. They certainly flatten out everything. If you want cartoonishly flat birds and everything even in close focus, you may have them.

The SLC should be a real Swarovision alternative, at the moment it is priced very much below the Swarovision and does not get the same accuracy in manufacture - or so my sample suggested. I also dislike the finish, very much focused on an older hunting clientel, so it seems.

Swarovski focusers are always rough and uneven, a high price for greaseless design.

Their customer service is top notch and so is their quality control.

 

ZEISS

sport optics was - is? - in serious trouble. Their quality control was - is? - horrible. When I needed a service for a brand new Victory FL it was an awful experience. The guy managing the repairs admitted that a) he could not check in his system what kind of repair had been done and b) that the Victory FLs were manufactured and repaired to tighter specs than the newer glasses. Ups.

I tried to buy a Victory FL 8x32, after 2 blatantly horrible samples I gave up and so might have missed the best 8x32 ever.

The SF 8x42 MKI had a bad focuser construction (my demo sample became unsuable) and a horrible green cast, both was corrected for the MK2 (MKI cannot be upgraded, sorry, early adopters). Still, the amount of warping when panning or tilting the glass would be unacceptable for me.

Zeiss SF is an example of a very unbalanced optical design - although ergonomically it balances nicely - I dare to call it an abomination - they wanted to have the widest field of view and that involved serious compromises. Hate it or love it or be indifferent.

I totally loved a sample of the Victory pocket 8x25 and will give Zeiss a bit more attention again in the future. I have three of their still lenses and enjoy them for my work. They are exceptional value for money.

 

LEICA

was and still is my favourite binocular manufacturer, and the UV7x42 my favourite binocular, it is a bit better than the UV8x42, which is still a very beautiful glass. The 8x32 is sweet but ease of view is not a Swarovski... The Noctivid 8x42 is a seriously flawed design, I hope Leica can solve the most severe issues.

 

NIKON

The EDG 8x42 has the best global contrast of them all and I own this glass since 2019. Optically it is unique and fabulous, but the accessories are crap and build quality is not on Leica level, so I doubt it will last for decades.

Nikon is in deep trouble - 85% less revenue in one year - and there is no hope for spectacular new binoculars. So, get your EDG while you still can.